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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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.