ATLANTIC CITY, April 14, 2016 — The National Football League has just released its schedule for the 2016 season.
In non-football news domestic and global: There is none.
One sentence is enough to note the Golden State Warriors reaching 73, the NHL playoffs, baseball being boring, the Democrats debating in Brooklyn, the Republicans baking matzoh with Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, Speaker Paul Ryan refusing to run for president, and Al Sharpton criticizing Hillary Clinton for a racist joke. All of those stories became irrelevant once the NFL released its schedule. Lord Roger of Goodell has a document that is kept in a vault with more security than the nuclear codes and the Coca-Cola formula (Hint: high-fructose corn syrup plus other stuff).
Those diversions are no longer necessary. We now have the promise of actual football. Leatherheads can make their plans for the next eight months into 2017.
One game in particular will have emotions that go far beyond football. In Week 3, the Atlanta Falcons are at the New Orleans Saints. Neither of these teams made the playoffs last year, but this game is about history for the ages. Exactly 10 years ago in Week 3 of the 2006 season, these teams met in the Superdome. It was 52 weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the stadium that the saints finally played a home game at home. Steve Gleason had the greatest blocked punt in NFL history. Expect the crowd to be jacked to capacity as this game is used to raise funds for ALS, which Gleason is courageously battling.
The Rams are back in Los Angeles, and they just traded with the Tennessee Titans for the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. By next year, they should both be very special.
Emotion will flow the entire first week, as NFL Sunday Week 1 is September 11. The Giants will be on the road but the Jets will be at home. The Redskins are home, but they play Monday night on the 12th.
From a purely football standpoint, here are the top 16 anticipated games of 2016, in chronological order.
16.) Week 1, Thursday, September 8: Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos — Super Bowl 50 saw Von Miller and the defense help Peyton Manning go out on top. At this point the quarterback of the Broncos is a mystery.
15.) Week 6, Sunday, October 16: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders — The Raiders blew both games against the Chiefs last year. This game will show if the improved Raiders are finally able to close out games.
14.) Week 7, Sunday, October 23: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers — These teams are AFC Title contenders. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are as good as ever.
13.) Week 7, Monday, October 24: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos — This is more than Brock Osweiler’s chance at revenge. Nobody knows if he can play. We do know that J.J. Watt and Von Miller both want the title of best defender in the NFL.
12.) Week 8, Sunday, October 30: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers — Last year’s NFC Title Game was a Carolina romp. Arizona again has to do it the hard way.
11.) Week 9, Sunday, November 6: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders —For the first time in a decade, the Raiders are back on Sunday Night Football. If ever the Raiders are going to get back to the playoffs, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack have to dominate in the Black Hole.
10.) Week 11, Sunday, November 20: Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings — These teams played to the final play last year. Arizona has the offense and Minnesota has Adrian Peterson and a stifling defense.
9.) Week 12, Sunday, November 27: New England Patriots at New York Jets — If the Jets are ever going to stop being the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL, they have to beat Brady and Bill Bellichick when it matters.
8.) Week 13, Sunday, December 4: Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks — Last year Carolina knocked off the two-time defending NFC Champion. Now the Legion of Boom seeks payback.
7.) Week 14, Sunday, December 11: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns — Hue Jackson faces off against his old team. Don’t laugh at the Browns. Maybe Jackson will revitalize Robert Griffin III.
6.) Week 14, Sunday, December 11: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers — These are just two quality football teams. Seattle has Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and friends. Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers slinging it as well as anyone.
5.) Week 15, Sunday, December 18: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos — The AFC Title Game rematch has Denver determined to show they can beat New England with any quarterback.
4.) Week 15, Sunday, December 18: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals — Get the body bags ready. This has replaced Pittsburgh vs Baltimore as the most hated rivalry thanks to a brutal playoff game last year. Cincinnati is burning for revenge, but can they maintain discipline?
3.) Week 16, Saturday, December 24: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers — The home team used to seemingly always win this game. Then last year with everything on the line, Minnesota went into Green Bay and hit them in the mouth. This is December football.
2.) Week 16, Saturday, December 24: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks — Arizona finally seized the NFC West from Seattle, and now Seattle looks to return to the top.
1.) Week 17, Sunday, January 1: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets — Last year Buffalo swept the Jets, knocked the Jets out of playoff contention, and saved Rex Ryan’s job. Unless the Bills return to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, this will be Rex’s final game. Either way, it is must watch television.