NFL Lockout: Top Regular Season Games We'd Hate to Lose in 2011

David Kindervater@TheDGKCorrespondent IJune 7, 2011

NFL Lockout: Top Regular Season Games We'd Hate to Lose in 2011

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 06:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles against Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 6, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Summer is almost here. And we're tired of hearing about the NFL lockout because—well, because we're tired of listening to millionaires argue over how to divide $9 billion. That and training camp is supposed to open in roughly seven weeks.

    We've already missed free agency. Mini camps and OTAs are nearly history.

    Enough already.

    Here are 23 regular season games we'd hate to lose to the NFL lockout.

Packers, Saints Kickoff 2011 Season

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to the sideline during the second half of Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Gett
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    As has been the norm since 2004, the reigning Super Bowl champions will host the first game of the following season. The Green Bay Packers, led by Super Bowl XLV MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, will begin the defense of their 2010 championship season with a Lambeau Field home opener against the New Orleans Saints.

    I would've preferred a rematch of the NFC Championship game for the Pack (vs. the Chicago Bears), but this one will showcase the past two Super Bowl champions and two high-powered passing offenses, which could result in a fan-friendly, high-scoring affair.

Ravens vs. Steelers, Week 1 Loaded

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    My interest in an out-of-the-gates Week 1 rivalry will be realized when the Baltimore Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is probably the most intense rivalry in the NFL right now. My only complaint is it's not a prime-time matchup.

    If the NFL was concerned about the potential of missing the first week of the season due to an ongoing lockout, you wouldn't know it by the slate of great games they scheduled this week—including the aforementioned, plus the Colts at Texans, Cowboys at Jets, Falcons at Bears and Giants at Redskins.

    And keep this in mind—the NFL has appropriately planned 10-year anniversary 9/11 tributes for this entire weekend. Games in NYC and DC will have special significance.

Michael Vick Returns to Atlanta

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass against the New York Giants during their game on December 19, 2010 at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Are you wondering exactly how Atlanta Falcons fans feel about Michael Vick these days?

    Look no further than a Week 2 matchup between the Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles.

    Vick will make his first appearance in Atlanta (as a starting QB) since his much-publicized—and successful—return to the NFL two seasons ago.

    It will be interesting to see how the Falcon faithful respond when the Eagles are on offense. They may think only in terms of Matt Ryan these days, but have they forgotten—and forgiven—Michael Vick?

Steelers, Colts and AFC Dominance

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    INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass in the first quarter against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Ind
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts have dominated the AFC.

    In five of the past six years, one or the other has represented the conference in the Super Bowl. That makes for interesting viewing.

    Throw QBs Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger into the mix head-to-head and this prime-time Week 3 matchup gets even more appealing.

    Steelers. Colts. It brings to mind the epic 2005 playoff game.

Jets vs. Patriots, Week 5

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Running back LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets walks with the ball after a play against the New England Patriots during their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massac
    Elsa/Getty Images

    What's an NFL season without a grudge match between the New York Jets and New England Patriots?

    Of course, these AFC East rivals play each other twice a year. But I'll take the first of the two, at Foxborough during Week 5, as a great go-to game. It's also a rematch of last year's divisional playoff game.

Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football

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    DETROIT - AUGUST 28: Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions looks on prior to playing the Cleveland Browns in a preseason game on August 28, 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    What's the big deal about the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football?

    Aside from the fact it's been a decade since the Lions played on MNF, the team should actually be worth watching in 2011. The defensive line alone will be worth the price of admission with tackles Ndamukong Suh and rookie Nick Fairley plugging the middle.

    In this Week 5 game, the Lions host division rivals Chicago. It's too early to mean much, but it could be a sign of things to come in the NFC North.

Cowboys vs. Patriots, Week 6

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 17:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys calls a play against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field on October 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    If the Dallas Cowboys are headed back among the NFL's elite teams, they will need to prove themselves in a Week 6 road game against the New England Patriots.

    Chances are, if Tony Romo and the 'Boys come out of Foxborough with a win, they're for real.

London Calling the Bucs and Bears

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31:  A general view during the NFL International Series match between Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium on October 31, 2010 in London, England. This is the fourth occasion where a regular season NFL match
    Warren Little/Getty Images

    Look at this. An NFL International Series game I can actually get excited about.

    Wembley Stadium will once again host the NFL's annual trip to London. This time, this Week 7 game is worth watching as the Tampa Bay Bucs "host" the Chicago Bears in what could be an NFC playoff preview.

Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore—Reloaded

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 15:  Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers rushes against offensive tackle Michael Oher #74 of the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Heinz Field on January 15, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsy
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    I'm sorry, I can't get enough of the Steelers and Ravens.

    The second showing of this biannual regular season blood bath is as appealing as the first—maybe even more so because unlike the first, this one is in prime time (Week 9).

    If I were only allowed to watch two games all season—well, I think you know where I'm going with this.

    And if they meet again in the playoffs? Don't get me started.

First Late-Season Thursday night game, Chargers vs. Raiders

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    SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Stanford Routt #26 of the Oakland Raiders grabs the face mask of Seyi Ajirotutu #89 of the San Diego Chargers in an attempt to bring him down in the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2010 in San Diego, California.
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    As the home stretch to the playoffs begins, Thursday night football on NFL Network adds a spark to an already heated month of games.

    Remember, the Oakland Raiders beat the San Diego Chargers twice last season (after losing 13 straight previously) so expect a war—with possible AFC West playoff implications—between these two rivals.

Thanksgiving Feast

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    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 17:  Coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens shouts instructions in the second half in a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    One of the first places I turn when a new season of NFL games is announced is Thanksgiving day.

    Family, food and football highlight my favorite holiday. The smell of turkey, the company of loved ones and three NFL games makes for a near perfect day as far as I'm concerned.

    This year, we've got the traditional teams—the Lions host the Packers and the Dolphins play at Dallas. And those both look like good games for a change.

    But an even more interesting night game between the Ravens and Niners pits the brothers Harbaugh (John and Jim) against one another for the first time.

Colts at Patriots, Week 13

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts after their game at Gillette Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    For how many years has this game been interesting? Try nine consecutive.

    As long as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are involved, the Indianapolis Colts at the New England Patriots—especially in December—is money. Be there.

Jay Cutler Returns to Denver

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    MIAMI - NOVEMBER 18:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears scrambles against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on November 18, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Denver Broncos fans have this Week 14 matchup against the Chicago Bears circled on their football calendar as a must-see. Why?

    It's the return of quarterback Jay Cutler to his old stomping grounds.

    I wonder how far the Cutler/Tebow comparisons will stretch after this one?

    The game itself could be outstanding. The headlines surrounding it will make for a full week of hype beforehand.

Merry Christmas, Bears and Packers

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    GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is congratukated by quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on January 2, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The NFL's oldest rivalry—the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers—takes center stage at storied Lambeau Field in prime time. If you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, at least you have this gem to fall back on.

The End of the Regular Season Road

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 07:  Tony Gonzalez #88 of the Atlanta Falcons turns upfield against Barrett Ruud #51 and Sean Jones #26 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on November 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    There are 16 divisional matchups in Week 16, but none look quite as appetizing as the Bucs at Falcons in an NFC South showdown. The winner could very well take the division title.

    Ditto with the 49ers and Rams in the NFC West.

    I've also got my eye on the—Lions at Packers?

    Are you kidding me? Don't scoff.

    If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy throughout 2011—and I realize that's a big if—it might just be for the NFC North title.