Football is finally back. The 2019 NFLseason is ready to kick off after the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl—and it’s a big one for the league: The NFL is celebrating its 100th birthday.
After a century of football, this season could be one of the most intriguing yet, with a 42-year-old quarterback in Tom Brady looking to win his seventh Super Bowl, and 22-year-old top-overall draft pick Kyler Murray hoping to have a successful start to his career with the Arizona Cardinals. The Cleveland Browns made major moves and have a lot of hype as they try and break a 16-year playoff drought, while the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs will try and make Super Bowl runs after playoff losses last season.
Season Opener Kicks Off ‘NFL 100’: With the league celebrating a century of action, the NFL season kicked off with the oldest rivalry in the NFL when the Green Bay Packers visited the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Packers won the game 10-3 to open the season.
The Best of the Rest of Week 1: The Chiefs and Jaguars face off in Jacksonville, FL, with reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes taking the field for Kansas City against newly signed QB Nick Foles for Jacksonville (CBS, 1 p.m. kickoff). Odell Beckham makes his Browns debut in Cleveland against the Tennessee Titans (CBS, 1 p.m. kickoff), while the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams open the season on the road against the Carolina Panthers (FOX, 1 p.m. kickoff). In primetime, the Patriots and Tom Brady face off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers on Sunday Night Football (NBC, 8:20 p.m. kickoff), while the Saints and Drew Brees host the Texans in New Orleans for Monday Night Football (ESPN, 7:10 p.m. kickoff).
Important Dates: The regular season runs from September 5, 2019 – December 29, 2019, with the trade deadline coming on October 29 at 4 p.m. ET. The NFL playoffs will begin on January 4, 2020.
Super Bowl LIV Info: The Super Bowl will take place on February 2, 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium, in Miami Gardens, Florida, with TV coverage from FOX.
The Main Contenders - AFC
New England Patriots: The Super Bowl champions have won the AFC East for all but one year since 2003, and the defense could be the best that Bill Belichick has had in years.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes returns after an MVP season with some of the best offensive weapons in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Despite trading Antonio Brown, the Steelers should still be a great offensive team with James Conner at RB and Juju Smith-Shuster moving into the top WR spot.
Houston Texans: The Texans gave up a lot to add offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, but giving Deshaun Watson protection could open things up for the Houston offense.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield had a great rookie season and now has Odell Beckham Jr. catching passes alongside a talented group that includes WR Jarvis Landry and RB Nick Chubb. If the defense can play decently, the Browns could make a wild card run to the playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Godron’s holdout for a new contract could make an impact, but QB Philip Rivers has a very talented roster to work with on offense, plus the defense is strong even without injured safety Derwin James.
The Main Contenders - NFC
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees and the Saints lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Rams in the NFC title game last year, but with offensive powerhouses Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas back, the team should remain a contender.
Los Angeles Rams: Losing the Super Bowl always hurts. But with Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and a healthy Cooper Kupp on offense—and reigning defensive MVP Aaron Donald all back—LA should remain in the mix.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have the most talent in the NFC East on the roster, but it may come down to Carson Wentz staying healthy for a full season at QB.
Chicago Bears: With Khalil Mack leading a top defense and QB Mitch Trubisky coming off his best season, the Bears should be trending upwards—but they’re in a tough division.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers has a new coach and some doubters out there, which means he might be motivated to have his best season yet.
Dallas Cowboys: The team signed Ezekiel Elliot to a new contract and have one of the best offensive lines in football. Their success may come down to the performance of QB Dak Prescott, who’s also looking for a new contract.
Best Games on the 2019 NFL Schedule:
You’re going to want to mark these matchups on your calendar:
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams (Week 2): A rematch of the 2018-19 NFC Championship game could have major implications for NFC playoff positioning.
Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints (Week 4): Two of the best offensive teams and RBs—Ezekiel Elliot and Alvin Kamara—will go head-to-head in New Orleans’ Superdome.
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 8): The reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes faces off against one of the greatest of all times, Aaron Rodgers, in Kansas City.
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots (Week 8): The Browns have tons of hype heading into 2019, and they’ll get to show if they’re for real by visiting Tom Brady and the Pats.
New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles (Week 11): Two of the top teams in the league will duke it out in the middle of the season.
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams (Week 11): One of the best offensive teams (Rams) will be pitted against one of the best defenses (Bears).
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (Week 14): A rematch of the AFC championship game from last season could be one of the best regular season games in years.
Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (Week 15): Two of the most high-profile teams in the NFC are facing off. Both have young QBs (Jared Goff, Dak Prescott) and workhorse RBs (Zeke Elliot, Todd Gurley).
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets (Week 16): This one is more about intrigue than the matchup: Former Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell faces his old team after sitting out all of 2018 while hoping to get a new contract from Pittsburgh. He signed with the Jets this offseason.
Rookies to Watch
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals, QB – The No.1 overall pick and Hesiman winner has some big expectations, but the roster in Arizona is very thin.
Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders, RB – The Raiders were thrilled to draft the former Alabama running back and he should slot in as the top option in Oakland.
David Montgomery, Chicago Bears, RB -The Bears traded RB Jordan Howard to give the prolific Iowa State RB a chance, and if he’s as productive as he was in college, he’ll put up big numbers.
Daniel Jones, New York Giants, QB – Will the Giants end the Eli Manning era if the team or the QB don’t play well? The Giants spent the sixth overall pick on the Duke QB and see him as the future of the franchise.
Dwayne Haskins, Washington Redskins, QB – While he isn’t opening the season as a starter, Haskins could end up under center if QB Case Keenum doesn’t play well for Washington.
Awards Candidates and Predictions
NFL MVP:Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs, QB – Can Mahomes do it two years in a row? He showed he has the talent to pull it off, plus the Chiefs could be even better than last season. Other Threats: Aaron Rodgers, Packers, QB; Alvin Kamara, Saints, RB
Defensive Player of the Year:Aaron Donald, Rams, DL or Von Miller, Broncos, LB – Donald has won this two years in a row and he’s clearly the best defensive player in the league, but Miller could be motivated to show everyone why he was signed to the biggest contract ever for a defensive player back in 2016. Other Threat: Khalil Mack, Bears, LB
Offensive Player of the Year:Alvin Kamara, Saints, RB – Kamara is one of the most dynamic players in the league and with Mark Ingram gone at RB, the Saints could rely on him even more this season. Other Threats: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers, RB; Deandre Hopkins, Texans, WR; Saquon Barkley, Giants, RB
Offensive Rookie of the Year:Josh Jacobs, Raiders, RB – The Raiders are going to feed Jacobs the ball quite a bit and he should have the numbers to win this over Kyler Murray, who could be good on a very bad Cardinals team. Other Threat: Kyler Murray, Cardinals, QB
Defensive Rookie of the Year:Josh Allen, Jaguars, DE – Allen has all the tools to be a dominant defensive end in the NFL: speed, agility, and strength. He should be able to put it all together for a successful first season. Other Threats: Devin Bush, Steelers, LB; Chase Winovich, Patriots, DE
Coach of the Year Award:Bill Belichick, New England Patriots – Despite winning 10 straight division titles, Belichick has won this award just once since 2007. The winner is usually a coach who makes a surprise run to the playoffs. This year, the popular pick is Browns coach Freddie Kitchens. But after winning the Super Bowl with a 41-year-old QB last year and likely winning the division this year with a 42-year-old Tom Brady, Belichick should be in the running for this one. Other Threats: Freddie Kitchens, Browns; Frank Reich, Colts; Matt LaFleur, Packers
NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl Predictions
AFC Division Winners and Wild Cards
AFC East: New England Patriots AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers AFC South: Houston Texans AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs Wild Card Teams: Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars
NFC Division Winners and Wild Cards
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles NFC North: Green Bay Packers NFC South: New Orleans Saints NFC West: Los Angeles Rams Wild Card Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings
AFC Championship Game: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots
NFC Championship Game: New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl Matchup: Kansas City Chiefs (AFC) vs. New Orleans Saints (NFC)