The 2018 NFL regular season schedule has been officially released by the league, and there are a lot of great matchups within the mix. This includes some playoff rematches, as well as in-division rivalry games. Which games should fans keep an eye on? Here are ten must-watch games over the course of the upcoming season:
10. Los Angeles Rams vs Kansas City Chiefs (Week 11, Mexico City)
While this may not seem like a game that will put fans on their edge of their seats, this is the premier debut of the NFL being featured in Mexico City. With a sellout crowd expected, third-year quarterback Jared Goff will likely be pinned against a rookie in Patrick Mahomes III.
While many feel as though Goff is due for another slip in performance, he is actually significantly better against AFC opponents. Through his career, the junior quarterback contains a QBR of 115.0 against the opposite conference, while his QBR is still an impressive 95.3 against the NFC. This one should be a fun matchup to watch, as the NFL continues to develop across the globe.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
9. Green Bay Packers vs New England Patriots (Week 9)
This truly is a test in terms of two of the best quarterbacks in the modern era playing against one another. While Aaron Rodgers is coming off of an injury for Green Bay, Tom Brady is coming off of an MVP season with New England.
Both teams have made changes through the recent offseason, and the question suddenly becomes which quarterback can make the most of their current roster. While I’m a fan of what the Packers did in terms of adding Jimmy Graham to Rodgers’ arsenal, I find it hard to believe that Brady will lose his twentieth career game at home to this franchise.
Winner: New England Patriots
8. San Francisco 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks (Week 13)
After Richard Sherman departed to the San Francisco 49ers, fans aren’t too happy about his untimely exit to say the least. This move has been one of many devastating losses for the Seattle franchise, as a rebuild seems to be on their horizon.
On the other hand, quarterback Russell Wilson has been used to carrying the Seattle Seahawks franchise, and contains a 10-2 starting record against the 49ers. As long as the offensive line can protect Wilson from any unbound trouble, this is Seattle’s game to win.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
7. Philadelphia Eagles vs Los Angeles Rams (Week 15)
After a high-scoring dispute that lead to Philadelphia’s postseason advancement in 2017, this NFC rematch is sure to grab some attention. This time around it will be Carson Wentz instead of Nick Foles under center for the time being, but what should we expect from this matchup?
If I were to guess, I would bet on a combined 55+ points from this rematch. Both quarterbacks have shown a willingness to drop back in the pocket, and this could be yet another one possession finish.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
6. Minnesota Vikings vs New England Patriots (Week 13)
This could be viewed as a very underrated matchup, simply because Brady has only played the Vikings on four occasions, and has emerged victorious each time. In retrospect, this is a completely different Vikings organization, as they contain arguably the most elite defense in the NFL, as well as a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins under center.
Even though Brady has the mentality and talent to overcome any franchise in the NFL, I believe this is one matchup that will give the veteran a difficult time. Even in Gillette Stadium, I’ll forfeit the edge to the Minnesota Vikings this time around.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
5. Dallas Cowboys vs Philadelphia Eagles (Week 10)
In one of the most entertaining division rivalries in the game, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys will square off twice more in the 2018 season. While the comparisons between Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott are debated constantly, this could make for another must-watch event.
While Carson Wentz is a more efficient in-division starter, Prescott still contains an edge when it comes to the run game, as well as the depth within the offensive line. I believe this series is split evenly, but each franchise grabs their victory on the road.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
4. New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 15)
After a few controversial finishes in the 2017 campaign, the two biggest threats within the AFC will collide yet again. In ten career starts against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tom Brady holds a record of 8-2 with a TD:INT ratio of nearly 5:1. On the other hand, the future Hall of Famer will be 41 in August, and has lost double the amount of games on the road versus at home.
I feel another one possession finish here, as the Steelers are scheduled to have most of their roster intact. While the two franchises didn’t meet in the last postseason, this game will have those vibes when the time comes.
Winner: New England Patriots
3. New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings (Week 8)
In one of the craziest endings in the NFL history last year, the NFC is scheduled to have a rematch between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings. While Case Keenum will no longer be under center, this matchup could actually be viewed as an improvement, simply because Kirk Cousins is one of the more exciting passers to witness.
Through his career, Drew Brees only holds a 3-2 record against the Minnesota Vikings. While one catch is the difference between 3-2 and 4-1, I believe that the Saints are positioned for a redemption victory. As the ground game continues to improve, New Orleans is primed for yet another postseason run.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
2. Minnesota Vikings vs Philadelphia Eagles (Week 5)
Both the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles are mentioned in three matchups a piece in this segment, but with justified reasoning. Last season, these two franchises were arguably some of the most exciting teams to watch in the entire league. With Kirk Cousins representing the Vikings against an NFC East opponent, he surely is looking to make an impact in this game.
Another aspect to look at will be the Philadelphia defense, as they have picked off Cousins in five of their seven total matchups. While Cousins is looking to improve in another division, Philadelphia will remind him why he made his exit from the NFC East.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
1. New England Patriots vs Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 2)
I don’t think there is much debate about this one, as their original matchup from 2017 could be viewed as one of the best games all season. With the Jacksonville Jaguars constantly improving, and on their home turf, this will be Brady’s toughest matchup all season.
I’m aware that critics claim that every year is the downfall of the Patriots, and while I don’t agree, I will state that this will be another marked loss for New England. If Jacksonville holds the same standards as they did the year prior, be on the lookout.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars