The NFL schedule is here. All 17 games for your favorite teams now have a when, as opposed to the who and where that was decided months ago. This all really could’ve been an email, Roger. But we have to draw this out like American Idol in the mid-2000s, releasing more parts of the schedule … after the break.
Sifting through the 272 regular-season games, here are the top matchups. While everyone has the potential to be exciting, some are guaranteed to be duds. And we’re listing the ones with the least chance of being disappointing. Why not start where the league left off, two quarters after Rihanna’s brilliant halftime performance?
Instead of in Arizona, the two teams who played in last season’s Super Bowl will do battle again from the home of the last five AFC Championship games, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. It’ll take place on Nov. 20, the Monday before Thanksgiving, kicking off a stacked week for the NFL with its trio of Thanksgiving games. And one matchup with the usual Detroit and Dallas duo stands out.
The NFL’s biggest rivalry in a prime spot on a holiday should draw a huge audience for the NFL. These teams play in the NFL’s best division and this will be a critical showdown for positioning late in the season. The last time the teams played on Thanksgiving was in 2020, when the then-Washington Football Team dominated “America’s Team” 41-16.
This will be a matchup that’ll be more important for off-the-field reasons than anything that will get determined by an early-season AFC East showdown. It’ll be Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium to be celebrated by New England for his decades of devotion to the franchise. It’ll skip over him leaving though I’m sure. Those years in Tampa never happened.
How does the Aaron Rodgers era officially start in East Rutherford, New Jersey? By welcoming Super Bowl contender Buffalo to MetLife Stadium. After last year’s disappointing finish to the season for the Bills, ruining the coronation of King Rodgers of Northern New Jersey is first on the to-do list.
Another Super Bowl rematch here of teams that have gone in completely opposite directions since that day at SoFi Stadium. It looks like it’s a matter of when, not if, the Bengals win the franchise’s first Super Bowl since losing to the Rams two seasons ago. L.A., on the other hand, has looked like anything since Super after becoming NFL champions. This will be a fun early-season Monday Night Football game.
Arguably the top two picks to represent the AFC in next year’s Super Bowl will have a regular-season showdown at Arrowhead on New Year’s Eve, with positioning for home-field advantage likely hanging in the balance for this one. Anytime Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes are playing against each other, it’s must-see television.
The two winners of NFL Draft week face off to begin the season in Baltimore. After Lamar Jackson’s offseason filled with drama led him to get exactly what he wanted, a huge contract with the Ravens, he’ll start the next chapter of his career against C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson, and an oddly hopeful Houston team.
The biggest losers of NFL Draft weekend were Detroit and we’ll have an early indication of how those moves worked out for them by the fourth weekend of the NFL season. Not to be lost in all the Aaron Rodgers mess was the team he left behind, and a big in-division test for Jordan Love will be a great sign of whether he’ll be the third Packers’ QB in a row to have a Hall of Fame career. Hopefully he’s not as much of a whack job as the other two.
This NFC West matchup got drawn into the late-game slot on Thanksgiving Day. If Philadelphia isn’t the favorite to win the NFC, it’s San Francisco. And the 49ers toughest-division test this season will come from Seattle. These two will play twice over the span of three weeks, making both showdowns critical for hopeful playoff positioning.
I’m calling it now; this game will decide who wins the NFC South and the other team won’t make the postseason. In a post-Tom Brady era in Tampa, how the franchise moves on from the near-geriatric quarterback against the No. 1 overall draft pick in Bryce Young will be scintillating for those in the stadium in Charlotte.