The NFL has released the 2019 regular-season schedule. If you’re a huge fan of a particular team, of course you’re excited about its full 16-game slate.
But with so many prime-time games and with fantasy football’s popularity showing no signs of slowing down, there are a lot of matchups that get our attention. Here’s the 10 games we’re most looking forward to after the schedule reveal:
The 49ers made their big play for Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017, paid him well in early 2018 - then lost him to a torn ACL just three games into his first full season with the team. He will probably look a little rusty in his first game back, but if San Francisco is going to get over .500 for the first time since 2013, it will need Garoppolo to be the quarterback that team brass believe him to be. It’s also a pretty big opener for the home team, which has a new coach in Bruce Arians and a quarterback in Jameis Winston who will be trying to finally turn the corner.
Here are some juicy storylines. No longer is it odd to see the Browns in prime time; they’re one of the more captivating teams of the 2019 NFL season. In the Browns’ first prime-time game of the season, we get a Monday night duel between Browns QB Baker Mayfield and Jets QB Sam Darnold, the first two quarterbacks picked in last year’s draft. Oh, and new Browns receiver Odell Beckham will be back in MetLife Stadium, where he became a star with the Giants.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets, Week 16
Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire 2018 season rather than allow the Steelers to have him endure the beating of another 400-plus touches with scant security in terms of his future. The Jets, with second-year quarterback Sam Darnold, new head coach Adam Gase and a lot of money to spend in free agency, were long pegged as a potential landing spot, and that’s just where Bell ended up. Now he will play his old team on his new turf.
Last year’s scheduled game in Mexico City between the Chiefs and Rams had to be canceled and relocated to Los Angeles after the Estadio Azteca turf was deemed unplayable. It’s against that backdrop that these AFC West rivals meet — they split their two meetings in 2018, and finished with the same 12-4 record. And their respective quarterbacks are at opposite ends of the spectrum: Philip Rivers is in his 16th season with the Chargers, while reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes is beginning his third.
6. Chicago Bears vs. Oakland Raiders in London, Week 5
Hey, did you know the Raiders and coach Jon Gruden traded All-Pro pass-rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears last year rather than pay Mack what he’s earned? You didn’t? Where have you been for the past seven months? Mack and Oakland quarterback Derek Carr have said they’re close friends, but Carr should be ready to feel Mack breathing down his neck often.
If we were betting people — and, well, some of us are — we’d put money on either the Eagles or Cowboys being NFC East champions. This first meeting won’t settle that, but it most certainly will be entertaining: Amari Cooper has had an entire offseason and training camp to work with Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense. And all eyes will be on Carson Wentz after he returns from a second straight injury-shortened season, especially after the Eagles let Nick Foles find his own team. They’ll meet again in Week 16, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the division title was on the line then.
4. New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles, Week 11
The rematch of Super Bowl LII. Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to the win that day, has moved on to Jacksonville but Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have long memories, especially for games they lost. Fans in the City of Brotherly Love likely will take glee in loudly reminding Patriots players what happened the last time these teams met.
3. Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, Week 1, “Thursday Night Football”
The NFL is all about celebrating its 100th season in 2019, and went with a matchup of two of its longest-tenured teams to open the schedule instead of having the reigning Super Bowl champion get the honors, as has become custom. The Packers will have a new head coach for the first time since 2006, and Matt LaFleur’s head coaching debut will come under the red-hot glare of prime time.
2. Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, Week 14
Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes. Bill Belichick. Andy Reid. Last season’s AFC championship. Overtime. The Patriots will look quite different from that night; the Chiefs won’t. But we’ll all be watching.
1. New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams, Week 2
Do we really have to explain why? Hopefully, with new rules in place, this one won’t come down to a pass interference non-call. Too soon, New Orleans?
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