So if you could have one ticket to one NFL game this season, which game would it be?
There are loads of intriguing matchups involving the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, the defending AFC champion New England Patriots plus perennial contenders Green Bay and Pittsburgh and the upstart Los Angeles Rams.
And that’s the subject of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll – what’s the best game on the NFL schedule? Here are your options – and all will be featured on national television. One kicks off the season on Thursday night, three will be played on Sunday night and the other two are choice Sunday afternoon doubleheader games. Poor CBS didn’t land any of them.
Sept. 6: Falcons at Eagles. The Super Bowl champions start the season at home on a Thursday night against the Falcons on NBC. The Eagles started their Super Bowl run with a 15-10 victory over the Falcons in the NFC semifinals. A week earlier, Atlanta upset the NFC West champion Rams in Los Angeles in the wild-card round. The Eagles are a better team on paper than the one that captured the Lombardi Trophy because they return their MVP candidate Carson Wentz at quarterback and added Pro Bowl pass rusher Michael Bennett in a trade with the Seahawks. The Falcons have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Oct. 28: Packers at Rams. The Packers missed the playoffs last season with a 7-9 record in large part because their perennial MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers missed nine games with a fractured right collarbone. He’s healthy and back on the field in 2018 – and the Rams will offer him the stiffest defensive challenge he’ll face west of Minneapolis. The Rams added Pro Bowl cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib plus five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the offseason. Los Angeles also has the firepower to match Green Bay in quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This one will be a Fox Sunday doubleheader game.
Nov. 4: Packers at Patriots. That’s right – the Packers have been tasked to play the Rams and Patriots on the road in back-to-back weekends. This one has been ticketed for on a Sunday night. The Packers have been the most successful team in the NFL since Aaron Rodgers took over at quarterback in 2008 and the Patriots have been the best team in the AFC since Tom Brady took over as quarterback in 2001. Yet the two teams have never squared off in a Super Bowl. This game will pit the game’s two best quarterbacks, who have combined to win five of the last 11 NFL MVP awards.
Nov. 18: Steelers at Jaguars. This game is a rematch of the AFC semifinal game, when the AFC South champion Jaguars upset the AFC North champion Steelers, 45-35, in Pittsburgh. This game also will have a Sunday night showcase. There is no more prolific 1-2-3 punch in the NFL than quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, halfback Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown of the Steelers. And there was no better defense in the AFC a year ago than the Jaguars with Calais Campbell coming off the edge in the pass rush and Pro Bowl cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in coverage. These two defenses finished 1-2 in the NFL in sacks last season with 111 between them.
Dec. 2: Vikings at Patriots. This one pits the two teams that were expected to play in the last Super Bowl and it will be featured as a Fox Sunday doubleheader game. The Vikings took the NFL’s best defense to Philadelphia last season as a 5 ½-point favorite over the Eagles in the NFC title game but were soundly thrashed, 38-7, as Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum threw two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and lost a fumble. The Vikings have since moved on at quarterback, signing Kirk Cousins away from the Washington Redskins in free agency. Cousins has passed for 4,000 yards each of the last three seasons and finds a top-shelf receiving corps at Minnesota in Pro Bowler Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Patriots are 113-23 at home in the Tom Brady era.
Dec. 16: Eagles at Rams. This one is a tie-breaker alert. The Packers, Eagles and Rams will all be picked to win their division titles – and the Rams play both Green Bay and Philadelphia at home. Winning those two games could land the Rams the top seed in the NFC. The Rams have gone all in on this season, acquiring veteran Pro Bowl defenders Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh to complement the best set of young offensive skill players in the league. The Eagles traveled to Los Angeles last December and toppled the Rams, 43-35, with Carson Wentz at quarterback. The two teams rolled up almost 800 yards in offense that day. NBC will showcase this game on a Sunday night.