NFL schedule’s top 10 games in 2019: Title game rematches highlight regular-season slateApril 18, 2019
The 2019 NFL season doesn't begin until September, but fans now can start making their plans for the fall.
Wednesday's full release of the regular-season schedule laid the framework for the league's 100th season. And while next week's NFL draft could add some intriguing subplots, there already are a host of rematches, reunions and rare showdowns that stand out among the rest of the matchups.
Here are the top 10 regular-season games for the 2019 NFL season:
10. Packers at Bears, Sept. 5 (Week 1)
To kick off its centennial campaign, the NFL bucked the tradition of having its defending champions host the opener and instead will train the spotlight on its longest-running rivalry. Last year's Week 1 showdown between the Packers and Bears was one of 2018's best clashes, with Aaron Rodgers throwing three second-half touchdowns after a knee injury to power Green Bay to a 24-23 win. Chicago, however, went on to claim its first NFC North title since 2010 with a 24-17 win in Week 15. Even with former coordinator Vic Fangio now holding the top job in Denver, Khalil Mack and the Bears' havoc-inducing defense should be a good early litmus test for new Packers coach Matt LaFleur's attack.
9. Giants at Cowboys, Nov. 4 (Week 9)
Of all the reunions on tap for this season, this one has the strangest setup. Jason Witten's old teammates will be in the booth rather than lined up across from him when the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end, who came out of retirement in February, plays his first Monday Night Football game since last year's stint as an analyst on the program. Though the Cowboys might have more intriguing matchups elsewhere on their schedule, and Witten's role might not be expansive at this point in the season, it's hard to overlook how odd this could be.
8. Ravens at Seahawks, Oct. 20 (Week 7)
The last time Earl Thomas wore a Seahawks uniform, he exited the field on a cart with his leg broken and middle finger extended to his own sideline. Despite the display of frustration with coach Pete Carroll and the organization for not granting his wish of a contract extension or trade, the three-time all-pro should get a deserved warm welcome from the 12s in his return to Seattle after signing a four-year, $55 million deal this offseason. Expect a throwback, ground-and-pound game from the two teams that led the NFL in rushing attempts last year.
7. Redskins at Vikings, Oct. 24 (Week 8)
Kirk Cousins' history with Washington — the team that allowed the quarterback to walk away last offseason after issuing consecutive franchise tags the previous two years — will be discussed ad nauseam in the leadup to this meeting. You don't have to "like that," as Cousins has said, but you should be prepared to relive all of the rocky points of the two sides' six-year relationship. There also could be another layer to this revenge tale, as the Vikings' pursuit of Cousins in 2018 precluded them from re-signing Case Keenum … who now has a chance to start for the Redskins after being acquired in a march trade from the Broncos.
6. Steelers at Jets, Dec. 22 (Week 16)
There's not enough room on this list acknowledge all of the former players going up against their previous teams, but Le'Veon Bell's faceoff against the Steelers might be this year's ultimate bad-blood showdown, even though it won't be held in Pittsburgh. The two-time all-pro running back sat out last season rather than play on the franchise tag again, and he bolted to join Gang Green in March. Several of his now-former teammates made their objections clear, and both sides are likely eager to prove they're better off after the split.
5. Chiefs at Chargers (Mexico City), Nov. 18 (Week 11)
Mexico City missed out on an all-time classic last year when field conditions prompted the league to move its showdown between the Chiefs and Rams to Los Angeles. The two high-powered attacks won't get a chance to top their 54-51 scoring explosion for the league's attempted return south of the border, but Kansas City once again will be featured against another Los Angeles opponent in its divisional rival. The Chargers broke a nine-game skid in the series last year and lose little from a team that tied with the Chiefs for the AFC's best record at 12-4.
4. Browns vs. Patriots, Oct. 27 (Week 8)
At nearly any other point in this century, the inclusion of this contest on a list of top games would rightfully elicit laughter, as Cleveland has as many playoff appearances (one) during that span as New England has seasons with a sub-.500 record (5-11 in 2000, Bill Belichick's first as head coach). But the Browns have stirred up excitement by acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. as Baker Mayfield's top target and promoting Freddie Kitchens to the top job after his successful run in taking over the offense after Hue Jackson's firing. A trip to Foxborough, where the Patriots haven't lost since Week 4 of the 2017 season, should reveal the extent of the Browns' legitimacy.
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3. Chiefs at Bears, Dec. 22 (Week 16)
An interconference clash between the NFL's highest-scoring offense in Kansas City and its stingiest defense in Chicago should be enough to entice anyone to tune in. The real point of intrigue here, however, is the season's best case of master vs. pupil as the Chiefs' Andy Reid takes on his former offensive coordinator in Bears coach Matt Nagy. Expect plenty of big plays on both sides of the ball.
2. Chiefs at Patriots, Dec. 8 (Week 14)
It's not clear how many more editions of Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes fans will be treated to, but each one should be considered appointment viewing. After the two put on a dazzling display in their first meeting, a 43-40 New England victory last October, Kansas City came within a Dee Ford penalty on a late fourth-quarter interception of knocking off the eventual champions in the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs have been one of the few teams that have proven themselves capable of pushing the Patriots, having won two of the five meetings since 2014, and the conference title rematch should be plenty compelling.
1. Saints at Rams, Sept. 15 (Week 2)
How long into this game will Sean Payton wait before challenging a missed pass interference call just to make a point? The NFL expanded its use of instant replay this offseason to include the plays in the aftermath of the NFC Championship Game debacle, in which a missed penalty against Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman proved costly as the Saints fell 26-23 in overtime and were denied a trip to the Super Bowl. Los Angeles will play host this time around, and there will be no shortage of star power between two of the conference's foremost contenders.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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