The NFL officially released the 2017 regular season schedule on Thursday evening, and many football fans are already circling their calendars for the biggest games of the upcoming season.
From the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots in Foxborough on opening night to the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts in Week 17, the 2017 schedule is chock-full of games worth watching. Fourth & Goal has put together a list of the top 10 games to watch this upcoming season based on the performances of each franchise in 2016, the potential importance each game could have on the postseason, and purely for entertainment purposes.
10. Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots Week 1 (Sept. 7)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he plans to attend the Patriots’ regular season opener after handing the franchise their fifth Lombardi Trophy this past February, but won’t be the only one eager to watch the Patriots and Chiefs square off in Gillette Stadium. NFL fans across the globe will have been waiting seven months since the last meaningful game was played, and will only be more eager to watch two dominant teams play it out on the gridiron after watching watered down preseason football. Watching Tom Brady matchup against Kansas City’s defense is a treat for all football fans, and should hopefully keep fans on the edge of their seats late into the fourth quarter.
9. New York Giants at Washington Redskins Week 12 (Nov. 24)
An NFC East rivalry game on Thanksgiving night featuring Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman should not disappoint. The Redskins host their first Thanksgiving game in franchise history in 2017, and the game looks to be the best matchup of the day with the Vikings and Lions facing off in the first game and the Cowboys hosting the Chargers in the afternoon. The Redskins-Giants game could very well have playoff implications, and Washington fans surely remember Big Blue knocking their team out of playoff contention in the 2016 regular season finale.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans Week 16 (Dec. 25)
The Steelers have always been known as a tough physical team, but Houston has quickly established their own identity over the past couple of seasons and will have three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt returning in 2017. A matchup featuring Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Ryan Shazier, James Harrison, Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, DeAndre Hopkins, and Lamar Miller is arguably the best Christmas present an NFL fan could ask for. What the Texans do in the upcoming draft could make this game even more exciting, as not only Texans fans are eager to see what quarterback Houston will land in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
7. New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Week 1 (Sept. 10)
The NFL season wouldn’t feel complete without the Cowboys and Giants, and after last year’s games between these two franchises, there was no doubt this game would fall on this list. The Cowboys only lost three regular season games last year, but two of those games were to the Giants. Dallas’ two losses were by a combined four points, making each game a nail-biter down to the last possession. The Cowboys finished the 2016 season with the league’s fifth highest scoring offense, while the Giants allowed the second fewest points in the NFL. Both rosters are loaded with stars, and this NFC East rivalry is the perfect way to wrap up opening Sunday.
6. Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins Week 13 (Dec. 3)
This game should sell itself. Broncos first-year head coach Vance Joseph returns to Miami to face his former team, while Dolphins second-year head coach and offensive guru Adam Gase plans to face his former team and one of the league’s most talented defenses. The Dolphins are looking to build on their success from last season, and have been very active in free agency this offseason. The Broncos on the other hand are one year removed from winning a Super Bowl title, and are looking to regain their crown in a stacked AFC West. This game could very well have playoff implications, as Miami just edged out Denver for the final wild card spot down the stretch of the 2016 season.
5. Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Week 1 (Sept. 10)
The Packers and Seahawks have been two of the most consistent franchises in the NFC over the past five years, and should give fans another exciting matchup in Week 1. Whether it’s Eddie Lacy in a Seahawks uniform, or newly acquired Packers tight end Martellus Bennett facing off against his brother Michael Bennett, this game has no limit of storylines. Add Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers to the mix, and it usually makes for one of the most exciting games of the season. The Seahawks have lost at Lambeau Field in back-to-back seasons, and were demolished by Green Bay in Week 14 of the 2016 season. Expect Seattle to come in fired up for this matchup, as this game could potentially impact playoff seeding five months down the road.
4. Atlanta Falcons at New England Patriots Week 7 (Oct. 22)
There was no question that the Super Bowl LI rematch was going to make this list. The Falcons are looking to prove that they won’t have a let down year similar to NFC South rival Carolina after an epic collapse on the NFL’s biggest stage, and Atlanta could make emphatic statement with a win on the road in New England in Week 7. This game may not have playoff implications, but should surely give football fans across the nation the entertainment and star power people seek when watching a primetime game.
3. Houston Texans at Indianpolis Colts Week 17 (Dec. 31)
This game could easily have come in at No. 1 due to the two franchises’ dominance in the division over the past eight years, but the emergence of the Tennessee Titans in 2016 has truly made the AFC South a three-team division. It’s hard to guess which two teams could be playing for a division title in the final week of the regular season, but if any two teams, the Texans and Colts fit the bill. Both franchises lack what the other has, as Indianapolis has a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck and an offense that can put up points but also has a defense that struggles to stop anyone. On the other side, the Texans have a dominant defense that can get after opposing quarterbacks, but struggle to put up points with no franchise quarterback in place. The Texans have won three straight against the Colts, including a Week 6 overtime comeback win at NRG Stadium, but a trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 17 should at least make things interesting in the AFC South.
2. New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders Week 11 (Nov. 19 in Mexico City)
The NFL’s most consistent team against arguably the hottest team of 2016 in Mexico City, what more could a NFL fan ask for? The Raiders were viewed as one of the few teams that could potentially compete with New England in the postseason, but a broken fibula to star quarterback Derek Carr on Christmas Eve dashed any hopes of a Super Bowl run for the Silver and Black. New England’s defense against Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, and potentially Marshawn Lynch should make for an interesting storyline, but future Hall of Famer Tom Brady against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack is a heavyweight fight that will draw fans to their television screens across the country and the border.
1. Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Week 16 (Dec. 24)
A Christmas Eve matchup between the Seahawks and Cowboys in Jerry’s World should be one of the most anticipated games of the upcoming season. Both the Seahawks and Cowboys look destined to make it back to the postseason in 2017, and this Week 16 meeting could play a crucial role in playoff seeding in the NFC. The last time these two teams met in November of 2015, the Seahawks squeaked out a tight win 13-12, but these are two completely different teams with Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas’ backfield and no “Beast Mode” in Seattle. Week 16 of the 2017 season is loaded with exciting games from the Buccaneers at Panthers to the Texans hosting the Steelers on Christmas Day, but Seattle at Dallas not only stands out as the best game of that week but arguably the best game of the entire 2017 season.