The 2011 schedule has just been released on NFL.com. As always, there is a near national holiday as fans scramble to find out and mark on their calenders for when their favorite team plays their worst rival.
And as usual, there are the games that would interest anyone, not just fans of that particular team. The classic Brady versus Manning duel, Bill Belichick going up against Rex Ryan, the Steelers against the Ravens, etc. This article will count down the top 10 must-see games for the upcoming season.
This game has matchups and story lines galore. Two of the best quarterbacks of this generation quarterbacking two of the most explosive offenses in the league go head-to-head in a Super Bowl rematch.
Peyton Manning won't forget that pick-six he threw to Tracey Porter to lose the Super Bowl a few years ago. With Peyton's career winding down, he only has a few more shots at another ring. This should be an emotional game for the Colts, who will be back for revenge in an attempt to make another Super Bowl run.
"America's Team" completely imploded last season. They went from Super Bowl favorites during the preseason to being one of the worst teams in the league for the opening half of the season. Jason Garrett managed to turn things around when he was put in charge of the team, but it was too late, and they lost the division to their hated rival, the Eagles.
Late-season matchups between these two teams are always fiercely played, no matter what each team's record is. This game could very well decide who wins the NFC East.
A juicy rematch between two of the perennial best in the AFC. The Steelers defense won't forget the 39-point embarrassment they were given courtesy of Tom Brady last year, and a great offense like the Pats versus a great defense like the Steelers is always a great matchup.
The Patriots have beaten the Steelers six out of the last seven times they've played. The Steelers try to break that streak in an exciting-looking midseason matchup.
The first time Vick played the Falcons, he was still a backup, although he scored two touchdowns. The second time they clashed, Vick had to watch from the bench due to an injury. Barring anything unexpected, Vick should be starting in Week 2 against the Falcons.
Vick's return to Atlanta looks to result in a spectacular game. Both teams have extremely dynamic offenses, and there should be fireworks aplenty in this game.
The 2011 NFL season gets off with a bang on September 8. The two previous Super Bowl champions, the Saints and the Packers, square off in the season opener.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are out to avoid a Super Bowl hangover, and the Saints are out to prove they're still contenders after a hugely disappointing loss to the 7-9 Seahawks in the Wild Card round last year.
Both can make emphatic statements with a win in the opener.
The annual battle between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady has become a tradition over the last decade. This game features the best quarterbacks of this generation and two of the best of all-time. This game is always hard fought and usually goes down to the wire. Although both quarterbacks are getting older, this is still a must-see game between two of the best teams in the NFL.
Still, this game is not as high as most people would think. While exciting, this game is losing a bit of its luster. To begin with, the matchup between great quarterbacks is not quite as epic as, say, Kobe versus LeBron in that they never actually, you know, play against each other. It's always Brady versus the Colts defense whilst Manning watches, and vice-versa.
It just seems to me like the media way over-hypes this game and blows the "Brady versus Manning" thing out of proportion. To me, it's just two very good teams with exceptional quarterbacks playing each other. Still, this game will get huge TV ratings and will be a good matchup.
The Harbaugh Bowl. Brother versus Brother. TV ratings should be through the roof for this one. John Harbaugh, the very successful head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, faces his little brother Jim, who had a few unbelievable years coaching at Stanford before being snapped up by the San Fransisco 49ers.
This game will undoubtedly be hard fought, no matter what the teams' records are.
The highly anticipated divisional round matchup between these two teams turned into a fairly one-sided yawner. I don't expect that will be the case this time.
Both teams are evenly matched, with two of the best young QBs in the league quarterbacking exciting offenses. Both teams have great defenses that get especially good pass rushes as well as ball-hawking secondaries.
Probably the two best teams in the NFC go head to head in prime time. I can't wait.
This game will have the media in a frenzy. Rex Ryan and his trash talking Jets against their most hated rivals: Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The already fierce rivalry escalated last year with the New England Patriots' 45-3 butt-whupping of the Jets on national television. Then, with the two teams set to face off in the playoffs, the trash talking really took off.
The Jets players spent the week leading up to the game trash talking and insulting the Patriots, Tom Brady in particular. Then Wes Welker responded by making numerous cleverly disguised foot comments in a press conference. Bill Belichick responded by benching Welker for the first series of the game, which the Jets went out and won in stunning fashion. The second matchup between these two teams is in prime time, and most of the football world will be holding their collective breaths to see what stunt Rex Ryan will pull next.
This rivalry is what football is all about. Rex Ryan versus Bill Belichick attracts a lot of attention, but for the real football fans, this is definitely the game of the year.
The Steelers and Ravens are the two toughest, hardest hitting teams in the NFL. Both of them have big, tough, strong-armed quarterbacks, strong running games and ferocious defenses. The matchups are endless: Terrell Suggs versus Big Ben, Ed Reed versus Hines Ward, Michael Oher versus James Harrison, Troy Polamalu versus Joe Flacco, etc. These two teams are perfectly matched for each other, and their games always turn into literal bloodbaths that go down to the wire.
The Steeler's 31-24 win over Baltimore in the playoffs was the largest margin of victory since January of 2008. Every other game in between was decided by a field goal.
Last year, the Ravens and Steelers played three times, twice in the regular season, once in the playoffs. Each game was a bone-crunching struggle right to the finish. I expect this year to be no different. The Ravens-Steelers matchup on Week 9's Sunday Night Football should be the best game of the season.