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Ranking top 15 NFL matchups we cannot wait to watch in 2018

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL offseason, which has been bustling with activity, has been a lifeline for football enthusiasts who cannot wait for the 2018 season to kick off. And even though the official NFL schedule has not been released, we do know each team’s opponents for the upcoming year.

Right now, the details as to when each NFL team will play do not matter. What does matter is there are some pretty awesome pairings that will be more than fun to watch. There are multiple revenge games on the slate as well as a bunch of matchups that force many guys to play against their former teams.

No mercy shall be spared there as we review 15 NFL matchups we cannot wait to watch in 2018.

15. Detroit Lions host New England Patriots

The Lions do not always make for must-see TV. But who does not want to watch new head coach Matt Patricia square off against his former team, the Patriots? Patricia made the move to Detroit after working with the Patriots since 2004. Surely he has brought with him some sweet tricks of the trade.

Pencil over ear and all, Patricia and the Lions will be attempting to break a four-game losing streak against New England that dates back to 2002. Quarterback Tom Brady passed for 210 yards and one interception that game. It’s also worth noting that quarterback Matthew Stafford was only 14 years-old.

Aside from the history, we’ll get to see Lions running back LeGarrette Blount pummeling his former team in the red zone.

14. Houston Texans host Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell sacks Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage

Switching gears to AFC South franchises who meet twice yearly, it should be riveting to watch these teams’ stifling defenses take the field. The sometimes mistake-prone quarterback, Blake Bortles — minus the Allen Bros. — will square off against the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and newly signed defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.

Offensively for the Texans, can second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson improve on his one and only performance against “Saxonville?” The Jags owned Watson last season in Week 1 when he rescued an overwhelmed Tom Savage. Watson passed for a mere 102 yards and took four sacks in his rookie debut.

Texans fans can only hope that Watson fares better this time around against the Jags’ ferocious pass rush.

13. Carolina Panthers host Dallas Cowboys

The last time these two NFC franchises met, the Panthers broke quarterback Tony Romo on Thanksgiving Day in 2015. This was the precursor to the start of the Dak Prescott era that began in 2016. This year’s game between the two squads takes the Cowboys on the road where they have won their last four games playing in Charlotte dating back to 2005.

It will be Prescott’s first time playing against quarterback Cam Newton. Both are mobile and pretty awesome to watch in action. Young running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey aren’t exactly boring on the big screen either.

These two franchises share only only 13 games of history, with the Cowboys winning all but four matchups.

12. Baltimore Ravens host the Oakland Raiders

These two AFC franchises have met up only 11 times, and the Ravens have beat the Raiders in all but three games. Though, two of those three losses came recently in 2015-16.

We would like to think this opportunity might have new Raiders head coach Jon Gruden just a bit fired up hoping for a victory. His history as a Raiders coach playing against the Ravens consists of two losing games from 1998 and 2001, when only 13 total points were scored.

Though, somebody who might want to see “Chuckie” and Raiders fall flat on their faces is new Ravens wideout, Michael Crabtree. The Raiders were quick to dump Crabtree after they signed Jordy Nelson. In less than 24 hours, the Ravens swooped in on Crabtree as if he were Antonio Brown.

It is always fun to watch a jilted player go up against his former club.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers host New England Patriots

How can we not cover this fan-favorite matchup between each franchise’s all-time passing leaders? Try as they might, the Steelers have not found a way to beat the Patriots since October of 2011. Since then, the Steelers have lost five consecutive games, including two at Heinz Field.

Will the Steelers have any luck this time around at home? New England’s defense should be challenged trying to slow down the likes of wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell (provided he signs his franchise tender). But it’s always hard to contain quarterback Tom Brady’s passing game. Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers no matter the stadium.

Whatever the outcome, we can be sure quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Brady hug it out like the seasoned pros they are at the end of the game.

10. Seattle Seahawks host Green Bay Packers

The Seahawks will host the Packers for the first time since 2015 when they aim to continue their three-game home winning streak. They should also be looking to redeem themselves after losing in Green Bay 17-9 in last year’s season opener.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers probably did a little leap of joy after finding out he would not be facing the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom this fall. There won’t be any fear of throwing passes in the direction of the now long gone cornerback Richard Sherman. Also no longer on the team is defensive end, Michael Bennett. And who knows how many other defenders will be out of the picture by the end of this summer?

Due to all the Seahawks’ shifts in personnel, this game should take on a whole new vibe.

9. San Francisco 49ers host Oakland Raiders

Speaking of some curious moves, the 49ers now feature the talents of the aforementioned Sherman. There should be a number of games that 49ers fans cannot wait to see for this reason alone. One matchup we like reunites Sherman with his “cousin,” former teammate, Marshawn Lynch.

Some wished the Raiders would land Sherman in a trade or during free agency. But, wearing red playing with San Francisco is what Sherman desired. It will be great to see some friendly camaraderie between Sherms and Beast Mode — who are both from the Bay area.

Plus, what is not to enjoy about watching two of the best-looking quarterbacks in the younger category flashing some happy smiles? Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo will have this department covered. And then there’s the cross-town rivalry that always makes this matchup extra spicy.

8. Minnesota Vikings host New Orleans Saints

This matchup reunites the teams that help establish the Minnesota Miracle. Stemming from that horribly botched tackle by rookie Saints safety, Marcus Williams, a last-second touchdown by Stefon Diggs put an end to the chances of the Saints advancing to the NFC Championship game. Saints fans are surely wanting revenge, even if this is just a regular season contest.

Though, we all know the Saints play their best ball in their home stadium. This game hauntingly takes place at U.S. Bank Stadium, the site of the team’s downfall in January. But, instead of quarterback Case Keenum launching passes, it will be quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins and quarterback Drew Brees last met in New Orleans when the Saints made a comeback victory against the Washington Redskins, 34-31.

Lastly, this matchup should see second-year running backs Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara running amok. Fun stuff.

7. New England Patriots host Green Bay Packers

This is a battle of No. 12s that has only been seen twice since Rodgers became the starter in Green Bay. In 2010, the Patriots hosted the Packers, who lost 31-27. Four years later at Lambeau, the Packers beat New England, 26-21. Another four seasons later in 2018, Tom Brady and Co. will once again welcome the Packers into Gillette Stadium. It is not often fans get to enjoy a game that features two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

Outside of the signal callers, we get to see jumbo-sized tight ends Rob Gronkowski (provided he does not retire) and newly-signed Jimmy Graham take the field.

If there was ever an opportune time make a visit to Boston and watch a live game, this legendary matchup should provide tons of thrills.

6. Denver Broncos host Los Angeles Rams

We must slip one Broncos game that should be intriguing into this list. At this time, we assume that Case Keenum will be starting and that the Broncos offense will be less disastrous than it was last season. Keenum will, of course, want to impress considering he will be playing against his former team, the Rams, who benched him in 2016 in favor of Jared Goff.

But, Keenum might have a tough go of it against a revamped Rams’ defense. This is a defense that now features former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib. We know he will be salivating at the chance to burn a team that traded him a way. Besides Talib, the Broncos will have to deal with cornerback Marcus Peters, who is no stranger to Denver as a former AFC West rival, not to mention Ndamukong Suh.

There should be plenty of excitement considering all of the new faces in new places this showdown offers.

5. Dallas Cowboys host New York Giants

NFL Schedule

It is always a classic dance off when these two NFC East rival teams meet up. This upcoming season, the Giants will be looking for redemption after losing to the Cowboys in both 2017 games — two games in which the Giants scored a measly 13 points total.

Giants fans can only hope their team is better equipped to kick some Cowboys butt this year. Speaking of butt kicking, the Giants defense has been an obstacle for running back Ezekiel Elliott early in his career. He has averaged only 87.3 rushing yards at 3.85 yards per carry against New York.

On the wide receiving side, fans surely hope that both Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant will be present to make those jaw-dropping catches they are both famous for. Stay tuned.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars host New England Patriots

This is a revenge matchup even if the Jaguars try to claim it is not. On their home turf this time around, the Jags will be hoping to put the screws to a Patriots team that one-upped them in the AFC Championship Game. This was a game that saw the Jaguars let a 20-10 lead slip at the start of the fourth quarter. The legendary Brady should never be underestimated when it comes to pulling out a comeback win.

Just for that, the Jaguars’ vicious pass rush should be anxious to get at Tom Terrific again. He endured three sacks during that playoff game. As for the Jags pulling off a win, we must mention that Brady is 5-0 in his history playing against Jacksonville.

For all this, Jacksonville has much to accomplish in order to pull off an upset.

3. Los Angeles Rams host Kansas City Chiefs

South of the border, this game should take place before a sold-out crowd. The NFL brings fans out in droves when it heads to Mexico City. This time around, we get to watch young second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes attempt to outclass that beefed-up Rams defense. Will cornerback Marcus Peters take it easy on his former team? We already know the answer to that question.

And speaking of new team players, former Rams receiver Sammy Watkins will now have to deal with Peters. Talk about a dynamic pairing. Another dynamic duo the Chiefs will have to somehow deal with is defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Good luck with that.

On offense, speedster running backs Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt should steal the show. Adios for now until this game arrives.

2. Philadelphia Eagles host Minnesota Vikings

Fast forward several months and the Vikings will once again head to Philly to take on an Eagles unit that completely dismantled them in the NFC Championship Game. That game saw the Eagles whisk away the Vikings’ dreams of playing a Super Bowl on their home field. Now the two teams will meet again, but this time with different quarterbacks under center.

Barring any setbacks, Carson Wentz will be facing off against his former NFC East rival — quarterback Kirk Cousins. Go figure. Perhaps the presence of running back Dalvin Cook might make plays go more smoothly for the Vikings on offense.

Either way things turn out, a rematch between these two high-ranking 2017 NFC franchises should be an enjoyable one.

1. Seattle Seahawks host San Francisco 49ers

Richard Sherman officially introduced as a member of the 49ers

Last, but not least by any means, we have former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman traveling to his old home, suiting up in red and gold. What kind of welcome awaits him in Seattle?

Seahawks fans are not be too happy to see one of their best former defenders having deflected to an enemy NFC West team.

Outside of this drama, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be making his first trip up north to CenturyLink. Though, things in Seattle might not be quite as scary as they were in the past for opposing quarterbacks, with the Seahawks making some major moves on their defense.

At this time last year, the Seahawks were on the uptrend and the 49ers were on the downhill slide. Many consider things to be quite the opposite this year, which makes this upcoming matchup must-see TV.