With the official release of the 2020 NFL schedule we know the who, the where, and the when of the upcoming NFL season. With all those games, I took a look at some of the ones that just might be the most important to the season and put together a list of games you won’t want to miss.
Top AFC Matchup
Kansas City Chiefs vs Baltimore Ravens – Monday, September 28, 2020 at 8:15 pm
What could be more exciting than seeing the defending Super Bowl champs, led by former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, facing off against reigning MVP Lamar Jackson? How about getting it on Monday Night Football? The Ravens have had a great offseason, adding free agent talent like Calais Campbell to their front seven, as well as having what looks like a solid draft, adding several more talented players. Will it be enough to upset the most prolific offense in the NFL and its reigning champs?
Top NFC Matchup
San Francisco 49ers vs New Orleans Saints Sunday, November 15, 2020 at 4:25 pm
There are plenty of great matchups at the top of the NFC, but perhaps none is more intriguing than the talented 49ers team that was so close to a Super Bowl win they could smell it, and a Saints team that is looking for one more shot at glory before Drew Brees calls it a career.
In their last meeting, the 49ers edged out a close win in a high-scoring game that finished 48-46. The Saints haven’t made a ton of high profile moves, but the addition of Emmanuel Sanders is intriguing, and this will be an early season game that could very easily be another high-scoring affair and a potential playoff preview.
Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots – Monday, December 28, 2020 at 8:15 pm
Could a changing of the guard be in line for the AFC East? In 2019, the Bills flew somewhat under the radar. They had just one loss by more than a score, and they addressed one of their biggest needs in the offseason by trading for wide receiver Stefon Diggs and drafting Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins.
The Patriots, on the other hand, lost several veteran pieces on their defense in addition to seeing Tom Brady head to Tampa Bay to suit up for the Buccaneers, taking an un-retiring Gronk with him. All signs point to the Patriots trotting out Jarrett Stidham as their starter, and given that they leaned pretty heavily on their defense in 2019, this seems like a potentially rough season for the Pats. If that’s the case, could we see the Bills take the mantle as the top team in the division? This game could very well be for all the AFC East marbles.
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers – Thursday, November 26, 2020 at 8:20 pm
A classic division rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers will go down on Thanksgiving evening, giving us a reason to perk up from our poultry-induced stupor. The Steelers’ defense was impressive in 2019, but the team was utterly inept on offense. Can Ben Roethlisberger’s return lift an otherwise lackluster offense and make this team a playoff hopeful? Or will the reigning MVP make them look silly?
Kansas City Chiefs vs Las Vegas Raiders – Sunday, November 22, 2020 at 8:20 pm
The AFC West could be a tough division, but the defending champs coming to town to face the Raiders in prime time should be a real matchup to watch. Josh Jacobs was incredible in year one, but he was basically the entirety of the Raiders’ offensive attack last season. Now the Raiders have added electric play-maker Henry Ruggs III, Swiss army offensive play-maker Lynn Bowden Jr., and wide receiver Bryan Edwards to beef up their offensive weapons. Can they hang with the Chiefs and prove they belong in the west?
Indianapolis Colts vs Tennessee Titans – Thursday, November 12, 2020 at 8:20 pm
The AFC South is up for grabs and the Texans had a puzzling offseason that has them on the decline on paper. The Colts have addressed every position they struggled in, upgrading their defensive line in a big way with DeForest Buckner, their QB position with Philip Rivers, and their wide receiver room with Michael Pittman Jr. They’ll head to Nashville for a Thursday night game where they’ll have to show they can stop Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. With all of Frank Reich’s new weapons, it should be a fun contest.
Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings – Sunday, September 13, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Right out of the gate we’ll get a strong rivalry game between two contenders for the NFC North crown. The Packers were on the doorstep of the Super Bowl but couldn’t hold up against the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers went into the offseason hoping to get some help from his front office and instead got his future replacement in Jordan Love and no receivers. The Vikings will be looking to start hot and replace the Packers at the top of the NFC North. They added a ton of talent in the draft and will hope that Justin Jefferson can step right in to replace Stefon Diggs. This game could set the tone for the division.
Philadelphia Eagles vs Dallas Cowboys – Sunday, November 8, 2020 at 8:20 pm
If you aren’t a fan of an NFC East team, you probably roll your eyes at the number of prime time games wrapped up in what might be the worst division in football, but this game has a chance to be an entertaining one. The Cowboys have made some interesting offseason moves, signing a handful of intriguing free agents and adding one of the best receivers in the draft to an already packed room of pass catchers. The Eagles added Jalen Reagor and are hoping he infuses their offense with some play-making ability at receiver. If the Cowboys are going to take the division, they’ll need to prove they can get by the Eagles, and there’s no better time to do it than at home in prime time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints – Sunday, November 8, 2020 at 8:20 pm
Everyone has crowed about how much better the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now with an over-the-hill Brady and a post-retirement Gronkowski. They’ll face the Bears and their smothering defense in week 5 in prime time, but it is this prime time game against the Saints where we will find out if this pairing of Brady with all this talent in Bruce Arians’ system can really hold up. Drew Brees is fantastic at home, and this one could have playoff implications. This could be the last ride for both of these legendary quarterbacks, and it should be fun to see them face off before that ride is over.
San Francisco 49ers vs Arizona Cardinals – December 26th or 27th, 2020 – TBD
The NFC West might be the toughest division to call in the NFL. The coaches and staffs in the division are some of the best, and there is a lot of talent all over. After failing to capitalize on his second trip to the Super Bowl, Kyle Shanahan will certainly be hungry to get back and take another shot at it. The 49ers have added some talent in the offseason, but they traded away DeForest Buckner for the first-round pick they used to select Javon Kinlaw. They’re hopeful that Kinlaw can replace that production at a fraction of the cost, but it is certainly a risk.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are a team on the rise with Kliff Kingsbury entering his second year, matched with Kyler Murray and adding a fair amount of talent this offseason, primarily in the trenches. The team took some major steps forward, and if they are able to grow from their 2019 season, they could be looking at this date on their calendar as a critical one to determine their playoff hopes if this divisional race is as close as I think it could be.