The 2021 NFL games The Torch is most anxious to watch


Ashley Landis

The Tampa Bay Bucs’ Tom Brady (12) and Rob Gronkowski (87) return to New England to face the Patriots in week four of the NFL season.

Eighteen weeks. 272 games. The 2021 NFL schedule has finally been released, and here are the games The Torch is most excited to see.

WEEK 1: Week 1 deserves its own little sub-category because there are a few games in the first week that get the NFL season started in an exciting, action-packed way.

Dallas Cowboys @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – “America’s Team” vs. the reigning Super Bowl champions. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott makes his long-awaited return to the gridiron as the ageless wonder Tom Brady raises his record-breaking seventh Super Bowl banner, this time at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. All this to get the season started on Thursday, September 9. It’s hard to ask for a more exciting matchup than that.

Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans – This matchup got much more interesting on June 6, when the Titans acquired superstar wide receiver Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons. Jones will make his Titans debut against the Cardinals, who are going into their second season with a superstar wide receiver of their own in DeAndre Hopkins. Fantasy players are for sure going to love this game, which promises to be an offensive extravaganza.

New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers – The New York Jets made a lot of moves this offseason in an attempt to turn what has been a rudderless franchise for the last decade in the right direction. One of those moves was trading former third overall pick quarterback Sam Darnold… to the Carolina Panthers. Darnold will get a chance to make his former team regret letting him go in his Panthers debut against a completely redesigned Jets team, which includes new head coach Robert Saleh and new quarterback Zach Wilson, who was selected second overall in the NFL draft back in April.

Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs – If somebody five years ago were to say “five years from now, the Cleveland Browns will be a Super Bowl contender,” NFL enthusiasts may have laughed in their face. Now, in week 1 of 2021, the Browns go back to Arrowhead Stadium to battle the Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional round playoff game, which the Browns lost in heartbreaking fashion. It may also be a preview of this year’s AFC championship game. What a time to be alive.

Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints – The last game The Torch will talk about for week 1 is only interesting because of each of these teams’ quarterback question marks. Normally, we’d be looking forward to an electric Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees matchup, but with Brees now retired and Rodgers expressing extreme unhappiness with the Packers organization, nobody really knows who could be playing quarterback for either team in this game.

Every NFC West Divisional Matchup: The Torch won’t talk about every game, but the NFC West is definitely the division to watch this year. Every team in that division has a serious chance at making the playoffs, and even making it past the first round depending on who they go up against.

San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers underperformed last year due to an “injury bug” infestation, but let’s not forget that San Francisco was playing in the Super Bowl just two seasons ago. At full health, this team is in prime position to do serious damage.

Seattle Seahawks – The Seahawks can never be counted out as long as Russell Wilson is playing quarterback. They won the division last year, earning the third seed in the NFC. Seattle hasn’t had a losing season as long as Russell Wilson has been their quarterback, and there’s no reason to believe that streak ends in 2021.

Los Angeles Rams – The Rams have one of the best defenses in football and just made a drastic improvement at the quarterback position by trading for Matthew Stafford this offseason. If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play for the Green Bay Packers this year, the Rams may be the team with the best chance to dethrone the Buccaneers in the NFC.

Arizona Cardinals – One of the Cardinals’ biggest problems last season was defense, and they made a considerable effort this year to fix that problem. The Cardinals selected athletic linebacker Zaven Collins 16th overall in the draft this year, and added veteran defensive lineman JJ Watt to pair with Pro Bowl pass rusher Chandler Jones. Having arguably the best receiver in the league in DeAndre Hopkins and a nice, young quarterback in Kyler Murray, a losing record in the desert this season would surely be disappointing. 

Legends Return:  In week 4, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will return to Foxboro, Mass. for the first time since leaving the New England Patriots. There’s no doubt the NFL schedule makers had that matchup circled for Sunday Night Football. That’s called “must-see TV.” In week 9, current Patriots quarterback Cam Newton will return to Charlotte, N.C. for the first time since leaving the Carolina Panthers. Whether Newton will be starting for the Patriots in this game is not definite, as the Patriots did draft Alabama quarterback Mac Jones 15th overall in April, but NFL fans can hope that “Super-Cam” will get to play against his former squad, which he led to the Super Bowl back in 2015. 

Trevor Lawrence: The new face of the franchise for the Jacksonville Jaguars has a couple of marquee matchups this season. In week 4, “T-Law” and the Jags will travel north to Cincinnati where the 2021 number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence will battle the 2020 number one overall pick Joe Burrow on Thursday Night Football. Later, in week 16, Lawrence and the Jags will take on Zach Wilson and the Jets in New York for a clash of the 2021 number one and number two overall picks. 

Kansas City Chiefs: The reigning AFC Champs will undeniably be put to the test in the regular season in order to defend their title. The Torch already discussed the week 1 matchup against Cleveland, so first we’ll talk about the week 2 matchup in Baltimore. Patrick Mahomes vs. Lamar Jackson under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. The Chiefs have been Lamar Jackson’s kryptonite so far in his young career as he’s lost all three of his career meetings with Mahomes and company. Will this be the year that streak ends? Three weeks later, the Chiefs have another Sunday Night Football game, this time against the Buffalo Bills. This game could decide who will “run the table” in the AFC with two of the most electric offenses in football sure to put on a show on national television. 

Games OH Students are Excited For: The Torch went around Olympic Heights asking students which games they were most excited to see in 2021. Here’s what they said:

Sophomore Mason Silverstein, a die-hard Browns fan, said he’s looking forward to the Browns’ week 1 matchup against the Chiefs. He told The Torch, “I’m excited to see a rematch and see how both teams improved or regressed during the offseason. Go Browns!” 

Sophomore Cameron Rachlin, a Giants fan, told The Torch he’s excited for the Giants vs Dolphins game in Miami on December 5, because he’ll be in attendance at Hard Rock Stadium. The NFL announced that all stadiums would be at full capacity this season, and commissioner Roger Goodell has been very outspoken about his eagerness to have fans back this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers fan Ryan Rosen said he can’t wait for the Steelers’ week 16 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, commenting, “I want to see the Steelers get revenge on the Browns for beating us in the playoffs last year.” He’s referring to the 48-37 electrifying win in the wild card round last season where the underdog Browns took down the Steelers in front of their home crowd. Needless to say there are some hard feelings between those bitter division rivals.