2018 NFL Schedule: League Releases Official Regular-Season Slate

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2018

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. The Eagles won 41-33. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Clear your schedules now, NFL fans: The Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons will open the 2018 NFL regular season on Sept. 6 at Lincoln Financial Field as the reigning Super Bowl champions prepare to raise their first championship banner fresh off a dramatic Super Bowl 52 win over the New England Patriots. 

And that's just the start. 

Following Thursday's schedule release, all 256 games are now set in stone as the league's 32 teams prepare for a fresh slate of football. 

Below, you'll find links to each club's schedule as well as a preview of a few storylines to watch for when the 2018 campaign kicks off. 

         

2018 NFL Key Dates

Thursday, September 6: Regular-Season Opener

Sunday, September 9: Regular-Season Kickoff Weekend

Sunday, December 30: Final Day of Regular Season

Saturday, January 5: NFL Playoffs Begin

Sunday, February 3: Super Bowl 53 (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta) 

            

AFC East 

        

AFC North 

          

AFC South

        

AFC West

          

NFC East

          

NFC North

          

NFC South

        

NFC West

        

Division to Watch: AFC South

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17:  Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars waits for a play on the field during the first half of their game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field on September 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The AFC South has gained a reputation as the least compelling division in football, but the 2018 season could help reverse that narrative. 

For starters, the Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off a revelatory 10-6 finish in 2017 that paved the way for the franchise's third AFC Championship Game appearance. 

Needless to say, they'll be the favorites to take home the division crown again. They wield the NFL's nastiest defense—one that allowed a paltry 16.8 points per game last season—and the offense appears primed for a boost following the arrivals of pass-catchers Donte Moncrief and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. 

However, the Jaguars won't be in for a cakewalk. 

The Houston Texanswho were ravaged by injuries last seasonhave a chance to reclaim their throne atop the AFC South with quarterback Deshaun Watson and edge-rushers J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus all on the mend following abbreviated 2017 campaigns. 

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

Plus, Houston shored up a secondary that ranked 24th against the pass last season by signing safety Tyrann Mathieu and slot cornerback Aaron Colvin in free agency. 

Speaking of big free-agent signings, the Tennessee Titans could make some serious noise if their flurry of offseason activity pays off. 

The 2017 AFC wild-card qualifiers started by firing Mike Mularkey and replacing him with Mike Vrabel—who figures to implement a more dynamic, less predictable offense after hiring former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to oversee play-calling duties. 

To help LaFleur, the Titans brought former New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis aboard to serve in a thunder-and-lightning timeshare with bruiser Derrick Henry.  

"Derrick can get it downhill, press the hole, hit the hole, and really turn it over and outrun people," general manager Jon Robinson said, per Jim Wyatt of the team's official website. "He can stick it up there and run over people. Dion can make people miss. He can kind of get lost in the wash up in there and squirt out, and be good out of the backfield."

The Titans also shored up their secondary by signing Malcolm Butler to a whopping five-year, $61 million deal that includes $30 million guaranteed. 

Considering last year's Titans logged nine wins despite lacking flash, the retooled version has a real chance to propel the franchise back to double-digit wins for the first time since 2008. 

Finally, there are the Indianapolis Colts. 

While last year was defined by Andrew Luck's absence because of ongoing shoulder issues, the three-time Pro Bowler appears poised for a return following an extensive rehabilitation process. 

"I really feel like I've been away from the game of football for a long time—and it's weird," Luck told the team's official website. "I haven't missed a season since I was in fourth grade until last year. And those are weird things to sort of rectify in your mind, and it certainly is causing a lot of motivation from that to get back and have fun."

When he does hit the field, Luck will do so in a fresh scheme captained by new head coach and former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as the Colts look to make a leap after scoring a 30th-ranked 16.4 points per game last season. 

If they can vault into the middle of the pack in that regard, some order should be restored. 

That said, the Colts should continue to take a backseat to the Jaguars, Texans and Titans with their defense a major question mark. 

In other words, Indianapolis will aim to make incremental strides during Reich's first year at the helm before trying to turn the corner as the decade draws to a close. 

            

Most Anticipated Matchup: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Running back Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams carries the ball in front of quarterback Jared Goff #16 in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 10, 2017 in Los
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Carson Wentz's MVP-caliber 2017 season came to a screeching halt last December when he suffered a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams in Southern California. 

This year, Wentz and the Eagles will get a chance to revisit the site of that season-altering injury when they square off against the Rams in Week 15. 

Beyond that, the matchup—a potential NFC Championship Game preview—will give the Rams a chance to prove that they can emerge as the class of the conference one year after the Eagles made a triumphant run to Super Bowl 52. 

And while we can only evaluate things on paper for the time being, L.A. has done a staggering job of replenishing its talent pool with game-changers to challenge the Eagles for NFC superiority. 

The Rams started the offseason by trading for a pair of cornerbacks in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and they made another big splash in late March by pairing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh with All-Pro Aaron Donald. 

With defensive concerns addressed, the Rams shifted their attention to the other side of the ball and replaced Sammy Watkins—who departed for the Kansas City Chiefs—with Brandin Cooks through a trade with the New England Patriots. 

"They've put together what could be the best secondary in the league," The Ringer's Danny Kelly wrote. "They've built what might be the most dominant duo of defensive tackles ever by pairing Suh with Donald. And by adding Cooks, a premier field-stretching deep threat, they've given last year's top scoring offense the potential to get even better. There's risk, sure, but the sky's the limit for how good the Rams can be in 2018."

Given the star power littering their roster, the Rams may very well enter the regular season as odds-on favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. 

But until they prove capable of taking down the Eagles, the kings will stay the kings. 

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