With 18 weeks and 272 games, the 2021 NFL season will be the biggest in league history. It's no surprise, then, that this year's lineup is jam-packed with marquee matchups. Just the Week 1 slate alone offers a crop of big-time matchups: Buccaneers and Cowboys, Browns and Chiefs, Bills and Steelers. In other words, if you tune in on a Sunday, you're bound to find some good football. But if you're especially hungry for the best of the best, we've got you covered. Here are 10 absolutely must-see matchups on the 2021 schedule:
Chiefs at Ravens (Week 2)
Patrick Mahomes versus Lamar Jackson. An AFC playoff rematch (and likely preview). It's early in the year, but it promises high energy. Chances are they'll meet again, and once again it'll be must-see TV.
Buccaneers at Patriots (Week 4)
Tom Brady's return to Gilette Stadium. Will the boos rain down, or will Foxborough applaud? Either way, it's the game of the week, if not the month. The question is: Who's starting on the other side? Cam Newton or Mac Jones?
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Bills at Chiefs (Week 5)
The AFC Championship Game rematch. Kansas City has a relatively tough start in 2021, so Buffalo could have a chance to capitalize here. The real draw, of course, is the QB duel: Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, two of the game's most electric gunslingers.
Detroit isn't exactly headlining material this year, but this one is full of drama. Matthew Stafford gets to play host to his old team, while Jared Goff gets to return to Los Angeles and prove to the Rams he's still got juice in the tank. Maybe he'll even be able to visit the old Goff Course.
Packers at Chiefs (Week 9)
If Aaron Rodgers is still in Green Bay, this'll mark his first showdown with Mahomes (i.e. a bona fide thriller). In the event he's gone, this'll still have prime-time appeal, with Jordan Love likely suiting up against the NFL's most explosive arm and offense.
Colts at Bills (Week 11)
Carson Wentz is now under center in Indianapolis, and the Colts still boast a stingy defense. So this could be a legitimate test for Buffalo in its attempt to return to the AFC title game. It's also a rematch from last year's playoffs.
Ravens at Browns (Week 14)
Cleveland might be the legitimate favorite in the AFC North. Can Lamar Jackson go on the road and beat that improved defense down the stretch? This is late enough in the year that it could have major implications on the postseason picture.
49ers at Rams (Week 18)
San Francisco could be starting either Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance here. The Rams, meanwhile, could be playing for the NFC West title with Matthew Stafford at the helm. Kyle Shanahan versus Sean McVay. Golden season-finale material.
Patriots at Dolphins (Week 18)
Who knows just what condition New England will be in by season's end, but Miami is entering just as critical a season. Will Tua Tagovailoa still be starting in Week 18? Is that a foolish question to ask? Either way, this could decide the division.
Cowboys at Eagles (Week 18)
Everyone laughs at the NFC East, but there's a real shot that two or three or even all four of the divisional foes could be in the playoff mix until Week 18 this year. The Cowboys, in Philly, with a potential playoff spot on the line? Sign us all up.
- Bills at Buccaneers (Week 14)
- Packers at Ravens (Week 15)
- Browns at Packers (Week 16)
- Steelers at Chiefs (Week 16)
- Rams at Ravens (Week 17)
- Steelers at Ravens (Week 18)