The addition of weekly Thursday Night Football telecasts was a brilliant move by the league. It helps more teams get featured in prime time and ensures that fans don't go more than two nights in a row without an NFL game to watch.
While the schedule always features some clunkers—a Week 5 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns would be an example—there are a lot of solid games to get the weeks started. And since it's the only game on, fans are going to watch.
Knowing that, let's examine the best Thursday Night Football games of the season. The list doesn't include the Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos in Week 1, because that's a separate telecast. For a complete look at the 2013 NFL schedule, visit the league's official site.
1. New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (Week 12)
By this point in the season, we'll know if the Saints are staging a big bounce-back season. There's a good chance they will. They managed to finish 7-9 despite brutal defending. Even moderate improvement on that side of the ball should be enough to supplement the high-powered offense.
If that's the case, this will turn into a key divisional battle between the NFC South's two most talented teams. The Falcons have won at least nine games in each of the past five seasons, which includes two division crowns, but they have just one playoff win to show for it.
The other reason it takes the top spot is because of the likelihood of a fast-paced, high-scoring game. Any time Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, along with their myriad of offensive targets, are battling back in forth, it should be an extremely exciting game.
2. New York Giants at Chicago Bears (Week 6)
These two teams combined to win 19 games last season, but neither one made the playoffs. That should add a lot of fuel to their fire as they prepare for next season. By Week 6, both could be desperate for a win based on some tricky early schedules.
The Giants shouldn't have much trouble putting up points, especially if David Wilson grows into the lead rusher role. The biggest key for them will be getting the previously vaunted pass rush back on track after a lackluster output of just 33 sacks last season.
In Chicago, Jay Cutler will be in the spotlight as usual. The polarizing quarterback has enough talent around him to ensure that the Bears improve on their middle-of-the-pack offense from last season. Matching up with the Giants defense, and that potentially improved rush, will be a good test.
3. Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles (Week 3)
After spending more than a decade in Philadelphia, Andy Reid is now with the Chiefs, while the Eagles are transitioning into the Chip Kelly era. Getting a win in his first trip back to the city he called home for so long would be an early statement from Reid and his team.
The Chiefs actually entered last season with some high expectations before they all came crashing down. Between the arrival of Reid, offseason additions—including the upcoming first overall pick—and a chance to press the reset button after a down year, Kansas City should rebound.
Philadelphia is hoping for a similar turnaround. The Eagles' record hasn't matched their talent level over the past two seasons. Kelly's terrific offensive mind should put his playmakers in positions to succeed. A convincing win over the Chiefs in Week 3 would be a sign of progress.
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