The five best prime-time games on the 2023 NFL schedule

The five best prime-time games on the 2023 NFL schedule
from Michael Gallagher, at

The NFL went all-in on ensuring the 2023 slate of prime-time games featured competitive matchups and teams who should be contending for postseason spots upcoming.

The Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers all have a league-maximum six games in prime-time slots, while the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts are the only teams to not be featured on national television.

Here are the NFL’s five best prime-time games for the upcoming season:

Monday Sept. 11: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (Week 1)

The league wants as many eyeballs watching Aaron Rodgers debut with the New York Jets as possible. And to have it be against a division rival, in New York, on an important day of remembrance? It’s kismet.

The Jets do have playoff aspirations after trading for Rodgers during the offseason while upgrading both the offensive line and wide receivers unit through free agency and the draft. Buffalo is a perennial Super Bowl contender and this Week 1 matchup will tell the rest of the league where the Jets stand in terms of the AFC’s elite teams.

Sunday, Oct. 8: Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (Week 5)

This game has developed into quite the rivalry recently. There is no question the Cowboys are champing at the bit to get some revenge on the 49ers after San Francisco ended their seasons early the last two years.

Quarterback Dak Prescott has just two touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 66.4 in those back-to-back losses to San Francisco. Dallas is hoping the addition of receiver Brandin Cooks turns Prescott’s fortunes around. The 49ers had the No. 1 defense in the league a season ago and the unit could be even better in 2023 after adding defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. This contest should be another highly-entertaining affair.

Sunday, Nov. 5: Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals (Week 9)

These two teams met during “Monday Night Football” in Week 17 last season, but the game never finished after Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest. The two squads did meet in the playoffs, however, with Cincinnati earning a 17-point win.

The Bills’ season has ended in the AFC divisional round each of the last two years after they reached the AFC Championship game in 2020. If they want to finally prove they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, a win against the Bengals would go a long way toward making their case.

Monday, Nov. 20: Philadelphia Eagles at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 11)

The Super Bowl LVII matchup between these teams in February was one of the better games of the 2022 season, so why not do it again? The Eagles lost several key pieces from last year’s NFC championship team, but they drafted Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter to replace Hargrave and traded for running back D’Andre Swift to replace Miles Sanders. They could be just as good as last year.

On the other hand, the Chiefs lost both starting tackles Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie, receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, plus safety Juan Thornhill. As long as they have Patrick Mahomes, though, Kansas City will never be out of a game — but Philly could actually be the better team in this rematch.

Monday, Dec. 25: Baltimore Ravens at San Francisco 49ers (Week 16)

Lamar Jackson seemed downright giddy during his news conference after signing his record contract extension with the Ravens near the end of April, especially when talking about his new offensive coordinator and group of pass catchers, The former MVP even said he wanted to throw for 6,000 yards this year, because his weapons were so explosive.

While there’s no question the Ravens’ pass catchers are significantly better than what the team offered up last year, Jackson will be under duress all game against the 49ers in this one, facing relentless pressure from Hargrave, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead.

And when he does throw it, the 49ers have some pretty good defensive backs to worry about, including All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga, plus cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir. This one might just be the classic matchup of top-ranked offense vs. top-ranked defense that fans love to see.