The NFL schedule for the 2019 regular season was released Wednesday. Each team’s opponents already were known, based on last season’s final standings, and the Packers-Bears matchup in the NFL season opener previously had been announced. But now dates and times have been attached to all games, and planning can begin. Here are the games you shouldn’t miss.
Packers at Bears, Sept. 5
The traditional rivals meet at Soldier Field in the Thursday night NFL season opener usually hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. This time, the league opted for the 199th installment of Packers-Bears (including postseason meetings) as part of the celebration of its 100th season. The dynamic between Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his new coach, Matt LaFleur, will be closely watched in their first game together after this offseason’s ongoing talk about dysfunction between Rodgers and LaFleur’s predecessor, Mike McCarthy.
Titans at Browns, Sept. 8
The Browns became the “it” team of the NFL offseason by trading for wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to aid the already impressive development of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Beckham makes his Browns debut and Mayfield begins his second NFL season for a team with actual playoff expectations.
Steelers at Patriots, Sept. 8
The Patriots open their season on a Sunday night minus tight end Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement last month. Whether Gronkowski stays retired remains to be seen. But without him, it could be unusually difficult for Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady to make things work as the Patriots begin their defense of yet another Super Bowl title. The Steelers play their first game after parting with wide receiver Antonio Brown and tailback Le’Veon Bell.
Saints at Rams, Sept. 15
The rematch of the controversial NFC championship game in which a missed pass interference call sent the Rams rather than the Saints to the Super Bowl comes in Los Angeles in Week 2. This time, pass interference will be reviewable by instant replay, thanks to the NFL’s offseason response to the Saints-Rams officiating debacle in January.
Cowboys at Saints, Sept. 29
The Cowboys beat the Saints in a memorable regular season matchup on a Thursday night last season. The persistent speculation that Saints Coach Sean Payton eventually will end up in Dallas adds intrigue.
Ravens at Seahawks, Oct. 20
Safety Earl Thomas, so unhappy with the Seahawks at the end of his distinguished tenure with the team, makes his return to Seattle.
Redskins at Vikings, Oct. 24
Quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t get to face the Redskins last season after departing via free agency and securing a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal in Minnesota. Things didn’t go so well for Cousins and the Vikings in the first year of that mega-contract, and Cousins was given plenty of the blame when his new team missed the playoffs a year after it reached the NFC title game with Case Keenum at quarterback. Now Cousins gets his first meeting with the Redskins. It comes on a Thursday night. And it could come against Keenum, who’s now in Washington after a disappointing season in Denver.
Browns at Patriots, Oct. 27
Will the Browns be for real? How they fare at New England might be a decent measuring stick.
Patriots at Eagles, Nov. 17
The two most recent Super Bowl champions gather for a rematch of the Super Bowl won by the Eagles. This time, the Patriots won’t have to deal with Nick Foles, with the backup quarterback turned Super Bowl MVP now in Jacksonville.
Raiders at Jets, Nov. 24
Unlike Bell, Brown does not get to face the Steelers this season. But Brown does get to share a field with Bell for a meeting of formerly disgruntled Steelers.
Ravens at Rams, Nov. 25
The Rams, with their revved-up offense, are the epitome of how the NFL game now is played. The Ravens, with their devotion to their defense and a run-first offense built around quarterback Lamar Jackson, aren’t. It will be an interesting study in contrasts.
Chiefs at Patriots, Dec. 8
The rematch of a riveting AFC championship game won in overtime by the Patriots comes in Foxborough, Mass. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the NFL’s reigning MVP. Can he be just as productive in a Kansas City offense that now lacks running back Kareem Hunt and could be without wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who faces an uncertain NFL future because of his off-field issues?
Rams at Cowboys, Dec. 15
Two would-be NFC heavyweights get together for a rematch of their playoff meeting last season won by the Rams in Los Angeles.
Steelers at Jets, Dec. 22
Bell never blinked during his contract stare-down with the Steelers last year and secured his right to leave Pittsburgh via free agency. Whether the contract he landed from the Jets justified his approach has been subject to ongoing debate. He faces the Steelers for the first time, a matchup made even more compelling because of the fact that some of his now-former teammates were critical of him when he failed to report to the team last season.
Chiefs at Bears, Dec. 22
The Bears, who had the league’s third-ranked defense last season, try to deal with the Chiefs, who had the top-ranked offense of 2018.
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