Revenge games are worth the wait on the NFL schedule, especially when a player returns to face his former team. The 2021 NFL schedule features plenty of revenge games, some of which are on the primetime stage. Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick will be must-see television when the six-time Super Bowl champion head coach and the seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback square off -- especially since the game will be taking place in Foxborough.
In addition to Brady-Belichick, J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins will return to face their former team (Arizona Cardinals vs. Houston Texans) while Cam Newton returns to Carolina to take on the Panthers. Those are just some of the few revenge games involving players, as the league also has 11 playoff rematches.
With the 2021 NFL schedule finally out, let's take a look at the top revenge games and when they will be played:
1. Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick
- Sunday, October 3 (8:20 p.m., NBC)
This one was immediately circled on the calendar. Brady already got his revenge on Belichick by winning Super Bowl LV with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his first year with the team (and was named Super Bowl MVP). The Patriots finished with a losing record for the first time since 2000 (Brady's rookie year when he didn't play) and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 (Brady tore his ACL in Week 1 and was lost for the year).
Belichick is 62-73 when Brady isn't his starting quarterback -- and 249-75 when Brady started for him. Sure, Belichick would like to beat Brady in this one -- and Brady likely feels the same. Tampa Bay could be in the mix to repeat as champion, but a head-to-head win is different.
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- Sunday, October 10 (8:20 p.m., NBC)
The most-anticipated playoff rematch in 2021 revisits the AFC Championship Game. Kansas City routed Buffalo 38-24 as Patrick Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Buffalo won 13 regular season games for the first time since 1991 and reached the AFC title game for the first time since 1993 -- and has a bright future with Josh Allen as the franchise quarterback.
The Bills should give the Chiefs a better game this time around. Allen vs. Mahomes should be an annual matchup for years to come.
3. DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt vs. Texans
- Sunday, October 24 (4:25 p.m., CBS)
Texans franchise legends return to face their former team -- only the matchup is in Arizona. Hopkins has demonstrated some bad blood toward his former team after he was controversially dealt to the Cardinals in exchange for David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-rounder -- one of the most-lopsided trades in recent memory.
Watt signed with the Cardinals this offseason (and was recruited by Hopkins on social media), so this will be his first game against his former team. Watt won three defensive player of the year awards and is the Texans' all-time sack leader. Both players will be motivated to get a win against Houston.
4. Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Monday, January 3 (8:15 p.m., ESPN)
The Browns finally won a playoff game last season, their first since re-entering the league as an expansion franchise in 1999 -- blowing out the Steelers in one of the more surprising outcomes of the year. Cleveland took a 28-0 lead after the first quarter and cruised to victory -- sweet revenge after getting blown out by Pittsburgh at Heinz Field earlier in the year.
The Steelers will look for vengeance of their own, especially after they helped the Browns to get into the playoffs by losing in Cleveland. This classic AFC North rivalry is back and the league is better for it.
5. Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
- Sunday, November 28 (1 p.m., Fox)
The longtime NFC East rivalry has been renewed. The Giants snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Eagles last year, but still have plenty of motivation to beat them based on a few recent Eagles moves.
The latest tactic by Philadelphia involved DeVonta Smith, as the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys worked together to make sure New York couldn't get the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Dallas agreed to send the No. 10 pick to Philadelphia for the No. 12 pick and a third-round pick (No. 84 overall), so the Eagles could leapfrog the Giants at No. 11 and select Smith. The Giants traded down shortly after.
That came months after the Eagles pulled their starting quarterback in a Week 17 game they had to win in order for the Giants to win the NFC East (despite a 6-10 record). Instead, the loss moved the Eagles three spots up in the draft (No. 9 to No. 6), allowing them to trade down and acquire a first-round pick -- before bypassing the Giants and getting the receiver they wanted.
New York will be motivated to beat Philadelphia after the offseason drama. The Eagles will certainly want to do their talking on the field as well.
6. Jared Goff vs. Matthew Stafford
- Sunday, October 24 (4:05 p.m., Fox)
The pair of former No. 1 overall picks were traded for each other in one of the biggest deals of the offseason. Stafford was sent to the Los Angeles Rams, who gave Goff and two first-round picks to the Detroit Lions. Stafford is believed to be the piece to get the Rams back to the top of the NFC, while Goff will lead the Lions rebuild under Dan Campbell.
Goff returns to Los Angeles, where he took the Rams to a Super Bowl and went to two Pro Bowls before the franchise gave up on him after five years. He'll be motivated to pull off a major upset.
7. Jameis Winston at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Sunday, December 19 (8:20 p.m., NBC)
If Winston wins the Saints' starting quarterback job, his return to Tampa Bay will be one of the marquee matchups of the season. The Buccaneers moved on from the former No. 1 overall pick last year to sign Tom Brady -- who won a Super Bowl in his first year there. Winston never found a starting job, having to sign with the Saints and spending the year as their No. 3 quarterback.
Winston is the Buccaneers' all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Getting a victory in Raymond James Stadium will be more than enough motivation -- especially against one of the best teams in the league.
The Buccaneers also beat the Saints in the playoffs last year after the Saints swept them in the regular season. Plenty of storylines in this one.
8. Cam Newton at Carolina Panthers
- Sunday, November 7 (1 p.m., CBS)
This matchup increases in significance if Newton is the starting quarterback when the New England Patriots return to Carolina. This will be Newton's first game against his former team, which he led to three NFC South titles, a NFC Championship, and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.
Newton is Carolina's all-time leader in passing touchdowns, passing yards, and rushing touchdowns -- this game will likely mean a lot to him.
9. Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
- Sunday, November 21 (1 p.m., CBS)
A rematch of the AFC wild card thriller is one of the more underrated matchups of the year. The Colts improved this offseason by trading for Carson Wentz and signing Eric Fisher to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo. Remember, Indianapolis was just 53 yards away from winning that game -- which wasn't one of head coach Frank Reich's best performances.
The Colts will look to show Buffalo, one of the AFC's best teams, how much they have improved. The Bills will look to showcase they are still one of the elite teams in the conference.