2024 NFL Schedule: 10 games that could define the 2024 NFL season

2CW9NPK Baltimore, United States. 28th Sep, 2020. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) greets Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) after defeating the Ravens 34-20 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, on Monday, September 28, 2020. Photo by David Tulis/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

• Kicking the season off with a bang: Week 1 has two juicy matchups —Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions — that could have season-long consequences.

• Super Bowl rematch: The Kansas City Chiefs will take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, which is a game that will not only be a rematch of last year's Super Bowl but also potentially a preview of this year's.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

After a flurry of leaks, the entire 2024 NFL schedule has finally been unveiled. With games spanning Sept. 5 to Jan. 5, that four-month span should provide endless fireworks as usual. However, certain matchups should have a magnified role — whether in determining playoff seeding or forecasting who will emerge victorious in January.

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 1)

The very first time teams trot out of the locker room this entire season will immediately be one of the most significant contests of the whole year. The Ravens and Chiefs each face turnover at several notable positions but return the crux of their AFC Championship rosters from a year ago — most notably, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Even if it’s only Week 1, this game has a strong chance of creating a playoff tiebreaker for a top-three seed in the AFC. Interestingly, this will be just the third matchup between the two AFC powerhouses since 2021, so savor it while you can.

Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions (Week 1)

Oh, NFL, how glorious you are by giving us two playoff rematches on the opening slate. Both teams won at least 10 games a season ago and are in a good position to replicate that success. The strength of their divisions renders this game that much more important for the NFC wild-card seeding, which could have four or more teams all win 10 games and vie for one of the final three playoff spots. Even if it’s the first Sunday Night Football clash of the year, this game will continue to impact the NFC playoff picture for the remaining 17 weeks.

Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 2)

This will be the sixth duel between the Bengals and Chiefs since just 2022 (including the playoffs), and it feels as if every game pitting the budding rivals is always of consequence. Even last year, without Joe Burrow, Kansas City’s Week 17 win virtually eliminated Cincinnati by dropping it to 8-8. With the return of No. 9 behind center, the Bengals will look to return to form and compete for not just the AFC North, but also the conference crown — except the path runs through Arrowhead Stadium, as usual.

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Week 4)

This game might not be as absolutely compelling as others on this list, but it combines two NFC teams that should be right in the playoff hunt. The Eagles regressed big time after winning the NFC due to a defense that ranked an abysmal 29th in defensive EPA per play. But with two impressive coordinators, a slew of impact rookies and better production from Jalen Hurts, Philly could vault right back to its 2022 version. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers did excellent work retaining pieces like Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield Jr., but it remains to be seen how well Tampa can build off a breakout 2023. The winner of this wild card rematch should have an edge in cracking the Wild Card again.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers (Week 7)

It’s tough not to have a Super Bowl rematch on here, especially when each side should be a Leviathan yet again. When Mahomes and the Chiefs traveled to Santa Clara and put out a statement 44-23 win in October 2022, it put the rest of the league on notice. Indeed, after that Week 7 win at the 49ers, the ’22 Chiefs went a ridiculous 12-1 en route to winning Super Bowl 56. If San Francisco can flip the tide and beat Kansas City, it could have a parallel effect in the NFC.

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (Week 8)

This matchup has been quite lopsided in the last three years, as the 49ers have gone 3-0 while outscoring the Cowboys 78-45 since 2022. Dallas entered Levi’s Stadium looking like a real NFC favorite until getting walloped 42-10, a score which ultimately held up in determining who would really prevail in the NFC. If the Cowboys find a way to end their woes against the scarlet and gold, it might be a watershed moment in Mike McCarthy’s side finally competing for a title.

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns (Week 15)

When the weather turns in Cleveland, the Browns have been as formidable as anyone. Cleveland has gone 6-2 at home after December the last three seasons, and with a nipping defense coming back, this game won’t be pleasant for Mahomes and Travis Kelce. If the Chiefs find a way to eke out a win at Browns Stadium, it could prove portentous for them to get the No. 1 seed. Yet if the Browns claim this game, it would go a long way toward Cleveland’s spot of securing a top-seven seed.

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16)

Having this as a Saturday afternoon game feels a bit criminal because who doesn’t want to watch C.J. Stroud battle Mahomes? This matchup very likely will kickstart the next great AFC rivalry, with the two superhuman quarterbacks always lurking within the conference. Kansas City was a bit more vulnerable at home last season than usual, going a decent 5-3 at Arrowhead, but the intensity is only amplified this late in the season. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if this were a preview of a playoff game to come just a few weeks thereafter.

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans (Week 17)

It’s easy to pity DeMeco Ryans’ bunch for two straight games against two of the best teams in the AFC, but this will also be tremendous theater. Lamar Jackson against Stroud provides a glimpse into two of the premier playmakers in the sport and a great chess match between the sage John Harbaugh and an up-and-comer in Ryans. Having this game — which might determine the AFC’s No. 2 seed — on Christmas is as good of a present as fans could ask for.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (Week 18)

The all-divisional Week 18 slate seldom disappoints, but the attention should be focused on this NFC North clash. Having added Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze and Keenan Allen, the Bears should make some real noise after four years of misery. Likewise, the Packers turned heads in 2023 with stupendous play from Jordan Love and as good of a coaching job as any by Matt LaFleur. Anticipate both Chicago and Green Bay to be right on the cusp of the NFC Wild Card, and this one could be win-or-go-home in Round 2 between Williams and Love.


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