NFL schedule release: The top 10 must watch games of the regular season

In about four months, we get NFL regular-season games back in our lives. And now we know who is playing who, and when.

The NFL released its 18-week regular-season schedule on Wednesday. There are 272 games now on the calendar. Not all of them are equal.

Here are the 10 (well, actually 11) best games on the schedule for the 2024 regular season:

10 (tie). Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos, Week 2

Here's some drama for early in the season. Assuming the Steelers' starting quarterback is Russell Wilson and not Justin Fields, there will be emotions on both sides. Sean Payton isn't going to want to lose to Wilson after he ostracized him last season. Wilson can't feel too good about how he was treated at the end of a failed stint in Denver. Broncos fans are unlikely to give Wilson a warm welcome. On top of it all, this could be Broncos rookie quarterback Bo Nix's home debut if he wins the job right away. The storylines for this one are endless.

10 (tie). Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings, Week 14

Another QB revenge game had to make the list. This game might not be that exciting if the Vikings aren't very good. But it's clear why it's on the list: Kirk Cousins returns to Minnesota for the first time since signing with the Falcons. Will he be welcomed back warmly after six productive yet ultimately unsatisfying seasons with the Vikings? It's also interesting to see Vikings rookie J.J. McCarthy, a first-round pick and Cousins' replacement. And who knows where the Cousins-Michael Penix Jr. drama will stand, after the Falcons made Penix one of the most controversial first-round draft picks in recent memory.

9. Chicago Bears at Washington Commanders, Week 8

Maybe this isn't a matchup between teams we'll see in the playoffs this season, but we get to watch the top two picks of the draft square off. No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams starts a brand new era with the Bears. The Commanders grabbed their quarterback of the future with the second pick in Jayden Daniels. It's also notable that the Bears play at the New England Patriots, who used the third pick of the draft on Drake Maye.

8. Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers, Week 12

HarBowl! The most famous meeting between coaches Jim and John Harbaugh happened in Super Bowl XLVII. Jim Harbaugh is back in the NFL after nine seasons at Michigan and will meet his brother's Ravens in what should be one of the toughest tests of Jim's first season in Los Angeles. This one is happening on a Monday night, to add to the intrigue.

7. Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles (at São Paulo, Brazil), Week 1

The traditional season opener at the defending champion Chiefs will be highly anticipated as usual, but this new addition to the NFL schedule is pretty good too. It's the first regular-season game in South America. It's the first Friday game of the NFL's opening week since 1970. And it's between two fascinating teams. The Packers finished last season strong and Jordan Love had a breakout. The Eagles were rolling at 10-1 before their entire season fell apart. Philadelphia has the talent to bounce back. Ravens-Chiefs, followed by Packers-Eagles the next day is a great way to get the season rolling.

6. Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys, Week 6

Just make sure all the offensive linemen report as eligible, Lions. This is a repeat of one of the weirdest games of last season, when the Lions had a 2-point conversion wiped out due to a penalty when officials said offensive tackle Taylor Decker didn't report as eligible, though it seemed like he did. This isn't just a flashback to that game either, it's a matchup between two of the best teams in the NFC.

5. New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers, Week 1

Maybe Aaron Rodgers' appearance in this one will last more than four plays. Rodgers' much anticipated Jets debut ended terribly when he tore his Achilles tendon on the first series of the season. Rodgers will presumably be back in the lineup to try it again in this season's opener. It won't be easy, as the Jets get the defending NFC champion 49ers on the road. There's not quite as much excitement this time around for the Rodgers experiment with New York, but a sharp opener with Rodgers dropping dimes to Garrett Wilson against a tough defense could create a lot of buzz for the rest of the season.

4. Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans, Week 5

This is more than just the Stefon Diggs Bowl. The Texans are one of the NFL's most interesting teams, after C.J. Stroud's historic rookie season and then a big trade with the Bills to add Diggs. While it seems the Bills took a step back by jettisoning Diggs, they are still capable of being a contender in the AFC. It's a fascinating matchup between two fun and talented teams, and a potential playoff preview as well. It also features two of the NFL's top MVP candidates, Stroud and Josh Allen.

3. Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers, Week 17

This late-season Monday night game will bring up some bad memories for Lions fans. They led the 49ers in the NFC championship game at San Francisco last season, but blew it in the second half and missed the chance to make the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Detroit should be back among the NFL's best teams again, and can prove it in this rematch against the 49ers.

2. Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs, Week 1

The NFL isn't easing us into the regular season. We get a phenomenal matchup for the first game of the season. The Ravens got the Chiefs at home in last season's AFC championship game, and let that opportunity slip. The Chiefs beat the Ravens and went on to win the Super Bowl. The Ravens still fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders, but getting home-field advantage over Kansas City in the playoffs (again) will be important. That task becomes harder if they lose this game at Arrowhead Stadium. Aside from the big stakes, it's always a treat to watch Lamar Jackson vs. Patrick Mahomes. We'd be watching the Chiefs' traditional opener for the reigning champ on Sept. 5 no matter who they played, but the NFL gave us the most compelling opponent possible for the Chiefs.

1. Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers, Week 7

We don't always get a Super Bowl rematch, and this one is gold. The Chiefs and 49ers played a classic this past February, with Kanas City winning in overtime. The two teams bring back most of their rosters from that Super Bowl, and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if we see them meet again in Super Bowl LIX. If you're going to watch one NFL game this season, this is it. Though we all know you're watching more than one.

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