NFL Predictions 2010: Ranking The 50 Can't-Miss Games of The 2010 NFL Season

Erik FrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 5, 2010

NFL Predictions 2010: Ranking The 50 Can't-Miss Games of The 2010 NFL Season

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime. (Ph
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Every game in the NFL season is exciting for one reason or another. Hundreds of thousands of people will tune in whether it's an offensive shootout, a defensive struggle or a lopsided blowout (except fans of the losing team).

    Some of the games, however, look more exciting on paper. With bitter feuds and interesting matchups pitting potent offenses against stout defenses, or any combination therein, there are certainly some games that have excitement written all over them.

    These are my choices for the top 50 can't-miss games of the season.

50. San Francisco 49ers Vs. Arizona Cardinals, Weeks 12 and 17

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    SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 14:  Members of the San Francisco 49ers in action against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park on December 14, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The Cardinals are trying to do something they've never done in franchise history by winning their third division title in a row. The 49ers, however, are looking to return to the land of the prominent with a winning season this year. Without future Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner and former leading receiver Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals could take a step back, and the 49ers will look to capitalize with wins.

49. Pittsburgh Steelers @ Miami Dolphins, Week 7

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    MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is lifted into the air by offensive linemen Ramon Foster #73 after Roethlisberger's touchdown pass to tight end Heath Miller #83 in the third quarter against the Miami Dolph
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    These two teams played in the final game of the season last year, with the Steelers edging out the Dolphins by six points as Miami came roaring back in the fourth quarter. These two teams are flying under the radar in their division races for various reasons, and both will look to this game to prove that they're not middle-of-the-road pretenders, but playoff contenders.

48. New England Patriots @ Chicago Bears, Week 14

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 26:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots slips past Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears to get the first down on November 26, 2006 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots defeated the Chicag
    Elsa/Getty Images

    This game features a Patriots offense that's trying to prove that it's as powerful as it was in 2007 versus a defense that's trying to return to its No. 1 form of 2006.

    One has to wonder if Chicago's bottom-half defense can come close, even with the addition of Julius Peppers in the offseason. Tom Brady could feast on them, but Jay Cutler could also abuse a paper-thin Patriots defense.

47. Dallas Cowboys @ Houston Texans, Week 3

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    HOUSTON - AUGUST 28: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys is hit from behind as he let's the ball go during a football game against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on August 28, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 23-7. (Photo by Bob Levey
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Cowboys won the NFC East last year, and the Texans finished above .500 for the first time in team history. Neither team got there by playing stout pass defense, though, and both teams feature high-octane offenses capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

    There are no big-time playoff implications here, but this is exactly the type of game that the NFL has been promoting with rule changes that favor the offenses. If you're into high-scoring affairs, you can't miss this game. The two teams ranked in the top 10 in many offensive categories. The Texans were 10th in points and fourth in overall yards including the most of any team through the air, while the Cowboys were 14th in points and second in overall yards.

    And then there's that whole thing about Texas bragging rights.

46. New York Giants @ Indianapolis Colts, Week 2

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 10:  Quarterback Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants (L) congratulates his brother quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts on his 26-21 victory on September 10, 2006 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford,
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    This game hardly has any playoff implications, but anytime the Manning brothers are on the same field at the same time, it's worth watching. The two are talented in their own rights, and it's always fun to make comparisons between the two. Ultimately, it's two talented teams that have participated in and won Super Bowls three times in the past four seasons. May the best Manning brother win.

45 And 44. Baltimore Ravens Vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Weeks 2 And 17

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    CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 8: Cedric Benson #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals is tackled by Kelly Gregg #97 of the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium on November 8, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
    John Sommers II/Getty Images

    The Bengals did what no one expected them to do last year. Not only did they win their division, but they did it impressively and convincingly by sweeping the two favorites, the Steelers and the Ravens. The Bengals are out to prove that last season wasn't a fluke and have added explosive wide receiver Terrell Owens into the fold. The Ravens defense would love nothing more than to shut up both Owens and Chad Ochocinco.

    These games are of added intrigue because they happen at the very beginning and end of the season. Each team will be looking to gain momentum and advantage in the division race, and the final game of the season could even be for the division title.

43. Houston Texans @ New York Jets, Week 11

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 13: Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets is tackled from behind by defensive end Mario Williams #90 of the Houston Texans as he releases the ball at Reliant Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Le
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Something's gotta give, as last year's No. 1 passing offense squares off against the No. 1 passing defense. This is a game that could also have implications for seeding purposes if the two teams are vying for wild card spots or even their respective division title. The Texans gave up a lot of touchdowns (17) but not many yards (1,711) on the ground last year, so it will be interesting to see if Mark Sanchez can take charge of the game if the rush attack is slowed down. The return of Darrelle Revis should have the Jets defense rounded into form for another late-season playoff push.

42. Pittsburgh Steelers @ New Orleans Saints, Week 8

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    CANTON, OH - AUGUST 5:  Running back Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints rushes up field during the AFC-NFC Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Fawcett Stadium August 5, 2007 in Canton, Ohio.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The past two Super Bowl Champions collide in this match of titanic proportions. The Saints are looking to prove that last year was no fluke as they went 13-3 and marched into the Super Bowl for a win with their No. 1 overall yardage and scoring offense.

    The Steelers, on the other hand, are out to prove that last year was a fluke and that they're still a team to be feared in the AFC. That could be hard to do for a Steelers' pass defense that ranked 16th in yards against the Saints vaunted aerial attack that put up 4,355 yards for the fourth-highest total in the league. Also, Ben Roethlisberger should be back from his early-season suspension and ready to rev up the Steelers offense.

41 And 40. Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Weeks 9 and 14

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 15:  Quarterback Carson Palmer #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals looks to hand off the ball during their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 15, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Bengals defeated the Steele
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    This rivalry has gained a lot of traction recently, but has been bitter for a long time. The Steelers will be out for blood after a Super Bowl repeat was nixed when the Bengals swept them and won the division. The Bengals have been built to beat the Steelers at their own game with a top-10 rushing attack and run defense. This contest should feature a lot of heavy-hitting and chippy attitudes could fly.

    The over-under is 40 miles per hour for how fast the Steelers' defensemen will be flying at Terrell Owens to make a tackle or block.

39. San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals, Week 16

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    SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the Cincinnati Bengals throws from the end zone against the San Diego Chargers on December 20, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Chargers won 27-24.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Ge
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Last year's matchup between these two teams was exciting, and with mostly returning players on both teams (with a few key losses and additions), it only figures to be exciting yet again. The two sides were very evenly matched, tallying similar statistics in many categories in that game (314 yards for Carson Palmer, 308 for Philip Rivers). The Bengals' offense poses a new threat with Terrell Owens that it didn't necessarily have last year, as does the Chargers' offense with the addition of Ryan Mathews.

38 And 37. New York Jets Vs. Miami Dolphins, Weeks 3 and 14

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    MIAMI - OCTOBER 12:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets congratulates head coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on October 12, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Jets 31-27.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The Dolphins are a dark horse candidate for the division. They're quietly flying under the radar which gives them an opportunity to stop the flapping of Rex Ryan's gums, or to perhaps instigate some tears if a loss in Week 14 puts them out of the division title race.

    The Jets, however, have a real bone to pick with the Dolphins, after two late-game rallies charged the Jets with two losses and put them in a position to struggle to make the playoffs. I nearly had to pinch myself after Chad Henne dismantled the Jets' No. 1-ranked pass defense by going 21-of-28 for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. And lest we forget, long-time Dolphin Jason Taylor returns to play his old team, after signing with the Jets as a free agent.

36. New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 15

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 18:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass against the New York Jets at Giants Stadium November 18, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Two of the league's top defenses collide in what could be a potential playoff preview. It could also be a matchup between two teams desperate for a win to make the playoffs, as question marks surround both teams headed into the 2010 season, and both teams play in competitive divisions.

    Both teams pride themselves on stout defenses, and the two have led the league in both points and yards allowed on defense over the past two seasons. This game may end with a final score of 12-9, but the defenses will be headhunting in this game, looking to lay jarring blows on one another for 60 minutes straight. And the difference in the game could come down to Santonio Holmes, the wide receiver who caught the winning touchdown pass for the Steelers in their Super Bowl win two years ago who was traded to the Jets this past off-season.

35. Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles, Week 1

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    GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 26: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks for a receiver against the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Colts 59-24.  (Photo by
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Both the Packers and Eagles are coming off disappointing early exits from the playoffs, as both were bounced in the Wild Card game against the Cardinals and Cowboys respectively.

    This is Kevin Kolb's coming-out party in Philadelphia, and he has the displeasure of facing Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson and the fifth-ranked Packers pass defense. Many are also expecting an improvement on last year for Aaron Rodgers as he enters his third season in the league, which is saying a lot considering he threw for 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last year.

34 And 33. Washington Redskins Vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Weeks 4 And 10

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    LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 13:  Donovan McNabb #5 of the Washington Redskins throws a pass during the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field on August 13, 2010 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    For 11 years, Donovan McNabb bled green as he led the Eagles valiantly, bringing them to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. The Kevin Kolb era has been ushered in in Philadelphia, and on October 3, McNabb suits up for their rivals, the Washington Redskins, in his first return trip to Lincoln Financial Field.

    The build-up goes without saying in that regard; it's sort of a student-meets-master a la Favre-Rodgers. The Redskins may still be far from a playoff team, while the Eagles are out to prove that they won't miss a beat despite the change at quarterback. Most interestingly may be the reaction McNabb gets from the notorioiusly nasty Philly fans: Will they cheer Donovan in his return?

32 And 31. Indianapolis Colts Vs. Houston Texans, Weeks 1 and 8

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 8:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts is sacked by Mario Williams #90 the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 8, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Colts defeated the Texans 20-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Gett
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Two of the league's top aerial attacks collide in what could end up being an offensive shootout on either or both occasions.

    The Houston Texans just had their franchise's first winning season in history, but are a far cry from the winning tradition of the Colts as they look to continue a streak of seven consecutive seasons with 12 or more wins. The Texans always seem to have a hard time stepping out of Indy's shadow, but the game should be a nail-biter to the finish either way. While the Colts have won nine of the last 10 matchups, the Texans traditionally play the Colts tough and Indy has had to come from behind with late-game drives on multiple occasions.

30 And 29. New England Patriots Vs. Miami Dolphins, Weeks 4 and 17

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 06:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots calls out a play from the line of scrimmage against the Miami Dolphins at Land Shark Stadium on December 6, 2009 in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Patriots 22-21.  (Pho
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The only team to dethrone New England as division champions in the past eight years, Miami always seems to have a bone to pick with the Pats. It was the Dolphins that ended New England's 21-game regular season winning streak back in 2008.

    These games are sometimes blowouts, but usually they're relatively close. The Dolphins sometimes look like fish out of water against the Patriots, but the Wildcat has rescued that fish and put him back in the water...or something. It'll be interesting to see the cat and mouse game between Belichick and Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

28. Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets, Week 12

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    CINCINNATI - JANUARY 9: Running back Shonn Greene #23 of the New York Jets is tackled as he runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo b
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Jets got into the playoffs by winning two games in which the opposing team rested their starters in preparation for the playoffs. One of those teams was the Bengals. One week later, I bet they wish they hadn't sat their starters . The Bengals get their chance for retribution in Week 12 against a Jets team that ran all over them in the Wild Card round.

    The seventh-ranked Bengals run defense gave up an astonishing 171 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets pass defense stifled the Bengals, forcing a 50 percent completion rate at less than 10 yards per completion and an interception off Carson Palmer. Let's see how fired up the Bengals will be in this revenge matchup.

27. Minnesota Vikings @ New York Jets, Week 5

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    MINNEAPOLIS - AUGUST 28:  Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass against the Seattle Seahawks during a preseason NFL game at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on August 28, 2010  in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Favre gets a chance for revenge against his former team...the New York Jets. Yes, Favre's stint with the Jets was short-lived, so this isn't quite the retribution matchup that Green Bay-Minnesota has become. Favre may feel compelled, though, after being replaced by Mark Sanchez in the 2009 Draft, to show them that he's better than their new golden boy.

    Two of the league's best on defense look poised to make this a great matchup. The two teams are both out to prove that they're contenders, and this will be a measuring stick for both teams. In the end, I think the Jets defense may prove too much for the Vikings as Rex Ryan will be sure to send plenty of pressure against the aging, hobbled Favre.

    It surely doesn't matter right now, but Brett Favre is only 1-3 against the Jets in his career.

26 And 25. New Orleans Saints Vs. Atlanta Falcons, Weeks 3 and 16

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    NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 2:  Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints greets quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons after the Saints 35-27 victory in the game at the Louisiana Superdome on November 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Pho
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Just because the Saints are the defending Super Bowl Champions, doesn't mean they're a lock for the division title. Just ask last year's Steelers.

    Although the Saints were undefeated through their first 13 games, the Falcons put up a good fight in the two games, going blow-for-blow in both games, pushing it to the final quarter of play both times. These should both be exciting games once again, as these two teams compete for the NFC South title early and late in the season. With running back extraordinaire Michael Turner healthy again, the Falcons could ruin the Saints Mardi Gras party.

24. Cincinnati Bengals @ New England Patriots, Week 1

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    FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 20:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots feels the pressure of Keith Rivers #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium on August 20, 2009 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The Patriots have had a tumultuous preseason, with one injury after another depleting their roster and forcing them to start their depth from the getgo. Without their starters, it could be a long day for the Patriots defense, but the Bengals' pass defense is a paper tiger itself, and Brady could prey on them all day.

    There are compelling storylines aplenty: How will Wes Welker hold up in his first game back from a torn ACL? Will he still be that explosive slot receiver that makes the Pats offense go? Will the Patriots depleted secondary be shredded by Cincinnati's new Batman and Robin, wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco? And will this be Tom Brady's final year in New England or will the team work out a new contract?

23. Baltimore Ravens @ Atlanta Falcons, Week 10

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Jamaal Anderson #98 of the Atlanta Falcons against the Baltimore Raves at Georgia Dome on September 3, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Well, Peter Griffin made sure that everyone knows that the bird is the word. In this match-up of the Ravens and Falcons, who's dirty bird is dirtier?

    Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco both broke the mold of rookie quarterbacks in 2008 by leading their teams to the playoffs just one year removed from a losing season.

    The two teams each look primed for a run at the playoffs once again in 2010, and this will be proving grounds for both teams. This game may come down to the wire, and it may even come down to clutch play by the two young quarterbacks. Two years later, this game will serve as a measuring stick for which young star is ready to take the next step and lead his team deep into the playoffs.

22. Indianapolis Colts @ Dallas Cowboys, Week 13

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Running back Felix Jones #28 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Two teams with Super Bowl hopes and star-studded rosters take the field at the "Space Ship.” Despite the out-of-conference matchup, both teams will be aggressively seeking wins in the first week in December, as Dallas tries to end their stigma of slumping in the last month of the season.

    With two big-time offenses ready to take the field, this is the type of matchup fans across the nation will tune into for its high-scoring potential and star power. And it could even serve as a Super Bowl preview.

21. Green Bay Packers @ New England Patriots, Week 15

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 19:  Corey Williams #99 of the Green Bay Packers gets ready on the line of scrimmage against Matt Light #72 and Logan Mankins #70 of the New England Patriots on November 19, 2006 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Patri
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Any time two elite quarterbacks get together, its' a game worth watching. When it's two playoff teams in Green Bay and New England, it only gets better. This is yet another potential Super Bowl preview. In Week 15, we are treated to "The Battle of the 12s" as Tom Brady faces Aaron Rodgers for the first time. Many are expecting big things from Rodgers this year, and this seems to be the year that Brady will be asked to do more than ever before. And with the season winding down, we'll get to see how two cold-weather QBs get to handle throwing the ball in December playing conditions in New England.

20. Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers, Week 9

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 15: Marion Barber #24 of the Dallas Cowboys runs at Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cowboys 17-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Cowboys and Packers were both playoff teams last year, and both look like playoff teams yet again in 2010. The two will look to this game to prove their case for dominance in the NFC. The teams are talented on both sides of the ball, as both ranked in the top 10 scoring defenses and passing offenses in yards. The two quarterbacks performed comparably, with Aaron Rodgers edging out Tony Romo by a slight bit in most categories.

19. Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings, Week 6

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    MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboy is sacked by Ray Edwards #91 of the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated t
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    The Cowboys are probably salivating at the chance to make up for Minnesota running up the score on them in their playoff matchup last year. That won't be easy to do, though, facing the Vikings in the noisy Metrodome. Minnesota's No. 2-scoring offense goes up against Dallas' No. 2-scoring defense, and Dallas' offense which was No. 2 overall in yardage goes up against Minnesota's No. 6-ranked defense in yards allowed.

    With so much potency on both sides of the ball, it's anyone's guess who will come out on top, and this one could come down to the bitter end. I wonder if Favre will sing "Pants on the Ground" if the Vikings win.

18. New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 10

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 30:  Kevin Faulk #33 of the New England Patriots is taken down by James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 30, 2008 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    This is another non-divisional match-up that has become a rivalry of sorts. The two teams are both in discussion for the (completely unofficial and totally meaningless) team of the decade. Although this game will hardly be a barometer of judgment in that regard, both the Steelers and the Patriots had "down" seasons by their standards.

    The top-ranked Patriots offense goes up against the vaunted Steelers defense, and this will be Roethlisberger's fourth game back as he gets back in form after his suspension.

17 And 16. Baltimore Ravens Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Weeks 4 and 13

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 27:  Willis McGahee #23 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against James Farrior #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 27, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The two teams were seen as frontrunners for the division in 2009, but both of their dreams were derailed by the Bengals. The Ravens made the playoffs as a Wild Card and advanced, but the Steelers were held out. As usual, this game will be a proving grounds for both teams as they both will be dealing with absent star power in this game. The Steelers will be without Ben Roethlisberger and the Ravens will be without safety Ed Reed. But you can count on the Steelers and Ravens being a hard-hitting, physical affair whenever they get together.

15 And 14. Dallas Cowboys Vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Weeks 14 and 17

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Running back Felix Jones #28 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    This marks the third consecutive season that the Cowboys and Eagles will meet in the final game of the year. It also could mark the third consecutive season that the final game determines the NFC East champion. The Cowboys and Eagles have split the two prior games, with Dallas winning most recently, including a blowout win the next week in the Wild Card.

    This divisional rivalry has grown incredibly bitter over the past few years as the two teams have vied for dominance, and will continue to do so in 2010.

13. Green Bay Packers @ New York Jets, Week 8

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    GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 13: Al Harris #31 of the Green Bay Packers participates in warm-ups before a game against the Chicago Bears on September 13, 2009 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-15. (Photo by Jonathan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Week 8 features two of the league's top aerial attacks against two of the league's top defenses. The Packers' top-10 pass attack goes head-to-head with the Jets' No. 1-ranked pass defense.

    This is the tail end of a difficult first seven games for the Jets, but Gang Green should be well-rested following their bye week. As with most inter-conference match-ups, the playoff implications are minimal, but with two star-studded rosters, the sky is the limit for the excitement level of this contest.

12. New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys, Week 12

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    NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 19:  Linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Dallas Cowboys sacks quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 19, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    I doubt that New Orleans fans share the same resentment for the Cowboys that Patriots fans have for the New York Giants, but the Saints likely still have a sour taste in their mouth from their undefeated season being ended by Dallas. These are two teams that both expect to make the playoffs again, and both will be looking for a win here to send them into December with momentum. And Saints Coach Sean Payton gets to go against his old employer in Dallas, where he served as offensive coordinator.

11. Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots, Week 6

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens runs for an 83-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the New England Patriots during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachu
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    This is the last image I remember seeing before I fainted from the inability of my brain to comprehend what my eyes were seeing. Did the Patriots really get shellacked in front of the home crowd? In the playoffs? No matter how many news reports, articles or pictures I see, I still can't believe that the Ravens made it look so easy.

    The Patriots still have a sour taste in their mouth from that loss. The Ravens are out to prove they're a legitimate Super Bowl contender this year. This game will be a statement game for both teams.

10. Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets, Week 1

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 24:   Willis McGahee #23 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by Jamaal Westerman of the New York Jets during a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 24, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    In the Jets' first regular season game in New Meadowlands Stadium, Rex Ryan will go face-to-face with his old team. Both the Jets and Ravens are top picks in the AFC this year for some pundits, as they both feature some of the best defensive units in the league. We'll see what kind of impact all the off-season hype and “Hard Knocks” TV show had on the Jets, will they be a serious Super Bowl contender or pretender?

9 And 8. New England Patriots Vs. New York Jets, Weeks 2 And 13

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 22:  Julian Edelman #11 and Dan Koppen #67 of the New England Patriots react in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on November 22, 2009 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 31-14. (Photo by Jim R
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    This has become one of the most bitter rivalries in the league over the past decade, with the two teams switching coaches and players on a frequent basis, as well as New York's unveiling of the SpyGate scandal, and new head coach Rex Ryan's propensity to run his mouth about anyone not wearing a Jets uniform. Hey, Tom Brady came right out and said he hated the Jets so there's no mystery about how these two teams feel about each other.

    The Jets are many people's favorite to win the division, which clearly doesn't sit well with the Patriots. Both teams will be on a mission to prove that they're the top dog in the AFC East, and these games will be the place to do it.

7. San Diego Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts, Week 12

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 03:  Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers scores the winning touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during their AFC Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty I
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Whenever these two top AFC teams get together, it's always an interesting matchup, filled with surprise twists and big plays made all over the field on both sides of the ball. The two best teams in the AFC in 2009 should put on a very good show that will come down to the wire as usual.

    Not to mention the playoff implications of this game, which could be huge in terms of home-field advantage if they're both dominant teams again in 2010.

6. New Orleans Saints @ Baltimore Ravens, Week 15

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    NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the San Diego Chargers at the Louisiana Superdome on August 27, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    This is one of those classic offense vs. defense matchups that features two of the league's marquee heavyweights in each category, as the Saints explosive offense goes up against the Ravens stifling defense in could be viewed as a potential Super Bowl preview.

    The Ravens defense, bitten by the injury bug in the preseason, should be back to full health by this point in the season. The Saints didn't face more than a couple of the league's top defenses last year, so this should pose a new and interesting challenge to their offense.

5. New England Patriots @ San Diego Chargers, Week 7

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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 12:  Wide Receiver Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots can't hold onto a pass against Cornerback Quentin Jammer #23 of the San Diego Chargers during the first half of their NFL Game on October 12, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Two elite quarterbacks leading two perennial playoff teams screams of big-time football. Philip Rivers has yet to defeat the Patriots when quarterbacked by Tom Brady, but of course, Brady's not playing defense. The two quarterbacks could really go off against the opposing team's defense.

    The rivalry between these two teams has also thickened over the past few years, as the Chargers felt disrespected when the Patriots danced on their logo after they were bounced out of the playoffs in 2006.

4 And 3. Minnesota Vikings Vs. Green Bay Packers, Weeks 7 And 11

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 05:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings hugs Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers following the Vikings victory over the Packers on October 5, 2009 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (P
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Playoff and legacy implications are bountiful in this game.

    The Favre saga continues in Minnesota, and Aaron Rodgers continues to try to step out of the shadow of the old gunslinger. The Vikings beat the Packers both times they played last year, but the two teams are evenly matched and both are considered contenders for their division title, as well as the NFC title.

    Bitter? Who's bitter?

2. Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots, Week 11

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 15: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to pass the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Ly
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    This one's always a preseason candidate for game of the year. The Patriots have had the misfortune of playing on the road against Indianapolis in each of their last three regular season meetings over the past three years.

    With both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning seeking contract extensions, and with each one's contract contingent upon the other's, both quarterbacks will be on a mission to make their case in a showcase environment against their rival.

    Will the Pats ride the ponies, or will the Colts' stampede trample the Patriots?

1. Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints, Week 1

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Pierre Thomas #23 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a 38-yard pass play in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Its the rematch we've all been waiting for. The NFC Championship game that was decided in overtime that fostered a new overtime rule in the playoffs will be seen for a second time, with both teams featuring largely the same cast of characters. This Week 1 non-divisional game could even have playoff implications if these two teams are the best in the NFC again.

    Perhaps the fact that it's the first game of the season adds to its watchability, but the offenses both have a lot of firepower, and the defenses had trouble stopping anything in the championship game. Get ready for one hell of a game on opening day.