There are some games on the 2021 NFL schedule that don't need much publicizing. Tom Brady's return trip to New England in Week 4, for example, was among the games that immediately stuck out when the 2021 schedule was unveiled on Wednesday evening.
While there are some games that have already been labeled as must-see matchups, there are more than a few less heralded games that could turn out to be instant classics. Let's take a look at the five most "under-the-radar" games from the 2021 schedule. As you'll see below, compelling quarterback matchups was a common theme among these matchups.
Barring the unexpected, Cam Newton will likely be the Patriots' starting quarterback when New England hosts the Dolphins in Week 1. But by Week 18, it could very well be rookie Mac Jones under center when New England faces Miami in the final week of the regular season. If this scenario plays out, Jones would finish his rookie regular season against his former teammate at Alabama, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Given the recent comments by fellow Alabama receivers DeVonta Smith and now-Dolphins receiver Jaylen Waddle, rest assured that Tagovailoa will be motivated to beat his his former backup. Adding to the allure of this matchup is the fact that this game could very well have major playoff implications for both teams.
Sean McVay has not suffered many lopsided losses during his time on the Rams' sideline. McVay's most lopsided defeat, however, came at the hands of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in front of a "Monday Night Football" audience in Week 12 of the 2019 season. McVay's Rams -- the defending NFC champions -- had no shot against the visiting Ravens and Jackson, who streaked out to a 28-6 halftime lead en route to a 45-6 victory.
Jackson tightened his grip on the MVP award after tossing five touchdowns against the Rams' defense. Jackson also rushed for 95 yards, as Baltimore had over twice as many total yards as the Rams. The win was part of a 12-game winning streak for Baltimore, while the loss contributed to the Rams missing the playoffs for the only time under McVay's watch. Rest assured that McVay will be looking forward to this rematch.
Ravens play the Rams in the now-added 17th game.— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) March 31, 2021
In their last meeting (2019), Lamar Jackson became the first player to throw five TD passes in a Monday Night Football debut.
He did so despite not playing the final 14 minutes, 43 seconds of the game.
Given the uncertain future of both players, this could very well be the final game between Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. Believe it or not, this would be just the third meeting between the future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. In their first matchup, a Week 15 thriller at Heinz Field in 2009, Rodgers and Roethlisberger combined to throw for 886 yards and six touchdowns. And while Rodgers led the Packers on three fourth quarter scoring drives, he left just enough time for Roethlisberger, whose 19-yard, game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Wallace gave the Steelers a 37-36 win as time expired.
This day in #PGHistory: After the Packers take the lead with 2 minutes to go, Ben Roethlisberger marches the Steelers to a game-winning TD pass with 0 seconds left on the clock.— Pittsburgh Clothing Co. (@PGHClothingCo) December 20, 2017
Big Ben becomes the first Steeler to pass for 500 yards, as they defeat Green Bay 37-36. (2009) pic.twitter.com/HNdrX66lwk
Rodgers and the Packers won the 2010 rematch, a game that took place on a much larger stage. In Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers riddled the Steelers' formidable defense to the tune of 304 yards and three touchdown passes. And unlike the previous year, Rodgers' defense made the game-clinching stand, as Roethlisberger's fourth down pass attempt to Wallace on Pittsburgh's final possession fell incomplete, sealing Green Bay's 31-25 win.
Similar to Mac Jones' situation, the allure of his matchup is largely dependent on whether or not Trey Lance is the 49ers' starting quarterback. If he is, it sets up a pretty epic showdown between Lance and Justin Fields, the quarterback the 49ers passed on with the No. 3 overall pick. But even if the 49ers are still led by Jimmy Garoppolo, Fields will nevertheless have an opportunity to beat the team that passed over him in the draft. This is assuming that Fields is starting over veteran Andy Dalton by this point in the season.
A "Thursday Night Football" atmosphere will be the backdrop for this matchup showcasing the last two No. 1 overall picks: Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence. It's also a rematch of the 2019 College Football Championship. Facing the defending national champions, Burrow threw five touchdowns helping the Tigers complete their undefeated season. Lawrence, who one year earlier led Clemson to its second national title in three years, was held to just 234 passing yards in LSU's 42-25 win.
While Lawrence is hoping to make an early splash in Jacksonville, Burrow is looking to pick up where he left off following a successful start to his rookie season. Burrow led the NFL in passing before a knee injury in Week 11 prematurely ended his season.