Instant Debate

2016 NFL schedule release: Game you simply can't wait to watch?

The NFL released the 2016 regular-season schedule on Thursday night. And we'll start the coming campaign where we left off last season: Panthers at Broncos on Thursday, September 8. Yep, it's a Super Bowl 50 rematch. But that's certainly not the only eye-catcher on this freshly minted sked -- it might not even be the most enticing game of Week 1. (Can I interest you in Patriots-Cardinals on Sunday Night Football?)

So, this begs the question: Which game are you most looking forward to in the 2016 NFL season?

On Thursday, I ranked the top nine prime-time games on the 2016 schedule, and my No. 1 on that list is my No. 1 overall game: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals -- the opening game of Sunday Night Football.

This is my *way-too-early* Super Bowl pick for the coming season. You can easily make the case that the Patriots and Cardinals have the two best rosters in the game today. Both teams have superb coaches and front offices. And Chandler Jones gets to open the season against the club that just traded him in a blockbuster deal. On national television. In prime time. Yes!

Adding to the excitement, Glendale, Arizona, has turned into a fantastic environment for prime-time games, with its gorgeous stadium and incredible sea of red.

This is the Bizarro Super Bowl 50 matchup we didn't get to see: The two losing teams from Championship Sunday. Tom Brady going against Jones and that Cardinal defense? I'm counting the days. Panthers at Broncos in the season opener has to be the most intriguing game on the schedule. Super Bowl 50 went from being a potential Cam Newton coronation to being one more example of why defenses win championships.

The Broncos bragged about how they stymied Newton after that contest, and Newton gave his critics plenty of ammunition by pouting through his postgame press conference. And need we mention the suggestion that Newton bolted from his media session after allegedly hearing Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. boasting about Denver's strategy of making Newton beat them from the pocket? Nobody has confirmed whether Newton did hear those words, but that game should provide ample motivation for the upcoming prime-time rematch. The game I am most looking forward to is Houston at New England in Week 3. This could easily be a preview of the AFC Championship Game. Bill O'Brien knows the Patriots -- he knows how they think. So does Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

Houston has a good defense, and Lamar Miller will help the running game. You know the Texans are going to be hyped up -- in that past, they did not handle that well when they played in New England. Will it be different this time around? Give me the Super Bowl XLIX rematch in Week 10. This choice is pretty cut and dry: I feel SBXLIX belongs in the top three Super Bowls of all time, and having a rematch so close to that classic -- with so many of the same players involved -- makes this matchup really attractive. Also, keep in mind that both of these teams remain prime contenders in their respective conferences, and we only see these two link up every few seasons because of the schedule formula.

All that said, had Marshawn Lynch not retired this game would've been even more fun. But as it stands, it still tops my list of the best games on the 2016 slate. My eyes are on the Miami Dolphins come Week 1. With a revamped coaching staff and defensive line, I'm curious to see how they do against the Seattle Seahawks. At the beginning of last season, Russell Wilson was under a lot of pressure and the Seahawks' attack struggled -- however, they did become one of the hottest offenses later on.

But my question is ... Can Miami's defense live up to the hype of what the Dolphins have tried to create with Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh? In addition, this is head coach Adam Gase's first game with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is facing one of the best defenses in the league right off the bat. There are a lot of questions surrounding the Fins, but there's also a lot of opportunity for them in their Week 1 road trip to Seattle.

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