Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr. (12) celebrates with quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) after a game winning catch for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during overtime of Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NFL’s top 25 games of 2024

Christmas Day for NFL marketing and ticket sales departments finally arrived Wednesday with the release of the 2024 season schedule.

With subplots and peripheral angles multiplying before our eyes — hello, Netflix, welcome to NFL holiday football broadcasts — Field Level Media’s football-minded contributors assembled the top 25 games of 2024.

24. Jets at Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 10: We’re grabbing our popcorn for one matchup, and one matchup alone: Cardinals wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner. Top five draft picks likely to be near the top of the pecking order at their position for a decade.

23. Colts at Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 1: Drake Maye, the No. 3 pick in the 2024 draft, meet Anthony Richardson, drafted fourth overall in 2023. Indianapolis appeared to have a hit on its hands before Richardson was shut down to undergo shoulder surgery. If he can stay healthy and Maye isn’t relegated to clipboard duty behind former Colts starter Jacoby Brissett, we’re eager to make early evaluations of purported franchise QBs.

22. Jaguars at Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 3: Young QBs and strong pass rush are common bonds, sure, but the plotline we’re looking at is the reception for Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson. He played for the Eagles (1999) but was essentially a coach-in-training for Donovan McNabb, then served as an assistant for Andy Reid and came back from a stint in KC for a five-year run that included a Super Bowl.

21. Bears at Texans, Sunday, Sept. 15: The Bears also get a meeting with the Carolina Panthers for the second consecutive season. With all due respect to Panthers 2023 No. 1 pick Bryce Young, the top rookie quarterback last season was Houston’s C.J. Stroud. His numbers would have been the best ever single-season passing total for a Bears QB (4,108 to Erik Kramer’s team record of 3,803). Stroud had 26 TD passes including the playoffs despite missing time with a concussion). The Bears hitched their wagon to No. 1 pick Caleb Williams with the rookie carrying massive talent — and expectations — in Year 1.

20. Vikings at Giants, Sunday, Sept. 8: All of the QB uncertainty one can handle on the undercard, LSU products Justin Jefferson (Vikings) and Malik Nabers (Giants) in the main event of the teams’ season opener.

19. 49ers at Seahawks, Thursday, Oct. 10: Maybe you overlooked it. There’s not a chance Brock Purdy did. He knows new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald’s defense — that of the Ravens — had him seeing ghosts in a five-interception laugher on Christmas Night last season. Macdonald’s new club has a bunch of cross-training chess pieces determined to unseat the 49ers from the NFC West perch.

18. Jets at 49ers, Monday, Sept. 9: Week 1 on “Monday Night Football” is a familiar refrain for the Jets, who are hoping Aaron Rodgers has some magic left following a season-ending injury four snaps into his first start with the team in 2023. Rodgers is local — Chico, Calif., Butte JC and Cal — and went 6-3 against the 49ers with the Packers. Now 40 years old, he’ll try to tip the scales toward the Jets, who are 3-11 all-time in the series with San Francisco. Jets head coach Robert Saleh has known 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan since breaking into the NFL as a low-level assistant with the Texans 15 years ago and was defensive coordinator on his staff before taking over with the Jets.

17. Cowboys at Commanders, Sunday, Nov. 24: Dan Quinn gets his second chance as a head coach in Washington and to be the champ in the NFC East, he’ll have to take down his previous employer and boss, the Cowboys and Mike McCarthy. Given the amount of time Quinn spent with McCarthy and Dak Prescott, don’t discount the level of concern the Cowboys have entering two games with Washington.

16. Eagles vs. Packers (Brazil), Friday, Sept. 6: The youngest roster in the NFL last season belonged to the Packers, and nobody can fault what Green Bay did in the offseason. Head coach Matt LaFleur debuts his offense with Josh Jacobs at running back and a new-look defense. It’ll also be a big reveal game for the Eagles, unleashing their own big-ticket offseason item, Saquon Barkley, and a number of new faces on defense.

15. Falcons at Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 8: Welcome back, Kirk Cousins, congratulations on finding a team that didn’t want to invest in a young quarterback to insure its $100M guarantee to a 35-year-old starter coming off an Achilles injury. Oops. Cousins could be hailed or hated for bailing on the Vikings in free agency following 50 regular-season wins in six seasons of Skol-ing.

14. Ravens at Chargers, Monday, Nov. 25: Los Angeles and new hire Jim Harbaugh welcome John Harbaugh and the Ravens with entertainment expected to be rich before, during and after a matchup of AFC heavyweights. John Harbaugh won the last meeting and survived a brief power outage at the Super Bowl in New Orleans to take home the Lombardi and deal Jim’s 49ers a painful defeat.

13. Steelers at Broncos, Sunday, Sept. 15: Revenge games bring out the spirit and emotion you might not otherwise find in games that don’t include Mike Tomlin. Pittsburgh picked up Russell Wilson after he was scrapped at a cost north of $80 million to Denver by second-year head coach Sean Payton. Payton, of course, is still in town and brought in a rookie, Oregon’s Bo Nix, to train in the system that helped make Drew Brees a legend. Don’t look now, but Pittsburgh had a sneaky excellent offseason while the Broncos shed leaders and linchpins on both sides of the ball (Wilson, Justin Simmons, Jerry Jeudy). If reunions are your thing, Payton also heads back to New Orleans this season.

12. Jets at Bills, Sunday, Dec. 29: We know they’ll get an earlier go at each other on “Monday Night Football” in October, but let’s give the season time to breath and Aaron Rodgers time to round back into form. He’ll be recently removed from his 41st birthday but should know the names of all of his wide receivers, a task Josh Allen might need more time to complete.

11. Ravens at Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 22: Dak Prescott was great at home last season and Dallas fortified the offensive line through the draft. Whether new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has an answer for mobile quarterbacks — namely Lamar Jackson — might be the hot-button issue for the Cowboys. Baltimore’s No. 1-ranked defense in 2023 also traveled well last season, battering Brock Purdy, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert and limiting those three teams to a combined 36 points in Ravens’ road wins.

10. 49ers at Packers, Sunday, Nov. 24: Week 12 and the start of a pivotal, NFC-dominated, primetime featured stretch for Green Bay with nighttime marquee matchups at Detroit (Week 14) and Seattle (Week 15) ahead. Jordan Love’s two interceptions stopped the Packers short of an upset at San Francisco in the divisional playoffs in January.

9. Texans at Cowboys, Monday, Nov. 18: C.J. Stroud appears to be special and the Texans made sure his supporting cast wouldn’t be a reason for a sophomore slump. But one warning: only the Bills and Patriots have a more difficult schedule based on 2023 results and offseason moves. Among the appealing underlying matchups: Houston wide receiver Stefon Diggs vs. Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs.

8. Bears at Packers, Sunday, Jan. 5: The Week 18 finale was meaningful for Green Bay last season, and Jordan Love guided the Packers into the postseason to sweep the Bears and continue the trend Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers started. No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams makes his first foray into the likely frozen tundra. Will the Bears be playing for more than a spoiler token?

7. 49ers at Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 22: It was Dec. 4, 2022, and far more meaningful than we knew at the time when a seventh-round rookie — 49ers QB Brock Purdy — made his first career start with two TD passes in a 33-17 home win over the Miami Dolphins. Now it’s a rematch against the Dolphins with former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel a solid bet to share some unknown intel about old boss Kyle Shanahan in the game-week buildup.

6. Ravens at Chiefs, Thursday Sept. 5: Had this one been bumped back a couple months to multiply the meaningfulness in the standings and AFC playoff picture, it had an angle on a top three game of the 2024 regular season. Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes remains must-see for all the right reasons.

5. 49ers at Bills, Sunday, Dec. 1: The week-after-Thanksgiving primetime game on Week 13 should be meaningful for teams with Super Bowl aspirations.

4. Rams at Lions, Sunday, Sept. 8: Two franchises on schedule to combine for more than $350 million in deposits into Jared Goff’s bank account are back at it with Detroit out to duplicate their playoff win in January over one-time Lions QB Matthew Stafford.

3. Eagles at Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 1: Star power on display? Check-check. Potential Super Bowl preview? Sure thing. Saquon Barkley (Eagles) and Derrick Henry (Ravens) add firepower to a pair of offenses with explosive potential.

2. Lions at 49ers, Monday, Dec. 30: Other than tackle eligible, think of another phrase that could spike Dan Campbell’s temperature more than “at San Francisco.” Didn’t think so. The Lions were halfway to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl leading the 49ers handily in the NFC Championship but coughed up a 17-point lead and bowed out of the playoffs in a 34-31 defeat instead. If Campbell circled this game on the schedule in ink, we’re guessing you can’t read it.

1. (tie) Chiefs at 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 20: Familiar enough to be rivals, the Chiefs left with the jewels in recent games that really mattered between teams with a combined 50-18 record the past two regular seasons. San Francisco took a lashing from the Chiefs, 44-23, at home in Oct. 23 before the dawning of the Brock Purdy era.

1. (tie) Bengals at Chiefs, Sunday, Sept. 15: Don’t forget Joe Burrow, he’s more than the highest-paid player in 2024. The Bengals quarterback is 3-1 against the Chiefs but was sidelined with a broken wrist when the teams played in 2023. Don’t look for a warm reception in Kansas City, where fans aren’t soon to forget Burrow’s boys calling the Chiefs’ stadium “Burrow-head” based on his success at the home of Patrick Mahomes.

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8), on injured reserve, pregame against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, snap: Jets, Aaron Rodgers open on MNF again

For the second time in two seasons with the New York Jets, Aaron Rodgers opens the regular season on “Monday Night Football.”

Rodgers, who was hurt on his first possession in the 2023 regular-season opener on MNF, is recovered from a torn Achilles and planning to kick off his 20th NFL season near his hometown with a visit to the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 9.

Rodgers, 40, spent 18 seasons with the Packers before a trade sent him to the Jets in April 2023 and opened the door for Jordan Love to take over in Green Bay.

In a homecoming for Rodgers — who went to Cal and grew up in Chico, Calif. — the Jets’ coaching staff also has direct ties for the reigning NFC champs.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh previously was defensive coordinator under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Saleh was with San Francisco from 2017-2020 and worked with Shanahan earlier in his career with the Houston Texans.

The 49ers lost to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, 25-22, Shanahan’s second Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs since being named head coach in San Francisco.

Rodgers played four snaps last season and was placed on injured reserve following surgery to repair his ruptured Achilles. He returned to practice late in the season and turned 40 in December.

He is 6-3 in his career against the 49ers.

San Francisco leads the series with the Jets with an 11-3 edge all-time.

The four-time MVP and 10-time Pro Bowl selection will oppose Brock Purdy, in the first in a series of matchups between Shanahan and former assistant coaches on the 2024 schedule. He’ll also square off with Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins), Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams) and Matt LaFleur (Packers).

–Field Level Media

Feb 6, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; The NFL shield logo and helmets at the NFL Experience at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: NFL to release 2024 schedule on May 15

The NFL will release the full 2024 schedule on May 15 at 8 p.m. ET, according to media reports on Wednesday.

Teams had been told informally that Thursday would be the release day but no reason was given for the delay in a league memo Wednesday afternoon, according to Sports Business Journal.

Hans Schroeder, NFL executive vice president of media distribution, wrote in the memo that more details about the plan are expected in the coming days, Sports Business Journal reported.

One explanation could be determining which games would be set for Dec. 25, which this year falls on a Wednesday. The league in late March changed its stance to allow playing Christmas Day games if the holiday was a Tuesday or Wednesday. The four teams involved would play in a doubleheader the preceding Saturday.

Another possibility is the delayed release allows teams to better prepare for such a highly anticipated day with promotion on social media tied to single-game ticket sales.

Or, the NFL could be stretching what is a one-night event into multiple days with game details staggered across multiple days, as the NFL draft has evolved.

The teams and their fans already know the opponents on their home and road schedules but not the order, dates and times.

Locked in are five international games for five teams, with most dates and all times to be determined: In Sao Paulo, Brazil, Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Sept. 6; London, Minnesota Vikings vs. TBD, Chicago Bears vs. TBD and Jacksonville Jaguars vs. TBD; Munich, Germany, Carolina Panthers vs. TBD.

Super Bowl LIX is Feb. 9, 2025 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

–Field Level Media

Apr 26, 2023; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) answers questions during the introductory press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports

Jets a prime-time regular with release of NFL schedule

The New York Jets have gone from being buried in the afternoon to loaded with nationally televised appearances.

The NFL released its 272-game schedule for 2023 on Thursday night, and the addition of Aaron Rodgers has turned New York into a marquee team even before the former Green Bay Packers star plays in a single game.

Though the NFL slate includes a Super Bowl rematch between the victorious Kansas City Chiefs and runner-up Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 20 at Kansas City in Week 11, it is the Jets stealing the show.

“I think it’s exciting,” New York coach Robert Saleh said on NFL Network. “It’s not going to be monotonous with all 1 o’clock games like we’re used to, but change is good. But we’ve got to take them all at a time.”

The Rodgers era begins with the Jets hosting Josh Allen and the AFC East rival Buffalo Bills in Week 1 on Monday night. The other national telecasts are Week 4 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (Sunday night), Week 9 vs. the Los Angeles Chargers (MNF), Week 10 at the Las Vegas Raiders (SNF), Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins (Black Friday on Amazon Prime Video) and Week 17 at the Cleveland Browns (Thursday night).

“We acknowledge the fact that there’s a lot of excitement about the football team and that there’s a lot of talk outside the building of what we’re capable of and all the expectations, which is fine,” Saleh said. “… At the end of the day, we still have to take care of the moment and dominate day to day and just try to get better every day.”

The Chiefs also open the NFL season at home on Sept. 7 when they face the Detroit Lions in one of their NFL-high eight exclusive television appearances.

“I like the schedule. We have to play them somewhere and sometime,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said on NFL Network. “We start off with Detroit and Detroit is a heck of a football team. They showed that at the end of the season. That’s great competition there.”

In Week 17 on Dec. 31, Kansas City will also have another clash with the Cincinnati Bengals, the team it has faced in back-to-back AFC Championship games. The teams split those matchups.

The Chiefs and Bills square off on Dec. 10, marking the fifth straight time over four seasons (including playoffs) that the teams will meet in Kansas City.

The Eagles have a tough three-game stretch against fellow championship contenders that begins with the clash against the Chiefs. Philadelphia follows with home games against the Bills and San Francisco 49ers. The Eagles beat San Francisco in last season’s NFC title game.

The 49ers will host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. San Francisco has eliminated Dallas from the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

The Green Bay Packers will visit the Chicago Bears in Week 1 when Jordan Love is slated to be the starter as the successor to Rodgers.

The New England Patriots open up the season against the Eagles on a day in which they plan to honor former quarterback Tom Brady.

The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals — who played in the Super Bowl two seasons ago — meet in Week 3 at Cincinnati on “Monday Night Football.”

The Thanksgiving Day slate features the Packers visiting the Lions on FOX, the Washington Commanders playing at the Cowboys on CBS and the 49ers playing in Seattle against the Seahawks in the NBC night-time affair.

There will be a Christmas Day tripleheader for just the second time. The Raiders visit the Chiefs on CBS, the New York Giants are at the Philadelphia Eagles on FOX and the Baltimore Ravens and 49ers will be playing at night in San Francisco on ABC.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will become the first NFL team to play consecutive games in London. They host the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium in Week 4 and then square off against the Buffalo Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Week 5.

“We have a great fan base over there and it’s good for our team,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said on NFL Network. “It’s good for team to showcase themselves in the UK. We’re excited.”

Pederson noted one crucial element about the two games — Buffalo is the home team in Week 5.

“I’d rather play Buffalo in London than maybe in Buffalo at the end of the season,” Pederson said.

The Baltimore Ravens and host Tennessee Titans play at Tottenham in Week 6. There are also two games in Frankfurt Stadium in Germany. The Miami Dolphins play the host Chiefs there in Week 9 and the Indianapolis Colts and host Patriots play in Week 10.

Former Chiefs star receiver Tyreek Hill of the Dolphins will certainly be looking to make some noise.

“Tyreek is a heck of a football player,” Reid said. “He had a great year (for the Dolphins) and he sure had a great career here.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Munich, Germany; A general overall view of German and United States flags on the field during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL International Series game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks at Allianz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars, Chiefs to headline NFL international slate

Five NFL games will be played in Europe in the 2023 season, with the Jacksonville Jaguars playing back-to-back games in London and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs part of the league’s debut in Frankfurt, Germany.

The league announced the international schedule Wednesday in advance of the full schedule release on Thursday. Other significant regular-season pairings also were teased.

In all, three games will be played in London, with two more in Frankfurt. The NFL hosted its first regular-season game in Germany last fall when the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers met in Week 10 in Munich.

A stop in Mexico City has been taken off the schedule this season with Estadio Azteca unavailable because of renovations in advance of the 2026 World Cup.

The 2023 international games are:

Week 4 (Oct. 1): Atlanta Falcons vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Wembley Stadium, London)
Week 5 (Oct. 8): Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London)
Week 6 (Oct. 15): Baltimore Ravens vs. Tennessee Titans (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium)
Week 9 (Nov. 5): Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Frankfurt Stadium)
Week 10 (Nov. 12): Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots (Frankfurt Stadium)

The Jaguars are the first team ever to play back-to-back games abroad.

The Chiefs also announced Wednesday that they will host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 in the next edition in the budding rivalry between the teams and their star quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow.

“Ending the year with a bang,” the Chiefs posted to social media.

The Chiefs and Bengals met in the past two AFC Championship games, both in Kansas City, with each decided by three points. The Bengals won in the 2021 season and the Chiefs at the end of the 2022 schedule.

In other holiday games, the Dolphins will visit Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets in the first-ever Black Friday game in Week 12, and the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles will host the rival New York Giants on Christmas Day.

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; A general overall view of the NFL Shield logo at midfield during an NFL International Series game between the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL denies report of Australia game in 2024

While the NFL continues to have an interest in the Australia market, it won’t be sending down markers Down Under any time soon.

An NFL representative on Thursday denied a report by The Australian newspaper that the league is planning to host a game in the country in 2024.

“At this time we do not have plans to play a game in Australia but are firmly committed to finding more ways to serve our passionate and growing fanbase in Australia and New Zealand,” NFL vice president of business development Damani Leech said, according to Sports Business Journal.

The NFL has played regular-season games in Canada, Mexico and England, with a game also scheduled for Germany in 2022.

Australia is not completely off the NFL’s radar, though. The league plans to open a business office in Australia, according to Pro Football Talk.

Also in 2022, the NFL has expanded its marketing reach to foreign countries, with the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles granted exclusive rights to market their teams in Australia.

–Field Level Media

Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks off the field looking at the scoreboard during the second half against the Los Angeles Rams during a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Tom Brady’s un-retirement threw NFL schedule into upheaval

A team of people and computers have a massive task every season: create as “fair” an NFL schedule as logistically possible. And do it within a system that can produce literally trillions of possibilities.

But as the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, that lengthy process had to essentially be done twice this offseason, thanks to the retirement and un-retirement of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady earlier this spring.

“When Tom Brady retired, we were concerned about the strength of the NFC package because there were so many terrific Tampa Bay games we were looking at,” NFL executive Howard Katz told the Times. “Then a month later he un-retires and we sort of started all over again.”

The NFL has taken a slow drip approach to releasing its 2022 schedule. After finalizing and releasing opponents for each team on Jan. 20, the league revealed on April 22 that it will hold its first ever Christmas Day triple-header this season.

The teams tabbed for those games, as well as the league’s international contests and other special event games, are expected to be leaked over the course of this week prior to the full schedule release Thursday.

On Monday, the league revealed that it will hold two Monday Night Football games during Week 2 action Sept. 19. The Tennessee Titans will visit the Buffalo Bills before the Philadelphia Eagles host the Minnesota Vikings in the nightcap.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers center Lucas Patrick (62) celebrates with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

NFL announces divisional-round playoff schedule

With one game still play in the opening round of the NFL playoffs, the league on Sunday announced the schedule for next weekend’s divisional round.

Saturday’s action kicks off with a matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals at 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The top-seeded Titans will be well-rested following a first-round bye, while the fourth-seeded Bengals prevailed against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday 26-19.

The Titans and Bengals did not meet during the regular season.

Saturday’s nightcap (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX) features the NFC’s top seed, the Green Bay Packers, playing host to the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in a rematch from a wild Week 3 contest. Green Bay snuck out of the Bay Area with a 30-28 triumph in that one as Aaron Rodgers engineered a last-minute drive that Mason Crosby punctuated with a 51-yard field goal on the final play.

The Packers, who had a first-round bye, won five straight games late in the season before losing to the Detroit Lions in a meaningless Week 18 matchup. The 49ers closed the regular season with seven wins in their final nine games and then rode the momentum to a 23-17 road victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Next Sunday’s first game will take place at Tampa Bay, where the second-seeded Buccaneers will play host to either the No. 4 Los Angeles Rams or the No. 5 Arizona Cardinals at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. The Rams and Cardinals are set to square off Monday night in the final game of wild-card weekend.

The defending champion Bucs disposed of the Philadelphia Eagles 31-15 on Sunday. Tampa Bay lost to the host Rams 34-24 in Week 3. Tom Brady and the Bucs did not face the Cardinals this season.

The Kansas City Chiefs will play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET on CBS) in the final game of the divisional round. Second-seeded Kansas City routed the Pittsburgh Steelers 42-21 on Sunday evening, while No. 3 seed Buffalo obliterated the New England Patriots 47-17 one day earlier.

The teams met back in Week 5, when the Bills went into Kansas City and left with a 38-20 victory behind Josh Allen’s three passing TDs and one rushing score.

The conference championship games will take place on Jan. 30 and the Super Bowl will be on Feb. 13 at Inglewood, Calif.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA;  General view of the NFL Shield logo on the field before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ten must-see NFL games in 2021

For football nerds, it’s become the biggest post-draft event of the spring. Sure, the matchups are predetermined, but there’s nothing like schedule release day.

The NFL released the 2021 schedule on Wednesday as it enters its first-ever 17-game season. It’s never too early to start circling dates on your calendar for this fall, so here are 10 games you won’t want to miss.

10. Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams, Oct. 24

These teams that pulled off a blockbuster quarterback trade last winter are heading in opposite directions. But Jared Goff might have something he wants to prove to Sean McVay and company.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets, Dec. 26

Remember how the Jets were in pole position for the No. 1 draft pick almost all season before blowing it with meaningless wins in December? Here’s hoping Trevor Lawrence doesn’t rub it in Zach Wilson’s face too much a year later.

8. Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints, Nov. 25

Thanksgiving is no Mardi Gras, but New Orleans still gets to party with the Turkey Day nightcap following Bears-Lions and Raiders-Cowboys. At this point in the season, will the Saints’ starting QB be Jameis Winston … or Taysom Hill?

7. Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sept. 9

Week 1 is packed with intriguing matchups like Browns-Chiefs and Packers-Saints, but it all kicks off when Dak Prescott is expected to make his return from a broken ankle while Tom Brady’s Bucs raise their Super Bowl banner.

6. Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens, Sept. 19

Patrick Mahomes vs. Lamar Jackson could end up being this generation’s Brady-Manning rivalry. For now, Mahomes leads in the head-to-head — and in Super Bowl rings.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams, Sept. 26

One of Tampa’s biggest obstacles to a repeat Super Bowl appearance will be the new-look Rams, with Matthew Stafford running the show on offense and a healthy Aaron Donald available to terrorize Brady.

4. Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs, Nov. 7

A high-octane matchup of two Super Bowl contenders, Mahomes squares off with Aaron Rodgers for the first time — as long as Rodgers is still playing for the Cheeseheads, that is.

3. Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens, Dec. 19

If an aerial shootout isn’t your speed, the most recent two MVPs are slated to meet late in the year when Jackson’s run-heavy Ravens offense faces gunslinger Rodgers in a battle of divergent styles.

2. Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, Oct. 10

At the risk of loading this list up with too much Kansas City, don’t sleep on this rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. After a 13-3 season, could the Bills actually be better this year?

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots, Oct. 3

This shouldn’t need an explanation. We can only imagine what sort of defensive torture Bill Belichick will cook up for Brady in what might go down as the ultimate revenge game in NFL history.

Honorable mentions:
Browns at Chiefs, Sept. 12
Jaguars vs. Dolphins (in London), Oct. 17
Cowboys at Patriots, Oct. 17
Raiders at Giants, Nov. 7
Seahawks at Packers, Nov. 14
Bills at Buccaneers, Dec. 12
Browns at Packers, Dec. 25

–By Adam Zielonka, Special to Field Level Media

Oct 5, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) runs the ball against New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) during the third quarter of a NFL game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Negatives in New England, Nashville positive for NFL Week 5

Zero positive COVID-19 results from Thursday testing indicate Week 5 will move forward with an adjusted scheduled, according to multiple reports Friday.

No new positive tests for the Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs could allow for the all games to be played this week. The Titans, who’ve had two dozen positive tests for the virus counting players and staff, could return to the team facility for the first time in nine days. A formal practice has not been held in Nashville since two days before the Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3.

The Titans are now tentatively scheduled to play their Week 5 game on Tuesday against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills then would play their scheduled Thursday game against the Chiefs next Sunday to keep the Week 6 schedule largely intact.

New England, which flew in and out of Kansas City on Monday night, hosts the Denver Broncos on Monday. That game had been scheduled for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff Sunday before Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The Chiefs have not returned any positive tests since last week — practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was the only positive — but the incubation period for the coronavirus varies greatly. Only three days have passed since the Chiefs and Patriots met at Arrowhead Stadium.

–Field Level Media