Updated: December 2018

Key NFL Games for 2018

With NFL teams in training camps around the country, that can only mean one thing – the 2018 regular season is not far away. The season kicks off on Sept. 6 and ends on Dec. 30. Here’s a look at some of the key games that will take place along the way.

 

Atlanta @ Philadelphia, Sept. 6
The 2018 NFL season kicks off with the defending Super Bowl champions taking on Atlanta at home. The Falcons are coming off a 10-6 season and feature one of the NFL’s best offenses with QB Matt Ryan (4,095 yards, 20 TDs in 2017) and WR Julio Jones (1,444 yards receiving). There is also the two-headed running back tandem of Devonta Freeman (865 yards) and Tevin Coleman (628).

 

The problem for Atlanta is they will have to kick off the new season against one of the NFL’s best defenses. The Falcons had a rough go of it in last year’s playoffs against Philadelphia. Atlanta managed just 86 yards on the ground and 281 total in a 15-10 loss to the Eagles.

 

Philadelphia gets the advantage of playing at home in Week 1. The Eagles went 7-1 at Lincoln Financial Field last season. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz should be ready to go for the start of the season.

 

New England @ Jacksonville, Sept. 16
It’s a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game in Week 2. The Jaguars came within a quarter of dethroning the Patriots as perennial AFC champions. New England and quarterback Tom Brady engineered 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points and went on to Super Bowl LII.

 

The key matchup will be Brady and his counterpart, the Jags Blake Bortles. The Jacksonville quarterback had his moments last year, but he also struggled at times. He struggled enough that the Jags considered dumping him and entering the free agent market for a guy like Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum.

 

The Patriots will play this game without wide receiver Julian Edelman, who will be serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. New England also lost WR Brandin Cooks to the Rams in free agency. Playing in Jacksonville against one of the league’s best defenses will be no cake walk for the Patriots.

 

Minnesota @ Philadelphia, Oct. 7
Before the Vikings get a rematch of last year’s divisional round win over New Orleans in late October, Minnesota gets to face its NFC Championship opponent from a year ago – Philadelphia. There will be significant differences this time around specifically at the quarterback position. Carson Wentz will be back running the show for the Eagles and Kirk Cousins is the new guy in Minnesota.

 

Unlike last year, this year’s game shouldn’t be a 38-7 blowout. The Vikings will have Dalvin Cook back to give Minnesota some semblance of a running game. The Eagles defense will be without CB Patrick Robinson who made one of the key plays in that NFL title game win. Robinson is now in New Orleans.

Both teams have outstanding young quarterbacks, strong defenses, and solid running games. This could be midseason’s best game.

New Orleans @ Minnesota, Oct. 28
It’s another rematch of a 2017 postseason game when New Orleans heads to Minnesota where a year ago Vikings QB Case Keenum found WR Stefon Diggs for the game-winning touchdown as time ran out. Minnesota will have a new quarterback this time around. Kirk Cousins, formerly of Washington, takes over the Vikings offense, which will also welcome RB Dalvin Cook back after a knee injury.

 

The Saints have one of the most prolific offenses in the league led by QB Drew Brees. The backfield might be the NFL’s best with Mark Ingram and last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara. The pair combined for over 1,800 yards rushing (Ingram had 1,124) and 16 touchdowns. Kamara finished second on the Saints with 81 receptions for 826 yards.

 

In addition to their successful offense, where the Saints made strides last year was on defense. After finishing 31st in scoring defense in 2016 (28.4 points per game), New Orleans improved to 10th (20.4) last year. Cameron Jordan was among the league leaders in sacks with 13 and the Saints also had the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in CB Marshon Lattimore who had five interceptions.

 

Both teams will be in need of victories. The Saints will play the Rams the following week and will still have games remaining with Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Carolina (twice). Minnesota’s remaining schedule is no easier with games against Green Bay, New England, and Seattle.

 

Green Bay @ New England, Nov. 4
It’s a matchup for the ages. It could be the last time two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks meet in a regular season game. New England’s Tom Brady, at age 41, goes up against Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, who missed most of last season with a broken collarbone. They have played each other only once before back in 2014 when a Rodgers to Randall Cobb completion iced a Packers’ win at Lambeau Field.

 

The Patriots will have wide receiver Julian Edelman back from his early season suspension and the offense should be in full swing by November. Green Bay did upgrade on defense through the draft picking corners Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their first two picks. The problem for the Packers is that they will still be rookies going against what possibly could be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

 

The Sunday night game is in Foxborough too, which is as difficult a place to win as any in the NFL. The Patriots have not lost more than two home games in a single season since 2008 when they went 5-3. Since then, they are 63-9 at Gillette Stadium. It’s big game for both teams as they face serious challenges the rest of the season.

 

Minnesota @ New England, Dec. 2
One of the challenges the Patriots face late in the 2018 season is a visit from the Minnesota Vikings. It is highly likely that these two teams could meet in Super Bowl LIII. With new QB Kirk Cousins under center in Minnesota, the offense should be even better than last season.

 

The Vikings have the kind of defense that can slow down the Patriots. Last year, Minnesota finished first in total defense (275.9 yards per game) and scoring defense (15.8 points per game). They have a devastating pass rush with Everson Griffen (13 sacks) and Danielle Hunter (7). The secondary is one of the league’s finest with corners Trae Waynes (11 pass break ups) and Xavier Rhodes (10).

 

New England is difficult to beat especially at home where they have lost just six games in the past five seasons. The last time the two teams met, Brady connected on 14-of-21 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown and the Patriots ran for 150 yards in a 30-7 victory over the Vikings.

 

Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Rams, Dec. 16
It was one of the premier games of the 2017 season and it will be in 2018 again. It was against the Rams that Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz suffered his season-ending knee injury. It was also when Nick Foles replaced Wentz and led the Eagles to two touchdowns and a victory. The Eagles win gave head coach Doug Pederson and company a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

 

This year, the game is likely to have the same type of magnitude. Wentz should be back in MVP form, but the Rams have upgraded especially on defense. New cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters give defensive coordinator Wade Phillips two lockdown guys. Ndamukong Suh adds to an already deep defensive line that has reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

 

The Rams offense also has the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in running back Todd Gurley and Los Angeles went out in the offseason and grabbed a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Brandin Cooks. By December, the offense should by rolling and the Rams-Eagles game should have some serious playoff implications.

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