So the 2019 NFL schedule is out. Here are five key takeaways

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson passes under pressure from Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler on Sunday during the first half in Los Angeles.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson passes under pressure from Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler on Sunday during the first half in Los Angeles. AP

The 2019 NFL regular season schedule has been released, which some would say is the first step on the road to Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

The season will open up with the Bears and Packers playing another classic NFC North battle to help celebrate the league’s 100th season. Between that game and the last, there are many good matchups, intriguing storylines and some under the radar games that should be must-see-TV. Here are five takeaways:

Sunday Night Football = Strong

One of the first things I look at on each NFL schedule is how does the Sunday Night Football on NBC slate look?

Being that it is a prime prime-time spot, it’s not unusual to find good matchups for this time slot. And, there are some that are not so good that are ripe for being flexed out.

This season, however, the schedule is strong from start to finish. The first Sunday of the season gives us the Patriots raising yet championship banner vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From there, it only gets better. You’ve got trendy teams from last season like the Chiefs, Rams, and Chargers getting multiple games. Even the Browns got an early showcase game vs. the Rams in Week 3.

Let this be notice that your Sunday night TV plans for the fall are made.

Monday: Witten-free, not necessarily better

Everyone an agree that Jason Witten’s time on Monday Night Football was not a good fit. So bad that Witten decided to return to football instead of dealing with being in the booth.

Without Witten, MNF has a chance to be better this season. But even a perfect booth may not save us from some of the potential slogs on this schedule. It’s not that the schedule is terrible, it’s just ... blah. Consider Week 5 with the Browns at San Francisco to face the 49ers. When the Browns are a highlight of your MNF schedule, you’ve got some problems.

Saints vs. Falcons on Thanksgiving, again?

The NFL and Thanksgiving go together like turkey and stuffing. We’re going to get three games on Thanksgiving Day with the Lions and Cowboys in their traditional spots. The third game on the list usually varies, sometimes it’s an AFC team and sometimes it’s an NFC team taking that spot.

For the second year in a row, we’ve got the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving night. This feels quite underwhelming because one, we saw this game last Thanksgiving. The second point is that there wasn’t much on the line when they met and didn’t really carry an significance going forward. Sure, it’s one of the more underrated rivalries in the NFL but it’s like watching that movie on Netflix that you see once and have no desire to see again.

Best week of the season?

I’m betting on Week 12 being the best week of the season from Thursday to Monday. You start off with the Colts and Texans on Thursday night, always a nice AFC South battle between those two teams. Then the early part of Sunday gives you some quality divisional matchups that could have an impact for the playoffs. Steelers-Bengals and Dolphins-Browns, could produce playoff tiebreakers, potentially.

In the afternoon and evening session, you’ve got the Patriots facing off against the Cowboys and the 49ers and Packers going to battle. Both games on FOX so that’s a big night for them. In the Sunday Night game, you have the Seahawks going to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. On Monday, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens head to Los Angeles and play the Rams.

That’s a great week.

Most underrated games

Keep these games on your radar.

Week 5: Browns at 49ers (Monday Night Football)

Both teams should have decent to actually good seasons. It’s a good thing this game is early so we are not subjected to watching one or both come into the game with a poor record.

Week 6: Steelers at Chargers (Sunday Night Football)

The Los Angeles Chargers have managed to be a pain in Pittsburgh’s side as of late, so this game is perfect for a struggling Steelers team to have their season go south while out west. Do not be shocked if Pittsburgh falls to 3-3 or worse, 2-4, after they come back from LA.

Week 15: Seahawks at Panthers (Potential flex to Sunday Night)

Last season, the Seahawks had a hand in many teams not making the playoffs. Of that group, the Carolina Panthers suffered some impact with the 30-27 victory on the road in Carolina. Now the Seahawks have to return to Carolina but this time they’re going back in the later in the season and more could potentially be on the line.

I fully expect both the Panthers and the Seahawks to be in some type of playoff contention. With that comes the possibility of the game getting moved to be featured on Sunday Night Football. The current game in that spot is the Vikings at the Chargers. Should one of those teams flop, look for a Carolina-Seattle flex to close out the night.