2009 NFL Schedule Release Analysis: The Biggest Games of the Year, Week By Week
ESPN and the NFL are having what is the appetizer to the main course tonight: the unveiling of the 2009 season schedule.
To many, it's being overhyped; after all, it's just the schedule.
We all know who will be playing whom. We just do not know when, and that is what tonight is all about.
For those of us that live and die with the NFL, here's how the process works:
- Each team plays two games against each other within their own division.
- Each team plays one game against teams from one other division within the conference on a rotating three-year cycle.
- Each team plays one game against teams from another division outside of the conference on a four-year cycle (i.e. AFC East plays NFC South in 2009).
- Remaining two games are within the conference based on the previous year's standings.
Since that's out of the way, let's go week-by-week and break down some of the marquee matchups this season.
Thursday Night Kickoff: Steelers at Titans (Sept. 10, NBC)
The Steelers will open with the defense of their sixth Super Bowl title in a game many thought would be the AFC Championship game.
Tennessee will be playing a full season for the first time without star DT Albert Haynesworth, and the Titans' run defense will be on high alert.
QB Kerry Collins will be officially entering the season as the starter, even with Vince Young trying to get himself together.
Pittsburgh also gets a chance to hand it to the Titans for the first time since they stomped on the Terrible Towel to clinch home field throughout last year's playoffs.
NBC Sunday Night Football: Bears at Packers
ESPN Monday Night Football: Bills at Patriots
Tom Brady will play in a meaningful game for the first time since tearing his knee apart and without the services of his whiz kid offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels.
Terrell Owens will also see the prime time stage for the first time in his first game in a Buffalo uniform.
Panthers at Falcons
Matt Ryan enters his second full season as Falcons QB and faces one of his chief divisional foes at home early in the season.
Patriots at Jets
A year ago, Matt Cassel led New England in a bit of a surprise win over Brett Favre and the Jets. Now Tom Brady returns to continue his unbeaten streak in the Meadowlands.
The Jets will open the season at home with a new coach, new staff, and hopefully a stable quarterback situation.
Steelers at Bears
Two of the league's most punishing defenses get together as Jay Cutler gets his first look at what could be his worst nightmare.
Sunday Night Football: Giants at Cowboys
Jerry Jones gets to unveil his $1 billion football palace to the world right in the face of his biggest divisional rival. All the pressure will be on America's Team, especially Tony Romo, to get their new stadium a win out of the chute.
Falcons at Patriots
Matt Ryan returns to Boston for the first time since leading Boston College to the ACC Championship in 2007.
Saints at Bills
Out of his element in the dome, Drew Brees leads his high-powered offense up to western New York to battle T.O. and the Bills.
Monday Night Football: Colts at Cardinals
Ravens at Patriots
A depleted Ravens defense (yet still led by Ray Lewis) will have its hands full against the high-powered Patriots offense.
Lions at Broncos
If Matthew Stafford is indeed selected first overall, and depending on how the season is going, he could get his first start against Denver.
Sunday Night Football: Chargers at Steelers
Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger meet for the first time since last season's divisional matchup, this time at Qualcomm Stadium.
Patriots at Broncos
Josh McDaniels meets the Patriots for the first time as a head coach at home against his former teacher in Bill Belichick. McDaniels will get a chance to help Denver exact some revenge for a Monday Night beatdown he was a part of with New England last season.
Monday Night Football: Jets at Dolphins
One of the NFL's best divisional rivalries gets the spotlight, as Miami gets its first Monday Night home game since 2006.
New Jets coach Rex Ryan will try to duplicate his recent success against the Dolphins. As defensive coordinator of the Ravens, Ryan put together a game plan that resulted in four interceptions from Miami (and former Jet) quarterback Chad Pennington as Baltimore came away with a victory in last season's Wild Card matchup.
NOTE: This week marks the 50th anniversary of the AFL, and the eight original squads will be in action.
Ravens at Vikings
Offense could be at a premium in this matchup as Joe Flacco gets his first look at the new-look Vikings.
Monday Night Football: Broncos at Chargers
No Jay Cutler this time as the Broncos return to the scene of the NFL's most controversial game and their historic division title collapse.
Buccaneers at Patriots (in London)
In the NFL's feeble attempt to help the rest of the world understand our version of football, they send New England and Tampa Bay into Wembley Stadium, hopefully to impress the international crowd.
Falcons at Cowboys
Matt Ryan gets his first crack at the new Texas Stadium as he and Tony Romo engage in what should be a track meet.
Vikings at Steelers
Adrian Peterson faces arguably his toughest test as one of the NFL's elite backs.
Sunday Night Football: Cardinals at Giants
The last two NFC champions match up as Kurt Warner faces the team that released him a few years ago.
Panthers at Cardinals
Carolina gets a shot at redemption after being embarrassed in the Divisional Playoffs by Arizona.
Monday Night Football: Falcons at Saints
In a game that could determine the balance of power in the NFC South, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees take control of two of the NFL's most explosive offenses in the Big Easy.
Dolphins at Patriots
Miami began their AFC East title run against New England and the unveiling of the Wildcat offense.
Teams are more prepared now, and with Tom Brady back, it will be harder for Joey Porter to back up his words as he did last year.
Chargers at Giants
Eli Manning and Philip Rivers meet for only the second time since their historic trade during the 2004 draft.
The first time they met, Manning was met with more venom in an opposing stadium than I can ever remember, and now the New York crowd gets its chance to pounce on Rivers.
Thursday Night Football: Bears at 49ers (NFL Network)
In the first of five prime time appearances, the Bears travel west to face former Hall of Fame linebacker-now coach in Mike Singletary and the San Francisco 49ers.
Sunday Night Football: Patriots at Colts
The NFL's rivalry of the decade goes to Indy for the third straight season and the seventh time in 10 years as Tom Brady meets his greatest foe in Peyton Manning, plus he gets his first game at the new Lucas Oil Stadium.
Redskins at Cowboys
Daniel Snyder will get to see his $100 million man in Albert Haynesworth against the $100 million team in the Dallas Cowboys in action at the NFL's newest football palace.
Seahawks at Vikings
T.J. Houshmandzadeh was coveted by the Vikings (and others) before landing in Seattle, and Minnesota will get to see up close and personal if he was worth the $40 million contract.
Packers at Lions (Thanksgiving, FOX)
Detroit keeps its Turkey Day tradition, but it may be too little, too late for the boys from the Motor City by this point.
Giants at Broncos (Thanksgiving, NFL Network)
The Giants need this game the most, as they close out the season with three consecutive divisional games.
Monday Night Football: Patriots at Saints
You can put the secondaries to bed on this one as two of the NFL's deadliest quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Drew Brees lead two of the most star-studded offenses onto the prime time stage.
Cowboys at Giants
In the first of three crucial division games, New York hosts the Cowboys as the push for the postseason is in full swing.
Monday Night Football: Ravens at Packers
Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers meet in yet another crucial matchup that could affect the postseason picture.
Steelers at Browns (NFL Network)
Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose focus, as they will potentially look towards defending their title during the final few weeks.
Panthers at Patriots
The two teams meet for only the second time since Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Cowboys at Saints
The last time Drew Brees saw Dallas, he torched them for 384 yards and five touchdowns en route to a 42-17 victory in 2006.
Sunday Night Football: Vikings at Panthers
The NFL's top two rushers from a season ago in Adrian Peterson (1,760 yards in 2008) and DeAngelo Williams (1,515 yards) meet up in Charlotte.
Monday Night Football: Redskins at Giants
Depending on how the season is going, this could be a vital matchup that could decide the NFC East race.
Panthers at Giants
A year ago, they met to decide the NFC's top seed. Who knows what will happen this time around?
Monday Night Football: Vikings at Bears
Jay Cutler will either get a chance to win the division or knock one of his main rivals out of the playoffs in one fell swoop.
Eagles at Cowboys
Last year, the Eagles destroyed Dallas en route to clinching an improbable playoff berth. If things are similar this year, the Cowboys will need that motivation to return the favor.
Bengals at Jets
If things follow script, the Bengals could be playing spoiler this season against Gang Green.
Chicago Bears (.414 opponent win percentage; face nine teams with losing records from 2008)
Miami Dolphins (.594 opponent win percentage; face 13 teams with .500 or better records from 2008, 10 with winning records)
Looking through this analysis and reading your respective team's schedules, let your voice be heard on what you think your chances are at a potential turnaround season or Super Bowl run.
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