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Rating the 2021 NFL Primetime Schedule and Other Intriguing Matchups

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

The NFL is back! The league released the schedule for the 2021 season this month and the sports world was instantly filled with takes on who “won” and “lost” the reveal. This seems a bit silly considering, 1) we have known these matchups for months, and 2) we have no idea what these teams will look like once the season begins in September. However, that is not stopping me from providing my May interest level in the announced prime time games as well as the best Sunday afternoon games.

My unscientific “intrigue level scale” will range from one to ten with ten being the most intriguing.

Week 1

Thursday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady. America’s Team. This has to be the NFL’s dream to open up the 2021 season. The Bucs will raise their second Super Bowl banner and host Dak Prescott in his return from injury. From a fan perspective it’s not a perfect 10/10 game to welcome back the season, but football will be back and it’s still the best team versus the most polarizing team. The NFL made the right choice starting the season with the Cowboys in Tampa Bay rather than the Bills, and the game gets an extra bump on the intrigue scale for being opening night.

Intrigue Level: 9/10

Sunday Night Football: Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams

It feels like this game ends up in primetime every year and I think the NFL is off making this the first Sunday-Nighter of the season. I can’t wait to see Matthew Stafford lead the new-look Rams, but I imagine that Andy Dalton will still be “QB1” come week one, which I am not looking forward to watching. Justin Fields making his debut against the Rams’ defense would be very intriguing, but there were still better primetime options on the week one slate.

Intrigue Level: 4/10

Monday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens @ Las Vegas Raiders

Just like in the opening Sunday night game, Monday night will see a new stadium finally filled with fans. Lamar is always must-watch TV, and it will be interesting to see the turnout for the first NFL game in Las Vegas with fans.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs (4:25 PM)

In my opinion this is the best non-primetime game of the season and it takes place in week one. The game will obviously be the afternoon marque game called by Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, and it is easily one of my most anticipated games of the year. If you read my pre-draft power rankings, you know how high I am on Cleveland. Cleveland was a Chad Henne miracle away from toppling Kansas City in the playoffs last year, and I would be shocked if we didn’t see these week one foes play again in January of 2022.

Intrigue Level: 10/10

Other Intriguing Games: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills (1:00 PM), Seattle Seahawks @ Indianapolis Colts (1:00 PM), New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers (1:00 PM), Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans (1:00 PM), Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints (4:25 PM)

The NFL gifted fans with an absolutely stacked schedule to open the season. Pittsburgh and Buffalo, although I personally expect a bit of a step back, are still two of the top teams in the AFC. The Seahawks and Colts’ interconference battle helps highlight the early window of games as second tier contenders in their respective conferences. The Sam Darnold bowl in Carolina would be higher than an average 5/10 if the game was in New York, but Zach Wilson’s debut against his predecessor is certainly intriguing. Speaking of debuts, Trevor Lawrence, the most hyped prospect of my lifetime, is enough to register a seven on the scale even as he plays the dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans. The post-Drew Brees era Saints against maybe Aaron Rodgers, maybe Jordan Love, maybe, Blake Bortles?! and the Packers is worth mentioning in the late afternoon window.

Intrigue Levels: (PIT @ BUF) 6/10 / (SEA @ IND) 6/10 / (NYJ @ CAR) 5/10 / (JAC @ HOU) 7/10 / (GB @ NO) 6/10

Week 2

Thursday Night Football: New York Giants @ Washington Football Team

Maybe my Giants’ fan bias is making me give the game a generous 7/10 rating, but I am legitimately intrigued by the NFC East as a whole this season. Washington, the Giants and Dallas (sorry Philly) all feel like they are evenly matched and these two get to showcase the new and improved division in the season’s first traditional Thursday night game.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Sunday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs @ Baltimore Ravens

Rating this battle of AFC heavyweights at only a 7/10 seems off, but I just can’t go any higher considering we have yet to see a Lamar Jackson victory over Patrick Mahomes in three attempts. Especially this early in the season, everyone will be expecting a fourth consecutive year in which Kansas City beats Baltimore.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Monday Night Football: Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

Let the boring primetime games begin. A “boring” week two NFL game may be an oxymoron, and of course I’ll watch, I am just not at all intrigued by ever watching Jared Goff. Sidenote, two weeks and two primetime games for Green Bay, does the NFL have more insight into the Rodgers’ saga than we do?

Intrigue Level: 4.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Los Angeles Rams @ Indianapolis Colts (1:00 PM)

Not an amazing slate of games in week two, but this early season matchup between new quarterbacks in new places definitely highlights the early afternoon window. I am dangerously high on Carson Wentz and the Colts this year, and this will be a great early season test to measure where they stand.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Other Intriguing Games: Tennessee Titans @ Seattle Seahawks (4:25 PM)

Again, not a great slate, but the home opener for Seattle, meaning the return of the 12th-man, against Derrick Henry and the revamped Titans’ defense is worth noting.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Week 3

Thursday Night Football: Carolina Panthers @ Houston Texans

This officially marks the yearly tradition where the NFL tests the limits on how loyal their audience is. The 2/10 represents the lowest rated primetime game on my scale, and of course I am assuming Deshaun Watson won’t be under center for Houston, and I imagine the promos for this Thursday-Nighter will be met with groans and complaints throughout NFL Twitter.

Intrigue Level: 2/10

Sunday Night Football: Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Another week, another Packers primetime game. This rematch of the 2019 NFC Championship game will be perfect to measure if the 49ers are closer to their 2019 level or their injury-ravaged 2020 season. There is also the added intrigue that San Francisco gets off to a slow start and Jimmy Garoppolo has a dud on national TV which will inevitably ramp up the clamoring for Trey Lance.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Monday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

Another early NFC East matchup, however, this one features the Eagles which certainly lowers the intrigue level. No problem at all here with ESPN throwing this on Monday night, I just am not excited at all to watch Dallas beat up on Philadelphia.

Intrigue Level: 4.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Los Angeles Rams (4:25 PM)

CBS got gifted Cleveland and Kansas City in the afternoon of week one and now FOX gets the same with this NFC duel. Easily one of the most intriguing games on the schedule, although I do wish this was later in the season with more on the line and the teams in better shape chemistry-wise. This has game-of-the-year potential and very well could be an NFC Championship preview.

Intrigue Level: 10/10

Other Intriguing Games: Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (1:00 PM)

If we didn’t have an easy 10/10 outside of the afternoon window this definitely would’ve been my game of the week. I noted on my podcast this week that this is my favorite divisional matchup outside of the NFC West. We didn’t get a true Herbert vs. Mahomes matchup last year as the team’s first meeting was in Herbert’s first career start, in somewhat of an emergency capacity, and the second matchup was week 17 with Mahomes resting. Hopefully this early afternoon game sets the stage for Bucs @ Rams and Packers @ 49ers and also for a decade-plus of Mahomes vs. Herbert.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Week 4

Thursday Night Football: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Cincinnati Bengals

The teams might be awful, but the prospect of seeing, assuming he is healthy, 2020 #1 pick Joe Burrow against 2021 #1 pick Trevor Lawrence makes this one more intriguing than the average Thursday Night game.

Intrigue Level: 7.5/10

Sunday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New England Patriots

There is not a scale high enough to measure the intrigue for this one. This one has been circled on the 2021 schedule the second that Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay last year. I can’t even say with 100% certainty that Brady didn’t simply limit his list of new homes to teams that played on the road in New England in 2020 and 2021. The fact that he is coming back to New England fresh off of another ring adds another layer to the Brady vs. Belichick clash that has apparently been years in the making. The buildup to this game will be insane, and hopefully we can finally get some truly honest insight into the breakup from Brady, Belichick and Robert Kraft.

Intrigue Level: 15/10

Monday Night Football: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

Everybody will likely still be really from the previous night’s game, so the NFL really could have put any game here. I am always down to watch Justin Herbert, and he should be able to toy with the still-below-average Raiders’ defense. This should be a high scoring affair, which typically makes for the best Monday Night games.

Intrigue Level: 5.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams (4:05 PM)

Sean McVay has owned Kliff Kingsbury so far in their young coaching careers. This first matchup of the year between the two NFC West rivals will feature the coaches with their best rosters yet. The coaching matchup isn’t the only head-to-head showdown to watch as we will also see Matthew Stafford vs. Kyler Murray and arguably the best corner and. receiver in the league matchup with Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Other Intriguing Games: Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers (4:05 PM)

It was a toss-up between Cards and Rams and this game for the best non-primetime spot. Games between these two rivals seem to always come down to the wire. Both of these NFC West matchups should have early season tiebreaker implications and should feel like playoff games.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Week 5

Thursday Night Football: Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks

Right into another NFC West matchup. This is a brutally scheduled game for Seattle and the Rams as they have a short week to prepare following their prior week divisional games. I think that out of all of the NFC West combinations this one is my favorite to watch. This is an early primetime opportunity to show the league that the NFC West is by far the best division in football.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Sunday Night Football: Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

Similarly to why I was somewhat down on Kansas City and Baltimore, I can’t go above 6.5/10 right now because we saw this game twice last year and neither was particularly close. I really think Buffalo takes a slight step back, and even if they don’t we saw they are still a few steps behind the Chiefs. Especially because it is in Kansas City, this feels like a game with a ton of hype that it won’t live up to.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Monday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens

Not a ton to say here other than what I have already made clear. I love watching Lamar and I’m high on the Colts. Therefore, this should be a very solid Monday Night game.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 PM)

You could make the case that this isn’t even the second-best game in the late afternoon window (Giants @ Cowboys and 49ers @ Cardinals) but this feels like a sneaky Wild Card weekend preview to me. My personal bias is definitely on display here as I’m very high on both of these teams, but this could be a great measuring stick game for the Chargers and a nice test for the Browns.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (4:25 PM)

The Giants playing in Dallas has to at least get a mention, especially in a week that is relatively short on compelling matchups (sorry Jets vs. Falcons in London). This game could very well be for an early lead in the NFC East race.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Week 6

Thursday Night Football: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Tom Brady going to play in Philadelphia is mildly intriguing as a storyline, but this is still the league’s best team against one of the worst.

Intrigue Level: 4/10

Sunday Night Football: Seattle Seahawks @ Pittsburgh Steelers

A rematch of the first Super Bowl that I can remember watching is pretty intriguing on paper. Russell Wilson against the Steelers’ elite defense will be must watch television. Also, there is always the possibility that Ben Roethlisberger pulls out a signature primetime-home game performance with five touchdowns and 400 yards, or he could look extremely washed in front of a national audience.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Monday Night Football: Buffalo Bills @ Tennessee Titans

This feels like a standard Monday Night Football game. There is no overwhelming narrative for intrigue like the typical Sunday Night game, and the matchup is, on paper, better than the average Thursday game. This should be a solid game.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Los Angeles Rams @ New York Giants (1:00 PM)

In a loaded Sunday schedule, my bias is on display again as I’m taking my Giants hosting the contending Rams as the game of the week. This feels like one that should be in the 4:25 window, but the NFL seemed to have opted for Dallas @ New England (which I controversially haven’t even included in the honorable mentions). The Rams should have an elite offense and defense and the Giants’ defense should be top tier again, so, like everything Giants related this year, it all falls on Daniel Jones to justify this pick.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Other Intriguing Games: Miami Dolphins @ Jacksonville Jaguars (9:30 AM), Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM), Arizona Cardinals @ Cleveland Browns (4:05 PM)

Great schedule of non-primetime games this week, even with this being the first week with byes, and again this doesn’t even include the aforementioned Dallas vs. New England game. The Dolphins visit the London Jacksonville Jaguars in a rare good matchup at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at 9:30 AM Eastern. The Chargers visit the Ravens in what will be a very interesting clash in offensive styles during the one o’clock window. The late afternoon Cardinals game in Cleveland should be a good one to gauge how legit, or phony, Arizona is.

Intrigue Levels: (MIA @ JAC) 6/10 / (LAC @ BAL) 7/10 / (ARI @ CLE) 6.5/10

Week 7

Thursday Night Football: Denver Broncos @ Cleveland Browns

I think there is a chance that Denver ends up being pretty competitive this year, however I am not confident enough to proclaim that they will make this game anything more than your average Thursday Night game.

Intrigue Level: 5/10

Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers

This could be a great game between second tier contending teams or it could be an is-it-too-early-to-flex? game with teams on their second quarterback of the season. I’ll be optimistic because I am high on both of these teams and give it a respectable rating.

Intrigue Level: 6/5/10

Monday Night Football: New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks

A rematch of the “Beast Quake” game and the Marques Colston lateral game will look different without Drew Brees under center for the Saints. The Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill led Saints should remain competitive enough to make this a midseason showdown between NFC playoff contenders.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Kansas City Chiefs @ Tennessee Titans (1:00 PM)

Unlike the Bills and Ravens, the Titans have actually been able to defeat Mahomes and the Chiefs in the last few years. It was just once, but that’s once more than their best-non-Chiefs AFC counterparts. This is a classic early afternoon game with tons of fantasy players involved and, hopefully, it is one between two playoff teams.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Other Intriguing Games: Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Rams (4:05 PM)

Just like with the Darnold vs. Jets game, this one would be higher on the scale if the location was flipped. The Jared Goff revenge against Sean McVay and the Rams narrative would work in any location, I just wish we could see Matthew Stafford’s return to Detroit. This ends up being a game between a great team and an awful team with an average quarterback making his return to Los Angeles.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Week 8

Thursday Night Football: Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals

This has potential to be that yearly Thursday Night game that ends up being a game-of-the-year contender. Both of these offenses should be great, and both defenses should be closer to average than great, which is a recipe for a potential 70-plus point shootout.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Sunday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

There’s really not much to predict here, both of these teams could be fringe contenders in the NFC or both could be massive overachievers. I get that it’s the Cowboys, but there are better games that could’ve filled Sunday night this week.

Intrigue Level: 5.5/10

Monday Night Football: New York Giants @ Kansas City Chiefs

As a Giants fan, I really hope this will be a competitive team once week eight rolls around. If not, they will be set up perfectly to be slaughtered in primetime in Kansas City. As you know by now, I’ll be optimistic about the Giants and give this game a higher-than-deserved rating.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns (1:00 PM)

This is the first of two meetings in what might be the best rivalry in the NFL. Between the Mason Rudolph and Myles Garrett incident two years ago and the Browns playoff upset, and the trash talk that followed, last year, these teams have a real reason to hate each other. They do play again, in primetime, later in the year, but this first matchup in the early afternoon window should be a good game with a lot on the line.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Other Intriguing Games: Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (1:00 PM), Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints (4:25 PM)

This will be the second meeting of the season between Miami and Buffalo in 2021, but this one makes the honorable mention cut because, 1) this one is in Buffalo and 2) by week eight we should know if Tua Tagovailoa is a long-term solution for Miami and if they are truly in the mix for the AFC East. The first matchup between the Saints and Buccaneers will feature, most likely, Jameis Winston against his former team in a rematch between rivals who played three times in 2020.

Intrigue Levels: (MIA @ BUF) 6.5/10 / (TB @ NO) 7/10

Week 9

Thursday Night Football: New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts

Aside from this being a rematch of Super Bowl III (kind of), I really don’t know what the narrative will be for this one. There’s nothing wrong with the game, it is just going to be a standard Thursday-Nighter.

Intrigue Level: 4/10

Sunday Night Football: Tennessee Titans @ Los Angeles Rams

Another Super Bowl rematch in week nine primetime. The Rams will be contenders and the Titans will be in the playoff mix, but I am having trouble finding an angle that makes this an intriguing matchup. Maybe it is the battle between the, in my opinion, two best non-quarterbacks in the NFL with Derrick Henry against Aaron Donald.

Intrigue Level: 5.5/10

Monday Night Football: Chicago Bears @ Pittsburgh Steelers

This game caps off a really uninspiring trio of week nine primetime games. I would imagine Justin Fields will be starting by this point, but I still don’t know how much he will be able to do against a top defense. Then again, it is only May and these games, by November, could all be fantastic.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Green Bay Packers @ Kansas City Chiefs (4:25 PM)

While the primetime games are lacking, the first ever Aaron Rodgers vs. Patrick Mahomes aka the “State Farm Bowl,” aka almost Super Bowl LV, matchup will be the most hyped game. The chance that Rodgers may be somewhere else prevents this from being a straight up 10/10, but if he is still in Green Bay, we will see a duel between the NFL’s best two quarterbacks.

Intrigue Level: 9/10

Other Intriguing Games: Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1:00 PM), Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (1:00 PM)

I feel like I have completely underestimated the intrigue of Trevor Lawrence in these honorable mentions. By week nine he should be fully in a grove, and a matchup with an AFC contender will be fun to watch. I’ve also underestimated the potential offensive juggernaut of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts in Atlanta. They will definitely be watchable, and a matchup with the rival Saints should make for a fun, high-scoring affair.

Intrigue Levels: (BUF @ JAC) 5.5/10 / (ATL @ NO) 6/10

Week 10

Thursday Night Football: Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins

This is another game that, for intrigue-sake, depends entirely on one team. We know Baltimore will be good. If Miami is also good, we have a great Thursday Night game. If Miami is struggling, we get to watch Lamar’s signature move of blowing out a bad team.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Sunday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs @ Las Vegas Raiders

The first of two matchups in this new semi-rivalry comes on a Sunday night. They played a fantastic Sunday night game last year as the Raiders hung with the Chiefs all the way until the end. The two teams famously split their two matchups last year as the Raiders seemed to peak against the Chiefs and play average, or worse, against everyone else. We will see if the Raiders can continue this trend in 2021.

Intrigue Level: 7.5/10

Monday Night Football: Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers

The first matchup between two of the NFL’s best coaches, the Rams’ Sean McVay and the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan, and rosters should have playoff implications. This makes for a likely-better-than-average Monday Night game.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers (4:25 PM)

There have been a handful of memorable games between Seattle and Green Bay in recent years, and this should be another one. Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers have both made headlines this offseason due to their well-known frustrations, but it would be strange to even imagine a matchup between these two teams without the two superstar quarterbacks. As long as those guys are under center, these teams will contend, and this late afternoon game will be great.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots (1:00 PM)

Not a great non-primetime schedule this week, and I have definitely underrepresented the revamped Patriots. I’m just not sold that all of the free agent signings can mask Cam Newton’s struggles, but maybe they will prove me wrong. If they are legit, a week ten early afternoon game with the Browns will be a great test.

Intrigue Level: 5/10

Week 11

Thursday Night Football: New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcons

The rematch of the famous Super Bowl LI comeback won’t feel right without Tom Brady on the Patriots. This is another Thursday game with high-upside, if the teams both overachieve, which they definitely can, and a low-floor, if they are both struggling, which is also very possible.

Intrigue Level: 5/10

Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ offense against the Steelers’ defense should make for a great battle that is definitely worthy of the Sunday Night Football stage. I’ll be somewhat conservative in my rating, because neither team is a lock to contend, but there is a lot of potential with this primetime matchup.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Monday Night Football: New York Giants @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This was a surprisingly compelling Monday Night game last year, but maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising considering the Giants, even outside of the Super Bowl, always play well against Tom Brady. If the Giants really want to take the next step and compete in the NFC, these are the games they will have to win. From the Bucs’ perspective, we know Brady will always be motivated against the Giants.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks (4:25 PM)

The Cardinals and Seahawks played two games in primetime last year, but in 2021 their first matchup will be the marque game in the afternoon slate. We know the Seahawks will be in the mix, but the Cardinals will be hoping that this one has playoff implications for them too. Expect another good one in this rivalry.

Intrigue Level: 7.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills (1:00 PM), Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs (4:25 PM)

It was underrated because it was the first of six games on Wild Card weekend last year, but the Colts and Bills played an amazing playoff game. The Colts came up just short of the upset and, now with Carson Wentz instead of Philip Rivers, will be looking for revenge. The NFL’s overall biggest draw against their current biggest draw with the Cowboys at the Chiefs will surely be intriguing regardless of how Dallas is playing through eleven weeks.

Intrigue Levels: (IND @ BUF) 7/10 / (DAL @ KC) 7/10

Week 12

Thanksgiving: Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions (12:30 PM), Las Vegas Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys (4:30 PM), Buffalo Bills @ New Orleans Saints (8:20 PM)

Everybody is going to watch the Thanksgiving games regardless of who is playing, so I understand if the NFL doesn’t feel much incentive to make these games anything special. The early Detroit game has been boring for years, but the Andy Dalton or Justin Fields led Bears are extraordinarily boring. The Raiders vs. Cowboys is a fun interconference matchup that I did not expect when looking at the Cowboys’ home opponents. Concerning the night game, I am surprised the NFL didn’t go back to the Steelers vs. Ravens matchup that was postponed last year. The Saints seem to be frequent participants in the late Thanksgiving game, and this matchup with the Bills will be fun, but is nothing overly exciting.

Intrigue Levels: (CHI @ DET) 3/10 / (LV @ DAL) 5.5/10 / BUF @ NO (6/10)

Sunday Night Football: Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

I would’ve preferred this as the late Thanksgiving game, but it is still primetime which is great. Last year we had the famous Lamar bathroom cramp game in this matchup on a Monday night, and in 2021 it gets a promotion to Sunday night. Expect this one to potentially be a game for the lead in the AFC North and the inside track to the second seed in the conference.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Monday Night Football: Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Football Team

These were two playoff teams last year, and they very well could be there again, but it does not feel like an exciting matchup at all. Last year they played a low scoring slugfest that should not have made them worthy of facing off on national TV this year.

Intrigue Level: 5.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers (4:25 PM)

This is easily in the top five most intriguing non-primetime games. The Packers handled the Rams in the NFC Divisional Round last year, but now they will have to deal with Matthew Stafford instead of Jared Goff. These will be two of the league’s best teams in a potential playoff preview. Once again, the slight Aaron Rodgers uncertainty keeps a Packers game from being a straight 10/10.

Intrigue Level: 9/10

Other Intriguing Games: Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants (1:00 PM), Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Indianapolis Colts (1:00 PM)

Between the Eagles’ decision to tank in week 17 last year, ruining the Giants’ playoff hopes, and their shrewd move to jump ahead of the Giants and draft Devonta Smith, there is good reason for the rivalry to become even nastier. All eyes will be on the reaction of the Giants and their fans as the hated Eagles come to town. For my own sake, the Colts better be good this year as I continue to shower them with praise. I have them, once again, in an intriguing matchup as they host the defending champs.

Intrigue Levels: (PHI @ NYG) 9/10 / (TB @ IND) 7/10

Week 13

Thursday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints

I sound like a broken record at this point with these Thursday games, but we have another high-upside, low-floor matchup. This could easily be a playoff preview in the NFC, and it could just as easily be two underachieving 4-7 teams. As someone who roots against both teams that will watch Thursday Night Football regardless, let’s hope it’s the latter.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Sunday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

See week four, this game should be even more exciting given the likelihood of serious playoff implications.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Monday Night Football: New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

The Bills were finally able to overcome the big brother Patriots in the big games last year, however the Patriots were awful last year. Regardless of how the Patriots look at this point in the season, the pressure will be on Buffalo to continue to assert themselves as the new AFC East king.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (4:25 PM)

Lamar Jackson really struggled last year against the Steelers and then missed then was unable to redeem himself in the teams second matchup due to COVID. Everybody knows how tough and gritty these AFC North games are, and this first matchup between the two rivals should be extra intense so late into the season.

Intrigue Level: 7.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 PM)

While Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow didn’t go first and second in the 2020 NFL draft, they may still be tied at the hip as they both looked phenomenal in their rookie seasons. If Burrow hadn’t torn his ACL, we would’ve had a thrilling race for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Everyone should be very excited for the first matchup between the two young stars.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Week 14

Thursday Night Football: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Minnesota Vikings

Thursday Night Football. High upside. Low floor. Rinse, repeat. This edition features an old Super Bowl rematch and a very aesthetically pleasing uniform matchup.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Sunday Night Football: Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers

It must be in the NFL rulebook that these teams always play each other at least once per year on Sunday Night Football. Per usual, the Packers should be setting themselves up for a high playoff seed while the Bears scrap their way towards, at best, the seven seed.

Intrigue Level: 5.5/10

Monday Night Football: Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals

See week four. Hopefully this late season Monday Night game actually matters because they can’t flex it out.

Intrigue Level: 8/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4:25 PM)

Many expected this to be the opening night matchup, but the NFL went to the old reliable Cowboys instead. I may not be one of them, but many people do believe that this is a potential Super Bowl preview. Therefore, this is an easy 8.5/10 and clearly one of the best non-primetime games of the year.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns (1:00 PM)

See just two weeks earlier in week 12. Playing each other for the second time in three weeks, hopefully this matchup has even more on the line.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Week 15

Thursday Night Football: Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers

See week three, but this time it’s in primetime. I’m hoping that the Chargers will be right in the thick of the Wild Card race at this point.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Sunday Night Football: New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Just like the Thursday game, we have a pair of divisional foes in their second matchup of the season. Also like the Thursday game, we have a set contender (Tampa Bay) and a team hoping to be in the hunt (New Orleans).

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Monday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

While the Bears and Packers play every year on Sunday Night, the Vikings and Bears seem to play every year on Monday. It’s much more likely both teams will be out of the playoff race than in it, so I imagine a relatively meaningless game.

Intrigue Level: 5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams

See their week 5 Thursday Night game, plus this one gets a boost because it may literally decide the division or even homefield in the NFC.

Intrigue Level: 9/10

Other Intriguing Games: Las Vegas Raiders @ Cleveland Browns (TBD, Potentially Saturday), Tennessee Titans @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1:00 PM), Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens (1:00 PM)

The week 15 schedule is loaded enough to get three honorable mentions. The Raiders and Browns, assuming it is intriguing enough, would make for a great Saturday game. The Titans and Steelers are in the same range of tier two AFC contenders, this game should have serious Wild Card implications. The obscure matchup between the Packers and Ravens made a strong case to be the game of the weekend and will be the highlight of the early window.

Intrigue Levels: (LV @ CLE) 6.5/10 / (TEN @ PIT) 7/10 / (GB @ BAL) 8.5/10

Week 16

Thursday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers @ Tennessee Titans

The last Thursday Night game of the year is actually a solid game between potential playoff teams. However, there is nothing about the matchup that really makes me super intrigued at the moment.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Saturday Games: Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers (4:30 PM), Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals (8:15 PM)

The success rate on Saturday games seems typically pretty varied, but, at least in May, the NFL absolutely nailed it with these two. Cleveland and Green Bay could be a potential Super Bowl preview (can’t believe I just wrote that about the Browns) and will be a perfect Christmas day game. The Colts and Cardinals make for a great following act in the night game.

Intrigue Levels: (CLE @ GB) 9/10 / (IND @ ARI) 6.5/10

Sunday Night Football: Washington Football Team @ Dallas Cowboys

The NFL is really banking on these two teams fighting for the NFC East crown. However, they will obviously flex the game out if that’s not the case.

Intrigue Level: 6/10

Monday Night Football: Miami Dolphins @ New Orleans Saints

Even if both of these teams are playoff contenders, I still won’t be intrigued because they’re pretty boring. Are they good teams? Sure. Will I ever be excited to watch them in a late season primetime game? No.

Intrigue Level: 5.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets (1:00 PM)

Maybe I’m crazy picking this over Pittsburgh @ Kansas City, but I think the NFL did a great job putting this duel between number one pick Trevor Lawrence and number two pick Zach Wilson late in the season rather than early when they are just finding their footing. Also, I doubt it, but maybe this will end up deciding the Offensive Rookie of the Year race.

Intrigue Level: 7/10

Other Intriguing Games: New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles (1:00 PM), Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City (4:25 PM)

Definitely less intrigue for the Giants vs. Eagles sequel, especially in Philadelphia this time, but it’s still worth noting. Pittsburgh @ Kansas City should probably be the game of the week, but I’ve definitely fallen for the intrigue of the top pick showdown. This should still be a great game, and a pick that I’ll definitely regret if there are heavy playoff implications.

Intrigue Levels: (NYG @ PHI) 7/10 / (PIT @ KC) 7/10

Week 17

Sunday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

It’s tough to assess this as a primetime game because the NFL can flex the game so easily. However, at the moment, it’s a very solid game that could matter in the NFC North race.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Monday Night Football: Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers

See week eight, this one will almost definitely have major postseason implications.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Non-Primetime Game of the Week: Los Angeles Rams @ Baltimore Ravens (4:25 PM)

Easy pick here in a pretty bland week. Both of these teams should be comfortably in playoff spots, but they can use this game to make a statement and gain momentum.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots (1:00 PM)

Again, pretty bland week, but Belichick against a rookie Trevor Lawrence, regardless of where these teams are in the standings, will be one of the highlights of the early afternoon window.

Intrigue Level: 6.5/10

Week 18

*All Games on Sunday, All Times TBD*

Game of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens

Tough to analyze week 18 (which feels so strange to type) when all the matchups are divisional, and the lone primetime game won’t be announced until the week prior. Therefore, I went with the matchup that I am most confident will matter. Given the likelihood that it is to decide the AFC North or a Wild Card spot, this should be the favorite to be the vaunted Sunday Night game.

Intrigue Level: 8.5/10

Other Intriguing Games: San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals, Washington Football Team @ New York Giants

I really think that the AFC North, NFC West and NFC East are the only divisions that have three potential winners. That made it very easy to pick these three matchups as potential contenders for the Sunday Night slot. These games should decide both the NFC West and NFC East, and, in the games out west, will also impact the Wild Card seedings.

Intrigue Levels: (SF @ LAR) 8/10 / (SEA @ ARI) 7.5/10 / (WFT @ NYG) 7/10



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