NFL schedule time is usually a time that brings on excitement, planning, longing and many other emotions.
This year is different. This year it's about hope.
With the schedule release official, it's now all about whether or not the entire season is played, starting in early September, because of the coronavirus. We hope it is, but nobody knows for sure.
That's why the usual joy that comes with the schedule release is tempered a bit this time around. How can fans plan road trips when they don't even know if the games will be played?
What if the early games are played without fans? What if the entire season is played without fans?
Here's hoping things are back to normal by early September and the season happens as scheduled. There are 256 games, but I picked out 10 that I can't wait to see, with most featuring the league's best teams, including the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The Pick Six Podcast gang fired up a new episode breaking down every eye-catching aspect of the NFL's schedule release. Give it a listen below, and be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform:
They are featured in three of my 10 games here, once against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, once against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and once against Lamar Jackson – the reigning MVP – and the Baltimore Ravens. Patrick Mahomes against any of those guys will be fun to watch.
Let's just keep hoping – the main thought of this year's schedule-release day – that it can happen.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
This is the game many expected to see in the AFC Championship game last year, with the Ravens at home. But they lost as the top seed to the Tennessee Titans, which enabled the Chiefs to play at home in the title game, and then get to and win the Super Bowl. This should be fun watching the Ravens run-heavy offense led by Lamar Jackson against Patrick Mahomes and his passing game.
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This will be Aaron Rodgers against Tom Brady for the third time in their career. They each have won a game, with Brady winning in 2018 for the Patriots. There was a good chance that would have been the last meeting between the two with Brady at the age of 43, but now we get it again for what could be the last time. Bring it on.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
This is a rematch of the NFC title game, which was won in a blowout by the 49ers. They pushed the Packers all over the field with their rushing game, going for over 285 yards on the ground. That's demoralizing to a team. This one will be in San Francisco. If that run defense plays like it did in January, it won't matter where they play.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
These two played a classic in the regular season in 2019, won 48-46 by the 49ers at the Superdome. Now they will meet again in a game that matches two of the league's best teams. I would imagine they won't come close to that type of offensive production this time around, but it's still a matchup that will come with a lot of intrigue.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is the all-time great quarterback in Tom Brady matched up against a guy in Patrick Mahomes who has a chance to be that. Mahomes has five more Super Bowl rings to go to catch Brady, but he's still young and the Chiefs are my favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. Can the young Bucs secondary handle Mahomes and his high-flying passing game? Bruce Arians vs. Andy Reid is great for those of us who love the passing game.
This could be Joe Burrow against Tua Tagovailoa. Burrow will be the Bengals starter from the get-go, but it's a question as to whether Tagovailoa will be starting at this point. Will he be healthy enough to take the job from Ryan Fitzpatrick? Burrow was the first overall pick, while Tagovailoa went fifth. Their careers will be compared because of that, so why not get it started here in this one?
Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers
What is this game doing on the list? It's because I think the Bills have a real chance to be a deep-playoff team this season and the 49ers are the defending NFC Champions. Josh Allen will be the key to the Bills season, but he will also be the key here in how he plays against that good 49ers defense. The 49ers were the young, rising team in 2019 that made it to the Super Bowl. Can the Bills be that team this year?
Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens
Dak Prescott against Lamar Jackson. What's not to like? These are two of the rising stars at the quarterback position. Both teams can also run the football, which will put a lot of pressure on the two defenses. The Ravens had a great draft and will be counting on their rebuilt defense to try and slow down Prescott and the Cowboys offense, while the Dallas defense better get ready for a physical slugfest from the top-rated rushing team from a year ago.
Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints
Unless they meet in the Super Bowl, this will probably be the only meeting between Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees. It's the young, rising star passer against the veteran with boatloads of records. Seeing that Chiefs offense inside on a fast track will be fun.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
The Vikings went into New Orleans and upset the Saints in the NFC Wild-Card round last January. They did it with a fierce pass rush that limited the Saints offense, winning the game in overtime on a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Kyle Rudolph. Can that pass rush do it again? The Saints have lost two heartache playoff games to the Vikings in the past three years. With Drew Brees back, maybe this can be a game to get some type of redemption.