NFL Schedule Release: Top 10 Must-See Games For 2016
The 2016 NFL schedule was officially released on Thursday night, demanding the flood gates to a new season of pro football be opened. The schedule precedes the NFL Draft later this month, but sets the stage for a wild four-month run of preparation for teams and fans, alike.
While the teams will be putting in hard work to gear up for their regular season opener, fans are already circling the top rivalry games and outside of division battles that will garner the most hype and anticipation.
Things can definitely change over the course of the next four months, but at the moment, the new schedule certainly doesn’t want for excitement and intrigue. Let’s scour the entire schedule to gauge the top 10 NFL games we’re all going to want to see in 2016:
Patriots @ Cardinals – Week 1
Tom Brady is a big draw, but so is the very real possibility of catching this coming year’s Super Bowl before it happens. Arizona and New England are talented, explosive teams on both sides of the ball and have the star power to create crazy hype, but they also made it to their conference title games last season.
Carson Palmer vs. Brady is a fun matchup, while both of these offenses can drop 30+ points in the blink of an eye. Brady and co. traveling to the desert on Sunday Night Football spices this one up, too, but the mere possibility of this being the Super Bowl 51 matchup makes this easily one of the more hyped battles to start the season.
Panthers @ Broncos – Week 1
There’s also the actual Super Bowl battle of last season, too. Obviously Peyton Manning is gone and we have no way in knowing how good the Broncos will be in 2016, but they’re still the defending champs and you can bet Cam Newton and co. will want some revenge.
Revenge could be hard to come by on the road against a hostile defense, but a Super Bowl rematch is tough to quiet down. It will also be even more interesting depending on who the Broncos saddle up as their quarterback under center.
Bengals @ Steelers – Week 2
The last meeting between these two teams (in the playoffs) did not go so well. It was actually a fantastic defensive battle, but Cincy imploded and blew a sure-win. That rests at the core here, but let’s not forget these are two very good, balanced teams – not to mention bitter divisional foes hailing from the competitive AFC North.
Martavis Bryant won’t be on hand (suspended), but basically everyone else returns from both sides, plus Andy Dalton will be healthy and active this time around. The Bengals will be out for payback, but even if you’re not into the story-line stemming from last year’s playoff battle, this is a rugged AFC North contest. If you can’t get up for that, you don’t like football.
Seahawks @ Rams – Week 2
This game doesn’t look amazing at first glance, but there is actually a lot to get excited about here. For one, Jeff Fisher saves some of his craftier decision-making for the Seahawks, easily producing some of the better NFC West clashes we’ve seen in the past few years.
Seattle itself is going to be a fun watch, as Russell Wilson can change games with his arm or legs, Marshawn Lynch’s replacement in the backfield will make his second start and Jimmy Graham continues to (hopefully) return from a torn patellar tendon.
There is a lot to get excited about beyond a divisional rivalry game, too, as the Rams will debut at home in Los Angeles. It will also (likely) mark the second start for whatever quarterback they draft #1 overall, while any change to see Todd Gurley bang heads is usually a good time, as well.
Texans @ Broncos – Week 7
Lacking hype in our first four games? While we deem that doubtful, you can get it in spades in week seven, when Brock Osweiler leads his Texans back to his old stomping grounds.
Osweiler vs. Denver is going to be a monster story-line, while we also have Gary Kubiak and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips facing the team they formerly coached, as well. Denver is built to win without an elite offense, but who they have at quarterback – or if Osweiler shows them up – is going to fuel the drama here even more.
Browns @ Redskins – Week 8
Robert Griffin III goes home. Forced out of D.C. due to injury and poor play, RG3 just might go back to face Kirk Cousins and the Redskins for what could be an insane week 8 battle.
Cousins vs. RG3 takes the cake here, if in fact RG3 is the starter at this point for the Browns. Cleveland has been a hot mess for a while now, but by week 8 we’ll also have a better idea of where they’re headed. Is Hue Jackson the right fit as head coach, is Josh Gordon active on the roster, and have the Browns made improvements from a season ago? A lot of that could be answered in this big road game against the Redskins, who also try to live up to last year’s playoff trip and NFC East title.
Cardinals @ Panthers – Week 8
We’ve got a potential Super Bowl preview and a Super Bowl rematch, so why not a re-do of the NFC title game, too? Sure, why not?
Carson Palmer cratered against the Panthers in the NFC Championship game last year and by week 8 he will have hopefully put that game to bed. That could give him a chance to storm into Carolina hell bent on payback, while it’s very possible this game could also play a huge hand in seeding near the top of the conference.
Seahawks @ Patriots – Week 10
Here is another potential Super Bowl preview, or at the very worst a rematch of a Super Bowl clash of two seasons ago. Tom Brady vs. Russell Wilson is as good a matchup as any, but the real draw is Brady versus the iconic Seattle secondary. This should serve as a nice measuring stick for both sides as they look to add a huge win later in the year, as well.
Seahawks @ Packers – Week 14
Green Bay still won’t forget the infamous “Toucherception” ruling back when the replacement refs ruled the land, nor a meltdon in Seattle in the NFC title game two years ago. It could be Seattle looking for payback, however, after the Packers topped them last year at Lambeau Field.
Aaron Rodgers going up against the Seahawks is always going to be a draw, while the intensity is lifted a bit with this showdown going down at the Frozen Tundra for the second straight season. Both teams are expected to be among the best in the NFC again in 2016, too, so a meeting coming this late in the year could potentially decide who gets a top-two seed.
Patriots @ Broncos – Week 15
We’re covering all the bases here, ending with a rematch of the AFC title game. The luster of a Brady vs. Manning showdown is gone with Peyton retiring, but the Pats will still want to get one up on Denver, who topped them in the conference championship game last year to get to (and win) the Super Bowl.
It won’t be quite as intense with Manning gone, but Denver’s defense still ravaged Brady. The Pats will undoubtedly be out for revenge, while a week 15 battle could easily have huge ramifications as far as playoff seeding and division titles go.
Got a game you like the most or are feverishly anticipating one we didn’t even list? Tell us in the comments below!
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