The 2012 season certainly isn't going to get off to a slow start. In the first week of action alone, there are several must-watch games that will set the tone for what promises to be an exciting season.
Though it's doubtful that many of the Week 1 results will have any bearing on the way the top teams finish the season, there are still a few showdowns that could give us an early look at which teams are ready to dominate and which teams are in for yet another year of struggle.
The NFL picked a good game for its regular-season opener.
Two NFC East rivals—one is the defending Super Bowl champion, the other is desperate to make some sort of comeback this year after two straight seasons of mediocrity.
If the Cowboys can open the season with a resounding win over the defending champs, it would deliver a huge boost of confidence. It would also send a sign to the rest of the league that they're back (finally).
However, winning at the Meadowlands isn't going to be easy.
This game is also going to give us a glimpse of some exciting 2012 draft picks, including LSU product Morris Claiborne.
The Cowboys selected the talented cornerback with the sixth overall pick in the draft. He should immediately help this defense, which finished 14th in the league in 2011.
The Cowboys can't afford another lackluster season, so this game will be a big opportunity for them to set the tone for success.
On the road at Soldier Field is quite a way to begin your NFL career, and it's the reality that faces Andrew Luck on Sunday.
We all know how good Luck has been in the preseason. He's justified every overzealous bit of praise that was heaped on him leading up to this year's draft. However, the real test is succeeding against the first-stringers in the regular season.
The Bears aren't the most intimidating opponent Luck will face this season, so a road game against last year's third-place finisher in the NFC North is a good place for him to start.
It's just enough of a test, with just enough pressure to conquer.
Meanwhile, the Bears—like the Cowboys—have a lot to prove this season. Only once in the past five seasons have they finished with more than nine wins, and in three of those seasons, they've finished at .500 or worse.
Granted, this is a team that's been hit with the injury bug more frequently and more viciously than most, but the opportunity to hand Luck his first NFL loss is a good way for them to start this season on the right track.
In the wake of the biggest scandal to hit an NFL team in recent memory, the Saints will attempt to hold on in the early going this season until they at least get their interim head coach back.
For now, they get interim-interim coach Aaron Kromer, and that will have to be good enough as they attempt to rebound from the infamous bounty scandal.
Fortunately for the Saints, they have Drew Brees leading the charge.
No matter what kind of problems rocked this team in the offseason, Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he gives them as good a chance as any other team.
The Redskins will debut their own (future) star quarterback, who was impressive in the preseason but will now have to prove himself in the real world of the NFL.
Robert Griffin III will attempt to give Redskins fans hope that this season will be different from the last three, when they've posted losing records.
Unfortunately, though, having to open against the Saints is a bit of a rude introduction.