Since a wild start to the league year and free agency, the NFL off-season has quieted down considerably.
Well, that all changed on Wednesday night with the release of the 2019 schedule.
From revenge games to rematches, here are the top-five games you can’t miss next season.
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams, Week 2
Our first must-see game of the season has the potential to be a doozy.
The Saints travel to La La Land to play Sean McVay’s Rams in a rematch of last season’s NFC title game – one we all remember well for what may be the most outrageous missed call in NFL history. Since then, Saints owner Gayle Benson and coach Sean Payton have spearheaded a change to the rules, but nothing will make up for New Orleans losing out on a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Saints will, however, get a shot at some revenge in Week 2, and you can bet all the talk in the lead-up to the game will be Nickell Robey-Coleman’s infamous interference on Tommylee Lewis.
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets, Week 2
We only have to wait until the second week of the season to get our first big return game after an off-season jam-packed with wild trades.
Odell Beckham returns to New York with the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. And although it’s against the other N.Y. team rather than the Giants, MetLife Stadium is still OBJ’s former home and the place where he became a world-wide superstar with a single catch.
But Beckham’s return isn’t the only reason to tune in on Sept. 16: the game also features a showdown of the top two quarterbacks selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. Both played well in their rookie seasons and are expected to take big steps in their sophomore years, and high expectations have been heaped on both as the faces of two playoff-starved franchises.
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders (in London), Week 5
Oh, this is going to be fun.
Not only will this be the first NFL game at the incredible Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London, but it’ll also be Khalil Mack’s first showdown against his former team since Jon Gruden and the Raiders traded the dominant pass rusher to the Windy City.
Mack, of course, had an incredible year in his first season with the Bears – racking up 12.5 sacks and 18 QB hits – while the Raiders finished 4-12 and had just 13 TOTAL sacks, a mere 0.5 more than their former star.
Of course, the Raiders have made some more trade waves this off-season, bringing in All-Pro receiver, and noted social media bully, Antonio Brown. But this game will be all about No. 52, and if I’m Derek Carr, I’m watching my back for Mack.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, Week 14
Let’s jump ahead nine weeks to another conference title rematch, this one between Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs and and Tom Brady’s Patriots.
Last season’s MVP squaring off against the GOAT gave us a pair of thrillers – the teams combined for 151 points in those games. The second showdown, the AFC title game, saw a 38-point fourth quarter and New England emerge victorious in overtime after a furious second-half comeback by K.C.
With next season’s Chiefs-Patriots clash coming so late in the campaign, we could easily see this matchup playing a big role in determining the No. 1 seed in the AFC, or, at the very least, having an impact in determining playoff positions.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles, Week 16
We don’t want to rule out the Giants or Washington months before the season even starts, but in all likelihood it’ll be the Cowboys and Eagles battling it out for top spot in the always-dramatic NFC East.
Last season the difference between these two teams was a pair of closely contested games decided by a total of 13 points. If not for a fluke OT touchdown caught by Amari Cooper in Week 14, things may have played out very different in the NFC East over the final month of the season.
If we were betting on it, we’d say this Week 16 divisional game on a cold December afternoon in Philadelphia is going to be for all the NFC East marbles.