The 2014 NFL draft is still weeks away and free agency is still going on, but it's never too early to start looking ahead to the upcoming season.
With the official schedule being released on NFL.com, it's now time to start looking ahead to Week 1 and breaking down the biggest games across the league. Though the rosters will certainly change, as teams will have a completely new look, many of the best games are between teams that already have established superstars.
Whether it's last year's Super Bowl champions pitted in a rematch of a controversial game from years ago or a legendary quarterback facing off with his old team for the second time, the storylines and talent on the field makes Week 1 as exciting as any throughout the entire season.
Here's a look at some of the biggest matchups during the opening week and a breakdown of each contest.
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks
It doesn't get much more intriguing than a rematch of the "Fail Mary" game from 2012.
Add in the fact that the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers have both won Super Bowls in the last four seasons, and this matchup has the makings of one of the best of the season, not just the opening week.
Seattle comes into the season as the defending Super Bowl champion, so a target will be placed firmly on its back from Week 1. Going up against a proud franchise like the Packers means the Seahawks have a stiff test to start the season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy spoke about the challenge for the team going up against the No. 1 defense in the league in 2013, per Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com:
Though it's the only prime-time game at home for the Seahawks' 12th Man, it will certainly be a memorable one as the team celebrates its first Super Bowl in franchise history. Top that off with the likes of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III going against Aaron Rodgers, and this game has everything.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Needless to say, this is an excellent cap to the first full slate of games on Sunday Night Football.
While the Denver Broncos have clearly had more success in the postseason, reaching the Super Bowl last season, the comparison between the two franchises is much closer than some might think, as NFL on ESPN points out:
2 years ago today, the Colts released QB Peyton Manning. Which team would you rather be today, Colts or Broncos? pic.twitter.com/PIESpRXiIq— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 8, 2014
Denver has made several moves during the offseason by bringing in DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders and others to regroup from the disappointing end to last year. After having an entire offseason to build the bond with those players, going up against a great Colts team offers a measuring stick for the franchise.
As for the Colts, Luck comes into his third season on the cusp of becoming an elite quarterback in a league full of great signal-callers. With a second win over his predecessor in Manning, Luck might be making a case as one of the best of all time.
No moment is too big for either of these quarterbacks, especially during the regular season. So getting a chance to watch both compete against each other in the first week is a treat that NFL fans won't want to miss.
San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys
Which game is the most exciting?
OK, so maybe this one isn't as enthralling as the two previous games, but this is as good as it gets outside of the prime-time games.
The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a season in which their Super Bowl hopes were dashed by the division-rival Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. As for the Dallas Cowboys, the polarizing team once again missed out on the playoffs after having hopes of making a run in the postseason.
Both teams come in with question marks, as the 49ers are dealing with multiple off-the-field issues with star players and the Cowboys still have concerns about Tony Romo's back. But with a storied history for both franchises, this is still a much-watch contest at the start of the season.
Playoff hopes, and even dreams of winning the division title, remain for each side, but it will have to start with a win in the opening weekend.
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