The 2017 NFL schedule is set and teams are out there practicing in full-swing. Yes, football is in the air. Soon enough, September will be here and Week 1 will get the season kicked off.
We obviously can’t predict exactly how the season will play out. But that won’t stop us from discussing the games we find most interesting.
Some of the contests we’re looking forward to feature revenge matchups. Baltimore Ravens fans surely have not forgotten the last-second touchdown Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown dealt them last Christmas Day. Also intriguing are games in which legendary, future Hall of Fame quarterbacks might be facing each other for the final time.
These are the contests we find most intriguing each week on the 2017 NFL schedule.
Week 1: Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans, 1:00 ET
This game has fun factor written all over it. First of all, new Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch will make his return to the big stage. It will be in Tennessee, but hey, there is sure to be a sea of black and silver on hand attempting to override the Titans fans in baby blue.
Oakland will be looking to build off a magnificent 12-4 finish last season. But Tennessee will not roll over. The Titans tied for the top in the AFC South after winning nine games last year. They are definitely on the brink of greatness in 2017.
Running back DeMarco Murray might just destroy a Raiders rush defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry last year. Meanwhile, Lynch will compete against a Titans rush defense that ranked No. 2.
Worth noting is both quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr will be returning from breaking their legs late last season. They both have excellent crews of receivers including Amari Cooper and Mariota’s new rookie pass-catcher, Corey Davis.
How much more can we add to this story? Get your pizzas and breakfast burritos ordered early so there are no interruptions for this Week 1 thriller.
Week 2: Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 ET
Week 2 presents the first regular season game that will compel some Chargers fans to crawl out of their San Diego homes and make a road trip to Los Angeles. For that fact alone, the Chargers had better put on a fantastic show.
They will be hosting a potentially jet-lagged Dolphins crew that just flew from coast to coast. This is where the Chargers at least have the advantage. Both teams will suit up at the Chargers’ temporary home at Stub Hub Stadium. A stadium we must mention holds a mere 27,000 guests. The Chargers’ former home, Qualcomm Stadium, housed 70,561 people.
If Chargers fans pale in comparison to Dolphins fans, it is going to spell a long season for quarterback Philip Rivers and Co.
As for the Dolphins, they will be looking to keep afloat as usual playing in a New England Patriots-dominated AFC East. Beating Los Angeles won’t come easily, but they could get lucky if the Chargers just don’t mesh with their new digs.
Week 3: Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals, Monday Night Football
Week 3 in the NFL winds down with an NFC battle pitting one of the oldest quarterbacks in the league against one of the youngest — Dak Prescott versus Carson Palmer.
This marks the first time in nearly three years these two teams have competed. Dallas lost the last time around, 28-17. Now a potential third win on the season is at stake here for each championship-contending club.
This matchup will feature veterans drinking from the fountain of youth in Palmer and tight end Jason Witten, both from the 2003 draft class. Plus, veteran wideout Larry Fitzgerald is still playing strong. He will look to outperform Dez Bryant in a race to see which receiver tallies more yards and touchdowns.
This game will also feature two of the league’s premier running backs. Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson are sure to combine for yards galore. Those who play fantasy football will likely be sweating this game out as all involved will be putting up a truck load of game-deciding fantasy points this Monday evening.
Week 4: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 ET
Christmas Day last year was the last time these two AFC North teams met up. For Baltimore, it was anything but a gift when Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown reached his hand over the end zone to score this game-sealing touchdown with nine seconds left on the clock.
— Hype Sports 🦁 (@HypeSportsCo) March 6, 2017
That score sent the Ravens packing back to Baltimore after losing 31-27. This 2017 Week 5 tilt offers the Ravens an opportunity to avenge that close loss, this time on their home turf.
The Ravens and the Steelers have played against one another in the regular season 18 times under the tenures of quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger. Baltimore lost 10 of those games. The Ravens will look to better their record when they potentially play their second to the last game against the Steelers with Big Ben — a guy who isn’t committed past 2017 — under center.
Just for the record, the Ravens beat the Steelers the last four times they played in Baltimore.
Week 5: New York Jets @ Cleveland Browns, 1:00 ET
We know. Your first thought is, “ewwww.”
But this game is featured because the loser could be in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 pick in 2018. These teams were so bad last season that it is not crazy to think either one or both could be sitting at 0-4 when they take the field in Week 5.
At least the buck stops here if that is the case. One of these teams has to win. This is provided the unexpected doesn’t happen and the two parties force a tie. Wouldn’t that be a thriller?
Predicting which team will win right now is about as difficult as guessing which quarterbacks will be under center on October 8. Looking into the crystal ball, the potential scenarios are nearly endless. Right now in the midst of OTAs, Josh McCown and Cody Kessler are the front runners.
Should McCown become injured, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg wait in the wings for the Jets.
Behind Kessler is Kevin Hogan, Brock Osweiler and rookie DeShone Kizer for Cleveland. As crazy as it sounds, Osweiler is actually impressing the Cleveland brass right now.
Ultimately, the goal for both clubs would be to not lose to a bad team. Or would it? Both the Browns and Jets could already be plotting for that No. 1 draft pick in 2018.
This game has train wreck written all over it. And the fan bases for each franchise are so loyal, there likely won’t be an empty seat to be had.
Week 6: San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins, 1:00 ET
This matchup pits some key personnel against their former teams when the Redskins play host to their old offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan,.
Hopefully by this point in the season, Shanahan’s 49ers won’t be flying across the country sporting a 0-5 record. If so, quarterback Kirk Cousins and Co. will have the distinct advantage, especially returning from a restful Week 5 bye.
On the 49ers side, we will assume at this point quarterback Brian Hoyer will be the man under center. He will be slinging the ball to his No. 1 wideout Pierre Garcon. The 30 year-old receiver spent his last five seasons playing for Washington.
As for Cousins, it was heavily rumored earlier this year that he wished to join Shanahan in San Francisco. That’s water under the bridge now as Cousins will spend at least one more year playing in Washington under his franchise tag.
Tight end Vernon Davis will be catching passes from Cousins. He was the sixth overall pick by the 49ers in 2006.
For the reasons mentioned above, this game should be an entertaining one peppered with just a few sprinkles of awkwardness.
Week 7: Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots, Sunday Night Football
Week 7 offers fans a juicy Super Bowl LI rematch. Eight months after the big game, the Patriots will host the team they improbably beat during that historic event.
The Falcons may not want to admit this is a revenge matchup, but what else can we possibly label it?
Based on how the season will have played out so far, both the Patriots and Falcons could already be early contenders for another postseason trip.
This game won’t have a ring riding on it, but it could be a potential seventh win for the Patriots and possible sixth for the Falcons. Both offenses, quarterbacked by Tom Brady and Matt Ryan, should put a lot of points on the board. This time around, Brady could have tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandin Cooks on hand.
Meanwhile, guys like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman will be doing what they do best, creating nightmares for New England’s defense.
This game is sure to stir up past memories and perhaps even re-open some wounds that have been trying to heal since February. We can’t wait.
Week 8: Houston Texans @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 ET
This game will take whichever young quarterback the Texans are starting by this time straight into the teeth of Seattle’s Legion of Boom. Quarterback Russell Wilson will also be attempting to avoid the bear claws of pass rusher J.J. Watt and his entourage.
Last year’s No. 1 Texans defense and Seattle’s fifth-ranked defense will be sure to dominate. At this time, it looks like Tom Savage who will be throwing passes to DeAndre Hopkins, who will be covered by Seattle’s top corner Richard Sherman at least part of the time.
Offensively for the Seahawks, if he has earned his keep up until this point, running back Eddie Lacy will be tasked with finding creases to exploit on the ground.
The number of interceptions, sacks and passes defended will be the determining factors as to which team prevails.
Week 9: Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers, Monday Night Football
Twice yearly these two NFC North teams rise to the challenge, and often last minute heroics often come into play. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the league’s most elite when it comes to late-game Hail Mary’s.
Unfortunately, the Lions are all too familiar with Rodgers’ handy-work.
61 yards. One Throw.
— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2015
On the other hand, quarterback Matthew Stafford is never shy to shift his offense into overdrive and force his own magical fourth-quarter comebacks.
What we don’t know yet is how many Lambeau leaps will go down this Monday evening. Will the Packers still be relying on rusher Ty Montgomery, who transitioned from wide receiver to running back? Is running back Ameer Abdullah going to be a healthy, key playmaker?
Interestingly enough, the last time the Packers and Lions met on a Monday night, it was in October of 1972. In that game, the Lions lost at home by one point, 24-23, to Green Bay. Scott Hunter and Greg Landry were under center that night at Tiger Stadium.
Fast forward 45 years and this Monday night at Lambeau could easily offer another thriller when Rodgers or Stafford makes a last-second clutch play.
Week 10: Los Angeles Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 ET
By Week 10, we would like to hope that the Chargers and Jaguars have more than the six combined wins they had by this time last year.
No matter what each team’s record is by then, there is no denying this matchup pits two of the league’s highest garbage time quarterbacks against one another. Rivers attempted 578 passes last season and Bortles ranked third with 625 attempts. Both are sure to be slinging the rock plenty to keep the game competitive.
Unfortunately, interceptions could be huge game-changers as well when caution is thrown to the wind. Bortles averaged one interception per game last season and Rivers threw a horrific 21.
The Chargers are fully equipped to score in bunches, featuring Keenan Allen, first-round rookie Mike Williams, Melvin Gordon and the best tight end duo in the league in Antonio Gates and Henry Hunter.
For the Jaguars, rookie running back Leonard Fournette could feasibly be averaging 100 yards and one touchdown per game by this time of the year. Receivers Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns should be keeping Bortles running hot.
It’s going to be a fun ride. And perhaps these teams might just surprise and actually be playing for something steeper than bragging rights by this point in the season.
Week 11: New England Patriots @ Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 4:25 ET
Yes, please. Mexico City will technically be home for Derek Carr and the Raiders this week. They will host Brady and his gang south of the border in mid-November.
Both clubs could easily be in a neck-in-neck race to win the top seed in AFC by Week 11. They’ll also likely be playing in front of a sold-out crowd, as was the case with last year’s Mexico game.
As for Brady and Carr going head-to-head, the last time the two faced each other was September of 2014. Carr was a mere rookie that game and the Raiders lost at Gillette Stadium, 16-9. Carr has improved 10-fold since then and Brady is, of course, the G.O.A.T.
Fans that tediously dealt with customs to see this game will surely be hoping for a much higher-scoring battle this time around.
Week 12: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving night, 8:30 ET
Thanksgiving Day in the NFL always offers three games to enjoy.
We have selected the final game of the day to feature in Week 12. This game will feature the turkey-sized egos of Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman, who have a history of bad behavior.
It is only June, but Norman is already talking trash about Beckham.
“He tries to be a tough guy. He tries to put on this persona which he’s not. Because he’s always going to have his head on a swivel. Always. Always when we play each other. He’s scary like that. He does things that he normally wouldn’t do because of all the pressure and added hype that he has to put on his whole persona. He’s not this guy. If you go back and watch the games in which we play compared to the games we don’t play each other, he’s a totally different guy.”
Fireworks are sure to fly, and we’ll all happily enjoy just one more piece of pie to go along with the game.
The Giants may have much at stake if their season is going as well as it did last year. Meanwhile, Cousins will be looking to keep things competitive as the Redskins could also be contending for a postseason visit.
For what it is worth, Washington has lost six of its last eight games against the Giants. At the very least, Norman and the crew will be playing to better their record.
Fingers crossed that nobody earns a suspension as a turkey-day punishment.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers, 1:00 ET
The Buccaneers, thanks in part to the growth of Jameis Winston, proved they were the real deal last season winning nine games. Interestingly enough, Rodgers and the Packers won only one more game than Tampa Bay did in 2016.
When Week 13 arrives, both NFC teams could be fighting for first place in their respective divisions. This game takes Winston out of his comfortable Florida weather to compete on a potentially frigid afternoon at Lambeau. This will be Winston’s first rodeo at Green Bay.
The Buccaneers and Packers have not played each other since December of 2014, when Tampa Bay managed only one field goal score.
With that said, the Packers are no sure fire bet to win. This preliminary prediction comes as a result of the Buccaneers managing some pretty impressive victories last fall. One that would include holding the Seahawks to only five points last November.
All considered, we decided this particular game makes for the most intriguing of Week 13.
Week 14: Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants, 4:25 ET
These two fan-favorite NFC East teams will have already faced each other in Week 1. Last year, the Giants were one of only two franchises that beat the Cowboys in the regular season. It will be interesting to see if things are different one year later.
Both clubs could have wins registering into the double digits if Eli Manning and Dak Prescott are mirroring last year’s success. It is also highly possible that the team that wins this game breaks a tie for first place within the division.
Manning’s has one of the league’s best trio of receivers on hand in OBJ, Marshall and second-year star Sterling Shepard. If running back Paul Perkins and/or Wayne Gallman lives up to expectations, the Giants’ offense might be nearly unstoppable.
On defense, the Giants held the Cowboys to only seven points last December. It would certainly make things a whole lot more exciting if running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Dez Bryant spiced things up.
We obviously can’t predict what exactly will happen six months from now. But, it is very likely that the playoffs will be on the line for one or both teams when this December tilt rolls around.
Week 15: New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 ET
The last time Brady and Big Ben went head-to-head, the Steelers’ dream of going to the Super Bowl was crushed in Boston. Running back Le’Veon Bell was sidelined early in the game, and wide receiver Antonio Brown caught heat after it.
That AFC Conference Championship tilt saw the Patriots wallop the Steelers in New England, 36-17.
This time around, visions of Super Bowl dreams could be on the line once again. This is provided both franchises have played as well as they did last year. It is almost a no-brainer right now to envision that Brady and the Patriots could be competing for home field advantage in the playoffs.
As for Roethlisberger and the Steelers, this might mark the final game Big Ben faces Brady on an NFL field if Roethlisberger retires after the season.
Either way, both teams and all parties involved are sure not to disappoint when this late-season contest kicks off at a chilly Heinz Field.
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints, 1:00 ET
Matchups between these two NFC South teams are typically high-scoring affairs. Week 16 marks the second game of the season between quarterback greats, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
As of now, the Saints have yet to commit to life beyond Brees. The future Hall of Fame quarterback is signed only through the 2017 season. So oddly enough, this matchup could represent the last time Brees and Ryan square off as divisional rivals. Even more sad is it could be the last time Brees plays at the Super Dome as a Saints quarterback.
As for stakes, it is pretty easy to envision the Falcons competing for a postseason berth based on their 2016 success. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said right now about the Saints.
However things play out during the season, both Ryan and Brees are bound to score lots of points and toss for hundreds of yards no matter what their team record is by then.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos, 4:25 ET
Things have been heating up in the AFC West. The Broncos are no longer the team to conquer within the division. The Chiefs as well as the Oakland Raiders have emerged into legitimate threats.
If both of those teams play as competitively as they did last year, the Broncos will have their work cut out to keep up. This is why the winner of the AFC West may boil down to the final points scored in this season finale.
Quarterback Alex Smith will be putting the final touches on a season that could be his final as Chiefs starter. Meaning it is playoffs or bust for Smith, who has rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes II breathing down his neck.
Speaking of quarterbacks, either young Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch will have hopefully gotten the Broncos playoff-bound by this point. Last year marked the first since 2011 the team did not make it to the postseason.
If for some reason neither of these teams is contending for a playoff slot in Week 17, some serious shifting of personnel could be transpiring in the 2018 offseason.