After weeks of speculation and online leaks, the 2019 NFL Schedule was released on Wednesday night. Teams took to social media to unveil their route to Super Bowl 54 in increasingly dramatic and entertaining videos. With no actual football still for months, the schedule will provide fans a topic of discussion far after the NFL Draft concludes next weekend.
There will be fans that will feel aggrieved (I’m looking at you Bucs fans!). Arguments will burn fiercely as to the allocation of “primetime” games. Of course, the greatest debate will rage around the best games of the season.
Fear not, fans of the AFC West! In this week’s Hodgkinson’s Huddle I have saved you the hours of scouring the 2019 schedule to bring you THE best games for the AFC West teams.
It goes without saying that the divisional games between the teams will be the most hotly contested. For that reason, I have left those out. What I have done is give one game per team to get excited for and the reasoning behind it.
Denver Broncos vs Chicago Bears – Week 2 (September 15th)
At the start of 2018, Vic Fangio interviewed for the job as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. He was overlooked and Matt Nagy secured the position. However, Fangio stayed on as defensive co-ordinator and the Bears became one of the leading defensive units in the league.
At the end of the 2018 NFL season, Fangio left Chicago for pastures new. Those pastures would be Mile High Stadium and his first head coaching position in the league.
Just two weeks in to the new NFL season, Fangio will set about bringing down his former employer. It’s an interesting sub plot to a game that should be an absolute battle. It’s a battle that the Broncos currently hold a slight, 8-7, advantage in from 15 clashes.
For all their up tempo offence under Nagy, the Bears success last season was built around defence. Without Fangio as the defensive leader, how will the Bears cope? Can third year quarterback Mitch Trubisky fend off the swarming Von Miller and Bradley Chubb?
It may be early in his tenure, but this game could set the tone for Vic Fangio’s head coaching career in Denver. A little revenge never hurt anyone either.
AFC Championship Rematch…
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots – Week 14 (December 8th)
Somewhat surprisingly, this is a fixture that the Chiefs have a slight edge in. After 35 regular season contests, they hold a slender 18-14-3 record over the Patriots. However, it’s worth noting that a large chunk of those wins came before the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era. When the Patriots sucked.
However, it was Belichick at the helm when the Chiefs gate crashed opening night in 2017 with a 42-27 win in Gillette Stadium. Both Brady and Bill were on the sideline for the 41-14 beating that the Chiefs handed the Patriots in 2014.
For all the regular season success, however, the Chiefs have never found a way to defeat the Patriots in the playoffs. Last season’s overtime defeat in the AFC Championship game still looms large in the rear view mirror.
In week 14, the Chiefs have a chance for revenge.
Foxboro in December is an ice cold test of nerves. In Patrick Mahomes they have a fire starter to thaw the team and set them on a course for victory. It may not quite be the chronicles of Brady vs Manning, but this quarterback battle will be a story for the ages. The old king Brady versus the new prince Mahomes.
Not only could it be the Kansas City Chiefs game of the schedule, it might well be the best game of the ENTIRE schedule.
Rivers versus Roethlisberger…
Los Angeles Chargers vs Pittsburgh Steelers – Week 6 (October 13th)
When the NFL Draft kick offs, it will mark fifteen years since Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers entered the league.
Taken by the Steelers with pick 11 in the first round, Big Ben has two Super Bowl rings to his name. He has twice lead the league in passing yards. In his rookie year he was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Meanwhile, Rivers was taken by the New York Giants in that 2004 draft. However, he was immediately traded to the Chargers. Although he has never tasted Super Bowl success, he has lead the league in yards, touchdowns and passer rating at various times in his career. He also has 8 Pro Bowl invitations to his name.
Since being drafted in 2004, the two have gone toe to toe, head to head, arm to arm six times. The rivalry is equally balanced on 3-3. Rivers tied the score when he lead the Chargers to a 33-30 win over the Steelers in last years clash.
That game was the first time the two had met since 2012. Now they get to go back up against each other in back to back seasons.
Who will prevail? It has been a chaotic few months for the Steelers whereas the Chargers have had their usual pedestrian start to free agency. Rivers was playing some of the best football of his career last year. The Chargers were one of the more complete units in football. By the end of the 2019 season we may see Rivers with the upper hand in this rivalry. Maybe that upper hand will have a ring on it’s finger.
Burfict and Brown against the Bengals…
Oakland Raiders vs Cincinnati Bengals – Week 11 (November 17th)
Where to begin?!
In previous years, the Oakland Raiders biggest fight of the season would be themselves. Known for chaos and dysfunction, they’ve often had more in house battles before they even got to their opponent.
With new general manager Mike Mayock looking to steady the ship, and with an arsenal of draft capital to use, could this year be the year for the Silver and Black?
They’ve been aggressive in free agency already securing a number of big name targets to make the franchise better. It’s two of these additions that add a little spice to this fixture and make it my Raiders game of the season.
Antonio Brown. There can be no denying Brown’s ability makes him one of, if not the, best receivers in the league. He’s a phenomenal addition to the Raiders and hopefully gives Derek Carr the weapon he needs to succeed. His inclusion in this fixture brings a little fire with it. As a former Pittsburgh Steeler, his rivalry with the Bengals is well documented. In their game last season he was the victim of an ugly hit which sparked nasty scenes.
Speaking of the ugly hit. Vontaze Burfict was another big name signing for the Raiders in free agency. It just so happens that he was the one who delivered the hit on Antonio Brown last October. After a career in Cincinnati which has seen him suspended or fined more than most, he was released this March. You can rest assured that he’ll be looking for revenge against his old team.
With Brown and Burfict, there’s sure to be fireworks in this fixture. For Raiders fans, they can only hope it’s on the field and not off of it.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Kansas City Chiefs – Week 11 (November 18th)
I know I said one game per team, outside the division. How could I not squeeze the in division, outside of America, Mexico City International Game in just quickly at the end?
After last year’s game in Mexico was scrapped due to the field conditions, the Chiefs get to try again. This time they go against their division rivals, the Chargers, in a mouth watering clash. It’s definitely one that fans in the UK wish was over here as part of the International Series.
The Chiefs will be looking to avenge their loss from last time out. Despite them holding a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Rivers rallied the Chargers and walked out with a dramatic 29-28 win.
That’s all for this week’s Hodgkinson’s Huddle. I’ll be back next week with the winner and losers from the NFL Draft. Can Oakland hit on all three first round picks? Will the Chargers find their quarterback of the future? Do Denver land Drew Lock at number 10? Will the Chiefs pull off some ridiculous trades? All will be revealed! As always, if you’ve got any feedback find me at @ojhodgkinson on Twitter!
Photo Credit: 247sports.com