The NFL has become so big that the schedule release has grown into a primetime television event that attracts millions of viewers. Once again, the league didn’t disappoint by scheduling some juicy matchups that should produce some fireworks.
There are always unknown variables while teams are still in the offseason, such as where (or if) Aaron Rodgers and DeShaun Watson will play. Players, unfortunately, get injured, teams unexpectedly disappoint or surprise, but as of now, there are some very enticing games to look forward to.
Let’s highlight the 10 must-see games for the upcoming 2021 NFL season.
10. Week 16: Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
Who wouldn't want to see the top two selections in the 2021 NFL Draft battle it out?
While we're not expecting it to have playoff implications, it'll be fascinating to see where both of the prospects will be in their development this late into their rookie year.
9. Week 8: San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears
Think of this game as the distant cousin to the Jaguars-Jets tilt.
For Niners fans, it'll be a taste of what could've been as San Francisco could've drafted Fields No. 3 overall instead siding with the North Dakota State product.
Lance finds himself in the better situation with one of the NFL’s best play-callers in Kyle Shanahan, a pair of star receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and an elite tight end in George Kittle.
Fields, on the other hand, doesn't have as much to work with and seemingly will be under more pressure considering the Bears could clean house if he doesn't light the league on fire in Year One.
That makes this battle of rookie QBs arguably more interesting than the Jets-Jaguars tilt.
8. Week 15: Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Thanks to Herbert's flamethrower of a rookie year, he has elevated the Chargers offense into must-watch territory. When you pair that with their divisional rivals and the greatest QB alive in Patrick Mahomes, well then you have potentially the most entertaining game of the season. And guess what? They play twice!
This battle of two high-octane offenses could come down to the defense, though.
The Chargers should have one of the best defenses in the NFL this season if new coach Brandon Staley can get the same results he did from the Rams a year ago, while the Chiefs should be better on that side of the ball in 2021.
This has all the makings of a shootout, but don't be surprised if the defenses come to play.
7. Week 5: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
This NFC West matchup has always been a heated battle, with the Rams and Seahawks splitting their last four games. It’ll be a new QB under center for Los Angeles as Matthew Stafford takes over for Jared Goff, whose relationship deteriorated with coach Sean McVay.
The Rams give Stafford incredible infrastructure with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods on the outside while Cam Akers looks like the next star running back. Also, we get another round of Jalen Ramsey vs DK Metcalf, two of the most physically gifted players at their positions in the league.
6. Week 16: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team
Prescott isn't the only Cowboys star that Dallas will get back next year. Tyron Smith should be healthy and ready to lead a resurgent offensive line. On paper, the Cowboys look to be the most talented offene in the NFL. Dallas also boasts a fantastic trio of pass-catchers in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup along with arguably the best one-two punch at running back in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
But the Cowboys will have their hands full against a Washington defense that could very well be the best in the league. Washington's swarming defensive line should only get better this season, while the Football Team added athletic linebacker Jamin Davis at No. 19 overall in the draft.
The Football Team also has an underrated offense that should take a step forward with the immortal Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. With Antonio Gibson running behind a solid offensive line and Terry McLaurin wreaking havoc through the air, don’t be surprised if Washington wins the NFC East for a second straight season.
5. Week 1: Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs may be thinner on offensive skill positions compared to past seasons, but they still trot out Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Clyde Edwards-Helaire alongside a completely revamped offensive line that should be sturdier in 2021.
The Browns don't look too shabby, either. This is Cleveland's most talented team in decades. The offense, which ranked ninth in DVOA last season, returns every key player, while the defense brought in some serious upgrades that should make Kansas City’s job difficult.
Browns general manager Andrew Berry signed two of the best defensive backs on the free-agent market in John Johnson III and Troy Hill, plus he scooped up Jadaveon Clowney to bolster the defensive line.
But we all know this'll come down to Mahomes vs Baker Mayfield.
4. Week 1: Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 1 starts off with a bang for the Cowboys and the defending Super Bowl champions.
In what will surely be a ratings monster, the first game of the season will feature the return of Prescott from injury and the 87-year-old Tom Brady.
The Bucs brought back every single starter after demolishing the Chiefs in last year's Super Bowl, but don't count out the Cowboys. As mentioned, they have arguably the most talented offense in the league and will be fired up to have Prescott back under center.
However, this game could be decided by how much Dallas' D has improved. They sure spent a lot of assets to bolster that side of the ball.
3. Week 14: Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In what could be a potential Super Bowl matchup, this Week 14 tilt could have major implications for both teams.
While Brady has plenty of experience beating the Bills, he'll have a much tougher time against this Buffalo squad. Josh Allen continues to take massive leaps and if he takes another this season, then he could be the best player in the NFL.
That would be bad news for the rest of the NFL.
Even if he doesn't, Allen is one of the most entertaining QBs to watch. And his aggressive style of QB play against the Buccaneers' blitz-happy defense would be one of the most interesting clashes this season.
2. Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
The two won't have to wait too long to take on their former teams as they'll battle it out in Week 2. But we all know this is a matchup of two juggernaut offenses.
Baltimore has been a regular-season juggernaut for two years running, but the Chiefs have been their kryptonite. The Ravens are 0-2 against the Chiefs over the past two seasons and 25-5 against all other teams.
This will be a great test for the Ravens' upgraded weapons in the passing game. Baltimore brought in former Chief Sammy Watkins, as well the sturdy Rashod Bateman in the draft. Perhaps this is the year Marquise Brown is finally fed the ball enough and has his breakout season. But considering how run-heavy the Ravens are, there may not be that many receiving opportunities compared to other teams.
1. Week 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots
Easily the most anticipated game of the upcoming season is Tommy Terrific returning to Foxboro to face off against Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
Even if there isn't any bad blood between the two, it'll be hard not to be glued to the TV to see which of Brady or Belichick will come away victorious.
Brady, of course, has the bragging rights after the Bucs won the Super Bowl, but it'd add some extra sauce to the two if Belichicks Pats are able to pull off the upset.
We could talk about the Patriots' makeover this offseason, but that's all noise because we really only care about Brady vs Belichick in this one.
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