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10 most intriguing games of 2020 NFL regular season: Top QBs, powerhouse teams to square off

Covid-19

Pressing forward with its plans for an on-time start to the 2020 season, the NFL on Thursday released its full slate of games.

There will be no international games this season, and we don’t know exactly what kind of crowd control methods the league will implement amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. But if the games do begin on time, the coming season will feature no shortage of action and compelling story lines.

Here’s a look at 10 of the most intriguing matchups on tap in the 2020 regular season.

Chiefs at Ravens (Sept. 28 - Week 3)

Led by two of the most electrifying quarterbacks in the league (and the winners of the last two MVP awards), the Chiefs and Ravens square off once again. Patrick Mahomes holds bragging rights for now after narrowly beating Jackson and the Ravens 27-24 in their first meeting (2018) and then throwing for 374 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-28 triumph last season. But a year after following in Mahomes’ footsteps and taking home the NFL's top individual honor, Jackson will try to avenge those losses and match Mahomes’ Year 3 Super Bowl-winning quest.

This game should feature all kinds of fireworks as each unit spent the offseason further bolstering their speed on offense while also upgrading their defenses. It also could represent a preview of the AFC championship game.

Buccaneers vs. Saints (Sept. 13 - Week 1, Nov. 8 - Week 9)

It’s still hard to believe that future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Drew Brees are now divisional foes. But sure enough, if each 40-plus-year-old quarterback can remain healthy, we should be treated to two regular-season shootouts between these icons.

Brees and the Saints will try to rebound from yet another heartbreaking season-ending defeat and give chase to the Lombardi Trophy, perhaps for one last time for the signal-caller. Meanwhile, Brady hopes to bring his winning ways to a Tampa Bay squad that’s loaded with young talent.

Cardinals vs. 49ers (Sept. 13 - Week 1, Dec. 26 or 27 - Week 16)

The rebuilding Cardinals made the eventual NFC champion 49ers sweat in each of their meetings last season. With a year of experience under Kyler Murray's belt, and after an aggressive offseason, Arizona should be even more thoroughly equipped to challenge NFC West rival San Francisco.

Patriots at Chiefs (Oct. 4 - Week 4)

Two great franchises seemingly headed in the opposite directions, yes — but intriguing nonetheless. Kansas City boasts the potential to take over as the AFC’s next great dynasty while New England has begun to rebuild after losing Brady and a number of defensive standouts to free agency. However, this is a showdown of two great coaches in Andy Reid and Bill Belichick. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of a defensive game plan Belichick can cook up to challenge the defending Super Bowl champs.

Titans at Ravens (Nov. 22 - Week 11)

In a rematch of one of last season’s great postseason upsets, Mike Vrabel and his Titans return to Baltimore. A punishing ground game and physical defensive game plan rendered the top-seeded Ravens ineffective. That divisional-round loss exposed Baltimore’s need for a fortified defensive front and more weapons to help lighten Jackson’s load. After a draft and free agency devoted to both missions, the Ravens will be under pressure to improve.

Patriots at Rams (Dec. 10 - Week 14)

A lot has changed since Super Bowl LIII. Gone from their previous squads are Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, among others. Now, both New England and Los Angeles are working to retool their rosters while simultaneously giving themselves the best chance to remain competitive. Belichick is out to show he can continue to work his magic without Brady, and Sean McVay is trying to show that success in Years 1 and 2 was not a fluke.

49ers at Cowboys (Dec. 20 - Week 15)

This should be a good measuring stick for the Cowboys and new head coach Mike McCarthy. Dallas had Super Bowl aspirations last season and fell far short, going 8-8 and missing the postseason. Now the Cowboys host the defending NFC champion 49ers, who should provide a significant test on both sides of the ball.

Steelers vs. Browns (Oct. 18 - Week 6, Jan. 3 - Week 17)

As divisional opponents, these teams already didn’t like each other. But last year’s melee, in which Myles Garrett clocked Mason Rudolph with the quarterback’s own helmet, further stoked the animosity between the franchises. The Steelers hope to have Ben Roethlisberger back on the field after an elbow injury forced him to miss 14 games last year. And the Browns are once again hitting the reset button after firing both head coach Freddie Kitchens (replaced by Kevin Stefanski) and GM John Dorsey (replaced by Andrew Berry).

Packers vs. 49ers (Nov. 5 - Week 9)

The rematch of the NFC championship game should be quite interesting. We'll see if Aaron Rodgers and Co. can fare any better in this meeting than they did in January, when they fell 37-20 to San Francisco, and November, when the Niners trounced them 37-8. Both defeats exposed the Packers' need for more weapons on offense. This meeting should also be a good test for second-year Packers’ coach Matt LaFleur, who struggled against former mentor Kyle Shanahan last year.

Dolphins vs. Patriots (Sept. 13 - Week 1, Dec. 20 - Week 15)

Viewed as candidates to go 0-16 after an awful start to the season, including a 43-0 drubbing by the Patriots, Miami pulled off quite a turnaround, winning five of its last nine games. No win was bigger than their Week 17 upset of New England. That 27-24 victory gave Brian Flores his first victory over mentor Bill Belichick, and it knocked the Patriots down to the No. 3 seed cost them an opening-round bye. Now, as the Patriots’ new era kicks off, their divisional foes all will be licking their chops. But the Dolphins are the only AFC East squad to beat New England last year.

 

This article was originally published on usatoday.com

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