So this a new blog for me. I am going to start ranking the games each week in order of how exciting the game will be to watch. So if all these games were played at the same time, on different channels, these are the order of how I would watch them. Three rules. Number One: Matchups matter. So Offense vs. Defense, Receiver vs. Corner, Left tackle vs. pass rush all matter. Number Two: Star power matters. I’d rather watch a hobbled Russell Wilson than Nick Foles any day. And Number three: Playoff implication matters. Two teams fighting for the playoffs is more fun than two teams fighting for the number one pick. Without further ado, here are the rankings from worst to first.
13) CHIEFS AND JAGUARS-
Blake Bortles is no fun to watch at all. Last year this would have been much better. But this year, the jaguars have turned into the plain garbage time team. They do nothing else all game. Jalen Ramsey turns heads, but still. The Chiefs are getting more fun, but Alex Smith could be slowed, Spencer Ware may not play, and the Chiefs rely on the horizontal pass game a bit too much. Travis Kelce is good, and Marcus Peters could always take one back, but this should be a boring game.
12) BILLS AND SEAHWAKS-
Russell Wilson is hurt. His line sucks. His running game is nonexistent. The only saving graces there are Jimmy Graham doing Jimmy Graham things, and the L.O.B. The Bills are led by Lesean McCoy… who’s hurt. Tyrod Taylor won’t be fun when he gets stopped by Bobby Wagner on every play. Luckily, the Bills defense is getting healthier, and Marcell Dareus is back and beastly. There’s just not enough here to make me interested.
11) JETS AND DOLPHINS-
If this was an unintentional comedy contest, this game would rank much higher. Ryan Fitzpatrick will sail a few throws and get stared down by his receivers. Matt Forte is a guy who thinks he’s a bowling ball, but is actually a pin ball. And all of a sudden, the Jets decide they want to play a top-five defensive tackle at linebacker. Jay Ajayi single handedly pulls this game higher, as does a suddenly impressive Dolphins line, but that’s not enough to make up for the Jets total unwatchability.
10) SAINTS AND 49ERS- If this was the 49ers of a couple years ago, versus the Saints of Drew Brees prime, this would be a lot better. As it is, Colin Kaepernick doesn’t do what he used to, the 49ers defense is just horrible, and the run game gets no push. The Saints have Drew Brees throwing to about 12 different options, and some of them can be exciting. But the defense doesn’t force any turnovers, and the offense commits too many. A win here pushes the Saints back into the playoff conversation, and that’s the only reason this game ranks higher than some of the games below it.
9) LIONS AND VIKINGS-
I wanted to rank this game higher than I did. I really tried and originally I had this game slotted in at number six. The positives? Matthew Stafford is playing extremely well. His receivers are excelling in the possession game. Jim Bob Cooter has a great name. The Vikings defense is scary because of their propensity for turnovers, and because of that it should be able to pin their ears back and get after Stafford in this one too. But something here just feels off. I don’t know whether it’s the stink of the Viking’s offensive line, or the horrible Lions secondary. There’s just an odd feeling that this game is going to fall flat against its high expectations. The playoff seeding race improves the ranking, but not by much.
8) PANTHERS AND RAMS- This game ranks this highly solely because of the star power and positional matchups. Cam Newton. Luke Keuchly. Arron Donald. Todd Gurley. Those names alone will make people tune in. Not to mention those stars play opposite sides of the ball in direct competition with each other. Keuchly will be tasked with slowing up Gurley all afternoon, while Donald is going to be breathing down Newton’s neck from first quarter to fourth. The other intriguing thing is how weaknesses matchup in this game. The Panthers have a poor pass rush, the Rams have a poor line. The Panthers have a bad secondary, the Rams have weak receivers. One team is going to have to make a weakness a strength in this one. If this game had better playoff implications, it would rank above the next game on this list.
7) COWBOYS AND BROWNS-
Cleveland is a lot more fun to watch than people realize. I joined their bandwagon this year even though they’re still winless. Terrelle Pryor is a monster at wide receiver. Duke Johnson and Isiah Crowell are a fun tandem in the backfield. Oh, and Jamie Collins gives them a legitimate difference maker on defense. And the Browns score highly in the unintentional comedy category because of their quarterback situation. The Cowboys are fun because of Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott’s assault on the league in their rookie seasons. The defense doesn’t do much outside of Sean Lee, but the offense makes up for it. This game is dragged down because the Browns are so far out of playoff race.
6) STEELERS AND RAVENS- A rivalry game can only get you so far in these rankings. If Ben Roethlisberger plays and looks healthy, this ranking is going to be low. Landry Jones just doesn’t bring the same kind of fun to a game. There’s that, and the fact that the Ravens are just boring this year. I bet 95% of people outside of Baltimore could not name more than five players on the Ravens excluding Joe Flacco. Mike Wallace can go deep, and Steve Smith is grumpy and mean, so that’s fun. On the other side, Leveon Bell is amazing. Antonio Brown is electric. And Sammie Coates will either drop three passes right off his hands, or catch two 90 yard touchdown passes. There is no in between with him. The Ravens looking to end a losing streak, and both teams fighting for playoff positioning raises this ranking considerably.
5) COLTS AND PACKERS-
This game ranks this high for one reason, and one reason only. The quarterbacks are studs. I mean, I guess you could say that Green Bay has a decent defense. Or maybe that T.Y. Hilton is a stud at receiver. Or maybe even Frank Gore is fun to watch as the slowest running back in the league. But being completely honest, everyone should be hoping this game scores 80 points combined. And it actually might. Three weeks ago, people were worried about bashing Aaron Rodgers for not putting up his typical passing totals. Where are those people now? Rodgers is Green Bay. There’s no one else. The same thing is happening in Indianapolis. Andrew Luck at least has Hilton, but that’s it. His defense might be objectively the worst defense in football. The star power in this game elevates this one to the top five, as does the fact that Green Bay needs a win badly to stay near Dallas in the standings.
4) TITANS AND CHARGERS-
Playoff positioning. Star power. Matchup contrasts. Positional battles. This game has it all. A loss all but assures that the Chargers won’t stay in the playoff picture, while a win keeps them in desperation mode. The Titans are wholly inconsistent, but they are squarely in the race in the AFC South and looking better each week. Star power? Phillip Rivers has to be a dark horse in the MVP conversation. Demarco Murray is front runner for the Comeback Player of the Year. Jatavis Brown and Joey Bosa are near the top of the Defensive Rookie of the Year listings. Plus Melvin Ingram, Marcus Mariots, and Jurrell Casey all bring their massive skillsets to the game. The two teams are extremely different. The Chargers are the high flying offense with the speedy defense. The Titans are ground and pound on offense, and smash-mouth, in-your-face on defense. I wanted to rank this game top three, but the next game on the list edged it because of the potential for rivalry sparks.
3) EAGLES AND GIANTS-
I like this game a lot for both teams. They matchup pretty well on both sides of the ball, and they’re both fighting for playoff positioning this week as well. Fletcher Cox is a monster on the Eagles defensive line, and Brandon Graham is always a threat to lay a monster hit on someone. Same with Rodney Mcleod. On the other side, Ryan Matthews is a jitterbug, and Carson Wentz does rookie things that make watching him interesting. The Giants still have Eli Manning throwing crazy amounts of yards. OBJ is always entertaining, and he has the unintentional comedy category on lock. Plus these two teams just flat out don’t like each other, which makes picking the winner a chore. Both teams are 4-3, and they both need a win to stay in their respective division races. The other games just have better matchups or contrasts for the week.
2) FALCONS AND BUCCANEERS-
Yes, I may be a tad biased in ranking this game so highly. But I’m a sucker for storylines and for offensive shootouts. The Falcons are trying to rid themselves of their past collapses, and improve on their NFC South leading record. The Buccaneers are the team that is consistently on the short side of the stick, and can’t find a way to win. They could easily be 5-2 with a bit more focus. But the main reason to watch this game is the offense. Oh, the offense. Matt Ryan leads the league in passing, while Julio Jones is second in receiving. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are the best running back tandem in the league when healthy. The Falcons can hang 50 on someone any given day. The Buccaneers counter with the biggest loose cannon in the league. Jameis Winston made a throw two weeks ago that went 70 yards through the air. Granted, it went 10 yards too far, but it was still impressive. Jacquizz Rodgers has decided that he doesn’t want to give up his starting spot. And finally, Mike Evans is back to looking like the stud he was two years ago. If the Buccaneers want to stay semi-close in this one, it’ll be because Evans has a monster game. Either way, it should be a shootout.
1) RAIDERS AND BRONCOS-
This game is by far the best game of the week. It has everything you could want in a football game. The winner of this one keeps first place in the AFC West, and will be the two seed in the AFC. The loser falls to 6-3, and will most likely fall behind Kansas City for third place. The good news is that both teams should be able to pull off a playoff spot at the end of the year. You want a contrast in styles? The Raiders might well have the best offense in the league, the Broncos are statistically and objectively the top defense in the league. The Raiders have no defense, the Broncos have no offense. And the specific player matchups? Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree versus Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Shane Ray and Von Miller against Donald Penn and Vadal Alexander. Khalil Mack versus Ty Sambraillo. David Carr versus… well okay Trevor Semien. But still. The game is played in prime time, and should provide plenty of sparks and bad blood for a rivalry that is destined to take off and restore the division to its glory days.