5 must-watch prime-time games on the 2017 NFL schedule

by 5d ago
Jason Getz / USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL schedule was announced Thursday night, much to the delight of a national audience.

There are a ton of captivating games this fall, but we singled out five marquee prime-time matchups to mark on your calendar.

Chiefs at Patriots
Week 1, Thursday, Sept. 7

The defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots will host the Kansas City Chiefs in what promises to be a riveting season opener. New England certainly hasn't been complacent during the offseason, adding Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, and Stephon Gilmore, while retaining a number of core assets. It's likely Rob Gronkowski will be fully recovered from back surgery, so the Patriots could be stronger than ever this fall.

Kansas City is a formidable opponent in its own right, with the All-Pro secondary duo of Marcus Peters and Eric Berry seeking to stall Tom Brady's high-octane passing game. Justin Houston leads one of the NFL's most ferocious front sevens, a unit that will be sure to make Brady's life difficult. Add Tyreek Hill's game-breaking ability and opening night could be one for the ages.

Falcons at Packers
Week 2, Sunday, Sept. 17

The Green Bay Packers will be looking to exact a measure of revenge against the Atlanta Falcons after being routed 44-21 in last year's NFC Championship Game. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on an eight-game winning streak and was playing some of the best football of his career before getting derailed at the Georgia Dome. Rodgers with a chip on his shoulder should make for enthralling theater.

Atlanta is still reeling from its Super Bowl collapse, but it contains all the elements to contend again, led by reigning MVP Matt Ryan. The Falcons led the NFL in scoring offense with a blistering 33.8 points per game and Julio Jones will be salivating at the prospect of facing off against an anemic Packers secondary. Let the fireworks begin!

Falcons at Patriots
Week 7, Sunday, Oct. 22

This game is self-explanatory. After participating in the first Super Bowl ever to require overtime, the Falcons and Patriots will have a rematch at Gillette Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

"28-3" has been a constant source of comedic material, but in actuality, this contest still pits two of the NFL's most explosive offenses against each other. Who is to say that this game won't be a preview of Super Bowl LII?

Packers at Steelers
Week 12, Sunday, Nov. 26

It's somewhat disingenuous to package a game between the Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers as a rematch of Super Bowl XLV, but quarterbacks Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger are still the central forces of their respective clubs.

Both teams lost in their respective conference championship games last year, and entering the home stretch, Rodgers and Roethlisberger will be on the war path to guide their teams toward the Lombardi Trophy. Throw Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, and Davante Adams into the mix, and we have a game that will surely captivate viewers.

Cowboys at Raiders
Week 15, Sunday, Dec. 17

The future of the NFL will be on full display during Sunday Night Football, with the Oakland Raiders hosting the Dallas Cowboys.

Dak Prescott earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last season during his star turn with the Cowboys, while Ezekiel Elliott ran away with the rushing title, steering the team to an NFC-best 13-3 record. Protected by the NFL's premier offensive line, the Cowboys' sophomore duo will face one of their toughest tests of the season, with Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack looking to wreak havoc.

The Raiders counter with Derek Carr, who was in the midst of an MVP-caliber season before suffering a gruesome leg injury. Carr will be ready for the start of the season, while Amari Cooper continues to develop into one of the NFL's best wide receivers. Cowboys safety Byron Jones could have a star turn during the game, but whatever happens, the NFL's best young talent will be showcased.