The NFL season is starting up—here's a look at some of the top games for the 2016 slate.
Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos, Week 1
The first game of the NFL season will be a rematch of Super Bowl 50, which was billed as a battle of quarterbacks but ultimately resembled trench warfare as the Broncos defense suffocated the Panthers. There'll be one big difference, though: A newly retired Peyton Manning will be sipping Budweisers in the stands, meaning Denver's quarterback will be former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian.
Of course, if the rematch goes as the Super Bowl did, quarterbacks may not matter. The Panthers will be looking for some revenge after getting mostly manhandled by Von Miller and the stellar Broncos defense in SB50. Cam Newton will be back on the field for the first time since his controversial Super Bowl press conference—which saw the quarterback walk off after only a handful of questions. Can Newton and the Panthers start off the season with a bang? Tune in on Sept. 8 to find out.
— NFL (@NFL) April 15, 2016
New England Patriots vs. Arizona Cardinals, Week 1
The Patriots and Cardinals will kick off the first Sunday Night Football game of the season in Arizona. Even though it's technically a battle of last year's conference runner-ups, this could be a potential Super Bowl 2017 preview. The Cardinals marshaled a top-five defense and the most productive offense in the league in 2015, making them a tough opponent even for the perennially pugnacious Patriots.
Adding some intrigue to the game is the offseason trade that sent linebacker Chandler Jones to Arizona from New England. Speaking of trades, this will also be the first chance to see how Martellus Bennett will fit into the Patriots offense alongside fellow tight end (and jumpsuit enthusiast) Rob Gronkowski. Oh, and Tom Brady will miss the game after his previously overturned four-game "Deflategate" suspension was reinstated. Fun!
Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams, Week 2
The NFL finally succeeded in bringing a team back to Los Angeles after more than a decade of work—what's that, St. Louis? No, we can't hear your screams of protest—and Week 2 will mark the "first" "home" game for the Rams in the City of Angels. The Rams will be out on the road for five of their first seven games to start the season—the NFL had to adjust things due to the availability of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum—but the team should be the center of attention in LA for this game.
And like most Midwestern transplants to California, the Rams look like they need some time to stay at home and just organize their stuff. They traded a boatload of draft picks for the No. 1 overall selection, taking quarterback Jared Goff, but he won't be starting for the Rams. Making things even more interesting: Former USC coach Pete Carroll will be back in the stadium where he led the Trojans to a number of major wins for the first time since leaving the college ranks for the NFL.
The Los Angeles Rams will play their first game in LA since 1994 when they host Seattle on September 18. pic.twitter.com/tARnSYGMvc
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 15, 2016
Cleveland Browns vs. Washington Redskins, Week 4
Robert Griffin III once looked like the future of the NFL after being drafted by the Washington Redskins and leading the team to the playoffs. But just a few years later, RG3 was released by his team. Now he's with the Cleveland Browns, who undoubtedly traded up after dumping Johnny Manziel. Now Griffin will get a chance early in the season to prove to his old team why they were wrong to cut ties with him.
Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos, Week 7
Speaking of quarterbacks taking on their former teams: Brock Osweiler, Peyton Manning's erstwhile backup, will head back to the Mile High city when the Houston Texans will face off against the Broncos. This situation is a little different than RG3’s—Osweiler spurned the Broncos for a major free agent contract with the Texans—but that shouldn’t take away any motivation for the quarterback to prove that he was worth the money (all $72 million of it). John Elway took some parting shots at Osweiler on his way out, saying that he only wanted players who “want to be here,” and that could add even more motivation for Osweiler to have a big game against his former team.
Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots, Week 10
The Seahawks and Patriots will have a rematch of their epic Super Bowl XLIX battle—which saw New England seal the win on a last-second interception by cornerback Malcolm Butler. The Seahawks and Patriots are both are considered Super Bowl contenders in 2016 and this could be an early preview of the championship game. The Seahawks would love to get a little bit of revenge after the interception heard around the world, and this is their first chance for it since that loss. The only missing piece? Beastmode himself, who hung up the cleats.
— NFL (@NFL) April 15, 2016
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants, Week 14
Veteran quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tony Romo—if Romo recovers in time—will face off in a tough NFC East divisional matchup on Sunday Night Football in Week 14. Both the Cowboys and Giants are looking to get back to the postseason after missing out last year, and this game could be crucial in making that happen. The Giants made a huge splash in free agency by adding Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon, and general manager Jerry Reese is hoping that will make all the difference for Big Blue in 2016.
New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos, Week 15
This rematch of the AFC championship game from last season offers the Patriots the chance to get some revenge against the Broncos. Over the past few years, the storyline for this matchup has been dominated by the battle between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The Broncos are heading into the season (at least now) with a spectre at QB, but if John Elway has his way, Denver will have some answers behind center Week 15. The Broncos defense should be one of the top units in the league again this season—despite losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in free agency—and that could cause some headaches for the Patriots in this game. On top of all that, this game could have major playoff implications in the AFC late in the season for both teams.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 16
The AFC North is one of the tougher divisions in football, with three teams (the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals) all in contention for the title. (But how about those Cleveland Cavaliers, right?!) This matchup could have major implications for the division and the AFC playoff picture as a whole. The Steelers made the playoffs last season, while the Ravens missed out after suffering a rash of injuries.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Week 17
The NFL slate for the final week of the season is filled with divisional matchups—and many of them could have major implications for the playoffs. The NFC East has been decided in Week 17 multiple times over the past few years, and it could happen again this season between these bitter divisional rivals. The Cowboys have playoff hopes for 2016 after playing without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for most of 2015, while the Eagles have high expectations after cleaning house after the Chip Kelly Experiment and bringing in new head coach Doug Pederson.