The 20 best ‘revenge’ games on 2020 NFL schedule, from Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Patriots to Jason Garrett vs. Cowboys



“Revenge games” are a big part of the NFL schedule every season. 2020 is no different, coming off an offseason that saw plenty more change.

Several players have either signed with or been traded to new teams. Some are getting chances to play their former teams again or for the very first time in 2020. There are also a few more coaches who can get in on the fun, especially if they were fired and get a shot at their old employers.

Outside of teams playing their regular six-game division slates, the NFL predetermines a team’s 13 other opponents, based on its finish last season and a set rotation of eight interdivision foes from the two conferences. Sometimes, the stars align beautifully for a player, coach or his familiar opponent to exact revenge.

Here are the 20 best revenge games on the 2020 schedule, including two that feature slightly different reasons for extra winning motivation:

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Jimmy Garoppolo

1. Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Patriots

How dare Tom Brady leave New England before getting a chance to duel his former top backup turned NFC champion QB. Now it’s about Garoppolo getting the better of Bill Belichick’s defense and prove he was a much worthier heir apparent than Jarrett Stidham.

Don’t forget, Garoppolo’s head coach, Kyle Shanahan, also will want to be relentless with his offense to make up what happened with the Falcons in the second half of Super Bowl 51. The 49ers will be happy with just beating the Patriots in a tough road game, but it would be a whole lot sweeter for coach and quarterback if they win it 28-3.

2. Melvin Gordon vs. Chargers (twice)

Gordon didn’t enjoy the way things ended in L.A. The Chargers reportedly made him a nice offer to return ($10 million a season), but he rejected it, wanting a bigger payday. Leave it to division rival Denver to come through with something close, $8 million a season, despite Gordon signing late in free agency.

The Broncos surprised some in making the move, given they had Phillip Lindsay. But Gordon is expected to be their lead back and you can bet he will run as hard and as fast as he can when he gets his two cracks at the Chargers in what figure to be two tight matchups in the AFC West rivalry.

3. Frank Gore vs. 49ers, Colts, Dolphins (twice) and Bills (twice)

Now we have a better idea of why the venerable running back decided to return for a 16th season, just before celebrating his 37th birthday in May. The future Hall of Famer (yes he is), by picking the Jets, reunites with Adam Gase, his coach for one year with the Dolphins, after Gore played his lone year with the Bills. While we wait to see if the Patriots sign Gore for 2021 so he can complete his AFC East cycle, we might have to accept this season will actually be his NFL retirement tour.

Gore somehow picked a team that will play all four of his former teams in 2020. The Jets will host San Francisco and travel to Indianapolis to take care of his first two clubs, while he gets a chance to return to Miami and Buffalo, too. Gore isn’t known for trash talking, respected for his quiet grinding, putting his head down and getting every yard available. He deserves this kind of sendoff for lasting in this league this long, rare for his position.

4. Nick Foles vs. Jaguars

Foles got paid a lot of money to be Jacksonville’s starting bridge QB in 2020, only to suffer a collarbone injury in Week 1 against one of his former teams, Kansas City. That gave way to the mania associated with rookie Gardner Minshew and Foles failed to keep the job for the rest of the season when he came back in Week 11.

The Jaguars jumped at the chance to get out of Foles’ contract in 2020 after the Bears obliged, thanks to coach Matt Nagy. The former Eagles super sub turned Super Bowl MVP is back in the NFC, and thanks to some scheduling luck, Chicago plays at Jacksonville. Assuming Foles beats out Mitchell Trubisky to start, he can take it to a rebuilding Jaguars defense.

5. Ron Rivera vs. Panthers

Rivera was fired by Carolina after 12 games last season, but he quickly rebounded with a new gig in Washington, only six hours up the road from Charlotte. He will have a good influence on the rebuilding Redskins, replacing Jay Gruden. Rivera gets a chance to out-coach his replacement, Matt Rhule, when the Panthers travel to FedEx Field in a last-place matchup.

Rivera also might have Kyle Allen, who started 12 games filling in for Cam Newton in Carolina, as his No. 1 QB over 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins. Don’t forget about long-time Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who also now plays for Rivera. It’s just too bad the Redskins didn’t keep cornerback Josh Norman around to make the reunion even more fun.

Jason Garrett

6. Jason Garrett vs. Cowboys (twice)

Garrett served 10 years as head coach in Dallas. Since his days as Troy Aikman’s backup QB and then as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, Garrett became a long-time favorite of Jerry Jones. But after Jones decided to replace Garrett with Mike McCarthy, Garrett landed with the NFC East rival Giants as their offensive coordinator under their new coach, Joe Judge.

Garrett is a Princeton product who also went to Columbia for a while, lining up pretty well with a New Jersey/New York gig. This also is the second time Garrett has left the Cowboys for the Giants — 20 years ago, he did so as NFL free-agent player.

Garrett goes from Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. He will be revved up make the Giants more balanced and explosive to be better equipped to outpass, outrun and outscore the Cowboys. The Eli Manning-Tony Romo chapter of this rivalry was pretty good; this has the potential to be better, with the twist of familiarity breeding some contempt.

7. Chase Young vs. Bengals

Young hasn’t played a down in the NFL for Rivera’s Redskins. But the rookie No. 2 overall pick will be wanting to have himself a day when facing Cincinnati, who picked QB Joe Burrow over him at No. 1.

The elite Ohio State pass-rushing prospect plays the right position to show the Bengals what they will be missing. You can bet, after his Buckeyes didn’t get a shot at Burrow’s LSU Tigers in the College Football Playoff, Young will be looking to rack up a sack or two or three when Washington conveniently hosts Cincy in interconference play.

8. Andy Dalton vs. Bengals

When the Bengals became bad enough to attach themselves to Burrow, it put an end to Dalton’s time as their starting quarterback. Dalton was done dirty by the organization, first being briefly benched for rookie Ryan Finley by rookie coach Zac Taylor last season and then needing to wait until after the 2020 NFL Draft for his release vs. getting at shot at true NFL free agency.

Unless something happens with Prescott — one of the league’s most durable QBs — Dalton won’t be starting at quarterback for his new team, the Cowboys, when they play at the Bengals. He still can enjoy the bittersweet moment of beating his former team and getting a chance to return to Cincinnati, the community he did so much to help.

9. Jameis Winston vs. Buccaneers (twice)

Here’s another QB who lost his starting gig to a shinier model. Winston will get a close look at how well Tom Brady does in replacing him while supporting another future Hall of Famer Super Bowl winner, Drew Brees on the sidelines.

Winston settled for a small second contract vs. what could have been as the 2015 first overall pick. He gets a chance to show the Saints he should be considered to succeed Brees but he also gets the bonus of helping to thwart his former team from dethroning his current one as NFC South champions.

10. Teddy Bridgewater vs. Saints (twice) and Vikings

There are a lot of fun QB storylines in the NFC South, aren’t there? Bridgewater replaces Newton as the Panthers’ veteran starter, which means he’ll get his two shots to outduel Brees and his former team.

Bridgewater will be helped by offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who cut his teeth in New Orleans before helping Burrow win a Heisman Trophy and national championship down the road in Baton Rouge. Bridgewater will remain grateful to the Saints for reviving his career after major knee injury, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to light them up.

Don’t forget Bridgewater’s last loss with the Saints as Brees’ backup came in the playoffs against his former team, the Vikings. With the Panthers, he’ll also get a chance to return to Minnesota for the first time as another team’s starter.

Philip Rivers

11. Philip Rivers vs. Raiders

Rivers picked the Colts after he wasn’t re-signed by the Chargers, but he still can’t completely shake off his long-time foes in the AFC West, as Indianapolis will be one of the first-season visitors to Las Vegas.

As the starting quarterback for San Diego/Los Angeles, Rivers went 18-10 against the Oakland Raiders with a solid passer rating of 95.6. But this matchup is important for him to get a recent bad taste out of his mouth.

Rivers lost twice to the Raiders last season and didn’t play well in either game. He threw three interceptions in a Week 10 Thursday night game in Oakland, also getting sacked five times in a 26-24 defeat. When the teams met again in L.A. in Week 16, Rivers didn’t have a TD pass in a 24-17 setback. The Raiders also beat the Rivers-less Colts in Indianapolis last season. 

12. Drew Brees vs. Chargers

Given how much Brees is associated now with the Saints, it might be difficult for some to remember how he was replaced by Rivers on his first NFL team 15 years ago. With how long he’s spent in New Orleans, Brees already has faced the Chargers three times, including once in London. 

This first time against the Los Angeles version at home very well could be the last time. Brees has averaged 305 yards and 3 TDs and rated 103.7 when facing the San Diego version, which took him No. 32 overall in the 2001 draft. If Brees is indeed planning to hang it up after 2020, it would be great to make it an even four consecutive stellar winning performances.

13. Emmanuel Sanders vs. Broncos and 49ers

Brees is welcoming a new veteran wide receiver to complement Michael Thomas after Sanders signed a two-year, $16 million deal to sign with the Saints. In coming to New Orleans, Sanders will face two of his former teams after Denver traded him to San Francisco in the middle of last season.

Sanders helped the 49ers win a Superdome thriller last season and now will work to help the Saints win the rematch. He also can go a Mile High to face the Broncoes. The 33-year-old has plenty of big-play ability left in him and can prove he’s not close to done.

14. Chris Harris Jr. vs. Broncos (twice)

Gordon went from the Chargers to the Broncos. Harris, the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, will play his age 31 season flipping sides to the Chargers.

Harris joins a loaded secondary with Casey Hayward, Desmond King and Derwin James. That times well with the Broncos drafting two more wide receivers to help Courtland Sutton in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler.

The Broncos will have a dropoff from Harris to former Jaguar A.J. Bouye. Harris further strengthens a position for his new team and can have a big impact in climbing the Chargers out of the AFC West cellar and back ahead of the Raiders and Broncos in the division.

Marshawn Lynch

15. Marshawn Lynch vs. Bills (hopefully)

So much for Lynch having finished his emergency stint with the Seahawks in 2019. Even with Seattle drafting DeeJay Dallas in the fourth round to add rookie insurance behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny as they return from injuries, the organization is having a hard time quitting its beloved power back

Lynch needs to stay unretired so he can play a second game against the team that took him No. 12 overall in the 2007 draft. In his only game against the Bills in 2016, Lynch rushed 10 times for 113 yards and a TD. This time, he can play at Buffalo, where he showed his promise of big production before his trade to Seattle.

16. Damien Williams vs. Dolphins

Williams started in his career as a valuable backup running back in Miami after being signed as an undrafted free agent from Oklahoma. When he signed with the Chiefs for depth in 2018, he wasn’t expected to see a big role.

Then came the off-field trouble with Kareem Hunt, opening the door for Williams to deliver in their explosive offense with Patrick Mahomes. In the 2018 playoffs, Williams posted 250 yards from scrimmage and 4 TDs in 2 games. During the 2019 Super Bowl run, he had 290 yards from scrimmage and 6 TDs in 3 games. 

Williams will be a free agent in 2021 and the Chiefs are likely to put rookie first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire into a prominent rookie role. But there will be still room for Williams to do damage in his first-ever game against the Dolphins at home.

17. Calais Campbell vs. Jaguars

The Jaguars traded Campbell, the reigning NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, after three strong Pro Bowl seasons with them. He will be playing for Baltimore in his age 34 season with plenty of pass-rushing pop left in his massive but super athletic frame (6-8, 300 pounds).

Campbell, in his lone game against his other former team, the Cardinals, didn’t have a sack, but scored a touchdown on a fumble return. As a starting 3-4 end for the Ravens he will get his chance to wreak havoc against the Jaguars, too, at home. Expect an appropriately big encore of revenge.

18. Jimmy Graham vs. Saints

Bears GM Ryan Pace was a long-time personnel man in New Orleans before coming to Chicago. His biggest former Saints-connected addition has been defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. But now he has one more in his new tight end Graham.

While Graham and Pace crossed over in New Orleans, just signed well-traveled former Saints wideout Ted Ginn Jr. and Pace did not. Graham got as much as the Saints paid Sanders, who was signed to fill the old speedy veteran role once occupied by Ginn. Graham, 33, has faded far from the five-time Pro Bowler he once was. Although he’s stayed in the NFC all the way with his Seahawks and Packers stops, he’s played the Saints only once, recording just 3 catches for 34 yards in that game.

Graham may not have much left, but he will get his chance to improve on those numbers with the Saints playing in Chicago for a second consecutive season.

19. Xavier Rhodes vs. Vikings

The Vikings were forced to overhaul the rest of their secondary after locking up safety Anthony Harris because of some salary-cap issues. Rhodes, Trae Waynes (Bengals) and Mackensie Alexander (Bengals) are all gone from their cornerback corps.

Rhodes, who made three Pro Bowls in Minnesota after the team took him No. 25 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, was released before his age 30 season. There were some real signs of decline in coverage last season, but the Colts were quick to add him for starting help soon after he hit the open market.

Part of the reason the Vikings got into a major cap bind was the expensive signing of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Rhodes can now work on intercepting Cousins and foiling Minnesota’s offensive plans when the Colts host his former team.

20. Tyler Eifert vs. Bengals

Eifert, who signed with the Jaguars in free agency, is five years removed from his standout Pro Bowl season with the Bengals in which he posted 615 yards and 13 TDs. He now joins former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in Jacksonville to try to burn Cincinnati’s defense in 2020.

There were some signs of Eifert putting his injury-riddled past behind him during his last season with his first team. Tight end is a key part of what Gruden wants to do with his West Coast passing offense and it wouldn’t be shocking for Eifert to become an impact receiver again. He can show that at a high level in a return to Cincy.





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