The NFL regular season is only a couple days away and it could not come soon enough. After an offseason lockout made it seem like this day may never come, fans are as amped up for football as ever.
While most of us will be watching our favorite team no matter whom they are playing, there are four great matchups everyone should be watching. Here are the four biggest games in the first week of the season.
The NFL season gets off to a great start with its Thursday night game. The last two Super Bowl champions face off in Green Bay to kickoff the 2011 campaign.
There are two factors that make this a great game. First of all, it features two teams that will likely be right in the thick of things as contenders for the NFC championship. Anytime you can get two elite teams together for what could be a playoff preview, it's got the makings for an entertaining contest.
The second reason this game is worth watching is that it features two premier quarterbacks going toe-to-toe. Drew Brees is well established as a contender for the title of best quarterback in the league, and after his playoff run in 2010, Aaron Rodgers has emphatically planted his name in that conversation as well.
Let's be honest: The AFC North is really a two-team division. No offense to the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, but barring a miracle neither of them will be a factor this year in the division.
That leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, who are not only the two best teams in the division but two of the best teams in the conference as well. Early bragging rights and an early step-up for the division crown will be on the line in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.
If that isn't enough reason to watch this game, watch because Ray Rice is a beast, and if he's not on your fantasy team he should be.
Could this finally be the year there is a changing of the guard in the AFC South? After years of not being able to get over the hump, the Houston Texans have a golden opportunity to take over their division.
In the AFC South, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans are both teams in transition as they have just drafted rookie quarterbacks and will be grooming them for the future. That leaves just the Indianapolis Colts for the Texans to deal with.
In the past the Colts would have been more than enough of an obstacle to keep Houston from the top of the division, but for once Peyton Manning appears as though he may not be invincible.
It is looking more and more like Manning probably will not play in this opening week game, and without him the Colts are an average team at best. A win against the Manning-less Colts may not mean as much to the Texans but it could be a glimpse of the not-too-distant future for both teams.
The Dallas Cowboys' new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will not have to wait long to face off against his brother Rex Ryan. The New York Jets will host the Cowboys in the NFL's first Sunday night game of the year.
This game should be interesting if for no other reason than the Ryan twins going back and forth in the media all week leading up to their showdown. However, it should also worthwhile to see if the Jets, who suddenly are starting to seem like an old team, still have what it takes to be one of the top teams in the AFC.
On the other side, the Dallas Cowboys will try to bounce back from a disappointing 2010 season in which they lost their starting quarterback and their head coach. At the end Week 1, we should have a little more insight into how the fortunes of each team will play out in 2011.