The 2014 NFL schedule was released earlier in the week, and football fans began pouring over it en masse to see who their favorite team would be matching up with and, more importantly, when.
Prime-time games are the most attractive, as they take place in front of a nationally televised audience and allow a much bigger fanbase to catch a glimpse of these teams from start to finish.
While fans outside the local broadcast region can always look to NFL RedZone or Sunday Ticket to get their fix, this free, affordable option puts the spotlight squarely on the two teams playing on the gridiron under the bright lights at night.
Let’s take a closer look at what should be the most anticipated matchups of the 2014 campaign.
|Week||Thursday (CBS/NFLN)||Sunday (NBC)||Monday (ESPN)|
|Week 1||Green Bay at Seattle||Indianapolis at Denver||N.Y. Giants at Detroit / San Diego at Arizona|
|Week 2||Pittsburgh at Baltimore||Chicago at San Francisco||Philadelphia at Indianapolis|
|Week 3||Tampa Bay at Atlanta||Pittsburgh at Carolina||Chicago at N.Y.Jets|
|Week 4||N.Y. Giants at Washington||New Orleans at Dallas||New England at Kansas City|
|Week 5||Minnesota at Green Bay||Cincinnati at New England||Seattle at Washington|
|Week 6||Indianapolis at Houston||N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia||San Francisco at St. Louis|
|Week 7||N.Y. Jets at New England||San Francisco at Denver||Houston at Pittsburgh|
|Week 8||San Diego at Denver||Green Bay at New Orleans||Washington at Dallas|
|Week 9||New Orleans at Carolina||Baltimore at Pittsburgh||Indianapolis at N.Y.Giants|
|Week 10||Cleveland at Cincinnati||Chicago at Green Bay||Carolina at Philadelphia|
|Week 11||Buffalo at Miami||New England at Indianapolis||Pittsburgh at Tennessee|
|Week 12||Kansas City at Oakland||Dallas at N.Y.Giants||Baltimore at New Orleans|
|Week 13||Seattle at San Francisco||Denver at Kansas City||Miami at N.Y. Jets|
|Week 14||Dallas at Chicago||New England at San Diego||Atlanta at Green Bay|
|Week 15||Arizona at St. Louis||Dallas at Philadelphia||New Orleans at Chicago|
|Week 16||Tennessee at Jacksonville||Seattle at Arizona||Denver at Cincinnati|
|Week 17||No game||TBD (flex scheduling)||No game|
Week 7: Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football
This Sunday night showdown should be one of the better matchups of the 2014 campaign, as it pits the offensive juggernaut Broncos against a defensive force in the Niners.
Denver should have a major chip on its shoulder after being embarrassed in last season’s Super Bowl, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Peyton Manning come out looking to top his historically great 2013 season.
While his squad will face challenges in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals defenses ahead of this contest, the Niners will provide a great measuring stick to see if Denver is up for another deep postseason run.
Head coach John Fox spoke about the schedule release with Mike Klis of The Denver Post:
I think that is always exciting to see how you open, where do you open and who you open with. That's what all this offseason stuff is going to be geared toward. I think we have a home-heavy schedule the first half of the season and a road-heavy schedule late in the year.
It's hard to say as far as opponents and schedules and all that kind of stuff, because you never know year to year. They're all tough.
San Francisco is certainly one of the toughest teams, as it has made a number of playoff forays under stellar head coach Jim Harbaugh. He will undoubtedly have something cooked up that will confuse Manning, much like his counterpart in Seattle, Pete Carroll, utilized his stonewall defense to beat the Broncos with a ring on the line.
It’s honestly a coin flip to determine which organization will survive this one and earn a “W,” so back the home team that should be fired up to obliterate everyone it faces in 2014.
Week 1: Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football
This is the season opener, and just about everyone who is remotely interested in the league will want to check it out. It features two of the best teams, including the defending Super Bowl champions, attempting to start the campaign off with a victory.
The Packers are looking to build on an improbable playoff run in 2013, as they were able to shake off a plethora of injuries to claim the NFC North crown before falling to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Round.
Aaron Rodgers will be back to 100 percent health, and his supporting cast is revamped after Green Bay bucked its longstanding trend of frugality. The club opened its coffers and made some marquee free-agent maneuvers—such as the signing of Julius Peppers and retention of B.J. Raji—that will insure it is competing for the top spot in not only the division, but also the entire conference.
The Seahawks will show off their new look after an interesting offseason, as they lost contributors in Golden Tate, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and others. Regardless, they still have an immense amount of talent and should be favorites to return to the championship game.
These powerhouse programs last met in 2012, when the Seahawks earned a controversial victory on a miraculous last-second touchdown pass. ESPN Stats & Info noted that Seattle wasn’t exactly supposed to win that one:
The Packers-Seahawks open the 2014 NFL season. In the infamous "Fail Mary," the Seahawks' win probability was only 3.4% on the final play.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 24, 2014
Green Bay will be hungry for revenge, but it isn’t going to come easily in the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks have only lost one game over the past two seasons at CenturyLink Field while winning 17 in the same span.
Expect a back-and-forth battle, but ultimately, the Seahawks should prevail to start a title defense on the right foot.