Even though the NFL regular season is still several months away, Wednesday night's official release of the schedule will finally give football-starved fans something to talk about.
The dates and times of every game won't be known until the schedule is made public, but the potential matchups can be speculated upon due to the fact that each team's listing of opponents has already been announced.
With anticipation mounting for the release of the NFL schedule, here are three games in particular that football fans will undoubtedly have marked off on their calendars.
Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 demolition of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII will forever be remembered as one of the worst NFL title games ever. The matchup was so one-sided that some fans may never want to see it again. As luck (or design) would have it, though, the Broncos and Seahawks are set to lock horns once again during the 2014 regular season.
As seen in this tweet and hype video courtesy of NFL Network, the Broncos will get another crack at the team that embarrassingly ended their run at the Lombardi Trophy:
Denver will have to travel to Seattle, according to NESN.com, and there is no question that the Broncos will have to deal with a ton of crowd noise from Seattle's 12th man. They will also have to figure out a way to solve a Seattle defense that appeared impenetrable during the Super Bowl.
Although the Broncos lost wide receiver Eric Decker to the New York Jets and running back Knowshon Moreno to the Miami Dolphins, most would probably agree that Denver is a much-improved team, while the Seahawks have remained stationary or perhaps even taken a step back.
The defense is definitely better equipped to slow down Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch thanks to the additions of defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward.
The true test, however, relates to quarterback Peyton Manning's ability to excel against Seattle's elite secondary. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the rest of the Seahawks defensive backs ruled the day in Super Bowl XLVIII, and they will enter this matchup with the upper hand.
There may be no player in NFL history better at learning from their mistakes than Manning, though, so expect him to perform much better, even in enemy territory.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Although wide receiver DeSean Jackson's status with the Philadelphia Eagles was often on shaky ground during his time with the team, many were shocked when the Eagles announced that they decided to release Jackson outright at March 28:
There has been plenty of speculation regarding the reasoning behind the move, chief among them being alleged gang ties. Nothing to that effect has been proven, though, which has led to plenty of criticism being hurled in the Eagles' direction.
One entity that was quite pleased with Philly's decision, however, was the Washington Redskins franchise. The Redskins moved quickly after Jackson's release and were able to strike a deal with their former NFC East rival.
Since Jackson remained in the division, he will have an opportunity to face the Eagles twice per season. That is something that appeals to the dynamic pass-catcher based on his appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show (via CSNPhilly.com).
"Oh yeah, twice. Two times, not once, twice. I'm sure those two games, there's gonna be something special about those two games, for sure. I gotta definitely go up on that," Jackson said.
It will be particularly interesting when the Redskins travel to Philadelphia. While Philly sports fans are notoriously brutal on the opposition, it wouldn't be surprising if Jackson receives some cheers due to the circumstances surrounding his release.
As strange as it will be for Eagles fans, facing Jackson will be even more bizarre for his former teammates. Per Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, running back LeSean McCoy still isn't particularly thrilled with the decision to cut Jackson loose.
I think anybody that tells you that they're happy about it, I don't know how honest that would be. It was a surprise. You heard so much, you didn't really know. Not playing with him this year is gonna definitely be different. And playing against him is really gonna be different.
Jackson will most definitely be motivated to make the Eagles regret releasing him, and that will make for some compelling television.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
While Broncos vs. Seahawks may very well be the most anticipated rematch of the year, Manning's annual clashes with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have become the stuff of legends. Manning has had his issues against the Pats in the past, but he was able to exorcise some demons by defeating them in last season's AFC Championship Game.
New England will be out for revenge, and there are some interesting new wrinkles involved in this rivalry as well. Things were taken to a different level when the Broncos signed wide receiver Wes Welker away from the Patriots last offseason. Denver poached New England's roster once again this offseason with the previously mentioned signing of Talib.
As pointed out by Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos and Patriots have tended to court the same players in recent years:
It didn't take long for the Pats to land on their feet, as they signed Darrelle Revis to replace Talib. Both Talib and Revis are elite corners, but Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler believes that New England came out on the winning end:
That remains to be seen, but it can certainly be argued that both the Broncos and Patriots are better now than they were last year. They engaged in two epic battles last season, and there is little doubt that they will impress once again in 2014.
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