Vengeance is mine.
Unlike most other pro sports in which dozens of games are played, every victory and defeat in a 17-game NFL schedule is magnified. When that win or loss comes with a measure of revenge attached, it doesn’t get more spicy than that. Doesn’t matter if a player, coach, executive – or an entire city or region – is trying to get even.
Here are 10 matchups that already have our juices flowing, anticipating the paybacks that could occur.
Top 10 Revenge Games in 2023
10. Vikings at Panthers, Oct. 1
The Vikings couldn’t, or wouldn’t, spend to keep Thielen in purple, and now he is the No. 1 target for top overall draft choice Bryce Young. In Week 4, Thielen tries to show what a mistake Minnesota management made.
9. 49ers at Eagles, Dec. 3
Javon Hargrave became a very rich man through free agency in March. The standout defensive tackle in Philadelphia earned that big payday ($84 million over four years) with his performances as an Eagle, particularly last season.
Now, he is part of the San Francisco 49ers club Philadelphia defeated in the NFC title game. While the rest of his new teammates want to avenge that loss, Hargrave likely wants to show Eagles’ management it should have opened the vault to keep him.
8. Packers at Lions, Sept. 28
When the Detroit Lions knocked off the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field to complete the 2022 schedule, it was a momentous victory for the Lions. And it sent Aaron Rodgers, uh, packing after his final game for the Packers.
Green Bay had a shot at making the playoffs as a wild card, so even if Rodgers is now the New York Jets’ quarterback, the hurt remains for the Cheeseheads. Maybe as painful: Many fancy Detroit to finish ahead of the Packers in the NFC North and perhaps win it.
7. Rams at Bengals, Sept. 25
No, it won’t be as satisfying as winning the championship on the Rams’ home field would have been. And the Rams don’t quite have that “Lombardi Look” any longer. Still, in Week 3 of the schedule, Cincinnati is in position for a statement win.
6. Colts at Panthers, Nov. 5
Did Frank Reich get a fair shake with the Indianapolis Colts, where he was saddled with a roster ravaged by injuries, a quarterback far beyond his prime and underachievement nearly everywhere?
Hard to say, but Reich had some pretty solid credentials before being canned by the Colts. He immediately landed with the Carolina Panthers, has the top overall draft pick (Young), and is hankering to beat the team that fired him.
5. Dolphins vs. Chiefs, Nov. 5 at Frankfurt, Germany
We can’t imagine Tyreek Hill is thrilled this game isn’t taking place at Arrowhead Stadium. If there’s anything the wide receiver specializes in, it’s punishing defensive units with his speed.
To do it in front of the Kansas City Chiefs fans he excited so much for six seasons before being dealt to the Miami Dolphins last year, well, we can just see Hill’s demonstrations after making big plays. But he’ll have to do it in Frankfurt with a built-in edge that couldn’t be sharper.
4. Jets at Broncos, Oct. 8
Under normal circumstances, it might be uncomfortable for New York Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to return so soon to Denver, where he flamed out in his first season as a head coach.
That’s probably not true in Week 5 because he will be accompanied by his buddy from Green Bay, Rodgers, who was less than pleased when Hackett’s head coaching debut ended so ignominiously. Look for Rodgers to want to put a beating on the Denver Broncos.
3. Patriots at Raiders, Oct. 15
After all of those years working for Bill Belichick, Las Vegas Raiders coach Josh McDaniels gets to take on his former boss for the second straight season – and perhaps prove a Belichick assistant consistently can outdo the man.
But this one is more about the New England Patriots getting even with Las Vegas after the Patriots lateraled away their visit to Sin City in December. No true football fan can forget the most egregious error in any game of 2022.
2. Bengals at Chiefs, Dec. 31
It will be a Happy New Year for one of these teams, who have met in the past two AFC title games, splitting them. Both of those contests were at Arrowhead, so here we go again, as each side has the itch to get the jump on the other.
Throw in that the Bengals, who have struggled to build a solid line in front of Joe Burrow, might have found the stud left tackle they’ve lacked in Orlando Brown Jr. Guess who Brown helped win the Super Bowl last season.
1. Eagles at Chiefs, Nov. 20
Kind of obvious here. In one of the most competitive Super Bowls, the Chiefs barely got past the Eagles, helped greatly by a late penalty on cornerback James Bradberry that led to the winning field goal.
They are still murmuring (or worse) about that call in Philadelphia. Both sides will be coming off a bye week, leaving Andy Reid extra time to prepare for his former employers. Also, Reid has a 29-4 record following an off week, including both of those in last season’s playoffs.
Barry Wilner was a sportswriter for the Associated Press for 46 years. He has covered virtually every major sporting event, including 14 Olympics, 9 World Cups, 34 Super Bowls, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup Final, and has written 75 books. Follow him on Twitter @Wilner88