Football isn’t quite back yet as we slog through the long offseason in the NFL but the league office has gifted us all with something very, very important: the schedule itself. Sure we’ve known who’s playing who (and where) but it’s the all important when that takes things to the next level and finally allows us to start planning how our fall will go.
This year’s slate is phenomenal once again, featuring conference title game rematches, recent Super Bowl head-to-heads and a host of huge free-agent acquisitions facing their old teams for the first time. There’s juice under the lights in prime time and on the Sunday afternoon windows we all know best. In short, there’s football that you can finally start writing on the calendar about in ink and not pencil.
What are the best of the bunch? Here are the 10 must-see games of the 2019 NFL regular season (and a few more to keep an eye out for this fall).
1. Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (Week 14)
Patrick Mahomes will get to touch the ball again against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, albeit a season after falling just short in overtime of that thrilling AFC Championship Game to the eventual champs. The two sides actually staged two incredible games in 2018 and something says this late season tilt this season will have huge No. 1 seed implications.
2. New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams (Week 2)
The Saints don’t have to wait long to take their revenge for those blown calls and missed Super Bowl trip from last year’s NFC title game. While plenty will be made about that game from last season, the real focus on the here and now is that this very early matchup in the year gives us a good idea as to who is the NFC front-runner and who is doing the chasing in 2019.
3. Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 8, Sunday Night Football)
Mahomes. Rodgers. Need we say more? I mean we could, but there really isn’t anything else that needs to be said about two of the game’s best quarterbacks facing off against each other and making your jaw drop with every single throw.
4. Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots (Week 8)
The Browns have gone from lovable loser to straight-up contender this season as the once-moribund franchise is suddenly sporting one of the best rosters in the league. We’ll find out if those playoff aspirations are something to truly take seriously when they visit the defending champs and say hello to former head coach Bill Belichick.
5. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Week 11, Monday Night Football)
“Monday Night Football” makes the trip down to Mexico City for this thrilling AFC West game that should have huge postseason implications for both sides. While the stars of the show are the two electric quarterbacks involved in this one, don’t discount the re-tooled Chiefs defense and upgraded Chargers squad making things even more fun south of the border.
6. New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Week 3)
An early playoff-caliber game for us as the Saints head to the Pacific Northwest for a top-notch chess matchup between Pete Carroll’s feisty defense and Sean Payton’s offense. Drew Brees vs. Russell Wilson is the headliner here, especially with the latter becoming the highest-paid player in the game and the former still an ageless wonder who keeps putting up eye-opening numbers.
7. Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (Week 15)
The Rams scored their first playoff win in over a decade against the Cowboys at the Coliseum in January and you can bet that Dallas will be ready to turn the tables when the NFC champs come to JerryWorld. There’s a ton of talent involved in this one, from Zeke vs. Gurley burning rubber to two of the best (and highest-paid) defensive linemen in the game on either side with Aaron Donald and DeMarcus Lawrence.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots (Week 1, Sunday Night Football)
This has been one of the best games of the season in the AFC going back for nearly a decade now and something says we’ll get yet another classic when these two kick off “Sunday Night Football” on opening weekend. The Pats will be juiced by raising yet another banner in Foxborough but one really has to tune in knowing these Big Ben-Brady face-offs are dwindling by the year.
9. Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns (Week 3, Sunday Night Football)
Two No. 1 overall picks at quarterbacks, wide receivers for days, offensive masterminds at head coach calling plays and two of the best rosters in their respective divisions. This is Cleveland’s first appearance on “Sunday Night Football” in over a decade and you can bet the Dawg Pound will be extra pumped for two of the top offenses in the game to square off against each other.
10. Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (Week 1, Thursday Night Football)
This year’s Thursday night season-opener may not feature the defending champs but it will have these historic franchises meeting on the gridiron as the league celebrates its 100th season in style. Last year these two put on an all-timer with Khalil Mack looking like a freight train and Aaron Rodgers pulling off a miraculous comeback. Something says the 2019 season will kick off in style either way with those two back at it again and plenty of NFL history on tap before, during and after the game.
Don’t forget about:
Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints (Week 4, Sunday Night Football)
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles (Week 11)
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints (Week 15, Monday Night Football)
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (Week 5, Thursday Night Football)
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams (Week 11, Sunday Night Football)
Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears (Week 16, Sunday Night Football)
Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals (Week 15)
Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings (Week 8, Thursday Night Football)
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets (Week 16)
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.