The NFL can say all they want that the divisional matchups are already set up. They can say there's very little drama to making the schedule, but I'm not believing them.
There's a magic to building the drama of the NFL season. The quarterbacks are the centerpieces of that construction. Who's going to step up? Who's going to elevate their stardom? Who's going to rise to the moment?
Make no mistake. Those moments are there for the taking from the first snap of the season right through the Week 17 matchups.
Brett Favre coming back is like watching an episode of "House." The storylines are good but at the end of the episode, House always solves the medical mystery.
Same here: By 51 minutes into the hour, Favre will have his "aha" moment and be back.
And his return starts where the dream ended. He can't have that last pass back, but Favre will get a chance to get the Vikings some street cred to start the 2010 season.
As for Brees, this is gravy. He has the ring. A 400-yard game is just twisting the knife.
Saints 42, Vikings 35
Aaron Rodgers at Kevin Kolb, 4:15 p.m Sunday:
This is Rodgers' chance to give a not-so-warm-welcome to the QB club. Another mojo scene setter for both teams.
Tony Romo at Donovan McNabb, 8:30 p.m.:
Can Tony finally deliver? Is McNabb going to make lemonade out of wideout lemons? Nice way to see if 'Skins are better with Donovan.
Big brother got the better end of the deal in their first meeting in 2006. But a lot has changed since then. Eli's gone from the doghouse to the hero seat as Super Bowl champion.
This game is going to be more about the Giants as a whole. But it will be fascinating to see if Eli can finally dominate with his brother on the field and not in the owners' box watching him.
Colts 30, Giants 20
Tom Brady at Marc Sanchez, 4:15 p.m.:
The AFC Championship appears to be going through New Jersey again. Here's Brady's first chance to prove the Pats aren't done.
Was it a perfect storm of injuries, and poor play calling. or is Jay Cutler really this mediocre?
It's the big question for Week 3. Cutler gets his first crack to rise the NFC North ladder. If he can get past Rodgers, maybe with Peppers and Co., the Bears might be able to give Favre a run for the division.
Bears 24, Packers 20
Romo at Matt Schaub, 1 p.m.:
The numbers guy versus the guy with the 800-pound gorilla on his back. The Texans are a fascinating story for 2010. This is Schaub's first big national chance to prove they weren't a fluke.
Marc Sanchez at Chad Henne, 8:30 p.m.:
All right, guys. Your owners went out and stocked you up. Who's going to take hold of the chance?
Don't even talk to me about another matchup worth watching this week.
The scene above set this all in motion. The Benching. Good times. Donovan McNabb remembers it well.
He never got any respect. He deserved it, but instead, they turned the keys over to the new guy.
I would like nothing more than to see McNabb go for 400 yards here as the 'Skins route Philly, 44-3. I think it will be a little closer.
Redskins 20, Eagles 17 (OT)
It's like Paul McCartney vs. Chris Farley.
I guess I still think of Tony Romo as Farley to Favre's McCartney in the classic "SNL" sketch.
"Remember that time you threw for 10 touchdowns after your dad died? That. Was. Awesome."
These are the kind of matchups that Romo needs to dominate this year. It's hard to root for The Facelift with The Stadium, but Romo is worth rooting for. I don't think he gets it done here.
Vikings 35, Cowboys 28
Joe Flacco at Brady, 1 p.m.:
Can Flacco out-Brady Brady with his new toys?
Peyton at Donovan, 8:30 p.m.:
Another chance to see if McNabb knows how to drive the new offense.
Another chance for Aaron to prove that Ted Thompson made the right call.
I'll also be curious to see if Favre is showing signs of early fatigue at this point. I don't think he has a full year in him. This might be the last time you get to see the two face off.
I know, we've been saying that about Favre forever. I remember skipping my eighth grade dance to see Favre's last game. No, not really. It just feels that way.
Packers 30, Vikings 21
Carson Palmer at Matt Ryan, 1 p.m.:
One's trying to hold on to the stardom, the other has no idea how high his ceiling for stardom could be.
Brady at Rivers, 4:15 p.m.:
The Jump-The-Shark Bowl. Two teams that are past prime try to hold on to the spotlight.
One's a true cowboy. The other looks really "Brokeback" trying to look rugged.
I find myself saying the same thing about both.
I wish I could quit you. But I can't. Somehow, I still believe this could be an early preview of the Super Bowl.
Patriots 33, Vikings 28
Big Ben at Brees, 8 p.m.:
Is he back yet? If he is, he's got some digging out of a hole to do. It's not going to happen in Nahleans. Intriguing sidenote: the NFL is going head-to-head with the World Series on a Sunday for the first time.
Matt Schaub at Peyton Manning, 9 p.m. Monday:
I really want to believe the Texans can own the Colts this year. Manning shows right here that it's not happening. Thanks for playing, we have some nice parting gifts for you.
Is this your Super Bowl preview? Maybe four years from now.
This year, it's just about who is going to take that next step. My money's on Matty Ice.
Falcons 27, Ravens 17
Brady at Big Ben, 8 p.m.:
Tom Terrific just might be able to officially eliminate the Steelers from playoff competition. That's how bad I think it's going to get for Pittsburgh this year.
Romo at Eli, 4:15 p.m.:
Manning has a ring, but I still look at Romo as the true star in this matchup. Prove me wrong, Eli, I dare you.
This is my generation's Montana-Marino. The NFL milks this matchup to the hilt because the two superstars never disappoint on the same field as each other. That won't change. Set your DVRs.
Patriots 27, Colts 24
Brees at Romo. Rodgers at Ryan.
These are the four teams that are earning a lot of buzz for NFC champion (OK, not so much with Atlanta; just from me).
I think 2010 is all about Brees at Romo. I think the Cowboys get the better end of a high-scoring 38-34 shootout.
Rodgers at Ryan could be the 2011 NFC Championship. This year, I think it's all about Rodgers. Packers 34, Falcons 20.
I'm sorry. That's not fair at all. I just can't help myself.
Wow, what a difference a year makes. Last year, this matchup started the "Big Ben is soft" talk in a loud chorus when Roethlisberger stood in uniform on the sideline and watched Dennis Dixon.
Now, Roethlisberger will likely be playing, but he'll be trying to save the Steelers from being an afterthought against Flacco and his division-leading Ravens.
Ravens 27, Steelers 10
Romo at Eli, 4:15 p.m.:
Cowboys will end the Giants division hopes.
Sanchez at Brady, 9 p.m. Monday:
The Pats will make it clear they're going to Week 17 to decide the AFC East.
He is ageless. And he shows it again here as the Giants' late-season skid continues. Favre goes for 400 against an oxygen-deprived G-Men secondary.
Vikes 35, Giants 20
Brady at Cutler, 1 p.m.:
This game is going to mean a lot to both team's division title hopes. Yes, I said it.
Palmer at Big Ben, 1 p.m.:
The Bengals get 30 years worth of revenge in one game.
Henne at Sanchez, 4:15 p.m.:
One man stays in the hunt, the other fights for a wild card. There can be but one warrior to face Brady.
Nobody asked. I'm just saying. The whole receding hairline, greasy, four-days-without-shampoo look just isn't working for Brees. It's Michael Bolton-esque.
With helmet on, there's nothing to critique. Brees is flawless as the Saints make Ray Lewis look old and take a close one in a possible Super Bowl preview.
Saints 30, Ravens 24
McNabb at Romo, 1 p.m.:
The 'Boys lock up the East here.
Rodgers at Brady, 8:30 p.m.:
One is losing in the wild-card round. The other is winning the Super Bowl. I mean it.
This one's all about trying to prove each team is relevant in the AFC title race. I don't think this showdown lives up to those hopes. Neither team shows much. I think it will be a laugher.
Bengals 30, Chargers 10
Brees at Ryan, 9 p.m. Monday:
For the division. Maybe for NFC home-field advantage.
As you may have figured out, I think the Fish are going to take down the Jets for the right to win the division here. And as much as it pains me to say, I think this is the Dolphins' year.
Dolphins 27, Patriots 21
Palmer at Flacco, 1 p.m.:
Ravens wrap up the division and home-field advantage.
Romo at Kolb, 1 p.m.:
Tony puts the exclamation point on a big-time year.
Eli at McNabb, 1 p.m.:
Winner gets a wild card.
Vince Young at Peyton Manning, 1 p.m.:
Yeah, yeah, no respect for VY. Earn it here, bud. This could be for the division and a home playoff game.