The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks will get the 2014 NFL season kicked off when they host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, Sept. 4.
Yes, it is Sunday Night Football on a Thursday. It falls under NBC's umbrella of coverage. So, the excellent schedule for SNF features two games on Thursday. The season opener, and Thanksgiving night.
That will also feature a fantastic matchup, as the San Francisco 49ers will attempt to avenge their defeat in the NFC Championship to the Seattle Seahawks.
As Fox Sports 1230 reports, the flex scheduling for Sunday Night Football will get a head start this season. Beginning in Week 5, the matchup in the below schedule may be changed to a more appealing one.
Time will tell how many matchups this alters, but anything that increases the chances of getting the best matchup on prime time is a win for the fans.
Have a look at the schedule:
|2014 Sunday Night Football Schedule|
|Date||Week||Away Team||Home Team|
|Sept. 4||1||Green Bay Packers||Seattle Seahawks|
|Sept. 7||1||Indianapolis Colts||Denver Broncos|
|Sept. 14||2||Chicago Bears||San Francisco 49ers|
|Sept. 21||3||Pittsburgh Steelers||Carolina Panthers|
|Sept. 28||4||New Orleans Saints||Dallas Cowboys|
|*Oct. 5||5||Cincinnati Bengals||New England Patriots|
|*Oct. 12||6||New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles|
|*Oct. 19||7||San Francisco 49ers||Denver Broncos|
|*Oct. 26||8||Green Bay Packers||New Orleans Saints|
|*Nov. 2||9||Baltimore Ravens||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|*Nov. 9||10||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers|
|*Nov. 16||11||New England Patriots||Indianapolis Colts|
|*Nov. 23||12||Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants|
|Nov. 27||13||Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers|
|*Nov. 30||13||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs|
|*Dec. 7||14||New England Patriots||San Diego Chargers|
|*Dec. 14||15||Dallas Cowboys||Philadelphia Eagles|
|*Dec. 21||16||Seattle Seahawks||Arizona Cardinals|
|Source: NBC Sports; * denotes subject to flex scheduling|
Highlights of the Sunday Night Football Schedule
With flex scheduling starting in Week 5, we are guaranteed a dynamic year of exciting games. As the schedule is now, there are plenty of great matchups. SNF highlights that the participants from last year's playoffs are well represented:
That starts with the first week, as Seattle will begin its quest to defend its title in front of what should be an insanely energetic fanbase. The Packers, meanwhile, will be looking to make an early statement and erase some of the sting from the infamous setting that caused the Fail Mary.
The Seahawks will play in another exciting matchup in a game that won't be flexed. That is the Thanksgiving showdown with divisional rival San Francisco.
This matchup has quickly become the NFL's best rivalry, and that rivalry should only be more intense after last year's nail-biting NFC Championship game between the two. Both sides exchanged healthy trash talk as a result, and there will be plenty of bad blood on the field.
The game I'm most looking forward to on the SNF schedule comes in Week 1, however.
Week 1 Spectacular: Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
The exciting matchup will not only force Indianapolis fans to root against the quarterback they once worshiped, but it will be a chance for both AFC powers to make a statement.
It's the Broncos' chance to show they are ready to go one step further than last year's Super Bowl defeat to the Seahawks. For the Colts, it is a chance to continue the momentum gained last season before bowing out in the divisional round to the New England Patriots.
Although we have a lot of time and football before this game, one thing is for certain: the Denver Broncos will be ready for the start of the season. This team will be incorporating new players, and dealing with the offseason departure of last season's second-leading receiver in Eric Decker, but Denver has an offense fully in place, and Manning will make sure the men around him are ready.
The Broncos started fast last season by scoring over 40 points in each of their first two games, and I expect similar excellence at the start of next season.
Manning went on to have a record-breaking season. The 38-year-old passed for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards passing, but they still came up short. It is safe to expect the offense to be very similar, but Manning is open to some tweaking.
Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post passed along this quote from Manning on what the offense will look like:
It's certainly possible. I know the coaches are excited to see some of our new players. I think it's wide open at this point as to what kind of offense we are going to have based on the personnel, because it's still up in the air at this point.
The Colts did not enjoy as hot a start to the season. The Colts averaged 24.4 points per game last season, but didn't eclipse that mark until Week 3.
Still, with Luck having another season of experience under his belt, the Colts offense will be a good early test for Denver's defense.
The Broncos were strong against the rush last season but weak against the pass. They brought in pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware to boost the pass defense and will likely address that area in the draft.
This will be a fun game on many levels.