NFL Schedule 2011: Predicting the Outcome of the 10 Best September Matchups
The early weeks of the NFL season are often the hardest to predict, mostly because of the constant change that rosters go through each offseason.
In this offseason of upheaval that featured a lockout and mass player movement immediately in the wake of the lockout's end, the games will be even harder to figure out.
There are some teams that we know will always be there, having been consistent over the course of the last few years.
The September schedule features many intriguing matchups, and here I'll predict just how they will turn out.
Week 1: New Orleans at Green Bay
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These teams are armed with two of the best offensive in the NFL, but their underrated defenses could keep this from being a shootout.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, New Orleans 20
Week 1: Pittsburgh at Baltimore
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This AFC North rivalry has quickly become one of the best in the National Football League.
There is no love lost between these two teams, and they have engaged in some heated battles over the last few seasons.
They again are the top two contenders for the AFC North crown, and this early season matchup could dictate the tone of the season for each team.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 16, Baltimore 10
Week 1: Dallas at New York Jets
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The Cowboys are looking to rebound from a season in which they underachieved more than possibly any other team in the NFL, while the Jets are looking to get off to a fast start on their way to a third straight AFC Championship Game and a trip to the Super Bowl.
This matchup features the Ryan twins, Rob and Rex, squaring off in a battle for familial bragging rights.
Both of these teams missed out on a big offseason target in Nnamdi Asomugha, but while the Jets have Darelle Revis to fall back on, the Cowboys’ secondary is woefully thin, especially with the loss of Terence Newman for four to six weeks factored in.
If the Cowboys want to rebound from a disastrous 2010-11 season, a road win against Gang Green in Week 1 would be a great start.
Prediction: Jets 23, Dallas 17
Week 2: Chicago at New Orleans
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For the second straight week to open the season, New Orleans takes on an NFC North squad that made the playoffs last year.
Chicago will have an imposing defense as usual. Jay Cutler is looking much improved in training camp, probably since he spent much of the offseason working on his footwork and breaking up with Kristin Cavallari.
Although Chicago won the NFC North last season, Green Bay likely enters this year as the favorite. An early season win over the Saints could propel the Bears back to the playoffs.
Prediction: Saints 31, Bears 20
Week 2: San Diego at New England
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In a matchup of two teams that seem to perennially win their divisions—even if San Diego didn't last year—it’s likely that whichever quarterback of Philip Rivers and Tom Brady has the better game will be the one that leads their team to victory.
New England has brought in a lot of new toys for Bill Belichick and Brady to play with this year, and they are hoping that spurs them on to another AFC East Division crown.
San Diego let go of Darren Sproles and is still working to bring back Malcolm Floyd, who proved essential to their passing attack in Vincent Jackson’s extended absence last season.
Prediction: New England 30, San Diego 21
Week 2: Philadelphia at Atlanta
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Michael Vick will square off against his former team for the first time (he was injured for last year's matchup) since the embarrassing dog fighting scandal which sent him to federal prison and led to him having to declare bankruptcy and return much of the bonus money Arthur Blank handed him.
Vick was THE story in the National Football League last season, as his re-ascent to super-stardom was both unexpected and magical.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are coming off back to back winning seasons for the first time in the history of the franchise and in adding Julio Jones, are looking to become an even more explosive offense this season.
New Orleans looms large as a threat to their division crown, but if Atlanta can take down the self-proclaimed Dream Team in Week 2, they could be right back on track to win the NFC South again.
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Atlanta 14
Week 3: New York Giants at Philadelphia
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The New York Football Giants will be out looking for revenge for one of the worst losses in the history of their franchise.
They'll definitely remember DeSean Jackson' showboating act of running across the goal line before he officially took Matt Dodge's punt back for six points as well.
These two teams have a long and storied rivalry, and their Week 3 matchup will only add to the drama.
Prediction: New York Giants 20, Philadelphia 17
Week 3: Kansas City at San Diego
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Kansas City won the AFC West last season, and the San Diego Chargers will want to put them back in their place early on in the year.
Norv Turner's Chargers teams have been known to struggle early on in the season, so this would be a nice opportunity to change that trend.
The Chiefs added Todd Haley's old friend Steve Breaston in the offseason, and that gives Matt Cassel another weapon in addition to Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles.
Prediction: San Diego 30, Kansas City 20
Week 3: Green Bay at Chicago
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Chicago may have won the NFC North last season, but the Packers got the big prize by taking home the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
In what is possibly the most heated rivalry in NFL history, you can expect a hard fought battle every time these two teams step on the field together.
Both of these teams will face the New Orleans Saints within the first two weeks of the season, and if they lose, another loss here could be deadly.
Prediction: Green Bay 33, Chicago 17
Week 3: Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
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There is perhaps no player in the NFL more important to his team than Peyton Manning is to the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning is coming off neck surgery but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' pass rush is one that can easily knock a quarterback out of their rhythm, so it would behoove Manning to establish that he is back and better than ever in the first two weeks of the season.
These two teams have become perennial powerhouses in the AFC, and this matchup may even determine home field in the AFC playoffs.
Prediction: Indianapolis 20, Pittsburgh 10