Ranking the 17th game for each NFL team in 2021

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The NFL added a 17th game for the 2021 regular season, a new wrinkle to the schedule that creates a few more fun matchups. 

How does the 17th game work? Each NFC division has an extra game against an AFC division, and they will play at the AFC team's stadium. That will rotate in the other direction for 2022. 

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 NFL teams in 2021

Will it work? Sporting News looks at each of those matchups and ranks them from the most compelling to least compelling.

Ranking the NFL's 17th games for 2021

1. Packers at Chiefs

This is the no-doubt No. 1, but that hinges on whether Aaron Rodgers remains in Green Bay for the 2021 season. Patrick Mahomes and Rodgers have yet to meet head to head in a regular-season game. This one would deliver as one of the best games of the season if it materializes.

2. Seahawks at Steelers

The Seahawks won a 28-26 thriller at Heinz Field in 2019, a game in which Russell Wilson rescued Seattle with 300 yards and three TDs. Ben Roethlisberger was injured in that game, and he is the QB facing more pressure in 2021.

3. Rams at Ravens

Lamar Jackson trying to escape from Aaron Donald is worth the price of admission. Jackson threw for five TDs and rushed for 95 yards in these teams' last meeting in 2019.

4. Cowboys at Patriots

The game that is bound to draw the highest ratings and biggest overreaction depending on where it falls in the schedule. Bill Belichick is 5-0 against the Cowboys, and Dallas last beat New England in a 12-6 slugfest on Dec. 15, 1996. The coaches in that game were Bill Parcells and Barry Switzer, and the quarterbacks were Drew Bledsoe and Troy Aikman. 

5. Cardinals at Browns

Kyler Murray won the first head-to-head meeting with Baker Mayfield in a battle of Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners in 2019. Both teams are better now, and this is a gotta-have-it game for both given how good their respective divisions are. 

6. Buccaneers at Colts

Colts fans have no love for Tom Brady dating back to the rivalry with Peyton Manning, but this is also a matchup of two of the top-10 defenses from last season.

7. Bears at Raiders

The Raiders beat the Bears 24-21 in the last meeting. The focus will stay on Jon Gruden and Khalil Mack, who had three tackles in the last meeting. 

8. Saints at Titans

Fantasy owners will be hooked to this one because of the running backs. Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara will be the focus in what should be a high-scoring matchup. 

9. Washington at Bills 

It's a matchup of playoff teams from last season, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has eight career starts against Buffalo. Josh Allen is 8-3 against the NFC so far, but this is his first tour of the NFC East. Those games get over-scrutinized on the networks. 

10. 49ers at Bengals

San Francisco won two classic Super Bowls against Cincinnati in the 1980s, and you can count on at least one Joe Montana-John Candy reference. Will the 49ers be starting Trey Lance here against second-year quarterback Joe Burrow? 

11. Vikings at Chargers 

The Vikings have one of the league's toughest schedules, and this is a West Coast trip that won't be easy knowing the emergence of second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. 

12. Eagles at Jets

First-year coaches Nick Sirianni and Robert Saleh meet in a big-market bowl that features Jalen Hurts and Zach Wilson at quarterback. Can Rich Kotite do the coin toss?

13. Falcons at Jaguars

Urban Meyer was 5-1 against Georgia during his time as the coach with Florida. Falcons fans will remember that. Will Tim Tebow catch a TD in this game for old time's sake? 

14. Giants at Dolphins 

It's a battle of former Belichick assistants with Joe Judge and Brian Flores, and both teams made improvements in the offseason. It's still not a thrilling matchup by any means.

15. Panthers at Texans 

Sam Darnold is the Panthers' new quarterback, but the uncertain future of Deshaun Watson makes it difficult to get too hyped about a quarterback matchup at this point. 

16. Lions at Broncos 

Jared Goff vs. Teddy Bridgewater was fun with the Saints and Rams in 2019. It's hard to sell this one in their new locations. Get back to us if Aaron Rodgers lands in Denver.

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