FRISCO, Texas – It's been expected for months, and now it's official: the NFL will add a 17th game to the regular season beginning in 2021.
The league approved the 17th game during a virtual spring meeting. It's the first time since 1978 that the league has expanded the number of regular-season games (14 to 16 that year).
What does this mean for the Cowboys?
They're now slated to face the New England Patriots on the road next season -- date and time TBD. The full NFL schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.
Each year, the additional 17th game will feature teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. The AFC was determined to be the home conference for the 17th game in 2021.
Here's a closer look at the overall scheduling formula with a 17th game in place, according to the league's announcement:
"Every team plays 17 regular-season games with one bye week. Clubs will host 10 games overall – either nine regular-season games and one preseason game or eight regular-season games and two preseason games.
Home and away against its three division opponents (six games).
The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games).
The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (four games).
Two intraconference games based on the prior year's standings (two games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
One interconference game based on the prior year's standings on a rotating four-year cycle (one game). These games match a first-place team from one division against a first-place team in an opposite conference division that the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in each division are matched in the same way each year. The home conference for this game will rotate each season."
Here's a complete list of the Cowboys' 17 regular-season opponents in 2021:
Home: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders.
Away: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The official preseason schedule will also be announced later this spring. Teams will now play three preseason games per year, but the Cowboys already know they're slated to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in this year's Hall of Fame game Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.