Offseason Christmas came earlier this week as the NFL released its schedule, and NFL fans are now circling the top games on their calendar, while planning trips to see their teams play.
Every year, we get a bunch of awesome NFL games. But we also know some of the most intriguing games don't pan out. Such is life, but we actually, in my opinion, have the most loaded-looking NFL schedule in years.
The league's toughest division, the NFC West, faces the much-improved AFC West. The NFC East, home to four legendary NFL Franchises, will face the AFC North, which features three Super Bowl contenders: The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, and Pittsburgh Steelers. What more can we complain about?
Also, we'll see rare quarterback matchups like Andrew Luck vs. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady vs. Carson Palmer, and Tony Romo vs. Ben Roethlisberger. Sunday Night Football has stacked up the most intriguing matchups and will give us NFL fans a treat to watch late at night.
And nothing is better, of course, than opening night. The Denver Broncos will open up their quest for a repeat against the Carolina Panthers, the team they topped to win Super Bowl 50. Can Cam Newton exact revenge? Spoiler alert: This game is somewhere on our list. You'll have to scroll down to find out where.
I would like to say that I tried balancing out how many times the elite teams appeared on this list. You could take every Denver, New England, Green Bay, Carolina, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Seattle game and place them on here. I also didn't bother putting on the Los Angeles Rams home opener, or any of the London games, because I don't expect those contests to be that thrilling.
My list was based on what I expect to be the best games. Here are the 15 must-see NFL games in 2016.
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15 Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens, Week 1
Some may question this, but the Ravens in my opinion are a bonafide Super Bowl contender and the Bills are a rising power in the AFC East.
This game will feature two of the most physical and hard-hitting defenses in football. This is also Baltimore's first game since Tray Walker's tragic passing. The crowd will be electric in his memory, and with Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Terrell Suggs, and Steve Smith coming back from season-ending injuries in 2015, this could be the start of a promising season.
14 Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks, Week 13
With Peyton Manning retired, his rivalry with Tom Brady ended. My money is on Russell Wilson and Cam Newton to be the next best quarterback rivalry.
They've already combined for three Super Bowl appearances, with one championship, and one MVP, in a combined nine seasons in the NFL. They both play on teams with physical, hard-hitting defenses with elite shutdown corners.
Both guys are tough as nails and they both have run-heavy offenses. Seattle was once 4-0 against Super Cam, but then he won in Seattle last season before thrashing them in the playoffs. Enjoy the rivalry folks, it has just begun and it will continue this upcoming season.
13 Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings, Week 2
After the Vikings surprisingly won the NFC North last season, it showed the world that the Packers are no longer a shoe-in to take the division crown every year.
The Vikings have struggled at home against Green Bay, losing three straight home matchups against their arch-rivals. But still, they went into Lambeau Field in Week 17 last season to win the division.
Can Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson get a huge home win inside their fancy new stadium or will the Packers show they're still the big NFC North bully? This one should be a blast.
12 New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys, Week 1
Tony Romo and Eli Manning always put up high-scoring affairs that go down to the wire, and assuming both are healthy for this one, we'll get to see one of the oldest and best rivalries in sports once again.
Not a whole lot needs to be said. They're two storied franchises, have a bitter hatred towards each other, and play in two of the largest markets in the NFL. Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant are two of the league's most electrifying receivers. For all we know, this game could tell us who wins the NFC East.
11 Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers, Week 8
After the Panthers thumped the Cardinals in last season's NFC Championship Game, many people thought it was time for Arizona to move on from Carson Palmer.
We'll guess that he didn't appreciate that and that he wants to get revenge after the worst showing of his career. These are the top two teams in the NFC, no question. They are the biggest obstacle to each other and this win could easily tell us who has home advantage in the playoffs.
10 Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals, Week 15
The top two teams in the AFC over the last couple years gave us one of the best playoff games in recent memory. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati in a crazy Wild-Card game, thanks to controversial penalties from Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones.
Both teams feature lights-out offenses. Andy Dalton put together his best season before a thumb injury ended his season, coincidentally enough against the Steelers. This is Cincy's chance to signal a permanent changing of the guard in the AFC North. A win against Pittsburgh could put them over the top in the AFC.
9 Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs, Week 16
The Broncos biggest threat to a sixth-straight division title is no doubt the Kansas City Chiefs, who will face off with Denver on Christmas Day.
Kansas City beat Denver last year at home, but the Broncos had a huge comeback win in their second game, which set the stage for them to take the AFC West title home. It's defense vs. defense, with each team having two dangerous running backs. Jamaal Charles and C.J. Anderson. Who's in?
Also, could the Chiefs finally recapture the division for the first time in six years?
8 New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 7
These are looking to be, perhaps, the top two teams in the AFC. With Brady playing his age-39 season and Big Ben now 34, it's one of the last times these future Hall of Famers face off.
Two of the league's most prolific offenses should form a shootout. Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown against Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Both championship windows are slowly closing as both teams fight for one more title.
This matchup could have serious implications as to who wins the AFC's top-two seeds. Seeing the fireworks go off here should make for great football.
7 Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers, Week 14
Last year's Week 2 meeting between these squads failed to live up to the excitement of the Fail Mary Game and previous year's NFC Championship. Seattle lacked Kam Chancellor and Green Bay lacked Jordy Nelson. Let's give this one another go.
These are two of the top squads in the NFC, no question about it. And it's a classic battle of offense vs. defense. Can Rodgers solve the Seahawks secondary for a second straight year or will the Legion of Boom make it 4-1 against the Packers icon?
6 Houston Texans @ Denver Broncos, Week 7
Arguably the league's two scariest defenses in the NFL will face off in this clash. On top of that, we have Von Miller and J.J. Watt.
But the biggest storyline is Brock Osweiler, who spurned the Broncos to join the Houston Texans after allegedly being furious for being benched in favor of Peyton Manning before the playoffs.
No doubt Broncos fans are somewhat bitter and Mark Sanchez, or whoever they as a starting QB, will have a chance to make him regret his decision.
5 Indianapolis Colts @ Green Bay Packers, Week 9
The Colts and Packers were the two trendy picks to own the league's top offenses last season. Andrew Luck got injured and fell behind an awful offensive line, while Aaron Rodgers clearly missed Jordy Nelson.
Both quarterbacks are due for rebounds and after their thrilling Week 5, 2012 matchup, we're set for a rematch at Lambeau Field, where Rodgers rarely loses. It's maybe the best quarterback in the league right now against the guy who'll be the league's best quarterback any moment now. Luck and Rodgers. Enjoy it.
4 Seattle Seahawks @ New England Patriots, Week 10
What else do we need to say? We'll give you one name and three words:
- Malcolm Butler
- Run The Ball
Nobody will forget the crazy finish to Super Bowl XLIX, with Russell Wilson throwing an interception on the one-yard line when the team probably had a repeat in the bag by handing the ball off to Marshawn Lynch.
Though a regular season victory won't entirely take the pain away, it's the ultimate shot at revenge. Again, two powerhouses in their conference. It's likely the last time Tom Brady faces the Legion of Boom.
With the LOB 1-1 against Brady, this may be the rubber match. Let's see who wins.
3 Dallas Cowboys @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 10
So the Cowboys have been an under-performing group in the last two years, but you just need to look at the history between these franchises to understand how awesome this every-four-year matchup will be.
Their last two games have come down to the wire. Pittsburgh won in 2008 after picking off Tony Romo late. The Cowboys picked off Big Ben Roethlisberger in overtime, setting the stage for a game-winning field goal.
The Steelers beat Dallas in Super Bowls X and XIII, but the Cowboys got their revenge with a win in Super Bowl XXX. They're arguably the two most iconic and popular NFL teams. Plus, Romo vs. Roethlisberger sounds attractive, right?
2 New England Patriots @ Arizona Cardinals, Week 1
This was close (ish) to being the Super Bowl 50 matchup. That was before Denver's defense dominated Tom Brady and Carson Palmer completely flopped in the big game.
This is intriguing, with new Cardinal Chandler Jones making his debut in the desert against the team that traded him. It's a clash of two powerhouses in their respective conferences.
How will New England's new-look offensive line fare against arguably the league's best pass-rush? Time will tell.
1 Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos, Week 1
Not much more needs to be said other than the following two things
A) Season Opener
B) The Super Bowl rematch.
Even though some may say the lack of the now-retired Peyton Manning makes this game less intriguing, consider that Super Bowl 50 was strictly Denver's defense against Cam Newton.
There's been a lot of trolling from Von Miller after winning Super Bowl MVP on Instagram. Newton's known to have a big mouth too, so it'll be fun to see if they get the better of Newton again or if he gets his revenge on the league's best defense.
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