Ranking the 5 best and worst NFL prime-time games in 2024, from Chiefs-Ravens to Colts-Jets

ranking the 5 best and worst nfl prime-time games in 2024, from chiefs-ravens to colts-jets

Ranking the 5 best and worst NFL prime-time games in 2024, from Chiefs-Ravens to Colts-Jets

Three quarterbacks with a combined eight NFL MVP awards will own the prime-time spotlight in the 2024 NFL season.

Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson – quarterbacks with two NFL MVP awards each – will open the season on Thursday Night Football on Sept. 5 in a rematch of last year's AFC championship game. Aaron Rodgers – a four-time NFL MVP who suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in Week 1 last season – will be in six prime-time games for the Jets.

Those teams are the popular choices for the best prime-time games of the 2024 season, but which games are among the worst – the ones that will have us monitoring Al Michaels' mood in the booth during Thursday Night Football?

The Sporting News looks at the five best and five worst prime-time games for the 2024 NFL season.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams | Each team's best game

Best prime-time games of the 2024 NFL season

1. Ravens at Chiefs ('TNF,' Week 1) 

The Chiefs' opener against the Lions last season drew a 13.0 Nielsen rating and 24.75 million viewers. That was before the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce romance became part of the Chiefs' experience. Four of the eight most-watched regular-season games last year involved Kansas City.

This will be an early-season main event. Mahomes and Jackson met in last year's AFC championship game, 17-10 Chiefs win. Mahomes is 4-1 in head-to-head matchups against Jackson, and four of those matchups have been decided by seven points or less. There is no reason to believe this won't be another prime-time classic between two Super Bowl contenders – one that could show up in the standings later.

MORE: Teams with most/least prime-time games

2. Jets at 49ers (MNF, Week 1) 

Sure, the Jets also have the Bills (Week 6), Steelers (Week 7), and Texans (Week 9) on the prime-time schedule, but this is the re-do of Rodgers' debut in New York – and it's a fitting opponent.

The 49ers are the team that famously passed on Rodgers with the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and took Alex Smith. Rodgers is 6-7 against the 49ers as a starter, and that includes an 0-4 record in the postseason. San Francisco, of course, won the NFC championship last season with second-year quarterback Brock Purdy. This will be the most-watched Monday Night Football game of the year.

3. Chargers at Chiefs (SNF, Week 14) 

This AFC West rivalry has a way of producing some entertaining prime-time matchups, and this could be fun if Jim Harbaugh can lead a quick transformation in Los Angeles around Justin Herbert. The Chargers have won two of the past four meetings at Arrowhead Stadium.

Where will Kansas City be in their quest for a three-peat at this point in the season? Will Mahones be looking for a third straight MVP? The Chiefs play the Texans on Sunday Night Football in Week 16 — and that matchup with C.J. Stroud should be fun, too — but we’re going to stick with the divisional matchup in this spot, however.

MORE: Chargers' schedule reveal video drawing rave reviews

4. Packers at Lions (TNF, Week 14) 

The Packers also have a prime-time game on Thanksgiving against Miami at Lambeau Field the week before this matchup, but this is becoming a reborn NFC North rivalry.

The teams traded road victories last season, and both of those games were on Thursday, too. Detroit blasted Green Bay 34-20 in Lambeau Field early in the year, and the Packers returned the favor with a 29-22 victory on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. The division – and perhaps home-field advantage – could be on the line for a pair of teams that improved their rosters this offseason. The Ford Ford setting should add a little more juice. Green Bay hasn’t been in Detroit for a Thursday Night prime-time game since the Miracle in Motown.

Detroit also has a Monday Night Football matchup with San Francisco in a rematch of last year’s NFC championship game, but the Packers game will mean more this season.

5. Cowboys at Steelers (SNF, Week 5) 

This big-brand rivalry has generated overreactions since Electric Football was popular in the 1970s. This matchup falls early in the season and should be a barometer for both teams. The Cowboys have enjoyed three straight 12-5 seasons, but they have only one playoff victory to show for it. Will Jerry Jones, Mike McCarthy, and quarterback Dak Prescott deliver this season?

Speaking of quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Justin Fields upgraded the Steelers’ quarterback room. Pittsburgh hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016, and that has put a little more pressure on Mike Tomlin. All five matchups between these teams in the 21st century have been decided by seven points or less.

MORE: Tom Brady calling Cowboys Week 1 game for Fox

Worst prime-time games of the 2024 NFL season

1. Cowboys at Giants (TNF, Week 4) 

This game should be put on probation from prime-time after what happened last season — a 40-0 Dallas blowout on Sunday Night Football in Week 1.

In the rematch, Dallas won 49-17. The Giants are at home, and Daniel Jones has a new WR1 in Malik Nabers. The Cowboys, however, will be heavily favored and have won 13 of the past 14 matchups. We don't care if it's a classic NFC East rivalry. It's not fit for prime-time right now.

2. Chargers at Cardinals (MNF, Week 7) 

This is one of those games that is going to confuse viewers because it will be streaming on ESPN+ and starts 45 minutes after the matchup between the Ravens and Buccaneers on ESPN.

The Cardinals were 4-13 last season, but Kyler Murray did get an upgrade at receiver in first-round pick Marvin Harrison Jr., who knows Harbaugh well from the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. This game would have more viewers if it was put in its traditional West Coast Sunday afternoon slot.

3. Falcons at Raiders (MNF, Week 15) 

Late-season Monday Night Football matchups should involve playoff intrigue, divisional rivalries, or head-to-head matchups between teams fighting within their conferences.

The Falcons and Raiders will give us a Big Ten deep-cut check-down fest between Kirk Cousins and Aidan O'Connell (unless it's Michael Penix Jr. vs. Gardner Minshew). Again, this is part of a Monday Night Football doubleheader that includes the Vikings and Bears.

4. Broncos at Saints (TNF Week 7) 

The obvious plot-line of this being "The Sean Payton Game" will run its course after the seventh or eighth sideline shot.

What will we get on the field? Derek Carr trying to lead New Orleans to a home victory against Bo Nix or maybe Zach Wilson for the Broncos? These teams combined to finish .500 last season, and that's about what the rating of this game feels like – a meh matchup a little too much on the coach.

5. Colts at Jets (SNF, Week 11) 

This is the last of the prime-time games featuring the Jets, and by then it will feel like way too much. Sure, the Colts were 9-8 last season and Anthony Richardson could take off in his return from injury. Yes, Rodgers brings a level of intrigue back to the Jets.

But both of these teams feel like wild cards, as if this was a wild-card game, it would be put in the 4:25 p.m. Saturday afternoon slot before the marquee matchups. It's a little bit of overkill with New York at this point – and who knows what their record will be?

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