Fall means cooler weather, new TV shows — and the return of football!
This year marks a milestone for the NFL as the league celebrates its 100th season. (It kicks off Thursday, September 5.) One new crowd-pleaser: the "NFL 100 Game of the Week." Each designated matchup commemorates an old rivalry, significant league event, or classic Super Bowl clash.
NFL Network will air highlights and features honoring the players, coaches, and teams from the past century that helped make pro football America's most popular sport, and the league's broadcast partners, CBS, ESPN, Fox, and NBC, are also expected to cover the milestone.
We highlight seven face-offs sure to live up to the teams' historic and recent rivalries.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Thursday, Sept. 5, 8:20/7:20c, NBC
The Bears and Packers have played each other a whopping 198 times! But the ugliest moment came in 1986, when Packers defensive end Charles Martin body-slammed Bears quarterback Jim McMahon long after the play had ended. McMahon suffered a torn rotator cuff and missed the remainder of the season, effectively ending the Bears' bid for a repeat Super Bowl title.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers orchestrated a big fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Bears 24–23 in Week 1 last season. The Monsters of the Midway would exact their revenge 14 weeks later when they clinched the NFC North with a 24–17 win that spoiled the Packers' chances of reaching the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets
Monday, Sept. 16, 8:15/7:15c, ESPN
On September 21, 1970, the Browns beat the Jets 31–21 in the first Monday Night Football game in history. Suddenly, television audiences had a great reason to look forward to Mondays — watching primetime football with Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and "Dandy" Don Meredith in the ABC broadcast booth. MNF's audience and prestige has shrunk since moving to ESPN, but its influence in growing the NFL is undeniable.
The Jets and Browns are both notoriously bad teams. Gang Green hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2010 season, while the Browns have had only two winning seasons — and zero playoff victories — since the franchise was resurrected in 1999. Things started looking up for the Dawg Pound last year when they broke a 19-game winless streak (dating back to January 1, 2017) with a 21–17 comeback over the Jets in Week 3. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield saw the first regular-season action of his pro career, giving a glimmer of hope to the long-suffering Cleveland faithful.
New York Giants at New England Patriots
Thursday, Oct. 10, 8:20/7:20c, Fox and NFL Network
The Patriots went 16–0 in 2007 and appeared destined to join the 1972 Dolphins as the only perfect team in the Super Bowl era. But it was not to be. Quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants shocked the world in Super Bowl XLII with a 17–14 upset over the Patriots, due in large part to Giants wide receiver David Tyree's "Helmet Catch" that kept the winning scoring drive alive. Four seasons later, the Giants took the rematch with a 21–17 late comeback win over the Pats in Super Bowl XLVI.
Nothing like using two Super Bowl defeats as motivation. Since losing to the Giants in those championships (the teams have played once since, in 2015, with New England winning 27–26), quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots have returned to the big game four times, winning three. Meanwhile, in that same time span, the Giants haven’t won a single playoff game.
Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, Oct. 20, 1/noon c, CBS
Coach Vince Lombardi's Packers defeated Al Davis' Raiders 33–14 in the 1967 season's AFL-NFL World Championship Game, now known as Super Bowl II. In 1987, the Raiders beat the Packers 20–0, but the Pack has gone 7–0 in the series since.
The teams last met in 2015, with the Packers victorious. After two straight losing seasons, Packers rookie head coach Matt LaFleur will lean on QB Rodgers to get his team back to playoff form. And in the sophomore season of his second stint as head coach of the Silver & Black, Jon Gruden will try to rebuild a franchise that has had only one winning campaign in the past 16. He'll have a nice new offensive weapon in wide receiver Antonio Brown.
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, Nov. 17, 4:25/3:25c, CBS
Talk of the Patriots' dynasty began after the 2004 season, when New England won their third championship by beating the Eagles 24–21 in Super Bowl XXXIX. Pats wide receiver Deion Branch tied a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions and was named game MVP.
Backup quarterback Nick Foles led the Eagles to their first title in a 41–33 barn burner against the Patriots in 2018's Super Bowl LII. The Pats bounced back last February with a 13–3 snoozer win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints
Monday, Dec. 16, 8:15/7:15c, ESPN
The Saints capped off the 2009 season with their first and only Super Bowl win in franchise history, beating the Colts. Quarterback Drew Brees was deadly efficient (32 completions in 39 attempts for 288 yards and two touchdowns) and the defense clamped down on quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts in a 31–17 upset victory.
The teams have met only twice since that big game. The Saints routed the Colts 62(!)–7 in 2011, the year Manning missed due to injury. With QB Andrew Luck under center in 2015, Indy kept it closer in a 27–21 loss to New Orleans.
Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Saturday or Sunday, Dec. 21 or 22, time TBA, network TBA
Two charter AFL teams, the Raiders and Chargers, have always been fierce AFC West rivals but have met only once in the playoffs. The Raiders beat the Chargers in the 1980 season's AFC championship and went on to win Super Bowl XV.
Quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers have swept the Raiders the past two years. The teams' Week 16 meeting is likely the final battle for bragging rights between the feuding California fanbases, as the Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas in 2020.