The 2021 NFL Season is just 100 days away. Rookie mini-camps are complete and OTA’s are underway. Training Camp will begin in mid-July which will lead us to the beginning of the Pre-season. The annual Hall of Fame game will feature two of the NFL’s most storied franchises in the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. This will lead up to the regular-season opener in Tampa when the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers welcome the Dallas Cowboys to Raymond James Stadium. The season opener will be a good one, but will it be one of the Top Five Best Prime Time games of the 2021 NFL Season? Let’s take a look:
Top Five Primetime NFL Games:
Number One | Week Four | Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New England Patriots
The top primetime game of the season has to be when Tom Brady makes his return to Foxborough and Gillette Stadium to lead the Buccaneers against his former team the New England Patriots. Tickets to that one are already going for thousands of dollars and will only get higher closer to game day. Just how close this game will be is anyone’s guess.
The Bucs are going to be one of the favorites to not only win the NFC but also repeat as Super Bowl champions. The Pats, on the other hand, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and will have their hands full in a tough AFC. They did add several new faces and this team will look a lot different than the 2020 Patriots. They will be better, but the Bucs have Tom Brady and that will be the difference in this one.
The storylines or potential storylines leading up to this one will be entertaining. The main one will be Bill Belichick vs Tom Brady. One of the biggest questions that NFL fans love to debate is who was more responsible for the Pats dynasty: Brady or Belichick?
That is a story for a different time, but that question I am sure will come up and will have sports talk shows talking about it that week. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, the drama surrounding Brady’s return to New England, and the fact that this game is on Sunday Night Football make this the primetime game of the year.
Number Two | Week Two | Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
The next best primetime game of the season matches up Patrick Mahomes vs Lamar Jackson. The 2018 NFL MVP vs the 2019 NFL MVP. Two former league MVPs battling it out once again in prime time. The last time these two teams squared off was last season on Monday Night Football with the Chiefs winning 34-20 in Baltimore. That night Mahomes and the Chiefs outplayed the Jackson and the Ravens. Mahomes was great that night as he passed for 385 yards and threw for 4 touchdowns and rushed for another. Jackson struggled as he was 15/28 for 97 yards and 1 touchdown, while also rushing 9 times for 83 yards.
This season both teams figure to once again be atop the AFC standings. The Chiefs won the AFC West and are the defending AFC Champions after being defeated 31-9 by the Bucs in Super Bowl LV. They will be the favorites to win the West again in 2021. The Ravens are coming off an 11 win season and were defeated by the Buffalo Bills 17-3 in the Divisional round. The AFC North will be like 2020 and will come down to the Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Number Three | Week Five | Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
The third best primetime NFL game of the year is a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game. The Bills will make a return trip back to Arrowhead and look to avenge that 38-24 loss that kept them from making their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994. Josh Allen was outplayed by Patrick Mahomes in that game and finished 28/48 for 287 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception and rushed for 88 yards. Mahomes was his usual self and was 29/38 for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns.
So far this off-season the Chiefs have upgraded their offensive line. Which is no surprise considering how the Bucs dominated them in the Super Bowl. With the upgrades on the line and their explosive offense, the Chiefs will try to become the fourth franchise to reach 3 straight Super Bowls (Miami Dolphins 1971-1973, Buffalo Bills 1990 – 1993, and New England Patriots 2016-2018.)
The Bills on the other hand will try to win the 2nd consecutive AFC East title and try to make their first Super Bowl appearance since Jim Kelly was under center. As long as Josh Allen remains healthy, he should be an MVP candidate and the Bills will be in contention in the AFC.
Number Four | Week One | Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The fourth best primetime game is the season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys are coming off a disappointing 2020 season in which they finished 6-10. The good news for them is that they will be getting Dak Prescott back after he missed 11 games with a dislocated ankle. The bad news is they have to open the season on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions. The Buccaneers will be unveiling their 2nd Super Bowl Championship banner on opening night and will look to get the 2021 season started with a bang.
The Bucs will be one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl this season. They were able to keep all of their core free agents. Of course, these moves might not have been possible if Tom Brady wouldn’t have signed an extension. His extension freed $19 million of cap space that helped the Bucs keep their free agents.
The Cowboys hope to have a better season in 2021. They do have Dak Prescott coming back and that will help them out tremendously. The offense will be good, but the defense for the Cowboys was not good in 2020. If it can improve somewhat the Cowboys could be the favorites in the NFC East.
Number Five | Week 12| Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
The fifth and final best primetime game of the 2021 NFL Season is the first matchup of the season between AFC North Division rivals the Browns and Ravens. Both of these teams are coming off pretty good seasons, as they both made the playoffs in 2020. The Ravens swept the season series last season winning 38-6 in Baltimore in week one, and then winning 47-42 on a Monday night in Cleveland in week 14. Baker Mayfield vs Lamar Jackson on Sunday Night Football will be fun, plus it is the Browns vs the Ravens.
The Browns are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2002 and defeated the Steelers 48-37 in the Wildcard round before losing to the Chiefs in the divisional round 22-17. The Browns made some additions through free agency and the draft and should be the favorites in the AFC North along with the Ravens.
The Ravens made the playoffs for the third straight season and defeated the Tennessee Titans 20-13 in the Wildcard round before losing to the Bills 17-3 in the Divisional round. The Ravens will be good again in 2021 as long as Lamar Jackson stays healthy. Their two matchups with the Browns could determine who wins the division.
As of the NFL schedule right now, these are the 5 biggest prime-time games of the season. Of course, that may change later on in the season due to the NFL’s flexible scheduling.