In chorus, at training camps around the NFL, you’ll hear coaches speak in platitudes that make fans yearn for the kind of rant Reds manager Bryan Price unleashed on reporters Monday night. There’s one phrase, however, that you’re likely to hear these square-jawed, stern-faced men repeat more often than a Price F-Bomb: “We’ll take it one game at a time.”
But we won’t. In fact, that’s an entirely preposterous notion for any NFL fan. If we subscribed to coach-speak, Tuesday night’s release of the 2015 NFL schedule wouldn’t be nearly as ballyhooed. Yep, it’s that time of the year when fans handicap their teams’ chances, accuse the NFL of vast conspiracies and pore over opening-week lines.
So we’ll go ahead and take it all 17 weeks at a time. Here’s our look at the marquee games you should build your Sundays (and Mondays) around, plus a few others than might leave you cuing up Game of Thrones on HBO Go.
Titans at Buccaneers, Week 1
There might be head-scratching trades and out-of-the-box decisions, but it seems likely that quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be taken by the Buccaneers and Titans with the first two picks in the 2015 Draft. And sure, more needs to go right in training camp for both of these players to start in Week 1. But with teams trending more toward playing first-round quarterbacks right away, this game could feature two of the league’s brightest. And youngest. Playing on two of the NFL’s worst teams.
Packers at Broncos, Week 8
It’s never too early for predictions. The Packers and Broncos are bona fide Super Bowl contenders who could represent the NFC and AFC respectively. They both have Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks and offensive skill-position players to compliment them – so get a sneak peek at both teams at the midway point of the season. Hey, it’s cheaper than flying to Santa Clara for the Super Bowl.
DeMarco Murray Bowl
Eagles at Cowboys, Week 9
Think slap across the face. Gut punch. A knee in the – you get the idea. DeMarco Murray leaving Dallas for Philadelphia was as much pulling a Benedict Arnold as the namesake himself. Defecting to the Cowboys’ hated rival left fans in Dallas burning Murray’s jersey (isn’t that getting old?) and they’ll definitely be ready to welcome DeMarco back to Jerry World. The Eagles might want to roll into Texas with extra security for this one.
Bills at Jets, Week 10
Wouldn’t it be great if they could play this game 16 times? Heck, it would be great for newly minted Bills coach Rex Ryan, whose defense would feast against the quarterback-challenged Jets. It would be even better for fans, who are sure to be treated to a week-long war of words between Ryan, the former Jets coach, and his beloved New York City media.
The Indigestion Bowl
Bears at Packers, Week 12
Remember the last time the Bears traveled to Lambeau Field? Green Bay certainly does. For Bears fans and NBC – which will televise this Thanksgiving game – it was one they hoped to forget. The Packers took a 42-0 lead into halftime. It was a game so abysmal, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Derrick Rose sprained an eye watching. This one has the potential to lose fan interest quickly, but hey…Brett’s gonna be there!
The Last Bowl
Patriots at Broncos, Week 12
Yes, these two Super Bowl contenders could certainly meet each other again in the playoffs. But without that guarantee, it’s time to start recognizing that opportunities to watch Tom Brady and Peyton Manning duel are dwindling. Manning will retire soon. It could be after this season. So, it’s time to start treating each of these matchups like it could be the last. If you can only watch one NFL game this season, this should be it.