8 Matchups We Can't Wait to See in 2020 NFL Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2020

8 Matchups We Can't Wait to See in 2020 NFL Season

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Those in charge of crafting the NFL schedule face a tall task.

    It's a vast challenge to craft an appetizing prime-time slate while balancing bye weeks, travel schedules, non-NFL venue reservations, potential international play and games at least three days a week for 17 weeks.

    The 2020 season schedule is an even bigger challenge than usual given the potential contingencies in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    And yet, must-see matchups litter the official schedule. Super Bowl contenders, top players and eye-catching storylines elevate a handful of games sure to command the spotlight and go down as some of the season's best.

    Here are the matchups we can't wait to see in 2020.

Patriots at Chiefs (Week 4)

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    The post-Tom Brady New England Patriots are bound to remain a national fixture out of sheer intrigue.

    Will Bill Belichick lean into the idea that he was the main catalyst for success in Foxborough? Will presumed starter Jarrett Stidham, a second-year player with four pass attempts on his resume, turn out to be the next big thing?

    It's impossible to say, but it's going to be thrilling to see Belichick try to solve a riddle by the name of Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.

    While Mahomes and the Chiefs were sitting on a bye to start the playoffs last year, the Patriots were getting ousted by Tennessee. But they met during the regular season in Foxborough, a chess match of a 23-16 win for the Chiefs in which both Brady and Mahomes mustered a single touchdown apiece.

    Mahomes vs. Belichick writes itself, but this should be an early measuring stick to help paint a better picture of the top of the AFC.

Bengals at Redskins (Week 11)

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    The NFL's next wave is always worth putting under a microscope.

    In this sense, it doesn't get much better than when the Cincinnati Bengals visit the Washington Redskins.

    The 2020 draft's first and second picks collide as Joe Burrow leads the charge for the visitors and looks to avoid a pass rush headed up by Chase Young. According to NFL.com's Grant Gordon, this would mark only the 22nd time since 1970 that the first and second picks square off in a game (the No. 2 pick is 14-7).

    Besides the draft spotlight, this game pits massive rebuilders against one another. The Bengals dramatically reshaped the roster to Zac Taylor's liking this offseason, including bringing on free agents like D.J. Reader. The Redskins hired head coach Ron Rivera and overhauled the front office in addition to making roster changes.

    A cross-conference duel between young quarterbacks, top picks and two of the league's more notable rebuilders should serve as a nice showcase for the NFL's future. 

Packers at Saints (Week 3, SNF)

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    Aaron Rodgers tussling with Drew Brees projects as offensive-minded fun.

    Shootout potential aside, both the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints again enter 2020 with Super Bowl aspirations.

    Rodgers put up a 62.0 completion percentage with 26 touchdowns and four interceptions en route to the playoffs, yet Green Bay elected to draft Jordan Love in the first round. There's intrigue chasing the Packers as a first-rounder sits behind a 36-year-old starter.

    As for the Saints, 2020 could very well be Brees' goodbye tour. The 41-year-old posted a 74.3 completion percentage with 27 touchdowns and four interceptions in 2019 while taking the Saints to the playoffs again.

    These two didn't meet a season ago while posting identical 13-3 records. With future Hall of Famers under center and a sense of urgency from both franchises, this could be a playoff preview.

Chiefs at Raiders (Week 11, SNF)

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    The AFC West rivalry between the Kansas City Chiefs and then-Oakland Raiders didn't have a ton of juice last year as the former surged to a Super Bowl win and the latter struggled to 7-9. The Chiefs swept the season series by a combined score of 68-19.

    But the Raiders will make this one more interesting on multiple fronts in 2020, especially as the team makes a new home in Las Vegas.

    Besides the big move for the NFL, the Raiders took an uptick this offseason. Jon Gruden and Co. were once again active in free agency, adding Marcus Mariota behind Derek Carr and beefing up the defense with linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski. In the draft, they used a pair of first-round picks on skill positions in wideout Henry Ruggs III and cornerback Damon Arnette.

    Any game with Mahomes is must-see material given the rarity of what he does at arguably the most entertaining position in sports. That the Raiders will host him in a new stadium during a significant move for the NFL as a whole is about as good of a setup as it gets.

49ers at Rams (Week 12)

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    The Raiders aren't the only team that will play in a new stadium in 2020.

    SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, projects to be ready for the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams, and Sean McVay and Co. will play host to the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers in their new home.

    It's hard to name many better rivalries even without the fun backdrop and the Rams' new logos and jerseys to top it all off.

    While the 49ers swept the season series last year on the way to a 13-3 record and the Super Bowl, it was only by 20-7 and 34-31 outcomes. Where the 49ers figure to be right back in contention after a solid offseason, the Rams should be on the upswing after a dip to 9-7.

    Both teams had notable losses, such as Emmanuel Sanders for the 49ers and Cory Littleton for the Rams. But key additions (San Francisco drafted defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw and wideout Brandon Aiyuk in the first round, for example) and some of the best coaching staffs in football suggest meaningful, highly competitive matchups.

    Ideally, this one will feature major stakes in the NFC West and conference as a whole as two representatives of a deep division put intimate knowledge of one another to use.

Chiefs at Buccaneers (Week 12)

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    This choice wouldn't have made sense back in January or February, but what a stroke of luck for NFL fans that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020.

    The Bucs were the unexpected winners of the Tom Brady sweepstakes this offseason, altering the outlook for the NFL. That's what happens when a team adds arguably the greatest quarterback of all time to a cast of weapons headlined by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, overseen by Bruce Arians—never mind the return of Rob Gronkowski.

    Of the Buccaneers' scheduled opponents, Patrick Mahomes' visit with the Chiefs is by far the most exciting. Besides dueling Brady, Mahomes will have to navigate a pass rush that put up 47 sacks last year (19.5 from breakout star Shaquil Barrett).

    Tampa Bay also has a revamped line in front of Brady via the signing of Joe Haeg and first-round selection of Tristan Wirfs. The Bucs have the juice to make a normally ho-hum cross-conference encounter into a landmark of the 2020 schedule.

Ravens at Texans (Week 2)

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    So they meet again.

    Last year's dance between the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans didn't meet the hype. Eventual MVP Lamar Jackson bullied the Texans in Baltimore, throwing four scores in a 41-7 win.

    Yet it's hard not to love the idea of a rematch. Each team won its respective division last year, put up double-digit win totals and went to the playoffs. And despite last year's head-to-head encounter, Houston won a playoff game while Baltimore took an early bow.

    Both franchises put together notable offseasons too. Baltimore made a nasty defense nastier by trading for Calais Campbell and adding Derek Wolfe in free agency before drafting Patrick Queen in the first round.

    Houston's offseason was a little more interesting given the odd DeAndre Hopkins trade. If nothing else, it'll be fascinating to see the ramifications of the trade on head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterback Deshaun Watson while he works with new weapons David Johnson, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb.

    Given the talent of Jackson and Watson alone, mark these two down for can't-miss AFC matchups for the foreseeable future.

Cowboys at Ravens (Week 13, TNF)

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    Two teams that each classify as must-see football have the potential to create something special together.

    The Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens form one of the NFL's most interesting cross-conference matchups in 2020.

    The Cowboys had another wild offseason. They ended the Jason Garrett era and hired Mike McCarthy, and they managed to retain Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper before adding notables like Gerald McCoy, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Aldon Smith and even Andy Dalton in free agency.

    While the Cowboys had to reset somewhat after stumbling to 8-8, Baltimore looked to build on an MVP performance from Lamar Jackson and strengthen an elite, gritty defense created to stop top-five backs like Ezekiel Elliott.

    Few regular-season matchups can comfortably handle "Super Bowl preview" expectations. But given the personalities, talent and track records, the Ravens' hosting the Cowboys looks like one of the season's marquee showdowns.