Training camps have started this week and that means football is back! All 256 games between 32 teams over 17 weeks have a set date, time, location and TV network. The season kicks off with a Super Bowl 50 rematch between the Broncos and Panthers. Thanksgiving Day features the Lions and Vikings, Cowboys and Redskins, and Steelers and Colts. We’re also receiving the gift of football for Christmas this year with two games set for Sunday evening.
As a resident of Charlotte, NC, I’m particularly excited about this season. Our entire city, no, our entire state was engulfed with Panthers pride last season. Cam Newton’s phenomenal end zone dance, the dab, spread like wildfire. Panthers jerseys became acceptable business attire and our state mantra became “keep pounding.” With an almost perfect record, how could you not be proud? This team is one of the most fun in the league and they continuously give back to children and the community. I can't wait to see where 2016 takes them.
That said, I’m still a New York Giants fan first.
To say I’m excited for football season to be underway is an understatement. There’s nothing I love more than football season! There’s something special about tailgating with friends, making new friends with fellow fans, and watching your team take down the visiting team – especially if it’s the Eagles. To get you in the spirit, I’m breaking down the 17 must watch games for this season.
For the sake of this post, I’ve limited the number of times a team can appear to three.
Week 1: Panthers at Broncos
I wish this game was later in the season but I know we’re in for an exciting kickoff to the season. The Broncos hit Cam Newton quite a few times in their victory at Super Bowl 50. So, all eyes will be on the matchup between the 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton and the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller. In case you missed it, Miller hasn’t been shy about taking social media shots at Newton during the offseason.
Week 2: Bengals at Steelers
The last time these two met the Steelers rallied to defeat the Bengals in the wild-card round. It was a game stained by controversy, late hits, penalties, and an overwhelming amount of pushing and shoving. We can't wait to see it again.
Week 3: Giants at Redskins
Now, I’ve disclosed that I am a New York Giants fan so, it should come as no surprise that this game is on my must watch list! Josh Norman has left the Panthers for the Redskins and it's no coincidence. His showdown with Odell Beckham Jr. last season is still making headlines. Now we’ll be watching these two face off twice a season. While Norman is a strong cornerback, OBJ is one hell of a wide receiver. All eyes will be on this matchup to see if the fighting will continue. I just hope these two leave it on the sidelines and play their best football for bragging rights.
Week 4: Browns at Redskins
Speaking of the Redskins, this game made the list because RGIII will be returning to Washington, as a Brown. Fans will feel confused who to cheer for! I have a strong feeling that Washington will have no problem shutting down the Browns on both sides of the ball. The reality is the Browns are a much weaker team and Kirk Cousins has been a savior of sorts for the ‘Skins.
Week 5: Giants at Packers
New York spent the offseason revamping the defensive line. This game will be the real test as they go up against one of the NFL's best offensive lines and possibly the best quarterback. Watch as Jason Pierre-Paul, Johnathan Hankins, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon prove their worth against Aaron Rodgers. Be on the lookout for Green Bay's arsenal of young corners set to cover Odell Beckham Jr as well. Another layer to this matchup is new Head Coach Ben McAdoo will be facing his former mentor, Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy, for the first time.
Week 6: Packers at Cowboys
This will be the sixth game against the Cowboys in eight years. The Packers have won the previous five and boy do I love watching the Cowboys lose! Last time they met, Tony Romo was out and the Packers defense ran all over Matt Cassel, but this year could be different. Expect Jordy Nelson to play a huge part in this game.
Week 7: Texans at Broncos
Brock Osweiler's return to Denver. Need I say more? The Texans will bring a stronger offense into Denver than one expected at the end of last season. Not only have they signed Osweiler but also running back Lamar Miller. The Texans are going to need to bring their A-game because the Broncos defense will not go gently, especially on Monday night.
Week 8: Cardinals at Panthers
The last time these two met in the NFC Championship Game, it was Palmer's worst game of the year, if not the worst of his career. He was picked off four times which resulted in the Panthers going to the Super Bowl. Now he gets a chance at redemption on the same field. He’s facing one of the strongest defenses in the league. Also, I’m predicting and hoping Kelvin Benjamin's return will be for the records and by week 8 he and Newton will have their rhythm in place.
Week 9: Colts at Packers
Andrew Luck. Aaron Rodgers. T.Y. Hilton. Jordy Nelson. Donte Moncrief. Randall Cobb. I have no other words. These players’ records speak for themselves. Can Luck prove he’s lucky against the stellar Packers defense? Need a preview of this matchup? Watch these teams kick off the National Football League’s 2016 preseason in the NFL/Hall of Fame Game.
Week 10: Seahawks at Patriots
Super Bowl XLIX rematch on a Sunday night? Sign me up. The best team from each conference over the past few years facing off again cannot be missed. New England will be coming off a bye week for this game giving Belichick two weeks to plan out their attack on Seattle's secondary. I also have to mention Russell Wilson here, the man knows how to stay calm and collected under pressure which will be key in this game.
Week 11: Cardinals at Vikings
The Cardinals and Vikings played a close game on a Thursday night last season. The Vikings were missing several key players from their defense but managed to hang with the Cardinals for most of the night. Here's hoping Minnesota has a full squad this time around to face Palmer.
Week 12: Saints at Rams
I can’t leave off the Saints as a much watch game because, of Drew Brees. He’s still a stellar quarterback and their defense is only going to get stronger. I can't leave the Rams off this list either because, of Todd Gurley. Linebacker James Laurinaitis will be fired up to beat his former team but Gurley could go big in this one. I think once the Saints hit their stride this road game won't be difficult for them to win.
Week 13: Panthers at Seahawks
It's always fun to watch quarterbacks Cam Newton and Russell Wilson go at it. Both are mobile quarterbacks who make stellar plays. These defenses are two of the best in the league which always proves to provide fans with must-see football. The Seahawks secondary is a constant frustration for Newton and the Panthers defense works hard to stop Wilson. It's never easy to win in Seattle, but the Panthers showed they could last year. Can they do it again?
Week 14: Raiders at Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs won 11 straight games last season, including their first playoff victory in 22 years. The Oakland Raiders went from 3-13 in 2014 to 7-9 last year. Both teams have high hopes for 2016. Raiders defense Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and, Aldon Smith will set their sights on Alex Smith. Being the home team, the Chiefs will have all the advantage in this one.
Week 15: Falcons at 49ers
Both of these teams have the toughest schedules in the NFL. The Falcons have missed the playoffs the last three years and are looking for redemption after handing the 49ers the game last year in San Francisco. Can the Falcons get a win at home in Atlanta? Only time will tell.
Week 16: Cardinals at Seahawks
This is the ultimate matchup of the season. There is no denying that head to head matchups are fun for all football fans. These dynamic teams will not disappoint. Just look at the list: Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson. Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Tyrann Mathieu and Earl Thomas. Larry Fitzgerald and Doug Baldwin. Michael Floyd and Tyler Lockett. David Johnson and Thomas Rawls. Calais Campbell and Michael Bennett. Bruce Arians and Pete Carroll.
Week 17: Ravens at Bengals
The AFC North is always the most closely contested division, and the race usually comes down to the last few weeks. Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton didn't make it to the end of the regular season in 2015. The Ravens are coming off a 5-11 season, their worst under coach John Harbaugh, and they're looking to avoid missing the playoffs again. With a track record of losing against the Bengals in the final game, the Ravens are looking to break that curse this year.
There you have it! My 2016 NFL Games to Watch! Check back with HOFExperiences.com throughout the season to see how each matchup went down. If you love football as much as I do, join us at Super Bowl LI in Houston this February. The Official Pro Football Hall of Fame Game Day Party is not to be missed. Pregame with Pro Football Hall of Famers, live entertainment, and gourmet food & a top shelf premium open bar.