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2014 NFL Schedule: Early-Season Matchups Fans Won't Want to Miss

Sept 24, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) gives an instruction to a teammate to go in motion against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter warmups at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 24, 2014

The NFL unveiled the complete 2014 regular-season schedule on Wednesday night, and while flex scheduling will change when some games are played later this year, the road to Super Bowl XLIX has become much clearer. 

It all starts with the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks, who will hang the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl banner before kicking off the season against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on the first Thursday in September.

The excitement surrounding the 2014 season will only build from there, as the league has scheduled a plethora of tantalizing early-season showdowns next fall.

Below you'll find a team-by-team breakdown of the 2014 regular-season schedule (via NFL.com) and a closer look at three early-season matchups you can't afford to miss. 

 

AFC East 

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets


AFC North 

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

AFC South 

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

 

AFC West 

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs 

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys 

New York Giants 

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

 

NFC North 

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

NFC West 

Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

 

Week 1: Packers Look to Avenge "Fail Mary" Defeat on Opening Night

Mike Roemer

When: Thursday, September 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Watch: NBC

The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks will kick off the 2014 season at home against a fellow NFC contender in the Green Bay Packers.

But while the Pack haven't met the Hawks in a meaningful game since September 2012, Green Bay has had plenty of time to sit and think about the "Fail Mary" game, when replacement referees awarded Seattle's Golden Tate simultaneous possession in the end zone on a last-second Hail Mary attempt, per ESPN Stats & Info:

The devastating result ultimately led to the return of the NFL officials, but still doesn't sit well with many outside the Emerald City.

Aside from the drama brought on by their last regular-season meeting, Packers-Seahawks will be must-see television for a number of other reasons, mainly the fact we'll get to see Rodgers go up against Seattle's dominant secondary, better known as the Legion of Boom.

This game will also be a potential playoff preview as both teams have become perennial postseason contenders and are expected to be in the mix come January.

 

Week 2: Eagles, Colts Aim to Make a Statement on Monday Night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during a Wild Card Playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 4, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When: Monday, September 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis 

Watch: ESPN 

Week 2's Monday night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts will provide fans with an early look at one of the league's most explosive offenses and two of the NFL's top young quarterbacks in Philly's Nick Foles and Indy's Andrew Luck.

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 29, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Eagles posted all sorts of eye-popping offensive numbers during Chip Kelly's first season in 2013, en route to a playoff appearance, while the Colts have gone 11-5 in each of Luck's first two seasons, reaching the AFC divisional round a year ago.

Unsurprisingly, both teams have legitimate hopes of winning their division for a second straight year and getting back to the postseason. And since these two teams could only meet again in Super Bowl XLIX, you won't want to miss their rare meeting in prime time. 

Will it be the Eagles picking up a huge road win or the Colts making a statement against one of the NFC's best?

 

Week 3: DeSean Jackson Returns to Philadelphia 

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 03:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles leaps over the goal line scoring on a forty six yard touchdown pass against the Oakland Raiders during the third quarter at O.co Coliseum on November 3, 2013 in Oakland, California.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When: Sunday, September 21 at 1 p.m. ET

Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Watch: Fox

The NFC East promises to be hotly contested once again in 2014. And while all dozen division matchups will be pivotal in terms of crowning a champion at season's end, none will carry bigger storylines than Week 3's clash between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

Much of the talk surrounding this matchup will center on DeSean Jackson, who signed with the Redskins this offseason after being released by the Eagles after six productive seasons in Philly.

Earlier this week, Redskins owner Dan Snyder discussed the acquisition of Jackson and what it means for his club, via ESPN.com's John Keim:

When you look at the fact that the head coach [Jay Gruden] and general manager [Bruce Allen] said this is the right move, the only thing I can do is support it and that's what I've done. It's been great. I've spent a little time with him and he's really a good guy.

[Watching him is] going to be exciting, and not just the two games against Philly. We got tired of seeing him score a lot of touchdowns against us and watching him on TV, so it's great to have him here.

There'll also be added motivation for Robert Griffin III and the rest of the Redskins to win this game as they were swept by the Eagles a season ago.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 17: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins dives into the end zone for a two point conversion as he is hit by linebacker DeMeco Ryans #59 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter of a game at
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

And if Jackson's rivalry with the Eagles doesn't interest you, Chip Kelly's explosive offense just might. Keep in mind that Philadelphia boasted the top rushing attack in all of football last season and ranked second in total offense behind only the Denver Broncos.

These two teams will meet again in Landover, Md. in Week 16, but who knows what the NFC East standings will look like by then. Every team in the league will still be very much in the hunt for the playoffs come Week 3, making this NFC East clash must-see television. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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