2011 NFL Predictions: 85 Most Exciting Games on the Schedule
Each season, the NFL brings us a plethora of exciting games, and now that the league has taken it upon themselves to schedule more division games at the end of the season, it seems that the number of exciting games has exploded ten-fold.
Take this article for instance. When the idea was first thrown at me, I was thinking it would be 15 to 20 games, no big deal.
However, when I started going through the schedule and writing games down, I realized that this season is chalk full of really good games.
Instead of ordering this list as some sort of ranking system or week by week list, I decided to tackle it for each team.
So in no particular order are all 32 teams and the games I feel will be the most exciting on their schedule.
To say the Buffalo Bills have been pathetic since we last saw Doug Flutie wearing the red helmet with blue jersey would be an understatement.
It would seem that the stupid decision of Wade Philips starting Rob Johnson instead of Flutie against the Tennessee Titans has become a plague of bad decisions affecting the team at all levels.
With that said, I've made a few bold predictions here and there that the Bills would actually win a wild card birth.
However, I'm not that foolish this season, and honestly, the only excitement the Bills and their fans can hope for in 2011 is that their Week 12 game at the Jets helps derail the Jets from making it to a third straight post season.
I honestly don't know what to make of the Dolphins. One year, they look like they might be able to challenge for the AFC East, and the next thing you know, they're terrible.
It was tough picking some games for them since I really don't know what to make of the 2011 Dolphins.
However, if they want to start the season on the right foot, beating the hated New England Patriots in week one would be a good way to start.
And in week 15, they travel to Buffalo and might actually be playing for a playoff spot. However, if they're out of the running by then, this game will only interest those living in western New York.
New England Patriots
The Patriots will no doubt go to the playoffs (barring injuries of course), and you'll see their names pop up in this article for other teams, but here are three games I think their fans will particularly get excited about.
Week 6, the Pats will host the Dallas Cowboys, who, even after a 6-10 season, are talking Super Bowl, and I'm sure leading up to this game, the Kool-Aid drinkers at Fox, ESPN and NFL Network (I'm looking at you, Prime-Time and Irving) will say that this could be a Super Bowl preview.
Reality check, it won't be. In fact, only one of these teams is going to the playoffs, and it's not the team with the gaudy HD screen.
Week 8 at Pittsburgh could be a possible playoff preview depending on how the brackets shape up. Should be a good game, seeing Brady take on the vicious Pittsburgh defense. Game of the week maybe.
And finally, week 16 sees the Pats traveling to Miami. This game could have playoff implications for both teams. Miami might actually be in the running for a playoff spot, and the Pats are probably going to be duking it out with the Jets to win the AFC East.
New York Jets
The brash and mouthy Jets were so close to the Super Bowl last year that it left a bitter taste in their mouths. They look to get back to the AFC Championship game and beyond.
Their first test comes in Week 5, when they travel to New England to take on the rivaled Patriots.
Unlike the Patriots, the Jets have a rough close out to the season, though. They'll play back to back weeks against tough NFC East opponents.
The Ravens season ended in the worst possible way, and that was blowing a lead to division rival Pittsburgh in the playoffs.
Week 1, they get the chance to avenge that loss and start the season right by taking on the Steelers in Baltimore.
The road to the play-offs won't be easy, though. In Week 14, they host the former residents of Baltimore, the Colts, in what should be a game of playoff positioning (Sorry Peyton; no week off for you).
And then the Ravens can get out of the cold as they travel to San Diego the next week to face the probably AFC West Champs.
The Bengals are terrible, and the only game on their schedule that I would even think about watching would be their Week 3 match-up against the San Fransisco 49ers">49ers, and that's only because the 49ers might be relevant again.
Sorry, Bengals fans, but your team is looking more like the mid-90s Bengals than the team that won the AFC North a few seasons ago.
Like the Bengals, the Browns will probably be bad this season, but because of the scheduling, they have a great chance of screwing with two division rivals at the end of the season.
Week 14 sees them at Pittsburgh, then 16 at Baltimore and then they host the Steelers in Week 17.
Chances are the Steelers and Ravens will have clinched playoff spots, but their seeding and the division might not be decided at that point.
It's not making it to the postseason, but I'm sure Browns fans wouldn't mind spoiling home field advantage for one of their divisional foes.
The Steelers have a plethora of exciting games this season; in fact, so many that they're covered in other teams' slides, so for theirs, I only present you two games.
The Steelers want to get back to the Super Bowl, and they'll have an early test against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3.
And what exciting season wouldn't be complete without the two meanest defenses facing off when the Ravens come to the Burgh in Week 9.
Could this be the year the Texans finally make it to the playoffs?
If it is, it won't be an easy road.
Week 1, they face division rivals the Colts.
And finally, they fight for their playoff lives in Week 17 against the Titans.
The window is closing quickly on Peyton Manning and his dreams of winning a second Super Bowl.
Coming off one of his worst seasons ever, Manning is slated to be made the highest paid player in NFL history, once the lockout ends of course.
With that money, he'll have some tough opponents.
Week 7 sees a Super Bowl rematch as the Saints host the Colts.
Week 13, the old AFC East rivalry renews once again as the Colts play their old division foe the Patriots in New England (seriously, though, they're not in the same division anymore; do they have to play every year?)
Then in Week 16, they'll host the Texans. Who knows, this game could be for the division, or the Texans could be playing for their playoff lives and the Colts could be playing for home field advantage?
The Jags have an interesting schedule this season, and it's really tough to tell if this team will be any good or if this is just one more season delaying their inevitable move to L.A. (author's note: L.A. has had two teams leave them; why do they keep getting brought up to have an NFL franchise?).
Week 1, they host division rival Tennessee in what could set the tone for their season.
Week 2 sees them heading up to New York to face the Jets in what could be a test to see if this team has the spunk to hang with the big boys.
Week 4, they host the Saints in another game to test their metal.
Then the final week of the season has them hosting the Colts, which could have all kinds of playoff implications or just a week off for Manning before the postseason starts.
First, the Titans say that they're dumping franchise quarterback and former first round pick Vince Young, then they lose their coach Jeff Fisher, then they reach on a rookie quarterback.
I have no idea what is going on with this team.
Either way they do have a few games that could be quite exciting.
Week 2, they host the Ravens.
Week 8, division rivals the Colts come to town.
And in Week 16, they could be playing spoiler to the Jags, who might have playoff visions dancing in their heads.
A lot of changes have gone on in Denver in the past six months.
First head coach Josh McDaniels is shown the door, then Tim Tebow becomes the starting quarterback, then John Elway is hired to the front office and now former Carolina Panthers coach John Fox is hired to be the coach of the Broncos.
There's all of that, and that doesn't even include what the Broncos may do with former starting QB Kyle Orton.
I think it's far fetched to think the Broncos have a shot at the playoffs, but if they think they're up to the task, they'll be tested.
Week 1, they host the Raiders and try to put a hurting on them like the Raiders did to them last season.
Week 4 sees Tebow square off against the defending Super Bowl champs, the Green Bay Packers.
Week 12 could mean a playoff push as they head to San Diego to face division rival Chargers.
And in Week 15, we find out how well Tebow measures up to future Hall of Famer Tom Brady when the Broncos host the Pats.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were good for part of the season and then bad and then good again.
In most divisions, you wouldn't be considered a division contender, but luckily for the Chiefs, they play in the dreadful AFC West, where anything can happen.
Their two most exciting games are back to back nationally televised games, as they travel to the Patriots in Week 11 for Monday Night Football, and the next week, they host the Steelers on Sunday night on Football Night in America.
Hopefully for the Chiefs, they put on a good showing so that they might get a bit more national exposure.
The Crypt Keeper has hired himself another new coach, and as classy as always, he spent that press conference bad mouthing the old one instead of praising his new one.
"Here's our new guy, I forget his name, it's in your media program, but what I really want to talk about is how S***ty our old coach was."
That very well could have been the press conference, and no one would have been surprised.
And because of that, the 8-8 Raiders will once again fall to the bottom of the toilet bowl that is the AFC West, with their only exciting game being them going to Green Bay to take on the Packers.
San Diego Chargers
Seriously, if the Chargers haven't clinched their division by Week 10, Norv Turner needs to be shown the door.
With that said, the Chargers will get plenty of playoff experience early in the 2011 season when they travel to New England in Week 2, New York to face the Jets in Week 5 and then they host the defending champs the Packers in Week 8.
In spite of those tough games, the Chargers are too good not to run away with the West in 2011.
Once again, the hype machine for the Dallas Cowboys is running full throttle, and there is talk about Romo taking the next step and this team finally reaching the Super Bowl.
Sorry, I'm not buying it from a 6-10 team.
The Cowboys will have some fun games to watch through out the season, though.
They travel to the Meadow Lands to take on the Gia...I mean, the Jets in Week 1. Loud mouth Jerry and loud mouth Rex Ryan; there should be a lot of talking leading up to this one.
Week 11 sees the Cowboys traveling to D.C. to take on the hated Redskins. Those games are always enjoyable, if not so much for the game being played, but the hatred by the fans.
And Week 17 sees Dallas closing out their season where it began, but this time facing the Giants. If, and that's a big if, the Cowboys do make the playoffs, it will be a win in this game sending them to an optimistic 9-7.
New York Giants
It seems like every year the Giants kick off the season by kicking the crap out of the Redskins, so why should 2011 be any different?
Week 1 sees the G-Men traveling to our nation's capital to face the Redskins.
Week 9 is another Super Bowl rematch, pitting the Giants against the the Pats in New England.
And then in Week 13, the Giants will test their postseason readiness as they host the Packers.
The Eagles will have some tough games on their schedule.
Week 12 sees Vick and the Birds hosting Brady and the Patriots. Super Bowl preview, anyone?
And Week 16 probably sees the Eagles ending the Cowboys' long shot hope at the postseason as the Boys come to Philly.
The Redskins found themselves in a familiar spot last season, and that was at the bottom of the NFC East.
However, hopes are riding high on hot young quarterback John Beck. Not really.
The Redskins, though, made some smart moves in the draft and hope to vastly improve their defense. If that happens, they might not have to worry too much about their quarterback.
I think they'll do better than 6-10 this season and possibly push for a wild card spot (don't hold your breath, though, Skins fans).
Week 3, the age old rivalry is renewed when the Skins head down to Dallas to take on the hated Cowboys.
Week 6, the Skins can test themselves against division rival Philly as they host them in D.C., I mean Landover, Maryland.
Then in Week 15, the Redskins' play-off hopes could be on the line when they travel to the Meadow Lands to face the Giants.
Week 2, the Bears travel down south to play the Saints in a possible playoff preview.
Week 16 and 17 see the Bears going to Green Bay and then Minnesota. The Bears will be looking to repeat as NFC North Champions and hope to bury their division rivals.
The Lions haven't been to the playoffs in over a decade, and though things are getting better, this team still won't see the postseason.
They might make some ruffles within the division, but really, their only game that is of much interest to myself is when they travel to Jerry World in Dallas in Week 4.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been mentioned many times on this list and will be a few more times; after all, they're the champs, and everyone they're going to play is going to give them their best effort.
For the Pack, two big games come to mind.
Week 3, they go back to Chicago in a rematch of the NFC Championship.
Then, Week 10 sees the Vikings come to town in their effort to regain the top spot in the NFC North.
It seems so long ago that the Minnesota Vikings were the cream of the crop in the NFC North, but a lost season in 2010 makes 2009 seem like it was a decade ago.
New coach, new quarterback and a new stadium(?) have the fans in Minnesota buzzing.
They'll be tested early with a Week 1 trip to San Diego.
Week 6 sees them travel to Chicago to take on the reigning NFC North Champs.
Then in Week 7, they'll host the Green Bay Packers.
The Atlanta Falcons' season came to an abrupt end in the playoffs when they were shocked by the Packers. Atlanta looks to make it two seasons in a row as NFC South champs, something they've never done.
They'll have a tough road ahead of the when they go to Chicago in Week 1; then in Week 9, they get their rematch in the Georgia Dome with the Packers.
Then in Week 16, they find themselves in a familiar spot in the Super Dome down in New Orleans. In previous slides I said "this could be...this might be..." and so on, but I'm calling it right now: The NFC South title will be decided in this game.
The Carolina Panthers were hands down the worst team in the league last season, and honestly, I don't see the really changing.
Not too many games on their schedule to get excited about, but I have a feeling we'll see Cam Newton get his first start in Week 7 against the Redskins.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints had a bit of a Super Bowl hangover last season, but 2011 begins their march back to the Super Bowl.
Week 1, their season gets off to a bang when they open it up at Green Bay to take on the Packers.
Week 10, they face the Falcons down in the big A-T-L, which will go along way in deciding the NFC South.
Week 12, the Saints march up to New York to take on the New York Giants.
Tampa Bay Bucs
The Bucs made some great strides last season, and while their division might be too tough for them to win it, it doesn't mean that they might not get the wild card.
Week 5 sees them head to San Fransisco to take on the new look 49ers.
Then Week 15 sees them hosting the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cardinals try to climb out of the cellar of the NFC West and try to get back to the Super Bowl.
Week 7 will see them hosting the team that beat them in the Super Bowl, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There will be no rest for the weary, though, as they'll be traveling to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.
If they hope to make a splash in the playoffs, these two teams will give them their best test.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams were a surprise team last season and almost won the NFC West. For whatever reason, the schedule makers for the NFL got them confused with the Green Bay Packers, I say that because the first eight weeks of the season is a murderer's row for the Rams.
Week 1 at Philly
Week 2 at the Giants
Week 3, they host the Ravens
Week 4, they host the Redskins
Week 5 is a welcome bye
Week 6, they go to Green Bay
Week 7, they head to Dallas
and then in Week 8, they host the Saints
If the Rams somehow manage to get out of this at 3-4, I'll be surprised. However, 1-6 or 0-7 is more likely.
San Fransisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh looks to perform the magic he did at Stanford in San Fransisco.
2011 has the Niners facing a couple of old foes from the 80's.
Week 2, they host the Cowboys
Week 9 has them traveling to our Nation's Capitol
and Week 17, they might be battling the Rams in St. Louis for the NFC West title.
The Seahawks look to repeat as NFC West Champs, and to do so, they'll have to knock off fellow NFC West teams.
Week 5, they get their first trip to the new Meadow Lands to take on the Giants.
Week 12, they welcome the Redskins, who have had a tough time winning in Seattle.
Week 16, their division crown might be on the line when they go south to take on the 49ers in San Fran.
There are a ton of games next season; well that is, if the season starts on time. There are probably more games right now that will be exciting than just the ones I've listed, and once the season gets under way, some of these games might not be as big, because one or two of these powerhouses might fall to pieces.
On the flip side of that, some teams that we all think are going to stink might be big time.
Can't wait for this lockout to end and for football to begin.
Check out my other articles, and if you like what you see, give me a follow on Twitter for more updates (@jomac006).