2013 NFL Schedule: Counting Down the Top 20 Games of 2013

Andrew SheaContributor IIIApril 22, 2013

2013 NFL Schedule: Counting Down the Top 20 Games of 2013

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    Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

    The NFC West showdown on Sunday Night Football.

    San Francisco 49ers vs. New England Patriots.

    Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers.

    These were just a few of the games that highlighted 2012.  These games either lived up to the hype they were given or they created their own.

    With the release of the 2013 NFL schedule, we can take a look at which games to hype up for the upcoming season.

    Each game has multiple reasons why it deserves special recognition.  Whether it is a rematch of a great game from last season, a strong division rivalry game or just a heavyweight matchup, these games should be great to watch for any football fan.

    Of course, with every game, the significance will depend on how the season plays out.  That's why they play the game.

    So without further delay, let's count down the top 20 games of 2013:

20. Chiefs at Eagles (Week 3)

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    On paper, it is a game between two teams that performed poorly in 2012 and nothing more.

    But Andy Reid's return to Philadelphia adds a level of anticipation for both teams.

    How will Chip Kelly's offense have fared in the first two weeks?

    How will Alex Smith perform in Kansas City?

    How will these two teams top-five draft picks be performing?

    It will be interesting to see if Reid has something up his sleeve in store for Philadelphia in his return to the City of Brotherly Love.

    This game will be in prime time on Thursday Night Football, and it should be an entertaining game to watch.

19. Texans at Colts (Week 15)

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    Last season, the Indianapolis Colts spoiled Houston's chances for a first-round bye.

    We don't know how much damage could have been done had New England made the trip to Reliant instead of Houston going to Gillette, but you can thank the rival Colts for that.

    Andrew Luck torched the Texans secondary in that Week 17 matchup last season, getting the Colts to 11-5 on the season and locking up the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs.

    The Texans have never won in Indianapolis in 10 seasons.  Dating back to their beginning in 2002, the Texans are 0-10 when playing in Indiana.  That includes the Colts' dismal 2-14 season in 2011.

    For years, the two teams have rarely fielded equal teams.  Peyton Manning's Colts dominated the Texans for eight straight seasons.  In 2011, the Texans were well on their way to a division crown but fell apart against a Dan Orlovsky-led Colts team with a 1-13 record.

    In 2012, Andrew Luck in his rookie season turned the Colts around and won a slew of improbable games.

    In 2013, the Texans and Colts will both field competitive teams in the AFC South.  While Houston still holds the edge, the Week 15 trip to Indy could have a lot on the line for both teams.

18. Eagles at Giants (Week 5)

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    The Eagles have always made trips to New York interesting.  Well, except for last year.

    I don't think Giants fans want to be reminded of DeSean Jackson's punt return.

    Last season, the Eagles were a terrible team.  They finished at 4-12, after being touted as possible Super Bowl contenders entering the season.

    Enter: Chip Kelly

    We don't know whether or not this offense will be successful in Philadelphia, but we do know there will be a culture change.

    By Week 5, both of these bitter rivals seasons will still be alive, and I imagine that both teams will get up for this game.  Eagles-Giants games are always entertaining, and 2013 will be no different.

17. Texans at Ravens (Week 3)

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    The only reason this isn't rated higher is because it's Week 3.

    If it were later in the year, there would probably be much more hype and drama attached to it.

    Regardless, it will still be a great game to watch.  Houston and Baltimore played in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011, with Baltimore coming out on top.

    Last season, both teams emerged as two of the powerhouses of the AFC, and each won their prospective divisions.

    One went on to a heartbreaking 41-28 loss to New England, the other trounced New England and eventually won Super Bowl XLVII over the San Francisco 49ers.

    Both teams have made changes this offseason.  For Baltimore, Ray Lewis will no longer be on the field, and while Ed Reed will be, he will be in a Texans jersey.

    I imagine that will be a main storyline to watch in this Week 3 matchup.  Besides a possible postseason preview.

16. Packers at Vikings (Week 8)

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    Last season, Adrian Peterson ran the Packers into the ground.  In their Week 17 game, the Minnesota Vikings ran Peterson, then ran some more.  

    Christian Ponder put up one of his better games in the season finale, as the Vikings clinched the NFC's final wild-card spot.

    Peterson stole our hearts with his supernatural return from ACL surgery en route to one of the best seasons in the history of the running back position.

    The 2011 NFL MVP and 2012 NFL MVP will take the field in Minnesota in Week 8 in what might be an important game in a tight NFC North division race.  The Packers, Bears, Vikings and Lions are all in the running this year.

    With Peterson already talking about 2,500 yards, the Packers will likely have their hands full.

    Oh by the way, don't forget about Greg Jennings, as Green Bay will probably see plenty of him as well.

15. Broncos at Colts (Week 7)

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    The headline is obvious.

    Peyton Manning makes his debut in Lucas Oil Stadium as a member of a team not named the Colts.

    Andrew Luck will look across the field at the man whose shoes he had to fill in his rookie season.

    Both teams made the playoffs last season and are hoping to take the next step in 2013.  While Denver is an early Super Bowl favorite, Indianapolis is poised to make some noise in the AFC.

    Both Pro Bowl QBs will each have their own reasons why this game will be important to them.  Manning will be out to prove that he doesn't need the Colts, while Luck will try to show the Colts they don't need him either.

    I expect the score to be closer than the the initial projections might indicate, and Broncos-Colts should carry its own excitement.

14. Falcons at Packers (Week 14)

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    Two of the top young QBs of the NFC take the field in one of the juiciest games of 2013.

    Rodgers-Ryan is one of the league's top candidates to possibly replace Brady-Manning.  Either way, Both QBs have led their teams to deep playoff success in the first half of their careers.

    This NFC heavyweight fight has NFC Championship implications and could very well shake up the playoff picture in the pursuit of a first-round bye.

    The Packers are looking to rebound from a somewhat disappointing performance in 2012, while the Atlanta Falcons are looking to make that push to the Super Bowl in 2013.

    Both those journeys will cross paths in Week 14, as the Falcons make the trip to Lambeau Field for a showdown with the Green Bay Packers.

    A great game for any real football fan.

13. Steelers at Ravens (Week 13)

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    In what has become one of the most physical and entertaining rivalries in the NFL, Week 13 gives the Pittsburgh Steelers a crack at the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (every Steelers fan's nightmare right there).

    Pittsburgh finished a disappointing 8-8 in 2012 and will look to reclaim bragging rights in the AFC North from its rivals in Maryland.

    Baltimore will be attempting to field a much younger and different team in 2013.  No Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard or Anquan Boldin.

    In Week 13, the Ravens and Steelers will likely both be very much alive in the playoff chase, and with the Bengals bound to be in the mix, this game could be decisive in the race for the division title.

    Steelers-Ravens on Sunday Night Football with playoff implication.  It doesn't get much better than that.

    Expect a slugfest.

12. Redskins at Cowboys (Week 6)

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    Washington came into Dallas last year on Thanksgiving and gave defensive coordinator Rob Ryan literally nothing to be thankful for.

    Going into the half up 28-3, Robert Griffin III had Cowboys Stadium chanting "RG3, RG3, RG3" and a Cowboys team heading to the locker room with their tails between their legs.

    As with every Redskins-Cowboys game, it was far from over.  Dallas came out firing in the second half and at one point made it a 35-28 game.  

    Griffin finished them off with a drive to make it a 10-point game, and the Redskins walked out of Cowboys Stadium with a 38-31 victory and a second straight victory.

    Five weeks later, the Redskins won their seventh straight game in a winner-take-all game for the NFC East title against Dallas 28-18.

    My point: Redskins-Cowboys games are must-see TV, and the Week 6 game on Sunday Night Football will be no different.

11. Patriots at Texans (Week 13)

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    Perhaps the entire league will want to watch this game except Texans fans.

    Or maybe they'll be chewing at the bit to get to Week 13.  All I know is the Patriots embarrassed Houston twice last year, and the second time ended the Texans' season.

    These two teams are early favorites to earn a first-round bye in the AFC.  But one of them will take a loss in Week 13 when the Pats travel to South Texas.

    Fortunately it is a home game for Houston, as Gillette has proved to be Texan kryptonite.

    With Ed Reed in the defensive backfield, and the powerful Houston crowd behind them, the Texans look poised to make a run at New England with the playoff picture taking shape.

    Revenge is sweet, and there is no team the Texans have their sights set on more than the Patriots.

10. Packers at Bears (Week 17)

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    We will arrive to the final game of the regular season with the NFL's oldest rivalry at center stage.

    The Bears and Packers will take the field completing what many expect to be a four-way run at the NFC North.

    That division could very well come down to this matchup.

    The Chicago Bears have played second fiddle to Green Bay for years now, and they might get their chance to end that at Soldier Field on the season's final day.

    Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall really turned it on last year in Chicago, but they're going to need more of that if they want to take down the Packers this year.

    The defense took a hit this offseason with the loss of Brian Urlacher, but as one of the most opportunistic defenses in the NFL, they are still an elite group.

    Facing them is Green Bay, who is stacked on the offensive side of the ball, so this one should be a classic.

9. Saints at Falcons (Week 12)

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    Last season, the New Orleans Saints took a lot of criticism for their terrible start, but they should be back in the hunt for the NFC South crown in 2013 with Sean Payton back at the helm.

    The Falcons are one of the elite teams in the NFC, and the Saints still boast one of the top offenses in the league.

    With Rob Ryan controlling the defense, the Saints will look to be a more complete team this year.

    Last year, the Saints and Falcons split their season series.  Both games were physical and proved to live up to what has become a great rivalry in recent years.

    The Saints and Falcons will enter Week 12 with both season still alive.  The Georgia Dome will remind New Orleans where they are, and the two teams will duke it out with high-powered offenses going at each other.

    Should be fun to watch.

8. Redskins at Giants (Week 17)

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    No two teams had more exciting back-and-forth games last year than Robert Griffin III's Redskins and Eli Manning's Giants.

    In RG3's first game in the NFC East, the Redskins and Giants had three lead changes in the final two minutes.

    After converting a 4th-and-10 in one of the most athletic plays of the year, Griffin ran for a 24-yard gain and hit Santana Moss for the go-ahead touchdown.

    Eli responded with a 77-yard deep pass to Victor Cruz for the defining play and ultimately the win.

    Giants 27, Redskins 23.

    The two teams met again on Monday Night Football in Week 13 last season, and after the two teams went back and forth for four quarters, the Redskins held on this time for the win.

    Redskins 17, Giants 16.

    These two teams won the division on the final week of the regular season the past two years.

    Why not schedule them to play each other that week this year?

    It could all come down to this game in the NFC East.

7. Ravens at Broncos (Week 1)

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    Oh, Kareem Moore...

    Please cover Jacoby Jones this year.

    The Broncos safety has probably been tormented about the mistake he made in coverage that cost the Broncos a trip to the AFC title game last season.

    Well, he won't have to wait long for a shot to redeem himself.  The Ravens come back to Mile High to open the season.

    The Broncos look to be one of the teams poised to take the AFC from Baltimore in 2013, so a win against them in the opener would be a nice start.

    Both teams will have plenty to play for.  

    Denver will look to avenge last year's playoff loss.

    Baltimore will be playing with a chip on its shoulder after being unable to secure home-field advantage as the defending champion.

    Two heavyweight teams take the field in this AFC thriller.

6. Broncos at Giants (Week 2)

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    The Manning Bowl.

    It's so hyped already.  But when you take into account that these two teams could be big players in their respective conferences, it makes it even more exciting.

    The Denver Broncos take the trip to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants in the season's early stages.

    For years we've had to listen to chatter about whether Eli is elite.  Is he better than Peyton?  While all that seems somewhat trivial, they are both very talented quarterbacks.

    Peyton and Eli will face off for more than just a win.

    The bragging rights for Thanksgiving dinner are at stake.

5. 49ers at Redskins (Week 12)

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    Two of the hottest, rising stars in the NFL take center stage on Monday Night Football in Week 12 when the San Francisco 49ers come to D.C. to face the Washington Redskins.

    As champions of their divisions, this already appears set to be a good game on paper.

    When you factor in the pistol offense, the zone read and the two best quarterbacks at operating them, it becomes must-see television.

    Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III are two of the most athletic, popular, young quarterbacks in the NFL, and as far as talent is concerned, they are off the charts.

    Kaepernick and RG3 introduced the NFL to the pistol zone-read offense, and the defenses of the league weren't ready for it.

    I imagine the two defenses best equipped and prepared to stop such an offense would be the two defenses facing it every week in practice.

    The Redskins and 49ers will play in a game featuring some of the most entertaining quarterback play in the world.

    Any fan should be excited for this one.

4. Patriots at Ravens (Week 16)

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    In a rematch of the past two years' AFC title game, the Patriots and Ravens will play in Baltimore with huge implications for playoff seeding.

    In Week 16, these two teams will square off in one of the top games of 2013.

    New England disappointed its fans last year with a poor showing in the AFC Championship.

    The Patriots will get a good chance to prove they're ready for a different postseason with the 2013 playoffs just around the corner in Week 16.

    Brady and Co. have a chance to live up to the expectations that made them favorites over Baltimore last year.

    We'll get a good look at the status of both teams as they approach the playoffs.

    Something tells me the Ravens will have a hard time suppressing Brady twice.

3. Seahawks at 49ers (Week 14)

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    No two teams played more physical football last year than the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.

    Their games were hard fought, and the NFC West came down to these two bitter rivals.

    2013 will be no different.  Both teams have stacked their weapons and look poised to make another run at each other.

    The Seahawks added Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield.  The 49ers have added Anquan Boldin and Nnamdi Asomugha.

    The two play in Week 14, in what might be the final battle in determining the NFC West.

    The Seahawks and 49ers games are must-see.  With Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick providing young athletic quarterbacks for their teams, the two teams will provide some of the most entertaining football of the year.

    I'll be watching; you should too.

2. Broncos at Patriots (Week 12)

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    Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

    Wes Welker in a Broncos jersey.

    The two top-ranked teams in the AFC square off in Week 12 at Gillette Stadium.

    The Broncos and Patriots will provide some of the best and well-executed football in the world.  Their quarterbacks are already ready for Canton.

    Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have always been touted as two of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, and this year won't change that.

    When they take the field, the Patriots and Broncos are expected to be atop their divisions and trading paint for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

    Seeing the two teams play under those types of stipulations will provide fans a chance to witness two of the best teams in the world go head-to-head in a possible AFC Championship preview.

1. Falcons at 49ers (Week 16)

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    Last year, the NFC Championship pitted the San Francisco 49ers against the Atlanta Falcons.

    The game came down to a failed fourth down inside the red zone by the Atlanta Falcons, and the 49ers went to the Super Bowl.

    Like the Patriots and Ravens, the rematch of last year's conference championship will come in Week 16, just two weeks before the playoffs.

    If we want an accurate look at what the two top teams in the NFC look like heading into the postseason, look no further than this game.

    Adding offensive pieces like Anquan Boldin and Steven Jackson, the 49ers and Falcons look ready to make another run at each other for all the marbles.

    We'll have to see for ourselves, but 49ers-Falcons headlines this year's set of games.