After opening 2014 with a bang in Super Bowl XLVIII, the reigning NFL champion Seattle Seahawks will celebrate their triumph by kicking off the 2014 regular season inside a raucous CenturyLink Field on Sept. 4 against the Green Bay Packers.
But there's plenty more to look forward to after opening night. With free agency and the 2014 NFL draft shaking up the league, the 2014 season promises to feature a plethora of thrilling matchups, big surprises and countless storylines.
NFL.com has provided a complete team-by-team look at the regular-season schedule:
|Key Dates to Know|
|Sept. 4||Regular-Season Opener|
|Sept. 7-8||Regular-Season Kickoff Weekend|
|Dec. 28||Regular Season Concludes|
|Jan. 3||NFL Playoffs Begin|
|Feb. 1||Super Bowl XLIX|
Division to Watch: NFC West
While rivalries exist all across the NFL landscape, the NFC West features not only the best rivalry in football at the moment, but also is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, as Bleacher Report's Ryan McCrystal pointed out on Twitter:
The Seahawks and 49ers met three times last season, including the NFC Championship Game. Seattle won big at home in Week 2, but the trash-talking and animosity carried over into the Week 14 showdown in San Francisco, where the Niners won on a Phil Dawson field goal with 26 seconds left to even the regular-season series.
January's NFC title game was the best installment by far, though, as the two contenders went back and forth en route to a 23-17 Seahawks win.
They'll face off for the first time on Thanksgiving night in the 49ers new home Levi Stadium. They'll tangle again on Dec. 14.
In 2013, three NFC West teams finished with 10 or more wins (Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals) and the four division rivals combined to win 42 games and boast an overall scoring differential of plus-359.
With Arizona and St. Louis both bolstering their rosters with key pieces in free agency and looking to add talent through the 2014 NFL draft, the NFC West promises to be every bit as hotly contested as it was a year ago.
Most Anticipated Matchup: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks
While there will be no shortage of juicy matchups for NFL fans to sink their teeth into this coming fall, one showdown in particular is guaranteed to have our undivided attention: Packers vs. Seahawks.
Not only is this game a clash between two NFC heavyweights, but it's also a rematch of 2012's unforgettable "Fail Mary" game, when replacement referees made a controversial call at the horn, awarding the Seahawks a victory few outside of the Emerald City believe they deserved.
Prior to the two teams' preseason meeting in August 2013, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll discussed the controversial play, per SI.com's Doug Farrar:
Well, it was a nice play and all that. I think that it’s just a statement that over years and years and years, stuff happens and it doesn’t always work out exactly the way you see it when you look at it the second or third time. It’s been happening for years. It’s just unfortunate for their side that they came out on the short end of that deal. It shows you the human aspect of the game, and it shows the replacement human aspect of the game. When [Easley] looked on the ground, he saw that both [players] had the ball, so he called it a touchdown. I don’t know what another official would have called. Another official might have caught the push. That was legit.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had a much shorter response, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky: "I don’t need to think about it; I’m always reminded of it."
You can bet the Packers are still bitter about that Week 3 loss, one that wound up costing them a first-round bye in the 2013 NFL playoffs a few months later.
It's been nearly two years since that head-scratching finish, but there will surely be a playoff atmosphere inside CenturyLink Field for this meeting, which could serve as a postseason preview.