Football people are weird people, because we get giddy over something as simple as a schedule release. That giddy feeling happened last night, as the NFL (and it’s teams’ social media departments) released their full 18-week slate for the upcoming season, which will be the first in which every team plays 17 regular season games. There’s some intriguing stuff in this schedule, so let’s take a closer look.
They started the day by teasing the Week 1 and Thanksgiving schedule, but what about other holiday games?
Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, meaning there will be a full schedule of games to choose from. In primetime that night, the NFL gives us a treat between the Cowboys and the Vikings. Two of the game’s young star wide receivers will be showcased in this one, in the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson and the Cowboys’ Ceedee Lamb. These two sides played each other last year and gave us a fantastic 31-28 finish, with some ridiculous highlight catches.
Week 16, Christmas Day: Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals
Because, hey, it wouldn’t be Christmas without… football, I guess? Christmas Day, landing on a Saturday this year, will have a double-header of Browns/Packers and Colts/Cardinals. Obviously, the prevailing storyline around any and all Packers games will be whether or not Aaron Rodgers is still their quarterback. The Colts and Cardinals will give us a late-season look, at two teams that should be in the playoff mix, with a ton of star power on both sides.
There are nine teams this year that were each given five primetime games: Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers (six if you include Christmas Day), Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, and Dallas Cowboys.
The Saints get four primetime spots in five weeks between Week 12 and Week 16, leading me to believe that the schedule makers have lost their damn minds and forgot that Drew Brees retired.
The Seahawks also have a stretch of three primetime games in a row between Week 6 and Week 8, getting one on each primetime slot — Sunday, Monday, and then Thursday. Apparently people think they’ll be good this year. Shocking.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Duh.
In a manner that should not be allowed in any way, shape, or form, the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sitting pretty. The NFC South is not exactly a gauntlet of difficulty, especially with the retirement of Drew Brees, but on top of getting six games in their own weak division, they also get the NFC East. Washington has a very formidable defense, the Giants could be sneaky good, and Dallas gets back Dak Prescott, but there’s no denying that this was far and away the worst division in football last year. Tampa Bay is poised for another run.
The Chicago Bears.
Avert your eyes, Bears fans. While optimism and a weird thing called hope continues to build in Chicagoland, this year is going to be a… well, a bear. They draw the NFC West and AFC North for the bulk of their games outside their division. For the games making up the rest of their schedule, they draw the likes of Tampa Bay and the New York Giants. Justin Fields will be tested, to say the least.
There are intriguing storylines all over the board, but I’ll pull a few in particular that I’m excited to see.
Right off the bat, we get an AFC clash that should prove to be a good litmus test for both teams. The Steelers lost multiple pieces on defense as well as along their offensive line, and opted to use their first round pick on running back Najee Harris instead. If the Steelers can pull this off in Week 1, they jump out of the gate in impressive fashion.
The prodigal son returns to Foxborough. Brady vs Belichick. This is like your ex showing up at your house party with their new partner even though you didn’t invite them, and now you have to figure out how to navigate the awkward conversations and pretend you have your life in order when in reality you ate an entire bag of Funyuns before they showed up and started drinking at noon. What will make this even better is if rookie quarterback Mac Jones is under center for the Patriots in this tilt.
Again, the previous disclaimer of Aaron Rodgers being the starting quarterback is necessary here, but Rodgers vs Mahomes is must-see television. Kansas City vs Green Bay is also ridiculously aesthetically pleasing from a jersey combination standpoint, and is one of the classic matchups in NFL History — these two teams met in Super Bowl I.