With the release of the 2017 NFL schedule looming close ahead, these are the 10 primetime games everyone wants to see.
Is there anything better than the NFL being played under the lights of a stadium? Well, other than a good NFL game being played in the same situation. Regardless, there’s just something special about professional football in primetime. The games feel bigger, the experience watching is more fun even the production feels like it has more effort behind it.
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Not all primetime NFL games are created equal, of course. Thursday Night Football has long been hit or miss. Moreover, we always get the games that should be good when the schedule’s made, but something happens and it ruins it. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to these. These are the 10 primetime games we want to see on the 2017 NFL schedule
1. New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons
The Super Bowl rematch that should actually live up to its billing. This game will not likely be the opening primetime game of the season, but it should be an evening contest nonetheless. Neither team has lost talent this offseason and both should still be in contention for conference titles. The big story will obviously be if the Falcons can get a lead and maintain it. The focus will also be on whether Tom Brady can continue to play at a high level despite his age.
This rivalry needs to regain its once prominent position in the league. It has been a solid 20 years since both the Chiefs and Raiders were good at the same time. Last year, these two met on Thursday night in Kansas City and it was the best Thursday night game to that point. The game featured rising stars in lead roles and turned out to be the pivotal contest for the AFC West crown. This year, the game should be on Sunday night, but around the same time of year. The rivalry may never be the hate that was fueled by Marty Schottenheimer and Al Davis, but both teams bring a passionate fanbase and some of the more colorful players in the league.
3. Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants
Last season the New York Giants were the only team to have the Cowboys’ number. Dak Prescott and company could not seem to get on track in either game. The Giants are trying to get more weapons for Eli Manning for his last few years in the league. The NFC East delivers good divisional games especially in AT&T Stadium. With the playoffs on the line this should make for a great late November contest.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers
Two of the most storied franchises in the NFL, the Packers and Steelers represent classic football. Both teams pride themselves in playing through the cold and snow of their home stadiums. Right now, both teams have questionable secondaries, but iconic quarterbacks. It makes for a high scoring game that could have non-stop entertainment. I would put this game at the end of October on Monday night to get that night at least one quality matchup.
5. Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons
The Seahawks are the draw of the west coast and have been for several years now. The Falcons demolished them in the playoffs last year but that was in Atlanta. One of the better games last season was between these two teams in Seattle. It appears that the Seahawks have figured out how to use Jimmy Graham and if they upgrade their offensive line then they will be a formidable threat again on that side of the ball. The Falcons signed Dontari Poe and have several second-year players that should continue to improve their defense. The recipe is perfect for a mid-season Sunday night showdown.
Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper (89) and quarterback Derek Carr (4) congratulate each other after they scored a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
6. Oakland Raiders vs New England Patriots
This is a possible primetime send-off for O.Co Colliseum. That doesn’t mean it has to be late in the season, but it should be on a Sunday night. The Patriots and Raiders game is interesting because of the amount of talent on the Raiders and the legend of the Patriots. Both teams have a lot of expectations in 2017 and for Oakland they already know they will lose their team in the near future. These fans may show their disdain for Mark Davis but they will sell out that stadium for one last shot at an Oakland Raider championship. Beating the Patriots would put their confidence at an all-time high.
The Cowboys are one of the most popular teams in the NFL. Basically, if the casual NFL fan doesn’t have a team when the Cowboys are good, they become the team for them. I have six students in my classes that suddenly became Cowboys fans this past season. Therefore they get more primetime games. Of all the possibilities this should be high on the scheduler’s list. The Seahawks have the ability to hinder the offense of Dallas and put up points in AT&T Stadium. This is an early season game that could fit nicely on Monday of Week 1. It will be a nice barometer for the sophomore seasons of Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott.
8. Indianapolis Colts vs Denver Broncos
There is something about Denver in Indianapolis that is always interesting. Last time there was an eye poking and Manning’s last game in Lucas Oil Stadium. It made for good football watching. This year the new coaching staff in Denver will look to take a very good defense against an improved Colts offense. New Colts general manager Chris Ballard hasn’t wasted a ridiculous amount of money on aging free agents and will draft to improve his team. That puts the Colts on the right path to take the division from Houston. The Broncos may be on the decline, but should still be Wild Card contenders in 2017. I would put this as an early Thursday night game to help appease the Thursday haters out there.
9. Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings
Lambeau Field needs to host at least one primetime game per season. I think it is an unwritten rule amongst the high ranking officials of the NFL. The Vikings dropped some after their surprising divisional championship in 2015 with the loss of Teddy Bridgewater. He may not make it back this season, but Sam Bradford will benefit from an entire offseason in the system. These two teams have built a better rivalry over the last few years and should be fighting each other for the divisional championship in 2017. Put this game early in the season when injuries are low and hope is high for both teams.
10. Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Eight out of the last 12 of these games in this rivalry have been won by four points or less. The Ravens and Steelers love to put on a show for the fans and there are always playoff implications. The Ravens had an opportunity to possibly keep the Steelers out of the playoffs, but could not stop Antonio Brown on a last-second touchdown. Even if one of the teams is having a down year, the games turn out close and gritty. The Ravens find a way to make trouble for even the best Steelers teams. Look for this to be another December game with the division on the line.
Dec 24, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) walks off the field after throwing an interception in the closing seconds of the Rams’ 22-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Games We Don’t Want, But Will Get Anyway
Every year the NFL tries to sell us on some Monday night and Thursday night matchups that don’t appeal to anyone. Even the teams themselves complain about playing on a Thursday, but it’s usually after a terrible game. Any hard fought win that gains better playoff positioning doesn’t get a lot of complaints. But the league will force primetime stories and prey on our need for football with these games.
San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles Rams: This game deserves a sad face emoji. Both have new head coaches and systems which will be the storyline. The lack of talent on the field can put fans to sleep, though.
Houston Texans vs Jacksonville Jaguars: Is this worth the electricity that will be used? The Jaguars have long been expected to take the next step, but continue to fail with Blake Bortles. The Texans are left with Tom Savage after Tony Romo decided to retire. Need I say more?
New England Patriots vs Anyone else in their division: The Thursday night games are focused on divisional matchups and there aren’t any teams in the AFC East good enough for the Patriots. It’s been that way for a long time. This game will be a blowout but at least it will likely be over before midnight.