At one point this offseason, it was uncertain when exactly Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season would actually begin.
The good news is that it is starting on time and it is finally here. The Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers will host the New Orleans Saints to kick off this long-awaited season of professional football.
The even better news is that the first week of action won't be void of excitement. Division rivals will duke it out and several teams will debut new stars, especially at quarterback.
Here are my previews and predictions for five games you won't want to miss as the NFL returns at full force on Thursday night.
Both of the teams' starting quarterbacks were taken in the 2009 NFL draft, and the Bucs' Josh Freeman has already become a franchise QB.
Matthew Stafford, on the other hand, has shown the potential to lead the Lions, but he's struggled with injuries over his first few seasons. 2011 will be an important year for him and his young team.
It should be a great game and a tight one, but the Buccaneers are a step ahead of the Lions and will go 1-0 in the NFC South.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 27-20
The self-declared "Dream Team" will travel to St. Louis to see if they can live up to the hype of an active offseason.
The Philadelphia Eagles have undoubtedly improved on defense with the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but the Rams offense will give them a good test early on with upstart Sam Bradford and veteran Steven Jackson leading the attack.
However, St. Louis isn't good enough on defense to contain Michael Vick and company, and the Eagles will claim their first victory in a Super Bowl-or-bust season.
Prediction: Philadelphia 30-17
Atlanta is loaded on the offensive side of the ball after the addition of wide receiver Julio Jones in the draft, but the Bears still boast one of the league's top defenses.
It will be interesting to see how Jay Cutler responds in his first game back from his heavily-criticized departure of the NFC championship game.
The Falcons' improved air attack will be the difference in this matchup, as their offense will overcome Chicago's dominant defense.
Prediction: Atlanta 24-20
One of the biggest rivalries in the NFL will waste no time in reviving itself in 2011.
The AFC North rivals will both display their top defenses, but the Ravens will get their revenge and steal the win at home.
Prediction: Baltimore 20-17
The first game in the 2011 NFL season is set up to be a tremendous one.
The last two Super Bowl champs will show off their explosive offenses in primetime at Lambeau with almost every football fan tuning in.
A good amount of points will be scored, but it will be Green Bay's defense that will make the difference as their road to repeat starts off on a good note.
Prediction: Green Bay 31-24