The NFL Schedule Release Is Here
Let's find each week's "Game That's On In Hell"
As the internet fills up today with article after article extolling the many wonderful matchups the NFL schedule has bestowed upon us this season, I plan to take another tack. When I do my NFL articles during the season, I often make reference to the “Game That’s On In Hell”. This is the matchup each week that is so disinteresting that no one other than fans of those teams should ever want it to appear on their television. Often times, even those fans suddenly remember they had a bunch of laundry to do, and that isn’t the sort of thing you want to save for the week… you know? To make this interesting, I won’t use the same team more than 4 times (otherwise it’s just who the Texans are playing each week). I will also add extra credit if your game ruins all of our NFL experience in Prime Time. If your team makes the list, take it personally. I did it on purpose to upset you specifically.
Week 1: Jaguars vs. Texans
Dear God. Right out of the gate, a horrific matchup that Satan himself will be dancing to as he slowly tortures Jason from The Good Place over and over until he is forced to acknowledge that Urban Meyer is a tool. SO MANY subplots here to avoid. Tim Tebow in general. Urban Meyer starting things off with a win that will have him insufferably talking about how he has transformed the team. The league trying to pretend Deshaun Watson doesn’t exist. The Texans pretending like they want to win this year. Ironically this is probably the Texans best shot at any win this year too, so the stakes are incredibly high for them. If they win this one, they can just put their head up and cruise to the no 1 pick like the Jaguars themselves did last year. If we are lucky, the NFL will waive the blackout rules for the first time ever and just black it out for everyone. Imagine having to watch this when you could be watching Jets-Panthers or nothing-no one.
Week 2: Lions vs. Packers (MNF)
This one is a Monday-Nighter that looks poised to be a complete disaster if there is no Aaron Rodgers. ESPN execs are going to fly to Aaron’s home and beg him for hours to come back if he hasn’t yet capitulated. Imagine the horror of watching the Lions bite at the knees of Jordan Love in his second start. By this point, depression could have really set in up in Green Bay (just before the usual seasonal depression sets in), and I can assure everyone that Lions fans are catatonic at this point after ending the once promising Matt Stafford era without a playoff win. This one could be the lowest rated MNF game of the year unless Aaron is swayed by the promise of a future position as the CEO of ESPN.
Week 3: Panthers vs. Texans
I am gonna blow through my Texans options WAY too fast. Look, this is a terrible matchup. It’s redeeming value will be that everyone who has Christian McCaffrey on their fantasy team is going to be straight up aroused (look at that GQ spread!) headed into this. Anything short of 200 yards and 3 TDs will be a huge disappointment. For people just watching football, this will be the game that has everyone saying, “maybe they have something with Sam Darnold” before they lose all their conference games later in the season and he finishes the year with 18 picks.
Week 4: Jaguars vs. Bengals (TNF)
The Jags are back, to go head to head with the Bengals in a matchup of two of the league’s most unstable also-rans. It’s not clear yet when Joe Burrow will be back, so it’s not clear if he will have arrived in time for this, which makes for a very bland conference matchup. Sure we get to see Trevor Lawrence’s fully coiffed hair, but by then he may have been usurped in a coup led by Tebow. Neither of these teams have much in the way of hope for this year outside of “We hope our QB survives this season behind our offensive line”. Is week 4 too early to wonder about draft position?
Week 5: Eagles vs. Panthers
Two teams that are whatever the opposite of rivals is, this barely intra-conference matchup shows us two QBs that were the fall back options for both of their teams when their main plan went sideways. For the Eagles, Jalen Hurts is a painful reminder that Carson Wentz became the most expensive mistake in team history. For the Panthers, Sam Darnold is a reminder that they wanted to trade for someone who has been accused by 20 women of sexual misconduct, but it fell through because the OTHER team didn’t accept. Then they didn’t draft Justin Fields or Mac Jones because they had already locked down the world’s most famous mono patient. The most interesting outcome of this game would be Sam Darnold seeing another ghost. For most of us, this is a snooze fest from two teams that know this year is a big, fat nothing-burger.
Week 6: Dolphins vs. Jaguars (London)
Nothing like a good old 10 AM start time to get you out of bed for an episode of Florida Man Goes To England. Not too many folks are excited to wake up bright and early to watch the horrifying Dolphins defense strangle the life out of the helpless Trevor Lawrence in whatever the opposite of Prime Time is in London. The Dolphins offense is threatening to be interesting this year with the offseason injection of speed, and, put on the Wembley tarmac, I might regret this. But we really don’t know if Tua is going to play significantly better than last year or not. The average viewer is not particularly interested in getting morning day drunk just to see two of the least relevant franchises of the last 20 years go tooth to flipper.
Week 7: Eagles vs. Raiders
Two teams destined for sub-mediocrity, meeting across conferences, with very few interesting players, bad coaches, no real playoff aspirations and die hard fan bases, this game sounds a lot better to the ear than it will be in reality. These two teams are two of the most storied in NFL history, but questionable leadership has undercut them in recent years. The Eagles won that miraculous Super Bowl with the worst QB to win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, but it is starting to feel like the Faustian pact they made for that to happen is going to be doling out unintended consequences for a while. The Raiders moved to Las Vegas after it was cool, and are just rotating mediocre pieces in and out every year.
Week 8: Bengals vs. Jets
“Dear God, it’s me, John Bengals-fan/Jets-fan. I know you said you love us all equally, but lately I feel like that might not be true. We just finished up a terrible season, but I am starting to feel a little hope this year. Still, I want you to help my team lose this game. We are in the mix for the first pick, and I think if we can just get one more really high pick, that might put us over the top, despite there being no evidence of that in my team’s history given how many we have had. Also, if you could send several angels to protect our smallish white quarterback from our bad offensive line, I would appreciate it. Amen”
Week 9: Patriots vs. Panthers
The Patriots have rapidly declined from being one of the most interesting teams in sports history to incredibly boring since the GOAT left, and while they spent a fortune this offseason, I am not really sure they are much better. Winning free agency is not generally a plus in a team’s ledger when all is said and done. They didn’t really upgrade quarterback, and they still have one of the worst skill groups in the league despite spending a fortune on it this offseason. With that said, they are going to crush the Panthers because Sam Darnold has no shot against a well coached defense.
Week 10: Lions vs. Steelers
The man pictured above is the key lynch pin to the Steelers season, and that is basically all you need to know about where they are at this year. It is hard to believe the Steelers might not be competent with Mike Tomlin at the helm, since he has never had a losing season. I suspect they will not have a losing season this year either, but this is also not going to be a good season. The Steelers are locked into mediocrity at this point, which, in some way, is worse than just being bad. Don’t believe me? Well, the Lions are in this game too, so you can see (or, if you are lucky not see) what that’s like too if you feel that is worse.
Week 11: Dolphins vs. Jets
If you want to make an argument for like 6 other games this week, go for it. This is one of the most balanced weeks of the year, as there are very few genuinely good games available. Pats/Falcons and Cowboys/Chiefs should be fun, and Colts/Bills is important, but beyond that most of the games have little in the way of intense matchups, two good teams, or important stakes. If you were wondering when to plan that weekend getaway, this is it. While Dolphins/Jets is a rivalry game, the rivalry was extinct last season. The Jets managed 3 points in two meetings, and for the most part, struggled to get across the Miami 20 yard line. It might be different with a new QB and coach this year, but I doubt it. Miami eats up rookie QBs. As for Miami, I noted earlier that time will tell how interesting this team ends up being. For now, this looks like a toothless team versus an enigma.
Special Thanksgiving Day Horror: Bears vs. Lions
We all better hope Justin Fields is ready by the time this one rolls out, because otherwise this is going to be a 1 pm snoozer starring Andy Dalton and Jared Goff. The only hope outside of that is some sort of overwhelming Khalil Mack game where he destroys everyone on the Lions. Without that, this is just going to be a classic 14-3 slog where we see the never-ending parade of terrible Lions games on Thanksgiving continue unabated and unabashed (well, I’m bashing it I guess).
Week 12 (Non-Thanksgiving Horror): Jets vs. Texans
In case you were worried we wouldn’t have enough options after the Thanksgiving games, the National Football League comes through with this Jim Dandy of a dud. This game is already meaningless, and I don’t have any idea who the Texans will start at QB for week one of the pre-season. Meanwhile, the Jets are definitely headed for an improvement with Adam Gase gone, and without Gregg Williams, one has to wonder how they could possibly hand this game to the Texans. The Texans are basically the Theranos of NFL teams. This might be the Texans best “non-Jaguars” shot at a win.
Special Christmas Day Horror: Cardinals vs. Colts
Both of these teams could be winners on paper, but this matchup is dud. First, how do you not have the Cardinals facing the Jets, Eagles or Packers (THE PACKERS WERE ALSO PICKED FOR CHRISTMAS DAY). Second, the Colts and Cardinals both give off a hefty musk of “early Saturday playoff game, 1st round exit”, which is basically the NFL equivalent of Axe Body Spray. While Kyler Murray is very exciting it is likely he will be neutered by an excellent Colts defense, while we will be forced to watch Carson Wentz be mediocre on the other side. While both of these teams have very passionate local fan bases, the rest of country treats them both with relative disinterest. The best outcome here is a DeAndre Hopkins Hail Mary finish.
Week 13: Chargers vs. Bengals
Both of these teams have exciting young quarterbacks that may, or may not be healthy for this matchup. That is not why this is here though. The above picture comes with the headline “Bengals and Chargers play in an empty stadium” and if there is one headline that describes the state of these clubs it is that. The only thing worse would be playing this game in LA, where zero traveling Bengals fans would be met by zero local Chargers fans. This might be the one game this year where we all forget the COVID protocols have been lifted.
Week 14: Rams vs. Cardinals (MNF)
This is a GOOD game you say. How can you put this here? Well, how do you feel about any matchup of QBs that involves John Wolford and/or Colt McCoy (yes THAT Colt McCoy). Because that is who is likely to be out there by this point in the season given the likelihood of Kyler Murray and Matt Stafford making it this far into the season without injury. Honest to God, if these two are both playing in this game, I will post a tweet declaring this the greatest QB matchup of all time without any qualifiers other than a link to this article (gotta get dem clicks).
Week 15: Texans vs. Jaguars
AGAIN???? How the F*** are there two of these.
Week 16: Giants vs. Eagles
This is one of the worst matchups of the NFC least this year. While you might have thought that there would be more of the NFC least in this column, it hasn’t really happened. The problem is that that the Cowboys and WFT are both going to be fun, even if they both have fatal flaws. The Giants and Eagles are not quite bad enough to Must Not Watch TV. So it takes a meeting of the two mediocre squads to generate an appearance on the list. This game will be very intense, competitive and meaningful for their fan bases. For the rest of us it will be like seeing two seagulls fight over a piece of bread in a parking lot. Sure, they both want it, but in the end, they are both getting hit by that Range Rover who’s driver is checking his phone.
Week 17: Lions vs. Seahawks
The Seahawks should be pretty far into their late season swoon by this point of the season. While this game will likely serve as a reprieve where they handily throttle the Lions at home, the overall vibe of this game should be pretty sad by this point. I am worried about the Seahawks this year. The vibe I get from them is bad, and what was once a really fun team to watch, is now becoming a morose jaunt to 10-7 and wild card exit every year. This team needs a major shake up. It isn’t happening this year however, so let’s all sit back and not watch them run the ball 40 times to beat the Lions.
Week 18: Bengals vs. Browns
This late season jaunt to Cleveland has all the makings of the game each year that Cleveland weather destroys and you find yourself watching 28 consecutive 3 yards runs with that one fumble that turns into a touchdown. It is also a lock for 2 field goals that are headed straight down the middle and end up missing the left upright by 10 yards. This can be a little fun, if the matchup is good, but with the Bengals involved, a decent chance the Browns won’t need this game, and the other better games on, it’s probably best to leave this as the game on in Hell that will be so cold Hell will freeze over by default.