Revenge games all the rage in 2024 NFL season matchups

After its usual further ado, the NFL indeed finally has released the full schedule for the 2024 season.

A slate of 544 regular-season and 13 postseason games will start Sept. 5 with the Ravens visiting the defending champion Chiefs in a rematch of last season's AFC title game and conclude Feb. 9 with Super Bowl LIX in New Orleans.

There are five international games, including the first one ever in South America. There's a Christmas Day double-header. On a, yes, Wednesday. And more intriguing revenge games than Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Saquon Barkley can shake a fist at.

Here's one person's top five games to watch next season:

1. Week 7: Chiefs at 49ers

Oct. 20, 3:25 p.m., FOX

Speaking of revenge games … They met in Super Bowl 55. They met again in Super Bowl 58. And there are numerous reasons – Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy, to name two — to believe they'll meet again in Super Bowl 59. So, yeah, this is arguably the best game on the entire schedule when you consider the last time these teams met the game ended with Mahomes capping a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a touchdown pass in the final six seconds of overtime for a 25-22 Super Bowl victory. Every game the Chiefs play as they strive for the first threepeat in the Super Bowl era is going to be anticipated and scrutinized. The measuring stick for their chances of a fourth title in six years doesn't get any bigger than this.

2. Week 9: Cowboys at Falcons

Nov. 3, Noon, FOX

Old not-so-friends Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer meet again, and, barring a tie, one of them is going to scream, "You like that!" with the biggest in-your-face-you-so-and-so smile of their careers. Zimmer – former Vikings coach, current Cowboys defensive coordinator and interim-head-coach-in-waiting if Mike McCarthy faceplants — inherits Micah Parsons and a top-5 defense. Heck, Zim has so much firepower, he might blitz Cousins during the coin toss. Cousins also is surrounded by talent, although it could have been more had Atlanta used the eighth overall pick to help him now, not replace him eventually. Zimmer and Cousins had one playoff season in four years together. The coach viewed the quarterback not as a savior, but as an $84 million albatross. Cousins, meanwhile, had his best season the year after Zim got fired. Duke it out, boys!

3. Week 12: Ravens at Chargers

Nov. 25, 7:15 p.m., ESPN

"Harbaugh Bowl II" probably won't be the instant classic that the first one was when John's Ravens beat Jim's 49ers in Super Bowl 47. But add this game to the list of potential heavyweight contests to watch in the AFC. Jim returns to the NFL from Michigan, where the smashmouth style that won him a college football title could be what the Chargers need to finally maximize Justin Herbert's potential. John returns to Baltimore for a 17th season – second in NFL coaching seniority behind Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin (18) – after hosting the AFC title game last season. Both Harbaughs are chasing the Chiefs with similar philosophies and QB investments. With average annual salaries of $52.5 million and $52 million, Herbert and Baltimore's reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson are the second- and third-highest paid players in NFL history.

4. Week 8: Bears at Commanders

Oct. 27, Noon, CBS

The future is now for two longtime laughingstocks that put their faith in the two most ballyhooed passers in April's QB-rich draft. After several swings and Trubiskys, did the Bears finally get it right when they chose Caleb Williams first overall? Did Washington do the right thing when it made Jayden Daniels the second QB taken ahead of Drake Maye? Answers could start flowing on opening day since neither team is set up to stomach the likes of Tyson Bagent or Marcus Mariota as Day 1 starters. These teams are 61-104-1 with nary a winning season between them since 2019. Williams also will face Carolina's Bryce Young, last year's No. 1 overall pick, as he tries to prove he's the final piece of the Bears' massive rebuild and not the whiff that topples it all.

5. Week 2: Broncos at Steelers

Sept. 15, 3:25 p.m., CBS

This could be an ugly, embarrassing, job-threatening outcome for George Paton, the former Vikings assistant general manager and current very-much-on-the-hot-seat Broncos GM. Somehow, Paton has weathered one of the worst head coaching hires (Nathaniel Hackett, 2022) in recent memory and one of the worst trades (Russell Wilson, 2022) in, well, forever. Wilson, the likely future Hall of Fame QB, will enter this game probably as the favorite against Bo Nix, the sixth of six first-round QBs; Zach Wilson, the former failed No. 2 overall pick of the Jets; or, who knows, Jarrett Stidham. The Broncos are paying Wilson $85 million NOT to play for them. He counts $53 million against this year's cap and $32 million against next year's. The Steelers are paying him $1.2 million. Godspeed, George.