Ah, the NFL regular season is near, and football is finally back to us after a seven-month hiatus.
The draft has come and gone, training camp battles have been fought, and every single NFL fan's favorite team is still undefeated at this point and will undoubtedly win the Super Bowl.
It seems that there are certain franchises in the league this day and age that just produce winners. These teams have star-filled rosters and are always in the talks to win their division.
But no matter what anybody says, each team always has the chance to beat the opposition on any given Sunday. We've all been waiting for the preseason to pass so we can once again bask in the glory that is true NFL football. It gives us something to look forward to at the end of every week (now every Thursday, too).
Week 1 kicks off Wednesday, Sept. 5 followed by 15 other games just days later. No team has a bye.
These are the top three games to look forward to in Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC
This game is one of the most highly anticipated matchups of Week 1, first of all because it kicks off the NFL regular season. But dig even deeper, and this is a battle between two divisional foes who had a one-game difference in their records last season.
The reigning Super Bowl-champion Giants are sure to be strong contenders to repeat, but it has been a very busy offseason. They lost corner Aaron Ross, running back Brandon Jacobs and wide receiver Mario Manningham, who had perhaps the most important catch in the Super Bowl to help get the Giants the win.
They've added running back David Wilson who will be able to help carry the load in the backfield with Ahmad Bradshaw. We also get to see if Eli Manning lives up to expectations after proclaiming himself one of the most elite quarterbacks in the league this past year.
Jerry Jones' Cowboys are getting to a point where they just have to start winning. After finishing 8-8 last year, they are looking for a big season as they feel they can take the division in 2012. They've added shutdown corner Morris Claiborne who will help against the pass-heavy Giants.
Tony Romo, of course, is the center of attention in the lone-star state as he turned 32 this year and is still looking to get playoff wins. He threw for more than 4,000 yards and 31 TD last season. Until he leads his team to the promised land, he will always be looked down upon, compared to Aikman and Staubach.
Sept. 8 will set the tone for the rest of the season, and you don't want to miss these two teams clash for the first time in what will be a very competitive year for both of them.
When: Sunday, Sept. 9, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX
How could you not like this matchup between two major NFC hopefuls of last year? Green Bay is known for their high-powered offense, and San Francisco has one of the top defenses if not the top defense in the league.
The Packers have lost center Scott Wells, tackle Chad Clifton and running back Ryan Grant. But they now have all-pro Jeff Saturday, former first-rounder Derek Sherrod and newly signed back Cedric Benson.
Aaron Rodgers and company will be out with a vengeance this season after losing to the Giants in the playoffs last year. The star quarterback threw for 45 TD and 6 INT in 2011, and his receiving core is as great as ever with the emergence of Jordy Nelson as a true go-to man.
This will be an interesting game because the 49ers made it to the NFC championship game last year after an impressive season. They had a great chance to make it to the Super Bowl, but Kyle Williams' muffed punt and fumble didn't help their cause.
Coincidentally, they lost to the Giants as well, which makes it a definite must-watch since both teams have something to prove to the world. This game is a chance to prove last season's outcome for both teams was a fluke.
Jim Harbaugh is one of the top coaches in the league after transforming this team into a football powerhouse. His knowledge of the quarterback position took Alex Smith to new heights. That mixture plus the additions of Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and a slew of running backs will test an underestimated Packers defense that was last in yards per game given up last year, after finishing fifth the season before.
Look for either an offensive shootout or a tight, low-scoring game.
When: Sunday, Sept. 9, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are being looked over in the AFC after a rough season in 2011. After losing the Super Bowl the year before, they failed to even win their division last year. No, they weren't a bad team, and yes, they won a wild card spot.
They lost Hines Ward, and Mike Wallace will get a late start with the team, but they picked up some lineman to help protect their big quarterback from another injury like last year. We'll see if these guys can get back to the head of the division, which is as tough as ever since even the Cincinnati Bengals are a young team on the rise.
As for the Broncos, everyone is excited to watch this game for one big reason: Peyton Manning's return to football. We all know about the neck surgery he had, and we all know it has been a long time since No. 18 has played on the gridiron.
Back to Tebow: If the team could get a playoff win with him, nobody seems to doubt what they can do with Manning under center. Their defense is relentless, and they have proved that. No matter what happens in this game, the only thing people will be talking about is how Peyton Manning fared in his return.
This one should be marked on everyone's calendar, and maybe turned on mute since Cris Collinsworth will be an announcer. But honestly, this is a game all football fans will enjoy.
The No. 1 pick Andrew Luck is playing, and the Colts have been playing surprisingly well during the preseason. Jay Cutler is teamed back up with Brandon Marshall, and Matt Forte looks to come back strong from injury. A game that will be worth watching.
Will Tom Brady have a huge season again? Is the Gronk over his ankle injury? Will Wes Welker catch passes that hit him right in the hands? These are questions that may be answered by the Patriots in this one. Chris Johnson looks to once again become CJ2K. Jake Locker has become the starter, although he has been questionable in preseason. We'll see how it all plays out.
A great divisional matchup that will have hard-hitting defenses and two great young quarterbacks. Ray Rice is always fun to watch since he is so versatile, and Andy Dalton will be looking to make a divisional statement as he tries to repeat the success from last year. The first of the Week 1 Monday night double-header should be a great game.