By Roman Bruno – May 29, 2020
It has been a little over a week since the NFL released its schedule for the 2020-2021 season. Many analysts and fans are looking ahead to see what the league has lined up amidst these unusual circumstances. As the league has plans to continue the season as normal, it is never too early to take a look at some of the highly anticipated primetime games as well as some matchups that could prove to be intriguing.
Here are the games you should be watching each week of this upcoming season:
Week 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints
It is shocking that this game is not nationally televised. This will be Tom Brady’s first professional game playing for a team not the Patriots, and many are going to want to watch whether they are a fan of his or not. Do not forget that he is also going up against another legend in Drew Brees, someone Brady has only played five times throughout his career. Fans are going to have a treat watching Brady v. Brees twice a year for potentially the next two years. TB12 leaving the Patriots really shook the league, but can he prove to the skeptics he still can win and have success without Bill Belichick? We shall see.
Week 2: New Orleans Saints vs Las Vegas Raiders (Monday Night Football)
Yes, you read that correctly. The team that was formerly in Oakland will start their next chapter in the new $1.84 billion Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. No worries for the fans back in Oakland, however, because they will travel near or far to watch their team play. Good thing that this game is on a Monday night so viewers at home can see for themselves how great the stadium is. Hopefully, this new stadium will attract many other fans and tourists and prove to the NFL that this was the right decision for the future.
Week 3: Kansas City Chiefs vs Baltimore Ravens (MNF)
This is another primetime game that will definitely have many eyes on it. The highly accomplished Patrick Mahomes will take on last season’s MVP in Lamar Jackson. This will be the third year in a row that they face each other and, because of the way these two have performed so far in their young careers, will certainly not be the last. Winner of this game will have the upper hand when it comes to AFC playoff seedings as only the #1 seeds in each conference will get a bye week due to the new format. These two teams reign supreme in the AFC, so this game will be a clash of the titans.
Week 4: Arizona Cardinals vs Carolina Panthers
This game does not feature a lot of stars, but the Kyler Murray/Teddy Bridgewater and Klif Kingsbury/Matt Rhule matchups will be worth watching. Both teams had particularly good offseasons and have novice coaches that were previously coaching in college. This is definitely an underrated game that could show a lot of potential.
Week 5: Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens
Number one overall pick Joe Burrow will get his first crack at Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. It may not go the way Burrow would want it to go, but it will be the first of many games between the two quarterbacks. Burrow joining the AFC North will give the league some great games each year within the newly formed Jackson-Burrow-Mayfield triangle.
Week 6: Green Bay Packers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another game between two legends, Green Bay versus Tampa Bay will pit Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady against each other. This game will be worth the watch since nobody knows how many more times they will face each other. Could this potentially be the last time we see them on the same field (excluding playoffs)? Possibly. This should be a high-scoring affair that should draw a large audience.
Week 7: Los Angeles Chargers vs Miami Dolphins
This game could be fun to watch, but that is contingent on whether top-10 selections Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa both start. Herbert will likely have taken the starting job from Tyrod Taylor by this point in the season for LA, but the same cannot be said for Tua in Miami. If Tua’s medical situation improves and he shows he can be out on the field, he should definitely start ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick. I don’t get paid to make those coaching decisions, however, so we’ll see how these quarterbacks look as the season nears.
Week 8: San Francisco 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks
One of these teams could end up being the NFC champion, and, considering that they had some very entertaining games last season, we should expect their matchups to be must-watch television once again. Seattle will be looking for vengeance since the 49ers came into their house last season and took the division title from them; the Seahawks were literally an inch short from claiming the NFC West and a first-round bye in the playoffs. This will definitely be a fun game to watch.
Week 9: Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers (Thursday Night Football)
This is a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship Game, where the Packers got embarrassed and demolished in the run game. Hopefully, they put on a better show even though Rodgers will still not have any of the new weapons he was praying for. Now that first-round QB Jordan Love is in the building, the clock is ticking on Rodgers in Green Bay, and he will have to prove once again he can carry this team to the playoffs and run the table.
Week 10: San Francisco 49ers vs New Orleans Saints
I know this is another 49ers game, but this stretch for them is against great opponents and the fans are going to want to watch. These two teams played a great game last season as the 49ers won 48-46 on a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould. This game had everything a fan could want in a game: a high score, great offenses, mastermind coaches, big plays, and a clutch ending. It will be hard for them to replicate all of that again this season, but there will definitely be some future playoff implications for the winner, which is a massive plus.
Week 11: Tennessee Titans vs Baltimore Ravens
When these two teams faced each other in the Divisional Round of the playoffs last season, the Ravens were favorites. Then, Coach Vrabel, workhorse back Derrick Henry, and the Titans made the Ravens look like children and cruised by them fairly easily. I’m sure the Ravens defense learned their lesson and will want to make a statement with a victory. It will be interesting to see how they handle Tennessee this time and if they can put the game in Ryan Tannehill’s hands.
Week 12: Houston Texans vs Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving)
This matchup (on this day) causes PTSD for all Lions fans. Ask anyone in Detroit and they will remember Justin Forsett’s “touchdown” run that was solidified by an illegal challenge by former Lions coach Jim Schwartz. That unfortunate series of events is minuscule compared to other moments in Lions history, but we won’t relive the trauma now. Happy Thanksgiving!
Week 13: Dallas Cowboys vs Baltimore Ravens (TNF)
The Cowboys should have a bounce back season this year, and this will be one of the games that will show if they are legit or not. Many people have written off the Cowboys because of how they handled their offseason salary decisions and how they did not give Dak Prescott the big contract he was hoping to get. Prescott will have to prove to owner Jerry Jones that he is worth the money and winning this game will certainly help his cause.
Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buffalo Bills (Sunday Night Football)
If Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can make it through the season without getting injured, he will be a top candidate for Comeback Player of the Year. Buffalo and their defense took care of the Steelers last season in a 17-10 game, but Roethlisberger wasn’t on the field. This game should have a higher score this time around with both teams vying for a playoff spot. This will also be a big game for Bills’ QB Josh Allen, who has the prime opportunity to overthrow the Patriots’ long-run of division titles.
Week 15: Cleveland Browns vs New York Giants
This will be Odell Beckham Jr.’s first game against the Giants since he was traded to Cleveland two seasons ago. This will, however, be his second trip back to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford as he was there last season to play the Jets. Will this game be a sweet or bitter reunion? Fans will have to tune in to find out.
Week 16: Carolina Panthers vs Washington Redskins
After being fired by the Panthers mid-season last year, Coach Ron Rivera has a tough task on his hands to revive the struggling Redskins. When the Panthers come to town just two days after Christmas, Rivera will have the chance to gift them something of his own. This will be a very cold game, so we will see who can fight through the harsh weather better.
Week 17: Las Vegas Raiders vs Denver Broncos
This underrated game has a lot of appeal because both teams have the ability to squeeze into the playoffs as potential wild cards. Both teams took major strides in the offseason, especially at the wide receiver position, and this could be a winner stays, loser goes home type of game. Both the Raiders and the Broncos are destined to have bounce back seasons in some capacity, and one of them could take it one step further and make the playoffs. Only time will tell.