2011 NFL Season: 10 Games That Will Certainly Go Down to the Wire

Josh Brewer@AlwaysBrewingCorrespondent IJune 19, 2011

2011 NFL Season: 10 Games That Will Certainly Go Down to the Wire

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches the ball against wide receiver Marcus Smith #11 of the the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter of the game at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in B
    Larry French/Getty Images

    The 2011 NFL season is set to begin in just about two-and-a-half months, assuming the rumors regarding the end of the lockout are true.

    As usual, the schedule is packed with hotly contested divisional games and more hot games outside of the normal division slate.

    This season will come firing out of the gate, with two huge games kicking off the season on opening week.

Week 1: New Orleans at Green Bay

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    What better way to start the 2011 season than by having the last two Super Bowl champions meet up in one of the season's best games?

    Points shouldn't be hard to come by on Sept. 8, when the defending-champion Green Bay Packers host the Super Bowl XLIV champion New Orleans Saints.

    Two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL will shoot it out in the most historic stadium in the league, as a nation of fans who have been without football watches.

    Can the defending champions start their title defense with a big win over the Saints? Can Drew Brees get his team back on the road to a championship by knocking off the Packers at Lambeau?

Week 1: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

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    The main event of the first Sunday of the 2011 NFL season will be the first of two annual regular-season iterations of the biggest rivalry in the league.

    Baltimore's 2010 season ended against Pittsburgh once again, and the Steelers are looking to get back to the NFL title game after losing to the Packers in Dallas.

    Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley dumped a tank full of gasoline on the raging Ravens-Steelers fire this offseason, saying Joe Flacco and the Ravens will never win a Super Bowl "in this lifetime." 

    There was no need for more animosity between these two teams, but it seems like each game raises the stakes more and more. Will we see these two clubs once again come together in the 2011 playoffs?

Week 2: San Diego at New England

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    Both the Chargers and Patriots saw their respective 2010 campaigns end in disappointment.

    San Diego failed to make the playoffs after lofty preseason expectations. New England cruised to the league's best regular-season record before being eliminated, at home, by the division-rival New York Jets in the Divisional Playoffs.

    These talented teams will take the field in Foxborough with hopes of notching a very important conference victory. But can the Chargers avoid the early-season swoon they've suffered over the past few years? Can Philip Rivers lead the Bolts to an early road victory over Tom Brady and the Pats?

Week 3: Steelers at Colts

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    Whenever these two AFC powers meet, the games are always close. More often than not, a trip to the Super Bowl is on tap for the victor.

    While it will be hard to say whether or not the winner of Week 3's clash between the Colts and Steelers will be an early indicator of the 2011 AFC champion, it will likely play at least a small part in giving the winner a leg up in the race to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI.

    Can the Colts start their quest to be the first-ever team to play on their home field in the Super Bowl by beating the defending AFC champions?

Week 5: Packers at Falcons

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    For the third time in less than a year, the Green Bay Packers will make a trip to the Georgia Dome to take on the Atlanta Falcons.

    Last year's regular-season meeting went the way of the home team, but the Packers made their return trip to Hotlanta count by drubbing the Falcons en route to their Super Bowl victory.

    We may have a budding inter-divisional rivalry on our hands, especially if this one is close—which it should be. The road for the champs doesn't start easy, but a return trip to the big game may be in the cards should the Packers walk away with early victories over the NFC South's two best teams.

Week 7: Colts at Saints

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    The first to 50 wins this game. Or maybe they won't, considering the offensive firepower that will be on display in the Louisiana Superdome when the Colts and Saints lock up in a Super Bowl XLIV rematch.

    If recent history is any indication, this will be a great match-up between two of the better teams in the NFL. While it may not reach the excitement of their Super Bowl match-up, this game between two of the best offenses in football will surely be entertaining.

Week 8: Patriots at Steelers

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    Tom Brady had a field day at Heinz Field last season, passing for 350 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots dominated the Steelers in prime time.

    Another lopsided victory isn't likely against the proud Pittsburgh Steelers, who will certainly remember the beating Tom Brady and New England handed them last year.

    This game continues Pittsburgh's early-season tests. If the Steelers come out smelling like roses, a trip to Indy next February surely won't be out of the question. The Patriots, however, will be on a mission to rectify the failures seen after last year's early playoff exit.

Week 9: Giants at Patriots

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    The picture says it all.

    The last time these two teams met, the Patriots were just one Helmet Catch away from finishing off the second perfect season, and first 19-0 season, in NFL history.

    David Tyree had other plans. Tyree no longer plays for New York, but Bill Belichick surely will not let his Patriots forget about what happened Feb. 3, 2008, in Glendale, Ariz.

Week 14: Colts at Ravens

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    In the Teflon-tough AFC, a match-up of this caliber will almost certainly have playoff implications. Nothing comes easy in the AFC, but if the Colts wish to play in Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium, they will have to earn it by going to the raucous M&T Bank Stadium to face the Ravens.

    This game will likely have divisional ramifications for Baltimore, which will likely be in a tight race with the Steelers for the division crown, and more importantly, home-field advantage for a potential playoff meeting.

Week 16: Bears at Packers

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    After opening those gifts and spending time with family on Christmas morning, flip on the television to check out another chapter in the longest-running rivalry in the NFL.

    Bears-Packers games are always special for fans on each side of the rivalry, and if 2011 is anything like 2010, there will be plenty of playoff implications on the line when the two NFC North rivals clash at historic Lambeau Field.

    Will the Bears be able to earn a measure of revenge after the Packers ended Chicago's season at Soldier Field last January?