The NFL Schedule Release day is an unofficial holiday for many. In the viewpoint of some, it represents the start of the upcoming season. For others, it presents a sense of how the season while shape itself. Some circle key dates on the calendar, others dissect key matchups within the contests. Between intriguing inter-conference matchups, coaches against former team showdowns, and possible Super Bowl pairings, the 2017 schedule presents a gluttony of enticing games to look forward to (as it does every season). Here are the 10 best games on the 2017 schedule but first, let’s start with a few honorable mention games that barely missed the countdown.
Week 3 : Oakland Raiders vs. Washington Redskins, 8:30 PM EST – Prior to last season, the Oakland Raiders collected season after season of middling football for what seemed like forever. In 2016, the Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since losing to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl 37. Now the Raiders enter the 2017 season with playoff expectations and will have a marquee contest in the nation’s capital against QB Kirk Cousins and Washington. A battle between Cousins and Raiders QB Derek Carr will take center stage. Also, Washington CB Josh Norman vs. Raiders WRs Amari Cooper/Michael Crabtree will be fun to watch also.
Week 7: Seattle Seahawks vs. New York Giants, 4:25 PM EST – There is another week seven contest that we will get to a little later but a key NFC game will take place that afternoon. The Giants feature an offense that has a devastating trio at receiver in Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard that will make things interesting against Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary.
Week 9: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 PM EST – A possible Super Bowl preview between a hard-nosed Chiefs team and the ultra-talented Cowboys. The Chiefs front seven will be tested by the Cowboys great offensive line and their run game which is led by RB Ezekiel Elliott. The dynamic Tyreek Hill will be of key focus for the Cowboys defense, which lost a lot of key players this offseason.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Green Bay Packers, 1:00 PM EST – The big free agent splash this offseason was the Buccaneers snagging WR DeSean Jackson to be the deep threat on offense. The Bucs were on the door step of the playoffs last season and the addition of Jackson may be enough for the Bucs to grab a playoff spot. Here is a key test for Tampa Bay as they face QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Green Bay. A late season matchup that can be key in the NFC Wild Card race and playoff seeding.
Top 10 Games of the 2017 Season
10. Week 5: Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 PM EST – The Packers walked into Dallas during the playoffs and knocked the #1 seed Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Round. A loss for the Cowboys that wiped away a 13-3 season in which they were the favorites to be the NFC representative for Super Bowl 51. Redemption will be on the minds of the Cowboys, while Rodgers and company will look to stake their claim as NFC giants early in the season.
9. Week 15: New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 4:25 PM EST – The AFC Championship Game of last season resulted in the Patriots reaching yet another Super Bowl and the Pats also knocked off the Steelers in Pittsburgh during the regular season. New England has a new toy at WR in Brandin Cooks and will get the return of a healthy TE Rob Gronkowski. The winner of this contest may very well be the AFC’s #1 seed.
8. Week 6: New York Giants vs. Denver Broncos, 8:30 PM EST: A Denver secondary that nicknames themselves as “No Fly Zone” because of their excellent play in pass defense takes on the dangerous Giants passing offense. A key storyline includes the return of Brandon Marshall, who played his first four seasons (2006-2009) with the Broncos. Playing in Denver is never easy. Winning in Denver is even more tough. An average Broncos offensive line will also tussle with an athletic pass rushing duo in Giants DEs Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul.
7. Week 2: Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons, 8:30 PM EST – The Falcons will cut the bow on their brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium by welcoming their 2016 NFC Championship Game opponent, Green Bay. A 44-21 win for Atlanta gave the team their second Super Bowl berth. The Falcons will look to make key statements throughout the season to overcome their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss to New England. Knocking off the elite Packers will be an immediate step forward.
6. Week 2: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos, 4:25 PM EST – Another possible Super Bowl matchup and an early season test for the Broncos, who missed the playoffs altogether last season. Second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch may be Denver’s starter going into the 2017 season. A win over Dallas would be a great confident boost for the young Lynch. A game within a game between Dallas WR Dez Bryant and Denver CB Aqib Talib is one of the best one-on-one matchups in the entire season.
5. Week 11: New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:25 PM EST – An AFC contest that will take place in Mexico City, Mexico will be on the forefront here. If the Raiders want to be taken seriously in the AFC race, here is a perfect opportunity to grab the attention of everyone. If there is a factor to watch, it will be how the Patriots defend Raiders LB Khalil Mack, who is knocking on the door of superstardom within the NFL.
4. Week 10: Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons, 4:25 PM EST – Two of the more talented teams in the NFC will clash in a key game that will dictate a lot in terms of playoff seeding. The signing of Dontari Poe for the Falcons will aid the run defense, which will come in handy in playing the Cowboys. A Dallas secondary that was gutted during the offseason will face a major test in the versatile Falcons offense.
3. Week 16: Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 PM EST – It’s rare you get late season, non-divisional games that will also set the table for the NFC playoffs which starts a few weeks later. This will expectedly be a game which will result in the more consistent run game. It will also pit two quarterbacks in Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Dallas’ Dak Prescott that are two of the more even keeled passers in the game.
2. Week 1: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, 8:30 PM EST – The top two seeds in the AFC playoffs last season kick off the 2017 season. For the Patriots, it’s the beginning of a brand new chapter with an even better team than the one that won the Super Bowl this past season. For the Chiefs, it’s a chance on the national stage to open up their season with a ground-breaking win.
1. Week 7: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots, 8:30 PM EST – Not much needs to be said here. It’s the rematch of Super Bowl 51. On Sunday Night Football.