With eight days until the start of the NFL draft, the league released the regular schedule for the 2019 season. Week 1 features Green Bay in Chicago to kick off the season on Thursday night, plus two stellar bouts on Monday Night Football , with Texans in Santos and Broncos in Raiders.
Who is the biggest winner of the new programming? What games should you play in your schedule? Our panel of ESPN NFL experts weighs.
Jump to a question:
Which game did you play on your calendar?
Matt Bowen, an NFL analyst: Green Bay in Chicago on Thursday, September 5 (week 1). Come on, it's opening night at Soldier Field. This is old school. And we got a prime time slot to watch Aaron Rodgers – in his first game with new trainer Matt LaFleur – match the speed and talent of the Bears defense.
Mike Clay, fantasy writer: Browns in the Jets on Monday, September 16 (week 2). That bout gave us Baker Mayfield's farewell party in 2018, and maybe the 2019 version will feature two playoff teams. This may sound optimistic for the Jets, but in the second year Sam Darnold finished strong as a rookie, New York has one of the league's easiest times, and while the defense has holes, it includes some intriguing star power. If that is not enough, the Baker-to-OBJ connection under the lights can be fun.
KC Joyner, fantasy writer: Steelers at the Patriots on Sunday, September 8 (week 1). The entire Pittsburgh off season revolved around internal battles. Facing New England in Week 1 Sunday's clash will allow the world to know in a hurry if the Steelers are able to refocus their efforts on outside battles.
Mine Kimes, NFL writer: Saints at Rams on Sunday, September 15 (week 2). As we all know, the city of New Orleans is a bit annoyed with a certain pass interference penalty that was not played in the NFC Championship Game. This is the chance of revenge of the saints. It's also a great clash between two of the league's most explosive offensives and a couple of teams that should be favored to return to the playoffs.
Mike Sando, senior writer for the NFL: Colts at Chiefs on Sunday, October 6 (week 5). Can one of these emerging AFC teams topple New England at the conference? Is Patrick Mahomes better than Andrew Luck? This confrontation is about the present and the future.
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Kevin Seifert, NFL National Writer: Chiefs vs. Chargers on Monday, November 18, in Mexico City (week 12). This game is not just between two fun offenses and division rivals, with a timing that can play an important role in determining the playoff distribution. It also marks the return of the NFL to Mexico City after last year's cancellation at Estadio Azteca. The league has an interest in cultivating international fans and needs this game to work from a logistical perspective.
Field Yates, an NFL analyst: Heads in Patriots on Sunday, December 8 (Week 14). This game places the finalists of the AFC last season in what was – in my opinion – the best game of the season. The chess match between Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes against Bill Belichick is something I'm already loving.
The highest winner of the timeline is ____________.
Bowen: The Patriots. New England has a few holes to fill on the list before we get to the regular season, but the schedule is scheduled for them to start the season. After receiving the Steelers in Week 1, the Patriots take the Dolphins (outside), Jets (home), Bills (out), Redskins (out), Giants (home) and Jets again (home) before Sunday's showdown with Baker Mayfield. and the browns. If New England wins Pittsburgh in the first weekend, it could have a significant race to start the season.
You're Ready for Packers at Bears to to start the NFL season? See the full schedule week to week On here.
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Clay: AFC East. By my metrics, the Patriots, Jets and Bills will enjoy the three easy times. In addition to facing the Dolphins' rebuilding twice, all three teams will face NFC East and AFC North, which are arguably the two least talented divisions in the league (apart from AFC East itself). Playing almost a third of their games against the Dolphins, Giants, Redskins and Bengals will surely help the playoffs chances of these teams.
Joyner: The Patriots will host the Steelers in Week 1 and then undoubtedly do not face another front-line team until the week 9 showdown with Baltimore. Add that to the season-opener against Cincinnati, Buffalo and Miami, and the road is set to another bye in the first round for New England.
Kimes: The Patriots (what's new?) Looking at the first few weeks of their timeline, 7-0 is at stake. After some challenging clashes against Cleveland and Baltimore at Weeks 8 and 9, they have a good timed goodbye before a difficult stretch.
Sando: The Rams with only two games starting at 10:00 a.m. (not counting a London game in Week 8), an early start time that West teams hope to avoid. Oakland (six), Arizona (five), San Francisco (four), Seattle (four) and Chargers (four) have more of those early departures.
Seifert: Fans of Browns. While prime time will add pressure and scrutiny to the team, this will give the NFL's most affected fan base another start. For the first time in more than a decade, the league is taking this franchise seriously. Enjoy!
Yachts: The browns. And I'm not diving into any reason that connects who they're playing, where they're playing or where. That's about the Browns – long laughter league – has four games set for prime time. This is the team that people will gravitate towards this season.
Post-release agency earnings totals are out. What more or less do you think it would be better to choose now?
Bowen: Colts with more than 9.5 wins. Indy does some testing early in the season with the Chargers in the opener and the Chiefs in the 5th week. But I see an extremely well-trained team here who also took a very smart and calculated approach to releasing the agency, recruiting key veterans and adding some new parts that can make an immediate impact. In addition, with nine choices in the 2019 draft, general manager Chris Ballard can continue building his list. I see the Colts catching the AFC South again.
Clay: Cowboys with more than 8.5 wins. Dallas reached the mark of nine wins in the past three seasons and four in the past five. Defenders of the NFC East improved the list during the offseason, adding Robert Quinn, Jason Witten and Randall Cobb. All-Pro Travis Frederick is also expected back.
Ryan Clark makes his predictions for Rams' calendar in 2019, including a loss to the Browns in Week 3.
Joyner: Browns with less than 9 wins. The Cleveland schedule strongly suggests that nine wins should be considered the high side of their overall projection.
Kimes: Packers with more than 9 wins. After a disappointing campaign in 2018, the Packers have a relatively easy schedule compared to division rivals, a new defense and, hopefully, a healthy Aaron Rodgers.
Sando: Seahawks over 8.5 wins. Seattle must hit this for the eighth consecutive season with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson together.
When: April 25-27
At where: Nashville, Tennessee
How to watch: ABC / ESPN / ESPN Application
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Seifert: Browns with less than 9 wins. I reserve the right to change my mind, but while the Browns have made great strides in staff over the past year, the outside excitement far outweighs reality. Four games in prime time only increase the pressure that coach Freddie Kitchens already faces. There is a great mix of personalities on this list, and public scrutiny will be greater than at any other time since the Browns returned to Cleveland.
Yachts: Seahawks over 8.5 wins. This team will be more talented than last season who has reached 10 wins and the playoffs. The health of top contributors, such as linebacker K.J. Wright and, hopefully, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, believes that this Seattle squad will reach 10 wins again.
Bonus! What is your initial Super Bowl pick?
Bowen: Heads over bears. After the Chiefs hired Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator, I'm coming off my pick of the Chargers earlier this offseason. With Spags running on that side of the ball, look for Kansas City to have a much improved defensive unit to match Patrick Mahomes and that explosive offense. Give me the bosses as the Super Bowl champions over a team of Bears that comes to the final because of his first-rate defense and remarkable development of Mitchell Trubisky in his second season under the command of Matt Nagy.
Clay: Saints about Patriots. The Saints was a heavenly judge away from a Super Bowl appearance last season and improved what was already an exceptional roster during the offseason. They are arguably the best league team on paper. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady return to the Super Bowl for the fourth consecutive season, but the dynamic duo fell short of MVP Drew Brees this time around.
Joyner: Heads of Eagles. Hiring Steve Spagnuolo should reduce the number of shooting games in Kansas City and result in an AFC title for the bosses. The Eagles have the most complete NFC team as long as Carson Wentz remains healthy.
Kimes: Saints about Patriots. I was tempted to pick the Packers because I like the moves they made in this offseason and I think we'll see a return to Rodgers form, but the Saints list is too full to deal with. In the AFC, I believe Mahomes will continue to shine, but I do not think the Chiefs' defense has improved enough to challenge New England.
Sando: Heads over Vikings. Kansas City is an easier choice than the Patriots in the AFC right now, simply because New England is in the early stages of completing its defensive team and filling its roster. Minnesota should have a defense in the top five, with an offense that should benefit from continuity and more under-centered concepts in the early lows.
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Seifert: Saints on the chiefs. But for some controversial calls and a peculiar rule of overtime, this could have been the clash with Super Bowl LIII. Saints have knocked on the door in recent years and have as many pieces in place as they once did. And you can count on Chiefs coach Andy Reid opening the season with a series of adjustments to fight off the opposing defenses that have gone offseason trying to stop quarterback Mahomes.
Yachts: Patriots on Saints. The Saints return to what is one of the league's most balanced rosters and assuming they can find a boost to complement Mike Thomas in the group of receivers, they should continue to be explosive offensively. While the Patriots need to continue to strengthen their offensive skills group, the team is committed to defense with what may be the best side in the championship. Quarterback rule of 40 and over.