Rejoice you diehard and faithful fans. Make your predictions and place your bets. April 15th, an unofficial national holiday. No I'm not talking about tax day, I'm talking about the release of the 2008-2009 NFL Schedule. All round the country every fan believes there team is going 16-0, that this year is their year, optimism is at an all time high. As always certain games have teams and players salivating alike. Those games that justify buying that new 50 inch plasma without telling you wife. Here, week by week, are my must see match-ups of the 08-09 NFL Season, weeks 1-8.
Week 1: Dallas Cowboys @ Cleveland Browns 4:15 FOX
It's T.O. and company's first game since their playoff loss to the eventual NFL Champs, the New York Giants and T.O.'s memorable post-game theatrics. This match-up pits two teams that have Super Bowl aspirations, the NFC favorite Cowboys and everybody's Dark Horse, the Cleveland Browns. Both teams feature potent offenses the Dawg Pound always makes for a great atmosphere, especially with its teams Championship prospects the highest since their return to Cleveland.
Match-Up to Watch: LB DeMarcus Ware vs. LT Joe Thomas
Two Pro Bowlers go head-to-head in a pivotal in game one on one. If Ware can routinely beat Thomas and put pressure on QB Derek Anderson then the Browns offense could sputter and swing the power to the Cowboys. If Thomas holds his own and gives Anderson time, look for the Browns to score and score often.
Week 2: Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys 8:30 ESPN
Now you may be thinking that I am a Cowboys fan for choosing them twice in a row. I assure you I am not. I will vehemently deny any such accusation. However it is hard to ignore this NFC match-up. The Cowboys-Eagles rivalry always makes for a good game. This game provides the chance for each team to make a statement and send a message to the rest of the league that they will be a force to be reckoned with not only in the NFC East, but in the entire NFL.
Match-Up to Watch: CB Asante Samuels vs. Terrell Owens
A great CB vs. a Great WR. The Eagles signed Samuels for the very reason of shutting down the top WRs in the NFC East and here will be their first opportunity to see if their investment was a wise decision.
Week 3: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts 4:15 CBS
Last year the Jaguars closed the gap between the Colts and their perennial AFC South dominance. This will be the Jags first chance to see if they can finally overtake the Colts in the AFC South. meanwhile the Colts will be looking to reassure everyone that they are still the team to beat, not only in the AFC South, but in the AFC.
Match-Up to Watch: QB Peyton Manning vs. QB David Garrard
2 savvy quarterbacks will try and lead their teams to a win and control of the AFC South. Both QBs are strong leaders and run their offense very efficiently. Look for the winner of this match-up to be the on the winning team.
Week 4: Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00 CBS
AFC South games are always physical, entertaining games. The young Texans defense will try and contain the electric Maurice Jones-Drew in what may turn out to be a pivotal AFC South match-up. The Texans have playoff hopes and the Jags are thinking Super Bowl.
Match-Up to Watch: Texans D-Line vs. Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor
If the young Texans D-line can shut down the Jags run game they could pull off the upset. If Fred Taylor and MJD have their way, it could be a long day for the Texans.
Week 5: Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants 1:00 FOX
Ah, my first mention of the Defending Champs. A possible playoff preview in the Meadowlands featuring two of the best NFC Quarterbacks. This game may have possible seeding ramifications and looks to be a close, entertaining game.
Match-Up to Watch: QB Eli Manning vs. Seattle Defense
Seattle has one of the best Front 7's in the league and if they put pressure on Eli they could very well go into New York and win. If Eli continues to grow as a QB and has a good game vs a tough defense it could go a long way to New York's quest for another ring.
Week 6: New England Patriots @ San Diego Chargers 8:15 NBC
A rematch of last years AFC Championship game. IT will be New England's first game at San Diego since the heated 2006 AFC Divisional game that ignited the rivalry. The San Diego fans have been waiting for this game for two years and will be going absolutely crazy. The game itself features two of the, if not the, best teams in the NFL in what will most likely be a playoff preview and could ultimately determine who gets the top seed and home field advantage in the playoffs.
Match-Up to Watch: WR Randy Moss vs. CB Antonio Cromartie
2 of the most athletic players in the league go head-to-head in one of the biggest AFC regular season games of the year. Both players had the best individual seasons at their respective positions last year and look to continue that succcess in the 2008 season. Both players are athletic freaks who are top players at their positions. The winner of this match-up will contribute largely to the outcome of this game.
Week 7: Indianapolis Colts @ Green Bay Packers 4:15 CBS
The Aaron Rodgers experiment will be in full swing this far into the season. He will be looking to start building his legacy in a what could very well be a statement game for the Packers. A win would solidify that the Packers are fully capable of competing with the best without Brett Favre and would be a huge confidence boost for Rodgers. However he will be going against Peyton Manning and company, a team who is a lock for the playoffs every year and are hungry for another ring.
Match-Up to Watch: Aaron Rodgers vs. Colts Defense
The young Rodgers could go a long way in convincing people that he is the right man to replace Brett Favre with a good game vs. the Colts. However Bob Sanders and company give any QB trouble and look to wreak havoc vs. the inexperienced Rodgers.
Week 8: New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Steelers 4:15 FOX
Big Ben and the Steelers are looking to prove that they are contenders. The Giants are looking to prove to everyone that another Super Bowl win is not out of the realm of possibility with a win over one of the AFC's better teams. The game looks to be one of the most physical of the year and an all around entertaining game.
Match-Up to Watch: Giants D-Line vs. Steelers O-line
In the Super Bowl the Giants D-line put pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game, leading to the Giants win. With the loss of G Alan Faneca early this offseason the Steelers need to answer the question as to whether they have the ability to protect Roethlisberger vs. one of the league's best pass rushes.