Games Every Super Bowl Contender Has Circled on Their 2015 Schedules

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2015

Games Every Super Bowl Contender Has Circled on Their 2015 Schedules

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    Revenge. Pride. Standings.

    Whatever the reason, there are probably games that teams—and certainly their fans—have already circled on their calendars for the 2015 season. 

    For Super Bowl contenders, the stakes are even higher. Big games take on more meaning, earning more attention around the league and in the media. Will the Packers finally get past Russell Wilson? Can the Eagles take the NFC East back?

    Let's take a look at a couple of games that this year's top contenders might have highlighted on the calendar.

Green Bay Packers

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    Week 2: September 20 vs. Seattle Seahawks

    Agonizing.

    That would be the best description of Green Bay's flubbed chance to move on to the Super Bowl. The NFC North champs were up 16-7 in the waning minutes of the game. The victory was all but assured even after Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson ran for a touchdown.

    Then Brandon Bostick happened.

    Instead of blocking for a man with better hands, Bostick inexplicably decided to try to field an onside kick. He fumbled it, and the Seahawks pounced. 

    The Seahawks would go on to win the game in overtime, and the Packers were left wondering what could have been. 

    It was Green Bay's third loss to Seattle in as many seasons and the second one in dramatic fashion. The Packers are surely looking at this game on the schedule and seeking a measure of payback.

    Week 8: November 1 @ Denver Broncos

    With apologies to the Dallas Cowboys—whom the Green Bay Packers narrowly defeated in their NFC Divisional tilt—the Packers and Aaron Rodgers have bigger fish to fry.

    That includes a potential Super Bowl preview against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Rodgers will eventually be measured against Manning for all-time status, and a big victory from the former could be the beginning of that discussion.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Week 2: September 20 @ Philadelphia Eagles

    What's so special about a divisional game? They happen twice per year between rivals, after all.

    Likely to be duking it out for a divisional title through the bitter end of the season, though, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys will start the competition early this season.

    The Cowboys surprised the world last season, wresting the NFC East away from the favored Eagles with a 12-4 record and keeping them out of the playoffs in the process. Both teams have seen plenty of changes this offseason, but the Cowboys have suffered more attrition.

    What better way to shake off those losses—including the rushing champion, DeMarco Murray, who jumped over to those rivals—than to win an early-season road game in Philadelphia?

    Week 14: December 13 @ Green Bay Packers

    Revenge is a dish best served at the end of a grueling season.

    Did Dez Bryant catch that fourth-down pass that would've taken the Cowboys to the brink of the NFC Championship Game? The rulebook said no, and Cowboys fans are still understandably upset.

    Dallas will get a chance to take those frustrations out on Green Bay late in the season.

Seattle Seahawks

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    Week 8: November 1 @ Dallas Cowboys

    Aside from all the divisional games the Seahawks must traverse in the tough NFC West, there are a couple of big matchups to highlight in Seattle.

    One of Seattle's four losses last season came at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, a fact that may have had Seahawks fans nervous as the Cowboys marched down the field toward victory at the end of their divisional matchup against the Green Bay Packers.

    Destiny—and the replay officials—intervened, and the Seahawks wound up fighting for their Super Bowl lives against the latter.

    The Seahawks travel to Dallas just before their bye this season, and they will surely want to avenge that loss from a year ago.

    Week 17: January 1 @ Arizona Cardinals

    Seattle's Week 2 tilt against Green Bay might also fit here, but the Seahawks have had the Packers' number for years now. Besides, even an early-season loss won't derail Seattle's season—the Seahawks started 3-3 last year en route to another Super Bowl appearance.

    Heading into the playoffs on a strong note might be more important, and the end of the season could prove treacherous for the Seahawks.

    Seattle takes on Arizona on the road to close out the season, and it won't be nearly the cakewalk it was last year when the Cardinals were ravaged by injuries. That is assuming they won't be bitten by the injury bug again this year, of course.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Week 6: October 18 vs. New England Patriots

    Third time's a charm?

    The Indianapolis Colts were throttled by the New England Patriots twice last season, with the second time coming in the AFC Championship Game. Those losses were reminders that the Colts weren't quite ready for the big time; they were the little brothers being kept at arm's length while Bill Belichick cackled.

    There certainly won't be any mercy from the Patriots in Week 6, which could be the first game back for New England quarterback Tom Brady. Given the Colts initiated Deflategate, Belichick will have no qualms throwing on the afterburners until fuel runs out.

    Week 9: November 8 vs. Denver Broncos

    Andrew Luck squares off against his predecessor for the third time in as many seasons when the Colts host the Broncos in Week 9. 

    Indianapolis already knocked off Denver with higher stakes on the line last season as the Colts moved on to the AFC Championship Game. This contest could well decide a first-round bye for either team, however.

Denver Broncos

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    Week 9: November 8 @ Indianapolis Colts

    Peyton Manning washed out of yet another postseason. Worse, it came at the hands of his successor in Indianapolis.

    The Indianapolis Colts ran roughshod over the Denver Broncos in their divisional matchup, to the point that speculation swirled that Manning might retire. He is back, and he will want to make up for the fact the Broncos could only muster 13 points in the playoffs.

    Week 12: November 29 vs. New England Patriots

    Can the Denver Broncos get past the New England Patriots? 

    They didn't get a chance last season because of that early playoff exit, but this will be a matchup to anticipate for the entire football world, not just Broncos fans. 

    After all, how can we make it through a season without discussing Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady ad nauseam for the week leading up to a regular-season matchup?

    In truth, this might be the litmus test for Denver's season—if the Broncos can get past the Patriots, their playoff chances should look much better.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Week 2: September 20 vs. Dallas Cowboys

    The Philadelphia Eagles are going to want to show off their shiny new toys right away. What bigger time than against their division rivals at home?

    Dallas and Philadelphia figure to battle it out for the division crown this year. It starts early with a game in Week 2.

    Week 9: November 8 @ Dallas Cowboys

    Forget the rest of the NFC East. Heck, skip the rest of the non-divisional games—the Cowboys are the most important team on Philadelphia's schedule.

    The early game might give one franchise a leg up on the division, but the midseason game could make or break these teams' chances to win the NFC East.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Week 1: September 13 @ Denver Broncos

    Remember the opening game of Baltimore's title defense in 2013? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

    So does head coach John Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and anyone else who was around for the whipping the Ravens got at the hands of the Denver Broncos.

    Peyton Manning tied an all-time single-game record for touchdown passes, tossing seven en route to a 49-27 trouncing of the defending Super Bowl champions on Thursday Night Football. The Broncos were sure motivated then, having narrowly missed a shot at the Super Bowl at the hands of their feathery foes.

    Week 14: December 13 vs. Seattle Seahawks

    Games against the Pittsburgh Steelers are always slugfests, and Ravens fans are looking forward to potential victories over their hated rivals.

    A visit from the Seattle Seahawks in mid-December could loom largest of all this season, however. If the Ravens are going to prove they can make a deep playoff run and challenge for a Super Bowl, a good showing against vaunted Seattle is the game to do it.

New England Patriots

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Week 6: October 18 @ Indianapolis Colts

    Not that the New England Patriots have a particular reason to circle a game against an opponent they crushed by a combined score of 87-27 in two games last season—including a 45-7 drubbing in the AFC Championship Game—but, as of now, this game is special.

    That would be because quarterback Tom Brady is slated to return from his four-game suspension this week. A reduced sentence—perhaps accompanied by a lawsuit delaying missed time—would change things, but the fact Indianapolis got him and the Patriots into this mess will be a sore spot in New England, to be sure.

    Week 7: October 25 vs. New York Jets

    There aren't many other games on the Patriots' schedule really worth circling right now. Perhaps their trip to Denver should be on the list, but we have a better one for you—the New York Jets.

    Yes, those loud-mouthed challengers in the AFC East that have been more bark than bite in recent years. The trash talk should be toned down quite a bit with head coach Rex Ryan gone—we should look forward to proclamations and guarantees coming out of Buffalo now—but the rivalry should still be intense.

    More importantly, the Patriots might want to stick it to cornerback Darrelle Revis after his unceremonious exit, particularly after his parting shot, as relayed by Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:

    (The Patriots) have a history of doing stuff. You can't hide that … Tom was there when they did that stuff in the past.

    New England's been doing stuff in the past and getting in trouble. When stuff repeatedly happens, then that's it. I don't know what else to tell you. Stuff repeatedly happened through the years. You got SpyGate, you got this and that and everything else. Obviously in those situations in the past, they had the evidence. So they did what they needed to do.

    Sounds like the rivalry won't simmer long without Ryan.

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