Some people -- mostly people who hate fun and various colleagues of mine who prefer to yell at clouds -- claim revenge games aren't real. These people don't think spite games exist. 

Critics continue clinging to the obstinate idea despite centuries of empirical evidence clearly demonstrating the human spirit's incredible level of pettiness. Written in 1844, "The Count of Monte Cristo" is essentially a very long revenge game. Just a few years later, Larry David based an entire season of Curb on the building of a Spite Store. 

Lest you think I'm alone on Vengeance Island, look what the NFL puts in primetime. I'm very confident 70 percent of my picks make the NFL's list of "must-see games." The rest require a subtle eye for retribution. 

Anyway, let's dispense with the pleasantries and dive into the dark pool of revenge. Historical revenge is largely irrelevant here. In-division games require special priority to even sniff the list. Known current NFL avengers will get additional credit here. Here are my favorites with the relevant info and maybe a cheeky blurb.

10. Texans at Panthers

Week 9, 1 p.m., Fox

The obvious C.J. Stroud angle here is being drastically underplayed. Of course it's No. 1 pick Bryce Young vs. No. 2 pick Stroud. We've seen this before -- Jameis Winston versus Marcus Mariota once happened with minimalistic fanfare -- but when Winston went first overall to the Bucs and Mariota second to the Titans in 2016 there was zero controversy at the top of the draft about the order of the two quarterbacks. By the time Carolina was on the clock this year, Young was the obvious choice. Stroud was the heavy favorite in betting markets (reactionary markets only, as a reminder!) early in the pre-draft process because of some flimsy connections to Reich and taller quarterbacks. He got passed over. If he's not motivated for revenge here what's the point of playing. 

9. Seahawks at Giants

Week 4, 8:20 p.m., ESPN

Scoff all you want but anytime Geno Smith gets a chance to extract revenge on an old team, I'm paying attention. Especially when the game in question is on Monday night and in New York. Geno went 3-0 last year -- his only full year as a starter since 2014 -- against a team who previously rostered him. If someone in Hollywood wants to cast Eugene Cyril Smith III as the next James Bond I'm all ears. 

8. 49ers at Eagles

Week 13, 4:25 p.m., Fox

There is a 400 billion percent chance some 49ers players have texted about beating the Eagles if every quarterback on the roster didn't get hurt before, during and maybe after this game. Philly won 31-7 so it's a tough sell as a bad beat, but the Niners were only down two touchdowns at half of the NFC title game while using their fifth starting quarterback of the season. Brock Purdy being healthy or -- more importantly -- Trey Lance being good would bump this game up quite a bit. This is a tough line to predict because at this point of the season the Niners QB situation ~should~ be more of a known commodity. 

7. Raiders at Patriots

Week 6, 4:05 p.m., CBS

People are currently sour on both coaches in this matchup. Quite understandable. But the lack of interest makes it more interesting to me. When Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels squared off the first time, McD showed Belichick up with his celebration. I am confident Belichick made him wait to come home as a result. I am also confident there is no ill will between the two. But I'm most confident in the competitive desperation for both coaches too. Both McDaniels and Belichick kind of ... need to win this year? Given the division, this is a game the Pats need, but will face several non-coaching former New England residents, including Jakobi Meyers and Chandler Jones. Hunter Renfrow can exact revenge on the Pats for not drafting him despite everyone expecting it. Josh Jacobs might be in the middle of another well-deserved (Vegas played him in the second half of a preseason game after not picking up his fifth-year option, Jacob led the league in rushing and got franchise tagged) revenge game against his own team. The possibilities are endless. 

6. Cowboys at 49ers

Week 5, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Former Niners offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy doesn't want to win this game because of his LinkedIn profile. He wants to win because his boss Jerry Jones can't stop thinking about the final play for the Cowboys each of the last two seasons. The Dak Prescott Sneak from 2021 is an all-timer in terms of poorly-planned coaching moves.

McCarthy overcompensated -- *ahem* -- a bit last year by going extreme and putting Ezekiel Elliott at center and a whole host of playmakers on the outside. The sequel was stereotypically worse. 

Let's be fair though: the Zeke Pancake wasn't ever going to work, it's just made worse by the compounding interest of the previous year's disaster, which definitely should have been avoided with basic clock management and preparation. The Cowboys of Jerry Jones' heyday won by beating the 49ers and now the Cowboys are losing to the 49ers in the playoffs during a "must-win era" for Jerrah. Suffice to say this game means a lot to McCarthy because of how much it matters to Jones.

5. Colts at Panthers

Week 10, 4:05 p.m., CBS

Frank Reich will be motivated to beat his old boss Jim Irsay. Why? Well, there's the obvious firing when he was seven games above .500 roughly halfway through his fifth year in Indianapolis. Forcing the Carson Wentz trade was a mistake. But not nearly as bad a mistake as firing a really good football coach to hire Jeff Saturday. Add in the Panthers taking Bryce Young and the Colts taking Anthony Richardson and we have a possible heater on our hands.

4. Bengals at Chiefs

Week 17, 4:25 pm, CBS

What needs to be said here? Yes the Chiefs are involved in a lot of our top five. They beat everyone and they finally took out Joe Burrow. Burrow is a Mount Rushmore Revenge Guy and no one knows it yet because he hasn't really ever lost. Burrow doesn't say a word but if you see Burrow and somehow don't see a player eager to avenge a loss very quickly, you're seeing things in an incorrect prism. Patrick Mahomes also didn't love everyone pointing out how many times he lost to Burrow. This is a statement game for both of these elite quarterbacks.

3. Dolphins at* Chiefs

Week 9, 9:30 am, NFL Network (*Germany)

This game should be No. 1 on this list but the NFL got greedy and put Tyreek Hill's clearly overstated revenge game in Germany. He appeared on Sports Radio 810 in Kansas City and said he was prepped to drop the ✌️ on Arrowhead when he returned. So the NFL sent this game to ... Germany?!?! It's a smart tactical move because tons of eyeballs from America will be on it and the NFL will goose an emerging market by putting an elite game in place here. I get all the reasons but this game should be in Arrowhead. 

2. Jets at Cowboys

Week 2, 4:25 pm, CBS

Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy would both probably prefer revenge on the Packers than revenge on each other in this spot, but how can we avoid this game at the top of this list?? it's two inextricably-tied characters from the NFL on completely different teams in opposite conferences squaring off in a huge game for both parties. Rodgers wants to win big this year and McCarthy dumped Jerry's boy Kellen Moore to "run the damn ball" -- he's feeling the heat too. There's a bajillion different layers to this game and we will be covering them all on CBS, CBS Sports and Paramount+! 

1. Eagles at Chiefs

Week 11, 8:20 p.m., ESPN

There is no greater revenge than "stealing a Super Bowl revenge" and the Eagles should be primed to attempt and extract it here. Good luck!! The Chiefs under Andy Reid have never lost to the Eagles, which is a beautiful magnifier for this matchup. Remember, the Eagles fired Andy, hired his mentee Doug Pederson and won a Super Bowl before Andy won one in Kansas City. Everything is amicable because everyone won, but everyone is also ~very~ aware of the stakes. Basically like "Succession" except the writers didn't check out the final two seasons.