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NFL AM: 2016 Season Schedule Released

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We’ve known since the 2015 season came to an end who will be playing who during the 2016 campaign, but on Thursday we finally found out the when for all 256 NFL games this year.

The season kicks off with a rare Super Bowl rematch as the Carolina Panthers head to Denver to take on the defending champion Broncos. A lot has changed for Denver over the last few months since their championship win, and the team still isn’t sure who will be under center when they host Carolina, on Sept. 8, but that uncertainty didn’t stop them from being showcased by the league repeatedly.

The Broncos are currently slated for five prime-time games over the course of the season, the maximum permitted by the league at the beginning of the season. Carolina, too, has five prime-time games, as do the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Houston, Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and New York Giants. Each team gets at least one prime-time game, even the Browns, as became the rule when Thursday Night Football began.

This season’s schedule has plenty of marquee matchups, here are what we see as the 10 best:

Week 1: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals, Sunday 9/11, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Week 1 slate is a bit of a snoozer, with a lot of inter-conference games scheduled and very few rivalries kicking off the season. But this matchup between two of a handful of prohibitive Super Bowl favorites entering the season, pitting one of the league’s best offenses against one of its stoutest defenses, will have us waiting all day until Sunday night.

Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans, Sunday 9/18, 1 p.m. ET

Led by the Patriots and Broncos, just a few teams have ruled the roost in the AFC for the last several years, but this could be the year a changing of the guard finally comes and the Chiefs and Texans are two prime possibilities to take over the mantle. But first they’ll have to get through each other. This playoff rematch between two AFC contenders highlights a slightly stronger schedule in the season’s second week.

Week 3: Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday 9/25, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Battle for Pennsylvania only happens once every four years and the stakes are rarely higher than they will be in 2016. The Steelers have been the class of the state for quite a while, but after turning over a new leaf this offseason, the Eagles might be well-positioned to finally make a run of their own. What better way to prove it than an early season showdown with one of the league’s perennially elite teams.

Week 6: Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers, Sunday 10/16, 4:25 p.m. ET

The sixth week of the season is setup to be one of the best of the season, with several marquee matchups on the schedule, including a Bengals visit to New England, a Falcons trip to Seattle, a Colts/Texans battle in Houston, several other intra-division rivalry games, and wrapping up with the Jets at the Cardinals on Monday night. But this game, which sees the Cowboys return to the site of their most recent playoff failure, will have all eyes fixed on it.

Week 7: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos, Monday 10/24, 8:30 p.m. ET

Once Week 6 gets us into some high-profile games, Week 7 keeps them coming with a few marquee matchups to end the week including the Patriots in Pittsburgh in the late afternoon and the Seahawks visiting Arizona on Sunday night. But this matchup that brings the prodigal son, Brock Osweiler, back to Denver to face his former team is the cream of the crop. There are a lot of reason to believe the Texans will be a better team than the Broncos this year, and they’ll have a chance to prove it on the field on Monday night.

Week 8: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, Sunday 10/30, 4:25 p.m. ET.

The one-sided NFC Championship left the Cardinals with a bad taste in their mouth, and they’ll be out for revenge on Panthers in this one. But the Super Bowl did the same for Carolina, so both teams will have something to prove when they meet at midseason. This one should be a lot more entertaining than their last meeting, and could even go a long way toward determining who sits atop the NFC at season’s end.

Week 12: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts, Thursday 11/24, 8:30 p.m. ET

After a midseason lull, we dive head first into the second half of the season with a nice helping of turkey followed by a Thanksgiving night showdown between two of the AFC’s strongest teams for dessert. After a disappointing 2015 campaign marred by Andrew Luck’s injury issues, the Colts will be looking to right the ship this season and will have to have done so by the time this game rolls around, but standing in the way of their feast is an annually solid Steelers team.

Week 13: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks, Sunday 12/4, 8:30 p.m. ET

If it seems to you like these teams face each other every year, it’s because they do. This game will mark the seventh time these two non-division rivals have played each other since the beginning of the 2012 season and they’re always ultra-entertaining battles. Each of the last two seasons, they’ve met once in the regular season and again in the playoffs, splitting those games. Could this be another playoff preview, and who will take the win this time?

Week 16: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, Thursday 12/22, 8:30 p.m. ET

It’s rare that such a potentially meaningful game finds its way onto the Thursday night slate in the penultimate week of the season. Those assignments are usually reserved for the Browns, Jaguars and Titans. But here we are with two likely NFC East contenders (every team is a contender in the perennially topsy turvy NFC East) facing short rest and essentially no preparation heading into what could be the biggest game of the season in the division. Whichever one of these two teams adapts better to the unique and unenviable situation might be rewarded with a division title and a playoff berth.

Week 17: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets, Sunday 1/1, 1 p.m. ET (for now)

For the second straight season, Rex Ryan’s Bills will close the season against his former team, the New York Jets. After spoiling New York’s playoff part last season, could Buffalo possibly do it twice in a row? Or might it be the Bills who rise and the Jets looking to rain on Rex’s parade. Either way, this one is sure to entertain, and might even find its way to primetime in an otherwise weak week 17 slate.

PERCY HARVIN CALLS IT A CAREER

In addition to the release of the schedule, Thursday also marked the end of the career of a player who played for both of those teams, wide receiver Percy Harvin. The 27-year-old informed the Bills that he was retiring after seven seasons in the league.

It’s a less than shocking move for Harvin, whose body never seemed to be durable enough to play the game at the highest level. Drafted out of the University of Florida in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Vikings, Harvin spent three successful seasons in Minnesota, before injuries started to plague him. In his final season with the Vikings, Harvin played in just nine games due to leg and ankle injuries. He was also plagued by migraine headaches throughout his time in Minnesota.

He landed in Seattle for the 2013 season after a trade, and although he missed most of the regular season due to a hip injury, he returned in time for the NFC Championship Game. Then, in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl drubbing, Harvin ran the second half kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown, a play that will go down as the highlight of his career.

However, the talented return man and slot receiver fell out of favor in Seattle the following year and was traded to the Jets, after which it was revealed that during the Seahawks Super Bowl run, Harvin had engaged fellow Seattle wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate in a fistfight. He spent the remainder of the season with the Jets and started eight games with modest results.

When Ryan exited New York and went to Buffalo, Harvin was one of his first signings, however it didn’t work out there and after playing in just five games last season, he was placed on IR in November with multiple injuries.

It’s probably for the best that Harvin hangs up his cleats despite his relatively low age. After a dynamic few years at the University of Florida, it became clear early in his career that he simply wasn’t built well to sustain the beating associated with the NFL games. The migraine headaches were a real concern and once the rest of his body started to break down over the last three years, it was all downhill. But he’ll always be remembered for his Super Bowl moment, and he’ll always have a ring, no matter who he had to punch to get it.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys