NFL Sunday Night Football schedule for 2015

2015 Sunday Night Football schedule

The Sunday Night Football schedule kicks off in New England and is loaded with top matchups.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released the full schedule for the upcoming 2015 NFL season, which means we know the primetime matchups for Sunday Night Football. Typically some of the best matchups on the schedule (especially with flex scheduling), Sunday Night Football might not be as well-known a phrase as Monday Night Football, but this year’s schedule confirms there’s plenty of note for your Sunday nights.

As usual, the season opener will be a special Thursday edition of Sunday Night Football (which always confuses at least a few people), taking place on Sept. 10. That features the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The night game on Thanksgiving will also be a Sunday Night Football presentation, meaning there are 18 games of that type this coming season.

Last season, there weren’t the most competitive matchups, at least early in the season, but they did tell us a lot about how the season would go. The Patriots were dominant, the Dallas Cowboys beat down the New Orleans Saints and the Denver Broncos embarrassed the San Francisco 49ers all in the national spotlight.

Here’s the complete schedule for the season. As usual, flex scheduling rules will apply, so every game after Week 4 is tentative. All games start at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on NBC.

Week 1, Sept. 10 (Thursday season opener)

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

Week 1, Sept. 13

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Week 2, Sept. 20

Seatle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Week 3, Sept. 27

Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions

Week 4, Oct. 4

Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints

Week 5, Oct. 11

San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants

Week 6, Oct. 18

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

Week 7, Oct. 25

Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers

Week 8, Nov. 1

Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos

Week 9, Nov. 8

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Week 10, Nov. 15

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Week 11, Nov. 22

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers

Week 11, Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving)

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

Week 12, Nov. 29

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

Week 13, Dec. 6

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 14, Dec. 13

Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

Week 15, Dec. 20

Cincinnati Bengals at San Francisco 49ers

Week 16, Dec. 27

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

In this Storystream

2015 NFL schedule release: League reveals complete slate of 256 games

View all 11 stories

The 15 best NFL games of 2015

NFL schedule 2015: The 15 best games of the season

The full schedule for the 2015 regular season is out and we’ve got 15 games you should definitely pay attention to.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There are 256 regular season games in the NFL, and while there are plenty of those worth watching, it’s important to mark your calendars for some of the really intriguing matchups. The NFL released the full schedule for the 2015 season on Tuesday, giving dates and times to the games we already knew were coming.

Obviously, such a list will feature a lot of talk about the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and the other elite teams in the league. Of course we’ll want to see how the defending Super Bowl champions are looking, and Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning, so you can pretty much circle 16 games there. But other than simply watching the elite face the elite, there are plenty of underlying stories and intrigue to make one matchup better than another.

So we’re going to look at the 15 best matchups of the upcoming season — you can bet each of these games are going to be worth watching, one way or the other.

Week 1: New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Patriots will play host to the season opener at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 10. This is the first real, meaningful football action since February. It really doesn’t matter who they’re playing — no offense to the Steelers. The Patriots have been one of the most successful NFL dynasties ever, but many perceive their window as closing with Tom Brady getting older. Will they have another successful run? It starts here, if so.

Week 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Tennessee Titans

Let’s not beat around the bush — the Buccaneers are not likely to enter the 2015 season with Mike Glennon as the starting quarterback. It’s just not going to happen. On top of that, they didn’t manage to sign a veteran in free agency who could realistically take over the job. They’ll likely need to draft a rookie to do the duty, and smart money is on that being one of Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, taken with the first overall pick. This will be the first chance to see said quarterback in action, which means it’s absolutely worth watching.

Week 3: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

The 49ers will be an interesting team to watch all season. The crazy amount of nonsense that happened this offseason cannot be overstated, with drama all over the front office and across the roster. Just seeing what they look like should be a goal of everyone watching, but the first game against the Cardinals is interesting for one reason in particular: defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. He joined the 49ers as a free agent and if you weren’t aware, his trash-talking game is elite. Will he trash talk his former team, and better yet, will he back it up on the field?

Week 12: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

The defending Super Bowl champs actually have a rather easy-looking schedule as far as home games are concerned. But on the road, they’ve got several tough matchups, and none tougher than this game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos on Nov. 29 on NBC. Brady vs. Manning is worth at least one more go-around, isn’t it? Of course it is.

Week 6: Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers

This is the second 49ers game appearing on this list and it has nothing to do with the 49ers being a good team (they very well could be). San Francisco had a messy, messy divorce from head coach Jim Harbaugh this offseason and the Baltimore Ravens are coached by Jim’s brother John Harbaugh. Do you think Jim will attend, and if so, will he be wearing Ravens gear? The game is worth watching for that alone — this is also the first meaningful game between the two teams since the Ravens beat the 49ers in Super Bowl 47.

Week 2: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles

The NFC East has been in a state of constant flux for a while now, with each team taking a turn at the helm. When it finally looked like the Eagles had found their stride and were poised to take a dominant place in the division heading into this past season, the Cowboys remembered that they had some quality players and quickly dispelled that notion. The division and a high seed in the conference were up for grabs in Week 17 last season. Seeing which of these two teams comes out on top early should be plenty interesting.

Week 2: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Aside from the divisional matchups against the 49ers, Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks have what appears to be a relatively easy schedule, at least judging by last season. But they do have a handful of tough games, and their rather strong home-field advantage won’t come into play for those games. The biggest one is this away game against the Packers, a team with legitimate claim to the top spot in the NFC on paper. This is also a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship and the infamous Fail Mary game still hangs over this rivalry. This isn’t one to miss.

Week 6: New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

This qualifies as one of those “these guys are both really good” games. The Colts are among the NFL’s elite but have had something missing, preventing them from really getting over on the top teams. Indianapolis made several positive moves this offseason, but this game against the Patriots will be a true measuring stick, on Oct. 18 at Lucas Oil Stadium on NBC. They need to prove they can be the top team in the AFC before they start worrying about the Super Bowl.

Week 2: Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots

This is the last time the Patriots appear on this list — we promise. No division did as much as the AFC East to improve this offseason. The Patriots did what the Patriots do and were relatively quiet, but the Bills, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins all made moves to try and close the gap with the Patriots. But not only did Buffalo make a lot of quality moves, they also brought in Rex Ryan to be their new head coach. That immediately intensifies the rivalry with the Patriots as Ryan is … well, he’s not a fan of those guys, you know? Pay attention to the leadup to this game as much as the game itself.

Week 9: Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets

Keeping along the same lines, see what Ryan has to say in the week leading up to this Thursday Night Football game against his former team. There’s plenty of room for a rivalry there, not to mention the fact that it’s totally wide open behind the Patriots in this division. Either one of these two teams (or the Dolphins) could step into the No. 2 role and push the Patriots. This game could be a good determining factor in figuring out which team that will be.

Week 14: Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles

Revenge is so sweet. Thanks to the scheduling gods, the East divisions are playing each other this season and the Bills are one of the Eagles’ home opponents. Fans in Philly have been known to boo Santa Claus, so how do you think the locals at Lincoln Financial Field will welcome LeSean McCoy back to the City of Brotherly Love? On the field, it will be the ultimate battleground to prove which franchise made the right choice in changing up their backfield — the Eagles with DeMarco Murray, or the Bills with McCoy.

Week 3: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins “won” free agency. They signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a massive contract, signed tight end Jordan Cameron and acquired wide receiver Kenny Stills from the New Orleans Saints. History has not been kind to teams that “win” free agency by any means, but there’s a lot of room for competition in the AFC East. This is the first big test for the Dolphins, going up against a Bills team that has gone all-in on contention.

Week 5: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens

The AFC North was probably the most exciting division in football last season. The division was a four-team race for much of the season, and at the end of it all, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals all made it into the playoffs. It was the Browns who fell off the fastest. But the Browns made some quality moves this offseason, bringing in wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, cornerback Tramon Williams, wide receiver Brian Hartline and quarterback Josh McCown. Can they compete in the division? They’ll find out early with this matchup.

Week 8: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers

As noted above, the AFC North was plenty exciting last year, and the Bengals and Steelers were at the top of it. Seeing which of these teams comes out on top the first time they meet is plenty exciting. This could very well be a two-team race if the Browns can’t keep up. The Ravens are a factor but smart money is on these two teams battling for the division lead.

Week 3: Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers

There are 19 Super Bowl rematches on this year’s schedule, and this is the one that started it all — Super Bowl I on Jan. 15, 1967. Of course, it was merely called the AFL-NFL World Championship at the time when the Packers beat the Chiefs, 35-10, and it would take a few more years until the game got the full super-sized treatment that it deserves. Being that this season is the 50th game in Super Bowl history, it’s only fitting that we recognize this Monday Night Football matchup on ESPN as one of the must-see contests on the league’s 2015 schedule.

★★★

SB Nation presents:The worst games of the 2015 NFL season

In this Storystream

2015 NFL schedule release: League reveals complete slate of 256 games

View all 11 stories

Complete Thursday Night Football schedule

2015 Thursday Night Football schedule

More dual broadcasts on Thursday evening.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released the full Thursday Night Football schedule for the 2015 season. The schedule includes 16 games that will be split between two networks.

While the first game of the season falls on Thursday, Sept. 10, that game is actually a Thursday night edition of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Accordingly, the first game of the Thursday Night Football schedule arrives in Week 2 whenthe Denver Broncos travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs.

The first eight games of the Thursday night package will air on both CBS and the NFL Netowrk for the second consecutive year. Starting with Week 9, the broadcast shifts over to the NFL Network alone, the home for Thursday Night Football since the package originally debuted in 2006. The games, which typically begin at 8:25 p.m. ET, will feature Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on the game call with Tracy Wolfson on the sideline.

Here’s the complete Thursday schedule for 2015 (all times ET):

Week 2, Sept. 17

Broncos vs. Chiefs, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 3, Sept. 24

Washington vs. Giants, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 4, Oct. 1

Ravens vs. Steelers, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 5, Oct. 8

Colts vs. Texans, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 6, Oct. 15

Falcons vs. Saints, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 7, Oct. 22

Seahawks vs. 49ers, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 8, Oct. 29

Dolphins vs. Patriots, 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network

Week 9, Nov. 5

Browns at Bengals, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 10, Nov. 12

Bills vs. Jets, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 11, Nov. 19

Titans vs. Jaguars, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 12, Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving)

Eagles vs. Lions, 12:30 p.m., CBS

Panthers at Cowboys, 4:30 p.m., FOX

Bears at Packers, 8:30 p.m., NBC

Week 13, Dec. 3

Packers vs. Lions, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 14, Dec. 10

Vikings vs. Cardinals, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 15, Dec. 17

Buccaneers vs. Rams, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 16, Dec. 24

Chargers vs. Raiders, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

Week 16, Dec. 26

Washington vs. Eagles, 8:25 p.m., NFL Network

In this Storystream

2015 NFL schedule release: League reveals complete slate of 256 games

View all 11 stories

2015 Monday Night Football schedule

2015 Monday Night Football schedule

Monday Night Football is typically the most anticipated game each week. Here’s a look at the full schedule for 2015’s slate of Monday matchups.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL released the official schedule for the 2015 season on Tuesday, meaning we now know which teams get the good primetime games. ESPN will be televising the Monday Night Football games for the 10th year in a row this coming season.

Monday night games are typically the most anticipated matchup of any given week, though there are also primetime games in Sunday Night Football and Thursday features primetime games as well. Still, aside from flex scheduling coming in and playing a part, Monday Night Football is still king.

Last year’s slate of Monday Night Football games featured some excellent matchups, from the exciting tilt between the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 to the showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos, two playoff teams fighting for seeding, in Week 16. There are no Monday games in the final week of the season.

Here is the complete Monday schedule for 2015. Week 1 features the traditional double-header and all games after that will start at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Online streaming is available at WatchESPN.

Week 1, Sept. 14

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons, 7:10 p.m.

Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers, 10:20 p.m.

Week 2, Sept. 21

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts

Week 3, Sept. 28

Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers

Week 4, Oct. 5

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

Week 5, Oct. 12

Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers

Week 6, Oct. 19

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

Week 7, Oct. 26

Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals

Week 8, Nov. 2

Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers

Week 9, Nov. 9

Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers

Week 10, Nov. 16

Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals

Week 11, Nov. 23

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Week 12, Nov. 30

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns

Week 13, Dec. 7

Dallas Cowboys at Washington

Week 14, Dec. 14

New York Giants at Miami Dolphins

Week 15, Dec. 21

Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints

Week 16, Dec. 28

Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos

In this Storystream

2015 NFL schedule release: League reveals complete slate of 256 games

View all 11 stories

The 4 biggest schedule injustices per Twitter

The 4 biggest injustices of the 2015 NFL schedule according to Twitter

Schedule anger, 140 characters at a time.

If there’s one thing for certain about the unveiling of the official 2015 NFL schedule, it’s this: your team got screwed. Be it a tough strength of schedule, an early-season bye week, an inequitable lack of primetime games or too many cross-country flights, the NFL found some way to stack the deck against your beloved [fill in the blank]. Your city did something to personally piss off Roger Goodell, and he and the rest of his spiteful lackeys spent months finding just the right schedule equation to keep you out of the playoffs.

But some schedule stacking is of course more egregious than others. In order to zero in on the most glaring of these injustices, we went to our most reliable source: Angry People on Twitter.

The NFL’s screwing over the champs with an early bye.

The Patriots drew the dreaded Week 4 bye, which means only one thing:

The #NFL doing their best to screw the #Patriots with a Week 4 Bye! http://t.co/tjGWnJXjGw

— Will D. (@WAD1980) April 21, 2015

Week 4 bye is an obvious result of Pats fans showing shade at @nflcommish

— Lobstabred (@Lobstabred) April 22, 2015

Such a tough break for the Pats, man. That early-season bye has historically been such a burden to Tom Bra…

The two other times that Tom Brady has had a Week 5 (or earlier) Bye Week, the Patriots have gone 14-2 (2004, 2010)

— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) April 22, 2015

Oh. Never mind.

The Steelers might as well just throw in the Terrible Towel now.

Basic strength of schedule rankings — which are based solely on opponent records from the previous year — are an almost meaningless statistic in a league which sees massive turnover every offseason. But that hasn’t stopped fans of in Pittsburgh from whining about the Steelers’ top-ranked SOS.

Nice to see the steelers get screwed by the nfl and have the toughest schedule for 2015 #fact

— Liam Hanley (@BigLi23) April 22, 2015

Goodell loves Belichick: Pats allegedly open with Steelers, who will be without star LeVeon Bell. Of course.

— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) April 21, 2015

#Steelers Toughest schedule in the league in 2015 and 3 of the last 4 on the road. Did a Rooney dump a Goodell?

— Jon Linder (@LinderShowMiami) April 22, 2015

In fairness, the Steelers’ schedule is daunting. They open in New England in primetime, have two trips to the West Coast and drew out-of-conference games against Arizona and Seattle.

Apparently Troy and Ike got a look at the schedule a week or so ago. #Steelers

— David Todd (@DavidMTodd) April 22, 2015

The Bills deserve a home primetime game, dammit!

The folks in Buffalo were really hoping for a night game in Ralph Wilson.

If we seriously don’t get a home Primetime game this season… #Bills

— Alex Clouden (@alexclouden84) April 21, 2015

If the Bills don’t get a home prime time game… pic.twitter.com/TPxZdGmFV1

— Garret Wolowski (@garretw5) April 21, 2015

The good news: the Bills are playing in two primetime games in 2015. The bad news: one’s in New England and the other’s in New Jersey.

2 Bills Primetime games and BOTH are on the road. I hate the league office so much.

— AKA Slippery Pete (@HoverHand14) April 21, 2015

@MatthewFairburn Not including the playoffs of course

— Matt Crompton (@matt_crompton) April 22, 2015

Bless your heart.

Nobody wants to watch the Packers slaughter the Bears on Thanksgiving.

There’s two camps of upset people here: Bears fans tired of playing in Lambeau in primetime and general NFL fans who’d rather spend their holiday doing something other than watch Jordy Nelson run 60-yard sprints through Chicago’s secondary.

(The Packers won by a combined score of 93-31 in the two games last season, including a 41-point curb stomping in Green Bay.)

#NFLScheduleRelease Bears at Packers on Thanksgiving would mean 7 straight primetime kickoffs for the 2 rivals in games played at Lambeau,

— Mitchell McLaughlin (@McLaughlinMitch) April 21, 2015

Such bs that the Bears never get primetime at home against the packers

— Michael (@mikey_rascop13) April 21, 2015

Bears/Packers on Thanksgiving night? Wasn’t last year’s national TV laugh-riots enough to never schedule the Bears in primetime again??

— Redrick Terry (@RedrickT) April 21, 2015

But hey, at least you’ll be able to watch Brett Favre’s awkward jersey retirement!

If Favre’s number is retired Thanksgiving night, maybe Packers can hold another ceremony later in season for it to come out of retirement.

— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) April 21, 2015

In this Storystream

2015 NFL schedule release: League reveals complete slate of 256 games

View all 11 stories

How important are early season NFL games?

NFL schedule 2015: How important are early season games?

If you want to make the NFL playoffs, it’s crucial to get off to a fast start.

Elsa/Getty Images

Breathe, relax, the NFL has finally released its 2015 schedule. By now you probably have all your road trips planned, and even have started thinking about those tailgate recipes for the home games. And most importantly, you’ve got an idea of the actual path your team has to take to get to the NFL postseason.

So how critical is navigating the early slate of games and getting off to a good start during the first month? If you want to play meaningful games in January and are hoping to book that trip to Levi’s Stadium in February, those first couple of opponents are more important than you might think.

Let’s start with the modest goal of simply making the playoffs. Since playoff expansion in 1990, only 25 percent of teams that started 0-1 reached the postseason. That may seem like a small number, but there is hope if you look at recent trends. In each of the last five seasons, at least four teams that lost their first game ended up in the playoffs, including five last year (Colts, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, Ravens).

On the other hand, winning your first game is obviously not only a nice confidence booster, but it does a pretty good job of improving your postseason odds. More than half of the teams since 1990 that started the season with a win have made the playoffs. Basically, if you’re celebrating after your team’s first game of the season, you’ve got a 50-50 chance to watch it in the postseason. Last year, seven of the 16 Week 1 winners were playoff teams.

Things start to get dicey, however, if you can’t turn it around after losing that first game. Just 12 percent of teams since 1990 that began the season 0-2 reached the playoffs. The only squads in the last five years to pull off that feat were the Colts last year and the Panthers in 2013.

And if you happen to lose more than two games in a row to start the season, well … you can probably start making vacation plans for that golf trip to Florida or that Colorado skiing adventure in January. The only teams since playoff expansion to reach the postseason after starting 0-3 or worse are the 1998 Bills, 1995 Lions and 1992 Chargers. That San Diego team remains the only one to lose its first four games and still make the playoffs.

Now, perhaps you have bigger aspirations, like winning the Super Bowl. If that’s your goal, a Week 1 win becomes even more crucial. Of the previous 49 Super Bowl winners, 39 started 1-0, nine lost their first game and one began the season with a tie (1967 Packers).

But you don’t have to be too nervous yet about a game that is nearly five months away. The expanded playoff format has given teams a much better shot of not only reaching the postseason after a Week 1 stumble, but also winning the big game. Six of the last 14 Super Bowl winners started 0-1 or worse, including last year’s champion, the New England Patriots.

Even an 0-2 start is not a death knell. Three Super Bowl champs began the season with a losing streak — the 2007 Giants, 2001 Patriots and 1993 Cowboys. So if you lose your first two games, you can still win the Super Bowl if David Tyree catches a ball on his helmet, or you have the greatest postseason quarterback of all time in his prime and three Hall of Famers on offense.

The 16-game NFL schedule does not give teams many chances to slip up and remain playoff contenders. Although there have been some recent underdogs that have gotten off to slow starts and still made noise in the postseason, the historical trends favor teams that build momentum by winning those games in September.

Bengals, Cardinals flexed to SNF in Week 11

NFL moves Bengals-Cardinals Week 11 matchup to Sunday night

The game will replace the Chiefs and Chargers in the first flex move of the season.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals have played their way into primetime yet again. In the NFL’s first schedule flex of the season, the Bengals and Cardinals will play a Sunday Night Football matchup on Nov. 22, with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers moving back to 4:05 p.m. ET.

After a 7-0 start achieved outside the national spotlight, the Bengals will now get plenty of attention down the stretch. They play the Cleveland Browns this Thursday, the Houston Texans on Monday, Nov. 16, and then go to Sunday night against Arizona. They are also scheduled for primetime games in December against the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.

That may not be good news for the Bengals, who are just 7-15 in primetime since Marvin Lewis took over as coach in 2003, and 3-7 with Andy Dalton at quarterback.

The Cardinals will continue to get attention after their 6-2 start. They’ve already beaten the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football, and will get back-to-back Sunday night games on Nov. 15 against the Seattle Seahawks and the following week against the Bengals. They also host the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, Dec. 10.

2016 NFL schedule leaks are happening

2016 NFL schedule leaks reveal Panthers-Broncos rematch to open the season

We’ll get a Super Bowl rematch for the season opener.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL season is almost upon us … we just have several months, the NFL Draft, organized team activities, various minicamps of both voluntary and mandatory nature, training camp proper and finally the preseason before the regular season. The NFL is really milking its announcements in between all of those events though, holding a three-hour schedule release show on Thursday to announce the full regular season schedule.

But with that show hours away, some leaks are starting to come out. As expected, the Denver Broncos will play host to the Carolina Panthers next season, but their game will be the season opener on Thursday Night Football to open the season, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.

The Broncos took down the Panthers in the Super Bowl, and it will be the first proper look at Cam Newton since he struggled in the big game and struggled even further in the press conference afterward.

Below, we’re going to compile all the schedule leaks that come out prior to the actual show getting underway:

Minnesota opens new stadium against old rivals

The Minnesota Vikings will play a road game in Week 1, because they will play host to the NFC North rival Green Bay Packers in their new stadium, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN. A home opener against the Packers is probably the best way the Vikings could open U.S. Bank Stadium, provided they do get away with a win.

On top of that, the Packers will play host to the Bears on Thursday Night Football on Oct. 20, also according to Demovsky.

It seems like that game against the Packers may be a prime time game and if it is, they’ll get another one in Week 4 when they host the New York Giants, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. The Vikings will also have a prime time game against the Chicago Bears on the road on Halloween, according to Ben Goessling of ESPN. Finally, the Vikings will take on the Detroit Lions on the road to kick off a Thanksgiving tripleheader, according to Pro Football Talk.

Washington gets prime time in Week 1

Washington will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football in Week 1, according to Chick Hernandez of CSN Washington. Washington would like to be in the news a lot less given how much turmoil they’ve had over the last several seasons, but it’s a high profile start to their season.

Jets will open at home, go on tough road trip

The New York Jets will open their regular season on Sept. 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com. It will be a home game for the Jets, who will then play six of their next eight games on the road, a potentially brutal start to their season.

Rex Ryan will face former team in Week 17, and more Jets misery

Not only do the Jets have the tough road trip mentioned above, but they also have back-to-back short weeks in December, when they host the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 5, visit the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 11 and host the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 17. Finally, the Jets will close out their regular season at home against Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, all according to Slater.

Broncos among the teams on Christmas Day

The Kansas City Chiefs will play host to the Broncos on Christmas Day, according to MIke Klis of 9News. It’s one of two games on Christmas, and will be the evening matchup.

Whoops! Patriots schedule unveiled early

Good one, NFL Network.

#Patriots full schedule leaked by @nflnetwork nice job guys #NFLScheduleReleasepic.twitter.com/RF0pfVxKQu

— Mike Procopio (@mikeprocopio) April 14, 2016

* * *

NFL Draft:The biggest game-changers available this year

Be sure to subscribe to SB Nation’s YouTube channel for highlight videos, features, analysis and more

Full NFL schedule released

NFL schedule 2016: Dates and times for the regular season

The NFL schedule is here. Football is coming.

The NFL officially announced the full schedule for the 2016 regular season on Thursday, holding a three-hour show in prime time for the occasion. The biggest news was that the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos would be hosting the team they beat to earn that title — the Carolina Panthers — in the season opener. Usually, the Super Bowl rematch is saved for later in the season, but those two teams will play each other on the first Thursday Night Football of the year.

Many thought the Broncos could wind up opening against the Houston Texans, the team that signed Brock Osweiler on the free agent market this offseason. Osweiler was the heir apparent to Peyton Manning, but the Broncos didn’t want to overpay him and had to use the franchise tag on linebacker Von Miller. As such, Osweiler hit the market and the Texans nabbed him.

But there are plenty of other interesting things to consider with this schedule. The Minnesota Vikings will be opening up a new stadium, and they’ll do it in a big way when they host the Green Bay Packers in Week 2. That could be huge, and you can bet Green Bay will have all the motivation they need to christen the place.

2016 NFL SCHEDULE
GAME Time (ET) TV
WEEK 1
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos 8:30p NBC
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons 1:00p FOX
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p CBS
Chicago Bears at Houston Texans 1:00p FOX
Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p FOX
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs 1:00p CBS
Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints 1:00p FOX
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets 1:00p CBS
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles 1:00p CBS
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans 1:00p FOX
Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks 4:05p CBS
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys 4:25p FOX
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts 4:25p FOX
New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals 8:30p NBC
Monday, September 12, 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington 7:10p ESPN
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers 10:20p ESPN
WEEK 2
Thursday, September 15, 2016
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills 8:25p CBS/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, September 18, 2016
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers 1:00p FOX
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns 1:00p CBS
Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions 1:00p CBS
Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans 1:00p CBS
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots 1:00p CBS
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants 1:00p FOX
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00p CBS
Dallas Cowboys at Washington 1:00p FOX
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals 4:05p FOX
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams 4:05p FOX
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos 4:25p CBS
Atlanta Falcons at Oakland Raiders 4:25p CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers 4:25p CBS
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings 8:30p NBC
Monday, September 19, 2016
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears 8:30p ESPN
WEEK 3
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Houston Texans at New England Patriots 8:25p CBS/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills 1:00p FOX
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers 1:00p FOX
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00p CBS
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers 1:00p FOX
Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p CBS
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins 1:00p CBS
Washington at New York Giants 1:00p FOX
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans 1:00p CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks 4:05p FOX
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4:05p FOX
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts 4:25p CBS
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs 4:25p CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles 4:25p CBS
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys 8:30p NBC
Monday, September 26, 2016
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints 8:30p ESPN
WEEK 4
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals 8:25p NFLN
Sunday, October 02, 2016
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (London) 9:30a CBS
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons 1:00p FOX
Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p CBS
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears 1:00p FOX
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans 1:00p CBS
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots 1:00p CBS
Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets 1:00p FOX
Cleveland Browns at Washington 1:00p CBS
Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4:05p CBS
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals 4:25p FOX
New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers 4:25p FOX
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers 4:25p FOX
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers 8:30p NBC
Monday, October 03, 2016
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Green Bay, Philadelphia
WEEK 5
Thursday, October 06, 2016
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers 8:25p CBS/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, October 09, 2016
Washington at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p FOX
New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns 1:00p CBS
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions 1:00p FOX
Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts 1:00p FOX
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins 1:00p CBS
Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings 1:00p CBS
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00p CBS
Atlanta Falcons at Denver Broncos 4:05p FOX
Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys 4:25p CBS
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams 4:25p CBS
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders 4:25p CBS
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers * 8:30p NBC
Monday, October 10, 2016
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle
WEEK 6
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers 8:25p CBS/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, October 16, 2016
San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills 1:00p FOX
Jacksonville Jaguars at Chicago Bears 1:00p CBS
Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions 1:00p FOX
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins 1:00p CBS
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots 1:00p CBS
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints 1:00p FOX
Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants 1:00p CBS
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans 1:00p CBS
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington 1:00p FOX
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders 4:05p CBS
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers 4:25p FOX
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks 4:25p FOX
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans * 8:30p NBC
Monday, October 17, 2016
New York Jets at Arizona Cardinals 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Minnesota, Tampa Bay
WEEK 7
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers 8:25p CBS/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, October 23, 2016
New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (London) 9:30a NFLN
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00p CBS
Washington at Detroit Lions 1:00p FOX
Oakland Raiders at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p CBS
New Orleans Saints at Kansas City Chiefs 1:00p FOX
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins 1:00p CBS
Baltimore Ravens at New York Jets 1:00p CBS
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles 1:00p FOX
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans 1:00p CBS
San Diego Chargers at Atlanta Falcons 4:05p FOX
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers 4:05p FOX
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25p CBS
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals * 8:30p NBC
Monday, October 24, 2016
Houston Texans at Denver Broncos 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Carolina, Dallas
WEEK 8
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans 8:25p NFLN
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Washington at Cincinnati Bengals (London) 9:30a FOX
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons 1:00p FOX
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills 1:00p CBS
New York Jets at Cleveland Browns 1:00p CBS
Detroit Lions at Houston Texans 1:00p FOX
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts 1:00p CBS
Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints 1:00p FOX
Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00p CBS
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos 4:05p CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers 4:25p FOX
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys * 8:30p NBC
Monday, October 31, 2016
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, NY Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
WEEK 9
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8:25p NFLN
Sunday, November 06, 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p CBS
Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns 1:00p FOX
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs 1:00p CBS
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins 1:00p CBS
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings 1:00p FOX
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants 1:00p FOX
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams 4:05p FOX
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers 4:05p FOX
Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers 4:25p CBS
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers 4:25p CBS
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders * 8:30p NBC
Monday, November 07, 2016
Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington
WEEK 10
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens 8:25p NFLN
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Kansas City Chiefs at Carolina Panthers 1:00p CBS
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p CBS
Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints 1:00p CBS
Los Angeles Rams at New York Jets 1:00p FOX
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles 1:00p FOX
Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00p FOX
Green Bay Packers at Tennessee Titans 1:00p FOX
Minnesota Vikings at Washington 1:00p FOX
Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers 4:05p CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals 4:25p FOX
Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25p FOX
Seattle Seahawks at New England Patriots * 8:30p NBC
Monday, November 14, 2016
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis, Oakland
WEEK 11
Thursday, November 17, 2016
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers 8:25p NBC/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00p FOX
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns 1:00p CBS
Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys 1:00p CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions 1:00p CBS
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts 1:00p CBS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Kansas City Chiefs 1:00p FOX
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings 1:00p FOX
Chicago Bears at New York Giants 1:00p FOX
Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Rams 4:05p FOX
New England Patriots at San Francisco 49ers 4:25p CBS
Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks 4:25p CBS
Green Bay Packers at Washington* 8:30p NBC
Monday, November 21, 2016
Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders (Mexico City) 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Atlanta, Denver, NY Jets, San Diego
WEEK 12
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions 12:30p CBS
Washington at Dallas Cowboys 4:30p FOX
Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts 8:30p NBC
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons 1:00p FOX
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills 1:00p CBS
Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears 1:00p CBS
New York Giants at Cleveland Browns 1:00p FOX
San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans 1:00p CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins 1:00p FOX
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints 1:00p FOX
Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4:05p FOX
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos 4:25p CBS
Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders 4:25p CBS
New England Patriots at New York Jets * 8:30p NBC
Monday, November 28, 2016
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles 8:30p ESPN
WEEK 13
Thursday, December 01, 2016
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings 8:25p NBC/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, December 04, 2016
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons 1:00p CBS
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears 1:00p FOX
Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00p FOX
Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers 1:00p CBS
Denver Broncos at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p CBS
Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots 1:00p FOX
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints 1:00p FOX
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders 4:05p CBS
Washington at Arizona Cardinals 4:25p FOX
New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25p FOX
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers 4:25p FOX
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks * 8:30p NBC
Monday, December 05, 2016
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets 8:30p ESPN
Byes: Cleveland, Tennessee
WEEK 14
Thursday, December 08, 2016
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs 8:25p NBC/NFLN/Twitter
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills 1:00p CBS
San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers 1:00p FOX
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns 1:00p CBS
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions 1:00p FOX
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts 1:00p CBS
Minnesota Vikings at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p FOX
Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins 1:00p FOX
Washington at Philadelphia Eagles 1:00p FOX
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00p FOX
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans 1:00p CBS
New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers 4:05p CBS
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers 4:25p FOX
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams 4:25p FOX
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants * 8:30p NBC
Monday, December 12, 2016
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots 8:30p ESPN
WEEK 15
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks 8:25p NBC/NFLN/Twitter
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets 8:25p NFLN
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens 1:00p FOX
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills 1:00p CBS
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears 1:00p FOX
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys 1:00p FOX
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans 1:00p CBS
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs 1:00p CBS
Indianapolis Colts at Minnesota Vikings 1:00p CBS
Detroit Lions at New York Giants 1:00p FOX
New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals 4:05p FOX
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons 4:05p FOX
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos 4:25p CBS
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers 4:25p CBS
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals * 8:30p NBC
Monday, December 19, 2016
Carolina Panthers at Washington 8:30p ESPN
WEEK 16
Thursday, December 22, 2016
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles 8:25p NBC/NFLN/Twitter
Saturday, December 24, 2016
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills 1:00p CBS
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers 1:00p FOX
Washington at Chicago Bears 1:00p FOX
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns 1:00p CBS
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers 1:00p FOX
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00p CBS
New York Jets at New England Patriots 1:00p CBS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints 1:00p FOX
Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders 4:05p CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams 4:25p FOX
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks 4:25p FOX
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans 8:25p NFLN
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:30p NFLN
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs 8:30p NBC
Monday, December 26, 2016
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys 8:30p ESPN
WEEK 17
Sunday, January 01, 2017
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons 1:00p FOX
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00p CBS
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions 1:00p FOX
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts 1:00p CBS
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins 1:00p CBS
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings 1:00p FOX
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets 1:00p CBS
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles 1:00p FOX
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00p CBS
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00p FOX
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans 1:00p CBS
New York Giants at Washington 1:00p FOX
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos 4:25p CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams 4:25p FOX
Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers 4:25p CBS
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers 4:25p FOX

*=SNF games in Week5-15 subject to flexing, Week 17 game TBD

The Steelers could overtake the Patriots for the top spot in the AFC, but they probably won’t

The Steelers could overtake the Patriots for the top spot in the AFC, but they probably won’t

Right now, it looks like the Patriots have a free pass to the Super Bowl. Is there another team in the AFC that can stop them?

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a problem in the AFC. Outside of the New England Patriots, the rest of the conference is low-key terrible.

The AFC South has been a weak point for the last couple of seasons, but now the AFC North has quietly taken the mantle as the worst division in the league. With Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missing the next 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus, the division is now wide open — even the winless Cleveland Browns still technically have a shot.

On paper, the Houston Texans appear to be a legitimate contender with a 4-2 record. But Brock Osweiler currently has a 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and they lost to the Patriots 27-0 in Week 3 while rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett was starting at quarterback. With a performance like that, it’s difficult to buy into the Texans as a real threat. But they are still in better shape than the Indianapolis Colts, who are heading to their second straight sub.-500 finish despite having Andrew Luck on their roster.

The defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos won their first four games, but have now dropped two consecutive contests. The Oakland Raiders were a popular sleeper pick heading into the season and their high-powered offense has delivered so far. Their defense, however, is ranked last in the league.

The only loss for the Patriots this season came against the Buffalo Bills in Week 4, but that was while Tom Brady was still serving his four-game DeflateGate suspension. Jimmy Garoppolo was also sidelined, so Brissett was forced to start the game with a thumb injury.

It’s clear the Patriots are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. But is anybody else in the conference?

Sizing up the AFC

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2): When they’re healthy, the Steelers may have the most explosive offense in football. The problem is, all of their weapons rarely seem to be on the field at the same time.

This Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots was projected to be one of the marquee matchups of the season, but now Roethlisberger will be out of action for the foreseeable future. That means Landry Jones, who’s only started two games in his career, will be under center.

Jones has a lot to work with, but it’s worth noting how much No. 1 wide receiver Antonio Brown struggles when Roethlisberger isn’t in the lineup. The drop-off in production he experiences when other quarterbacks are playing is staggering.

Antonio Brown career receiving TD by QB:

Ben Roethlisberger – 43

All others – 0 pic.twitter.com/vUVdmUpLF7

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 19, 2016

If the Steelers’ offense isn’t putting up 30+ points on a regular basis, it’s difficult to see their defense carrying them to many victories. Pittsburgh’s D is currently 28th in the league.

Denver Broncos (4-2): Much like last season, the Broncos are winning on the strength of their defense. Linebacker Von Miller is second in the league in sacks and they’ve allowed the eighth-fewest points. But it’s unlikely to expect the Broncos’ defense to carry them on another deep playoff run.

Through the first four games, first-time starter Trevor Siemian appeared to developing at quarterback. But then he suffered a left shoulder injury earlier this month and struggled mightily in his return against the San Diego Chargers last week. If Siemian can’t be at least average under center, the Broncos will have an uphill climb in January.

Oakland Raiders (4-2): Derek Carr is turning into an elite quarterback. Through six games this season, he’s thrown for 1,608 yards with 12 touchdowns and a 99.1 QB rating. Few things are prettier than a Carr touchdown pass to either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper.

But Oakland’s defense has failed to hold up its end of the bargain. The Raiders have allowed the ninth-most points in the league and were walloped by the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Jack Del Rio has never presided over a Super Bowl contender in his head coaching career, and it’s still too early to say whether the Raiders can make a run.

Houston Texans (4-2): Maybe Osweiler’s performance in the fourth quarter and overtime against the Indianapolis Colts last week is a harbinger of things to come. The Texans scored two touchdowns with less than three minutes to go in regulation and drove down the field in overtime. Up to this point, though, Osweiler has been a disappointment for $72 million.

The Texans are also without J.J. Watt on defense, who’s expected to miss the rest of the season after re-injuring his back. His last appearance came in Week 3 against the Patriots, which was a wretched performance from a supposedly contending team. In addition to fumbling two kickoffs, the Texans didn’t even cross midfield until there were less than two minutes left in the third quarter.

But because they’re in the AFC South, the Texans have a great chance to win the division and host a playoff game. But they can’t be expected to go much further than that.

Buffalo Bills (4-2): Here’s something wild: if the Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins this weekend, and the Patriots lose, they’ll be in first place in the AFC East. Even if New England wins, they have a chance to be only one game back when the two teams face off next week.

As good as Rex Ryan’s Bills may feel about themselves right now, it’s worth noting that three of their four wins have come against the Cardinals, Rams, and 49ers, who have a combined record of 7-11. Their victory against the Patriots should also come with an asterisk: Brady was out of the lineup and Rob Gronkowski seemingly wasn’t at full strength, either.

And while LeSean McCoy is on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career (587 yards and six touchdowns in six games), he’s also dealing with a hamstring injury and could miss time. Still, Tyrod Taylor seems to be coming into his own. In this bizarro AFC, the usually inept Bills — who haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999 — may be one of the Patriots’ strongest challengers.

Baltimore Ravens (3-3): The Ravens won their first three games to start the season, but now they’re crashing back to Earth. It was an expected downfall, too, considering they won those three contests by just a combined 13 points.

And now, the injury bug is hitting them. This week, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and Jimmy Smith are on the injury list.

Cincinnati Bengals (2-4): After making the playoffs for five straight seasons, it seems like the Bengals have plateaued. Their offense is 29th in points scored and they still seem to lack discipline (Vontaze Burfict was just slapped with a $75,000 fine). After surviving more than a half-decade of playoff ineptitude, the Bengals might not even make it that far.

Kansas City Chiefs (3-2): Like most Andy Reid teams, the Chiefs will probably be in the race until the end. But a team that’s tied for 18th in points scored and ranked 10th in points allowed can’t be expected to make a legitimate run. Defensive end Justin Houston will be back from injury soon, though, which should give the Chiefs a boost.

Indianapolis Colts (2-4): The last-place Colts are only on this list because Andrew Luck is their quarterback and the AFC South remains wide open. The offensive line is still abysmal, giving up the most sacks and second-most quarterback hits in the NFL. The defense, as evidenced by their blown performance against the Houston Texans last week, isn’t much better.

Owner Jim Irsay may have given head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson a vote of confidence this week. But if the team continues to struggle, both of their jobs should be on the line — regardless of the extensions they signed this offseason.