NFL

NFL AM: Schedule Release Adds Intrigue for Upcoming Season

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The 2015 NFL scheduled was announced on Tuesday night and while it would be foolish to try to predict how the season will end up based on how things look in the fourth week of April, there are plenty of fascinating matchups to behold.

The season kicks off on Thursday, September 10, with the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. It’s one of five prime time games each for the Champs and the Steelers, the maximum allowable for one team, not including possible late season flex games.

Several other teams will also be featured five times nationally, including the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Denver Broncos, the Indianapolis Colts, the Baltimore Ravens, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.

Here’s an early look at one-game to watch each week:

Week 1: Seahawks at Rams, 1 p.m. ET -Several matchups pack intrigue to open the season, including a possible battle between the top two quarterbacks in the draft when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle the Tennessee Titans, but the one that sticks out here is the Seahawks paying a visit to St. Louis, where their season almost unraveled in a loss to the Rams last season. Seattle rallied to hold off the Arizona Cardinals and win the NFC West last season, but an improved Rams squad may also charge at that crown in 2015.

Week 2: Cowboys at Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET – The NFC Championship rematch between the Seahawks and Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday night is the headliner for sure, but it’s the divisional grudge match between Dallas and Philadelphia that should have you salivating. The two bitter rivals will face off twice in the first nine weeks of the season, a stark change from last season when they met in November and December. The defection of NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray to Philadelphia adds even more fuel to the rivalry and the Cowboys will have to load up to stop their former teammate early.

Week 3: Saints at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET – The third week of the season is notoriously weak on big games as the league starts to settle into a groove that will carry it through the national spotlight for months, but there are a few fun ones. It’s anyone’s guess who will come out of the NFC South this season, but the hope is one team can do with a winning record. Where both teams stand going into Week 3 will go a long way to determining the importance of this one, but with the Saints looking to rebound from the most disappointing season of the Drew Brees/Sean Payton era and the Panthers trying to build on last season’s lame 7-8-1 divisional title run, the guess is both teams will need this one to make an early season statement.

Week 4: Jets vs. Dolphins in London, 9:30 a.m. ET – The first of three London games this season kicks off Week 4, and it marks the first time a divisional rivalry game is played overseas. That alone makes this one interesting, but adding to the intrigue is that both these teams made offseason additions that they hope will put them in position to challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy, and in what’s likely to be the most competitive division in the league this season, watching these teams beat up on each other will be fun to watch.

Week 5: Patriots at Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET – It’s a look at what could have been, had Dez Bryant’s catch in Green Bay counted: a Super Bowl XLIX matchup between Americas Teams, that being the two teams America loves to hate the most. Instead the national audience will have to settle for the consolation prize of hate-watching an early season showdown between two of 2015’s top contenders at Jerry World.

Week 6: Cardinals at Steelers, 1 p.m. ET – A Super Bowl XLIII rematch highlights the slate this week. Both teams were one-and-done playoff participants last season, but each could be stronger a season later, particularly Arizona depending on the health of old Steelers nemesis Carson Palmer in his return from yet another ACL tear. The matchup between Palmer and Roethlisberger used to be a twice yearly rite of passage, and we didn’t realize how much we missed it until it was gone.

Week 7: Saints at Colts, 1 p.m. ET – A shootout between the old guard and the new at quarterback leads an interesting list of matchups in the final weekend of October. The aforementioned Drew Brees once again led the league in most of the passing categories last season, but the up-and-comer Luck wasn’t far behind and even beat Brees in the touchdown department. Watching these two go back and forth against each other’s week defenses should be a sight to behold.

Week 8: Seahawks at Cowboys, 4:25 p.m. ET – Just as the season gets ready to hit the halfway point, the schedule makers give us what might be the best week of the season. it starts with a Thursday night AFC East clash between New England and Miami, continues with a Sunday morning showdown between Detroit and Kansas City in London and wraps with quarterback battles between Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night and Andrew Luck and Cam Newton on Monday night. But a late afternoon meeting between the Seahawks, a rematch of one of the most entertaining games of 2014, could again steal the show.

Week 9: Broncos at Colts, 4:25 p.m. ET – Following the best week of the season comes the biggest by week of the season, but the schedule makers did give us a few great matchups, including DeMarco Murray’s return to Dallas on Sunday Night Football. But it’s Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis for perhaps the final time that offers the most intrigue. If Peyton plays up to his career averages for the first eight weeks, he’ll be in position to break Brett Favre’s record for career passing yards in the place where he began his career.

Week 10: Patriots at Giants, 4:25 p.m. ET – Anytime Eli Manning gets to face off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, all bets are off. The only player and team to knock off the Pats in the Super Bowl has done it twice and the Patriots and Giants haven’t faced since the last time, Super Bowl XLVI. Brady has lost his last three games matchups with Eli and there’s no doubt that eats at him. That alone should make this late afternoon matchup a fun one to follow.

Week 11: Jets at Texans, 1 p.m. ET – Has a NFL game ever ended 0-0? This battle between outstanding defenses and undermanned offenses has the potential to be the first. But that would require the defense not to score either and with Darrelle Revis on one side and J.J. Watt on the other, it seems unlikely that one of them won’t take advantage of the weak quarterback situation on the other side to find paydirt.

Week 12: Steelers at Seahawks, 4:25 p.m. ET – Thanksgiving Week arrives with three Turkey Day matchups sure to leave you stuffed, but the schedule makers saved some leftovers for Sunday as well. The weekend is highlighted by Manning-Brady Bowl XVII, perhaps the last showdown between the two legendary signal-callers, on Sunday Night Football. But first it’s a Super Bowl XL rematch as 2014’s leading passer Ben Roethlisberger, leading receiver Antonio Brown and second leading rusher Le’Veon Bell, visit Seattle to face the league’s top defense two years running.

Week 13: Jets at Giants, 1 p.m. ET – The last time MetLife Stadium’s two residents met in the regular season, the Jets had a chance to knock the Giants out of the playoff hunt in Week 16 of 2011. Instead, the Giants used a win over their in-house rivals as a catalyst to their second Super Bowl run in five years. Neither team has been to the postseason since and it’s rare when the matchup between the two matters for both, but that could be the case this year when they meet in the first weekend of December.

Week 14: Cowboys at Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET – Each of these teams is scheduled for five prime-time games, but it’s a mystery how this rematch of the 2015 divisional round showdown isn’t one of them. The Cowboys return to the site where their season ended last year in what will likely be their final true test of the 2015 season. Expect another shootout and after last season’s finish, how this one ends is anybody’s guess.

Week 15: Cardinals at Eagles, 1 p.m. ET – This battle of the birds in Week 6 last year was one of the more entertaining games of the 2014 regular season and features one of the league’s top defenses against one of its most innovative offenses in an edge-of-your-seat chess match. What the Philadelphia offense will look like come mid-December is hard to know, but regardless, I wouldn’t expect this showdown between NFC contenders to disappoint.

Week 16: Patriots at Jets, 1 p.m. ET – The defection of Darrelle Revis from New York to New England and back again has added some heat back to this rivalry, and so too should the fact that the Jets defense will be in much better position this season to counter what Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady throw at them. The question is if New York will be able to do anything on offense to make this one competitive.

Week 17: Seahawks at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET – On a final Sunday filled with divisional showdowns, many that will surely have playoff implications, this one between the two teams at the top of the NFC West last season sticks out. The two squads battled for the crown apart for each other in Week 17 last year, with the handicapped Cardinals coming up on the short end. This time they’ll face off in a game that could shake-up the entire NFC playoff picture.

How Jameis Might Start

The preceding 17 matchups all featured likely playoff implications among contenders. One team that’s not going to fall into that conversation, at least not yet, is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But that doesn’t mean the Bucs don’t bear watching. It’s going to be an interesting season for presumed No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston as the new Bucs signal caller, and it starts with a few favorable matchups before getting decidedly more difficult.

As mentioned, the Buccaneers begin the season at home, hosting the team with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, the Tennessee Titans. Depending on how things play out on draft night, it could be a showdown between two highly-touted quarterback prospects. But regardless, the Week 1 draw of the weak Titans defense, which allowed the third most points in the league last season is a winning scenario for Winston.

The Bucs follow that up with a visit to New Orleans to face the team that allowed the second most yards per game last season. While the Saints offense will give the Tampa Bay defense all they can handle, making this a much harder game for the Bucs to win, it’s another excellent opportunity for Winston to hone his skills against a weak defense.

Tampa couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the season for Winston, but things get a lot tougher down the line, starting in Week 3 when they head to Houston and Jameis can look forward to J.J. Watt chasing him all around the field. The Bucs face another tough defense when they host Carolina in Week 4, the get the chance to bounce back with a visit from the Jaguars in Week 5, a Week 6 bye and a trip to D.C. to take on the Redskins in Week 6. It all sets the new face of the Bucs up for a pretty fascinating start to the season, one that will be worth watching for NFL fans.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys