2018 NFL schedule release: SWEET revenge games

Revenge. Glorious revenge. What could possibly be more rewarding than vanquishing a foe by way of expert retaliation? We're talking profound justice, baby!

With the release of the 2018 NFL schedule, we're now privy to a host of matchups that offer the opportunity of glorious payback for teams and players with business to settle. Take this soap opera drama crossed with manly gridiron action and shoot it into in my veins.

Here's what we have to look forward to:

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

Week 1: Thursday, Sept. 6 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

It's a bit obscured by history now, but the Falcons were probably one Julio Jones slip away from knocking off the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles in their own building during the Divisional Playoffs. Let's jump in the time machine, shall we?

So close! The loss was doubly painful for the Falcons, who saw the dream of avenging their all-time horrific Super Bowl LI loss to the Patriots vanish in the cold Philadelphia air one week after an impressive Wild Card Weekend win over the Rams. Atlanta can set the tone for another title run -- not to mention, win a head-to-head tiebreaker -- in the first game of the season.

New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

In which the participants in one of the greatest games in NFL history meet again on a prime-time stage in late October. In a perfect world -- one in which protagonists can achieve cathartic redemption in super-dramatic ways -- this will be the moment where Saints cornerback Marcus Williams steps in front of a Kirk Cousins pass intended for Stefon Diggs and takes it to the house for the game-stealing pick-six. The highlight play won't wipe away Williams' egregious coverage fail in January, but it should at the very least deliver a much-needed 'W' in the man's Twitter mentions. We can all use that sometimes.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Josh McDaniels

Week 5: Thursday, Oct. 4 at 8:20 p.m. ET on Fox/NFL Network

"The rivalry is back on."

Those were the infamous press conference parting words from Colts general manager Chris Ballard, whose team was sent into scramble mode after Josh McDaniels walked away from a deal that was to make him Indy's next head coach. McDaniels opted to remain the offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick in New England, and now the Colts get a chance to stick it to the guy who they thought was their guy. The rivalry comment was a touch melodramatic, sure, but that's what we like 'round these parts. Revenge will be much more feasible for the Colts if Andrew Luck is playing in this game.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16 at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS

There's no harder task in modern professional football than closing out the New England Patriots. The Falcons serve as the most prominent example of this truth, but that shouldn't overshadow what happened last January to the Jaguars. Jacksonville held a 20-10 lead on New England with less than nine minutes to play in the AFC Championship Game, a game in which Tom Brady was playing without Rob Gronkowski, sidelined by a concussion suffered in the first half.

Undaunted, Brady led the Pats back in one of his most underappreciated triumphs. The Jaguars won't have to wait long for a rematch. I can already hear Tony Romo's high-pitched squeals of delight.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Week 2: Thursday, Sept. 13 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NFL Network

Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd. The city of Baltimore is still trying to figure out how it happened. This was the touchdown connection that knocked the Ravens out of the final playoff spot and allowed the Buffalo Bills to advance to the postseason for the first time this century.

One can imagine Terrell Suggs and Co. would like to get up close and personal with Dalton to share their discontent over the incident. Little do they know that the NFL's Glowing Ginger Man will not be intimidated. Not now, not ever.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Anthony Barr

Anthony Barr ruined the Packers' season in Week 6 when he drove Aaron Rodgers into the turf, a hit that resulted in a broken clavicle for the Packers star. Rodgers later explained to Conan O'Brien(!) the aftermath of the play that cost him all but one of Green Bay's final 10 games.

"I looked over at him as I walked off the field," Rodgers said. "Cameras caught me saying something to him, but what they missed was him (giving me the) finger (and the) 'suck-it' sign."

Barr didn't like this.


Sam Bradford vs. Minnesota Vikings

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX

Let's be honest here: Sam Bradford probably shouldn't be too fired up for revenge against anybody. No quarterback in the NFL this decade has made more money, and he's pulled it off without a single playoff start to his ledger. But perhaps one can understand why Bradford might be miffed with a Vikings team that decided to shell out huge dollars for Kirk Cousins rather than retain the quarterback who started their 2017 with a scintillating performance against the Saints in Week 1.

If Bradford should want revenge against anything, it would probably be his knees. But that doesn't feel like a healthy way to go through life.

Dez Bryant vs. Dallas Cowboys

TBD ... but really, all season regardless

As of this writing, Bryant has yet to land with another team, but he's made no secret of his wish to remain in the NFC East so as to provide maximum revenge opportunity against "Garrett guys" and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys. Bryant believes sinister forces conspired to end his storied run in Big D. Peak revenge subplot here, people.

"I won't put no names out, but they know and I want them to know. I know," Bryant told NFL Network's Jane Slater. "I'll shoot them a text message and let them know. Little do they know is, you know, they can wear that "C" all they want to, but in that locker room, they know they run and they talk to. They know who they communicate with. Everybody knows where the real love is at. I'm not throwing anybody under the bus, but that's the difference between me and them."

Please, Dez, feel free to back that Jerrah Bus up anytime between now and September.

Marquette King vs. Oakland Raiders

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16 at 4:05 p.m. ET on CBS

New Raiders coach Jon Gruden released Marquette King because he wasn't a good culture fit with the new look Silver & Black ... at least, that's what we were told. Which sets up the rarest of rare birds: The Kicker Revenge Game(s)!

This isn't just King v. Gruden, however. The gregarious special teams ace clearly rubbed some of his former Oakland teammates the wrong way on his way out the door:

Although we'd love to see them try. Seriously, go ahead guys.

Malcom Butler vs. Bill Belichick

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. ET on CBS

The decision by Bill Belichick to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler for the entirety of Super Bowl LII remains a head-scratching one -- for fans, many Patriots players and Butler himself.

"They gave up on me. F---. It is what it is," Butler said following the loss to the Eagles, per ESPN's Mike Reiss. "I don't know what it was. I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."

The cornerback landed on his feet, signing a fat contract with the Titans, and now he gets his chance to stick it to The Hooded One. Notice how often the Pats come up in this revenge-based exercises? Wonder what that's all about ...

Richard Sherman vs. Seattle Seahawks

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC

Richard Sherman thought he deserved a better ending to his story in Seattle. He was a star there throughout the decade, but age, salary and a serious Achilles injury led to the Seahawks' decision to cut ties with one of the greatest players in franchise history. Sherman's ego was bruised, and he quickly signed with the division-rival 49ers.

Naturally, the outspoken Sherman has thoughts on his former team.

"I think they've kind of lost their way a little bit in terms of how they see players and how they evaluate players," Sherman said after landing with the Niners.

The Seahawks and Niners play twice, but won't see each other until Week 13 on "Sunday Night Football." Ah, yes -- the intoxicating allure of sweet revenge in front of Al, Cris and the world!

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus. Listen to the Around The NFL Podcast, which Dan hosts three times a week.

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