The NFL has officially released the complete 2015-2016 schedule, and it turns out there’s a theme this year. Almost every week will feature at least one Super Bowl rematch, and on the official schedule these games are highlighted in gold. Which is classy.
Unfortunately, there’s just one problem. No one really cares that Chiefs at Vikings in Week 6 (to pick on just one example) will be a rematch of Super Bowl IV. Super Bowl IV was 45 years ago, when phones were dumb and only hippies thought Richard Nixon was a crook. This season, neither team is expected to contend for even a division championship, let alone a Super Bowl championship. And they’ve played each other just twice in the last decade.
So while this Super Bowl rematch theme is cute, it’s also pointless. If you’re looking to block off time for the real must-see games—because you know your girlfriend will want to plan a weekend getaway at some B&B in the country where you can sip pumpkin spice lattes and go apple picking or some such nonsense—start with the 10 you see here. More storylines will develop as the 2015-16 NFL season unfolds, obviously. But these are a good place to start.
10. STEELERS AT PATRIOTS
Thursday, September 10, 8:30 PM (ET)
We might as well begin at the beginning. The NFL’s season opener will pit the defending Super Bowl champs against the Pittsburgh Steelers in primetime. Will Brady and Gronk run amok in the Troy Polamalu-less Steelers backfield? Will Big Ben and Antonio Brown have a field day without Darrelle Revis leading the Patriots secondary? Will anybody test the firmness of Tom Brady’s balls? There are only 140 more sleeps until the 2015-16 NFL season begins and we learn the answers to all these questions.
9. BILLS AT EAGLES
Sunday, December 13, 1:00 PM (ET)
Stop laughing, this is serious. There really is reason to be excited about a Buffalo Bills game. Not only will former Eagles superstar LeSean McCoy make his first return to Philly since the offseason trade that shocked the NFL. We could also see Tim Tebow play against Rex Ryan, the last NFL coach who had the balls to put him in a regular season NFL game…assuming Tim Tebow doesn’t get cut in training camp, or traded to the Raiders for a case of Gatorade.
8. EAGLES AT COWBOYS
Sunday, November 8, 8:30 PM (ET)
Even if Chip Kelly winds up starting Uncle Rico under center, the story of this game will be DeMarco Murray’s return to Dallas. Jerry Jones decided he didn’t want to go to all the hassle of restructuring contracts just to keep the 2014 rushing champ, so he let him walk. Now Murray is wearing the jersey of a team that poses a serious threat to them in the NFC East, and that decision could come back to haunt them.
7. TEXANS AT COLTS
Sunday, December 20, 1:00 PM (ET)
At time of writing, the Texans have not yet settled on a starting quarterback. But assuming they get that all sorted out by Week 15, this could very well be a great game with playoff implications for these AFC South rivals. Seven-time Pro Bowler Andre Johnson playing against the team that drafted for the first time? Andrew Luck and his neck beard vs. J.J. Watt and his terrifying muscles? What’s not to like?
6. BRONCOS AT STEELERS
Sunday, December 20, 4:25 PM (ET)
Peyton Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger in Week 15 with division titles and/or first round byes on the line? The guy with the most NFL MVP awards and most career touchdowns vs. the only guy to throw six touchdown passes in consecutive games? Yes, please, and thank you.
5. PACKERS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, November 1, 8:30 PM (ET)
Quick quiz: Do you know how many times Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have played each other? Because the answer is once. It was 2008, Manning was still with the Colts, Rodgers was a rookie, and the rookie won. Their second meeting could be their last, or it could be a preview of Super Bowl 50. Either way, you don’t want to miss it.
4. SEAHAWKS AT COWBOYS
Sunday, November 1, 4:25 PM (ET)
The NFL says the most intriguing matchup of Week 8 is Colts at Panthers? Hogwash. The best game of Week 8 will be Seahawks at Cowboys. Last year Tony Romo and company upset the Seahawks in Seattle in one of the best games of the regular season. However, that was before the Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray and the Seahawks acquired Jimmy Graham. You know Seattle will be looking to exact revenge at AT&T Stadium.
3. PATRIOTS AT BRONCOS
Sunday, November 29, 8:30 PM (ET)
The highlight of Week 12 is yet another clash between Brady and Manning. Brady currently has the overall edge in head-to-head matchups with 10 wins to Manning’s six, but they are 2-2 against each other in the playoffs. Will this be the last time these great adversaries ever play each other? Or will Brady-Manning Bowl 17 be a preview for Brady-Manning Bowl 18 in the AFC Championship Game?
2. SEAHAWKS AT PACKERS
Sunday, September 20, 8:30 PM (ET)
To some the 2014-15 NFC Championship Game featured a stunning collapse by the Packers. To others is featured an epic comeback by the Seahawks. Either way, you know Rodgers and company will have revenge on their minds when the Seahawks travel to Lambeau for a rematch in Week 2.
1. COWBOYS AT PACKERS
Sunday, December 13, 4:25 PM (ET)
Remember the Dez Bryant catch that wasn’t a catch? Remember how that controversial ruling probably cost the Cowboys a spot in the NFC Championship Game? Well, in Week 14 the Cowboys will travel back to the scene of the crime to seek their revenge. And it could very well be the best game of the 2015-16 NFL season.
John Grimaud is the best sports writer of his generation, according to his mom. Read some of his other work here.