After much anticipation, the NFL released its entire schedule for the 2017 season. There are 256 regular season games in each season, and while plenty will be worth watching, we want to highlight the best and worst matchups of each week.
This list isn’t just focused on how last year’s playoff squads could fare in their most exciting matchups, either. It also aims to find some of the lesser-known games that could be of interest, as well as the games whose on-field product won’t match the hype.
With that, here are the best and worst matchups for all 17 weeks of the 2017 season.
In their inaugural Los Angeles season, the Chargers face former head coach Mike McCoy, now Denver’s OC, in the first game of the season. Last year, McCoy’s Chargers upset the Broncos in one of the most emotional Thursday night games of the season.
In the most predictable Sunday Night Football opener, the Giants and Cowboys will square off for the third time in five years. Even if past matchups between these two clubs have been nail-biters, the NFL’s insistence to shove the New York-Dallas matchup down fans’ throats is a bit frustrating.
These two teams played each other twice last year, and both matchups were electric. Matt Ryan connected with Mohamed Sanu with just over 30 seconds left in the first matchup last year, as Atlanta beat Green Bay 33-32. In the NFC Championship, Atlanta took a 31-0 lead over Green Bay and held on for a 44-21 win, making its second ever Super Bowl appearance.
Last year’s Christmas Eve matchup is an easy game to forget, because it was one of the worst primetime games of 2016. It doesn’t help that in six matchups between these two teams over the past six seasons (including two playoff games), none are particularly memorable.
Fun fact: Packers excluded, the Bengals are the only team Aaron Rodgers hasn’t beaten in his NFL career. Green Bay hasn’t beaten Cincinnati since 1998, and Rodgers is 0-2 against the Bengals in his career. In the most recent matchup between these two clubs (which took place in Week 3 of the 2013 season), Cincinnati scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, batting down three Rodgers passes in the final two minutes, to upset Green Bay with a 34-30 victory.
There’s a reason why this is the only primetime game of the year for either team. The best hope for this game is that Todd Gurley and Carlos Hyde save fans from another boring game, but it’s hard to imagine this game will turn into anything resembling a shootout.
Andrew Luck vs. Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterback matchups on this year’s schedule. There’s really no need to say more here, but for those who want it: T.Y. Hilton burned Richard Sherman in the most recent matchup between these two clubs, which took place in 2013.
Sometimes matchups between bad teams make for the wildest games, like the “kick-six” game between the Browns and Ravens on a Monday night in 2015. But for the most part, games like these are snoozers. Luckily for fans, the league didn’t force this game into a primetime slot.
Seemingly every Packers-Cowboys game becomes an instant classic. From the “Dez dropped it” game to last year’s intense Divisional Round contest in which Green Bay upset Dallas, these two teams have been involved in some of the more memorable games of recent memory.
Divisional clashes can be fun, but this won’t likely be one of those. The good news? It probably won’t be worse than last year’s Monday night matchup between these two. Probably.
This might not be a popular pick, but the Battle of Unpopular Owners has a strangely enticing pull to it. The Niners have won the past three matchups between these two teams. Maybe Kyle Shanahan, who once coached in Washington — and reportedly coveted Kirk Cousins this offseason — can lead his new team to a victory over the quarterback he drafted back in 2012.
AFC South football just doesn’t have as much punch as other divisions. While Andrew Luck vs. Marcus Mariota is intriguing, most games between these two teams in years past have been snoozefests. The Titans have only beaten the Colts one time in the past 17 matchups between these two teams, with the lone victory for Tennessee coming in 2011 against the Curtis Painter-led Colts, who finished the season with a 2-14 record. Of course, one of those two wins came against the Titans.
The rematch of Super Bowl LI has everything a fan could want: great quarterback play, superstars at skill positions on both sides and most importantly, a newly established rivalry between two passionate fan bases. This one’s going to be a blast.
Arrowhead Stadium is one of the more underrated venues in the NFL, and the Broncos-Chiefs rivalry always seems to provide a great game or two each year. After losing seven consecutive games to Denver from 2012-15, Kansas City has now won three straight and will be looking to extend that winning streak on Monday night.
This game could potentially draw fans in London, but it’s hard to imagine West Coast NFL fans waking up before 7 a.m. to watch this game. East Coasters probably won’t be keeping a close eye on this one either.
The Falcons have blown out the Panthers the past few times, but watching Julio Jones make plays against Carolina’s secondary never gets old. Even in the games where he’s not racking up 300 yards receiving, Jones always seems to make a jaw-dropping catch.
Both of these teams got hot last year and made it the postseason. The problem, however, is they have the potential to fall off in 2017 if things don’t go right. That’s not to say both teams will disappoint, but there’s a decent chance this game might not have playoff implications come November.
Finally, a good game on Thursday Night Football. Even if one or both of these teams struggles in 2017, the Seahawks-Cardinals matchup is always interesting. Last year’s tie between these two clubs was one of the strangely compelling games in recent memory.
The Bolts and Jags have faced off every year since 2013, and the Chargers won all four matchups. Does anyone really care about Gus Bradley’s return to Jacksonville?
Ryan vs. Wilson. Jones vs. Sherman. Dan Quinn vs. his former team. Rematch of one of the most controversial games of the 2016 season. This matchup checks all the boxes and will be one of the biggest must-watch games of the year.
The NFL is going to relentlessly hype this up, but what makes this game any more interesting than last year’s disappointing Texans-Raiders matchup in Mexico City?
The Chargers aren’t the flashiest team in the league, but they’re not one of the prototypical NFC East or NFC North teams to play on Thanksgiving. Plus, Los Angeles is a pretty good team on paper. This game could have playoff implications on both sides if these two teams manage to stay healthy.
Neither teams traditionally plays on Thanksgiving, even if it seems like it. For a holiday in desperate need of excitement, another NFC East matchup doesn’t cut it.
Regardless of these teams’ records, both teams come to play every time they match up. Plus, it’s a primetime rematch of one of the greatest playoff games of the past decade.
The Seahawks have dominated the Eagles recently. Things can change, but even if Carson Wentz has a breakout season in his second season, this game likely won’t be must-see TV.
Since 2012, Oakland has only beaten Kansas City once, but AFC West matchups are more exciting than they’re given credit for.
It’s hard to make a Patriots game on Monday dull. Props to Roger Goodell and the NFL schedule-makers for managing to do it.
Even without Peyton Manning in Denver, this Indianapolis-Denver matchup has some punch for a Thursday night game. Plus, both of these two teams are usually entertaining in primetime, whether they’re competitive or not.
Why did the NFL schedule a game for a Saturday afternoon, and why did the NFL choose these two teams?
It takes a solid matchup get fans excited for football on the day before Christmas, and this one fits the bill. Both teams have star power and should be competitive late in the season.
This game will be a candidate for least-watched evening game of the 2017 season, even with two strong fan bases. There are better ways to spend Christmas night than watching this one.
It’s a shame this game comes in Week 17 when there might not be as many playoff implications, because watching the Chargers play in a StubHub Center decked out in black and silver should be wildly entertaining. Nonetheless, both teams are talented and, in theory, could be competitive down the stretch.
Shoutout to the Jaguars, who are the only team in the league without a Thursday night game this season. The Jacksonville-Tennessee color rush meme never gets old, so it’s a bummer this game doesn’t get the spotlight on a Thursday night.