The 2019 NFL schedule was finally released to give fans hope that football will eventually return. With the league’s shifting identity comes new changes to the upcoming football season, including five games outside the United States. Also, the defending champion New England Patriots will celebrate their Super Bowl LIII victory by hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Traditionally, the champions used to play the first game of the year.
The NFL’s regular season schedule is peaking over the horizon, which means it’s time to start making plans for Sundays in the fall. Single game NFL tickets are worth a pretty penny, so it’s time to get your seats for the biggest games right now. For people like me who sit on our ass and watch football all weekend long, here are the 18 NFL games I’m most looking forward to watching this year.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Aaron Rodgers will be must-see television under new head coach Matt LaFleur. Khalil Mack is must-see television because, well, he’s Khalil Mack. This is the very first game of the NFL season on Thursday Night Football, and it’s NFC North division rivals starting us off with a bang.
Week 2: New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams
Remember the last time these teams played? It ended with such an outrageous no-call that the NFL rules changed as a result. It’ll be head coach Sean Payton versus Sean McVay in an NFC Championship rematch in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Week 3: Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
Denver went out and acquired quarterback Joe Flacco for games like this. If the Broncos want to be a legitimate contender, they have to beat the likes of Aaron Rodgers to get there. An early-season road test at Lambeau Field should prove a lot about both these teams.
Week 4: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Bengals only get one primetime game next season, so it might as well be Monday Night Football against their AFC North rival. Zac Taylor comes over from Los Angeles to revitalize this Bengals franchise, so this is a HUGE test for the 35-year-old rookie head coach.
Week 5: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
The only West Coast team to win a Super Bowl in the last two decades hails from Seattle. Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson aren’t going anywhere, so the newly-arrived Rams better be ready for one of the NFL’s loudest atmospheres on Thursday Night Football at CenturyLink Field.
Week 6: Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yeah, I know this isn’t the sexiest game, but it actually has a lot riding on it. Kickoff for this game is 9:30 a.m. on the East Coast, as this is one of four London Series games played across the pond. It’s also the first divisional game in London since the Rams blanked the Cardinals, 33-0, in an NFC West game back in 2017.
If you haven’t seen the brand new, $1.3 billion Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, you’ll need to watch this NFC South game.
Week 7: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants
Both of these teams are heavily involved in taking a quarterback during the 2019 NFL Draft. If they do (and the chips of fate fall where we all hope), this could be a matchup between No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray and No. 6 overall pick Dwayne Haskins. It’s a stretch, but I mean, what other Cardinals and Giants game are you really excited about…?
Week 8: Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson has only played the Minnesota Vikings once since he left the franchise in 2016; that was the first game of 2017 when he touched the ball six times with New Orleans. Peterson, who ran for 11,747 yards and scored 102 touchdowns over 10 seasons with Minnesota, may be making his final trip to Minneapolis before they retire his number as a future Hall of Famer.
It also happens to be my birthday on October 24, so… game of the year?
Week 9: New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore dumped Joe Flacco and ascended Lamar Jackson to the starting quarterback role. The Ravens want to be a force in the AFC, and this is their biggest chance to show it off. Sunday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium should be electric.
Week 10: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield’s record-setting rookie season wasn’t the only standout performance. It wasn’t pretty, but Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen shocked everyone by winning five of his 11 starts, leading all NFL QB’s with 631 rushing yards, and even hurdling a guy. This game should be a fun battle between two young stars.
Week 11: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
The Browns have been a doormat for the Steelers. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has more wins at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium than ANY BROWNS QUARTERBACK EVER. The re-invented Cleveland offense should be electric, and a primetime matchup on Thursday Night Football at home sounds like perfect place to restart this rivalry.
Week 12: Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Both teams could be out of the playoffs by this point, but this game features two former All-Pro teammates going head-to-head. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will get a chance to prove which player was really more valuable after they spurned and burned the Pittsburgh organization on their way out the door.
Week 13: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Here we are talking about Thanksgiving already, and I love it. The night cap on Turkey Day pits NFC South division rivals against each other in a game that’s averages 54 total points per game in their last seven meetings. It’s the perfect time to re-invent your Thanksgiving leftovers.
Week 14: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
The last time these two teams faced, the NFL’s overtime rules gave New England another AFC Championship and berth in the Super Bowl. With a late-season matchup that should have massive playoff implications on it, this is one of the biggest games on the schedule. Don’t miss it.
Week 15: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers
Both teams could be fighting for a Wild Card at this point, a Sunday Night Football matchup between Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers sounds fantastic right about now. Plus, two of the league’s top defensive secondaries will be on display out in California.
Week 16: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
The NFC East is ALWAYS a neck-in-neck race until the final week of the year. With both Dallas and Philadelphia being potential Super Bowl picks, nothing less than FOX’s Game of the Week will suffice. This game will be a ton of fun.
Week 17: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Since 2013, the New England Patriots are 1-5 when they travel to face the Miami Dolphins. Yes, they’ve only won once in their last six tries against an AFC East rival. Week 17 is a chance for playoff-bound teams to rest starters. You figure New England should be there again. Is this Miami’s chance to steal a huge win and sneak into the AFC Playoffs?
BONUS: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
We haven’t seen Jimmy Garappolo since a season-ending injury during Week Three last season. San Francisco paid big bucks for this kid, but this investment hasn’t paid off yet. When they host their NFC West rival on Monday Night Football, it’s time to see if their money was worth it.
Also, this game is on Veteran’s Day on November 11. It’ll be an awesome scene at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
You can check out the full schedule right here.