With each new National Football League season, optimism is the rule for fans of all teams. Even for the fans of the teams that had poor seasons in 2018, there is the belief and hope that a star player acquired in the draft — or through trade or free agency — will be the final addition that is needed for a championship team. Here are my top must-see games for 2019.

Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 22

The Rams, last year’s National Football Conference Champions, are a powerhouse team. Star quarterback Jarod Goff and running back Todd Gurley lead an explosive offense. Their defense is led by the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year for 2018, lineman Aaron Donald. After many years of poor play, the Cleveland Browns finally turned the corner last year with a 7–8–1 season and returned to respectability. Star quarterback Baker Mayfield now has the benefit of the addition of superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to team up with Jarvis Landry for a formidable passing game.

Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Sept. 29

The Cowboys are on the verge of becoming an elite team this season. All-time great tight end Jason Witten is returning after taking a year during which he broadcast NFL games. The offense will be led by the great running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amarie Cooper. The Saints are a perennial contender, and future Hall of Fame star quarterback Drew Brees will lead an explosive offense. This game should not disappoint. 

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 20

The Eagles, champions of the NFL in 2017 and 2018, are a proud team who will look to bounce back from a relatively disappointing season last year in which they earned a 9–7 record. Carson Wentz has the potential to be a top quarterback. The Cowboys will be the Eagles’ biggest obstacle in the division as both teams seek supremacy in the NFC East. That, plus the long tradition of a great rivalry between the two teams, will ensure a great game.

Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Oct. 27

This game matches two great quarterbacks, the Packers’ Aaron Rogers and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. Rodgers is the great veteran quarterback and Mahomes is the young phenom. The Packers are trying to regain their past glory, and the Chiefs are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. 

New York Giants at New York Jets, Sunday, Nov. 10

Neither team is expected to contend for a championship this year. The drama of this game is linked to the rivalry between the New York teams and  individual players. The Giants drafted quarterback Daniel Jones in the first round this year to eventually replace the legendary Eli Manning at some point. The Jets picked Sam Darnold last year in the first round of the draft. The game will match the aging star, Manning, with either the up-and- coming star, Darnold, or two young potential stars, depending on when and if Jones replaces Manning during this season.

New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles,  Sunday, Nov. 17

This rematch of the 2018 Super Bowl, won by the Eagles, will match two excellent teams. How long the Patriots will be able to continue their twenty-year run as a dominant team in the NFL remains to be seen. Rob Gronkowski, the great tight end, has retired. However, they Patriots still have Tom Brady and the legendary coach Bill Belichick, and so are expected to remain great.

Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots, Sunday, Nov. 24

For the second week in a row, the Patriots will battle an outstanding NFC East team. Again, the playoffs will likely be affected by this game. The Cowboys can help solidify their claim to be an elite team if they manage to beat last year’s champions at an evening game in late November, in New England where it promises to be cold.

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Dec. 23

Both of these rivals from the famed “black and blue” division had disappointing 2018 seasons. Both teams have high hopes for great seasons, led by their respective quarterbacks, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins, as they try to overcome last season’s NFC North champions, the Chicago Bears. There will likely be playoff implications from this late-season game.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 29

This is a matchup of two traditionally hard-nosed AFC North rivals on the final weekend of the season. Veteran quarterback Steelers’ Ben Rothlisberger winner of two Super Bowls, will match up against his young counterpart, Lamar Jackson of the Ravens. This game will likely impact the playoffs, as the division is becoming more competitive with the anticipated improvement by the Cleveland Browns.