For the second straight season we have a full slate of Thursday Night Football games shown on NFL Network, with eight on CBS. This year we couple those fourteen contests with two Saturday games in Week 15 and 16, exclusively on NFLN.
Once again schedule makers decided to mainly pit division rivals on TNF -- all but three games, which take place at the back end of the schedule -- in an effort to build intrigue and importance of the matchups.
There are several highlights to unpack in the TNF calendar, beginning with our opening game in Week 2, which pits AFC West rivals, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. Peyton Manning's health and new offense will be displayed in primetime early in the season and in one of the most difficult places to travel. And who doesn't love a good Ravens-Steelers slugfest early in the season? -- Week 4 also currently sits as Le'Veon Bell's first potential game of the season.
TNF also brings us a bevy of first looks during the 2015 season. From Rex Ryan's return to New York in Week 10 (Jace Amrao better have that date underlined) to a Seahawks-49ers rivalry renewed sans Jim Harbaugh. We'll even get to witness Andre Johnson's return to his home in Houston when the Colts visit the Texans in Week 5.
We could continue to list a host of reasons why this set of primetime affairs makes us giddy, but without further laboring, lets dive into each matchup (all times in eastern):
Andre Johnson's return should be celebrated, but the receiver to watch is T.Y. Hilton. The Colts' 25-year-old wideout is averaging 110 yards per game against the Texans for his career. Last time he was in Houston, Hilton went off for 223 yards on nine catches and a score. Can the Texans slow him down this visit?
This NFC South matchup pits a new coach versus a revamped philosophy. Dan Quinn wants to bring speed and toughness to the Falcons defense and Sean Payton has reformatted his offense around a ground attack. It's always a riot when the Falcons visit the Saints, but this one should be particularly interesting and informative.
This date is circled at least 46 times on Rex Ryan's calendar.
You might whine about this now-annual TNF matchup, but you'll still watch. (And I'll still enjoy it.) Depending on what road the Titans take in the upcoming draft, this game could pit two of the best young, up-and-coming quarterbacks in the NFL.
Diving into reckless speculation: Could Adrian Peterson end up facing his former team on this date? We doubt it.
Still, seeing Teddy Bridgewater battle the Cards' secondary late in the season while both could be angling for a playoff spot will be all kinds of entertaining.
Will this be the first Thursday game for Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? Will the Rams finally be busting through their seemingly ever-present 7-9 fate to rally for a playoff spot?
The Chargers don't play well in the Black Hole and a division game this late in the season always has the chance to make or break someone's season.
Plus, we get to celebrate NFL games sandwiched around the Christmas holiday.
We wrap up with Chip Kelly back playing on a Saturday -- no I'm not saying Philly will revolt and Kelly will quit and return to college mid-season. It's only fitting that we end our slate with an NFC East rivalry that could determine the fate of a tight division once again.