No other major sports league has the gall to have a schedule release show, spanning three hours with analysts speculating about the record of teams that have not even held their draft yet or done training camp.
Yes, the NFL is that big and it can get away with it.
If any more proof was needed that the NFL is the crown jewel of all major sports, tonight’s announcement was a prime indicator, with the Twitterverse hashtagging and debating which matchups are the most compelling.
The NFL knows drama and they are by far the best at re-creating storylines, with the way they schedule rematches of previous playoff games and players returning to their former teams. I do not think I have ever seen an NFL schedule, that features more storylines of players and coaches returning to play/coach teams they left for greener pastures.
Key Games to Watch
The Broncos will start the season at home against the Ravens, a rematch of the AFC Divisional playoff round. Rahim Moore will hopefully have a chance to redeem himself after the blunder that propelled the Ravens to a Super Bowl run. Elvis Dumervil will also face his former team after that weird fax machine snafu that ended his Broncos career.
The Texans travel to the Charm City to face the Ravens in Ed Reed’s return to Baltimore. Reed will take his ticket to paradise back home, where he was one of the best ball hawks in the entire league. This will be a major test for the Texans as they hope to become a major force in the AFC with the Ravens in re-tooling mode. What will surely be an emotional game, Reed and the Texans will be extra motivated to prove the Ravens wrong. Reed was never a blue-chip athlete, but his cerebral understanding of the game and how Joe Flacco plays, will be a great matchup to analyse.
You knew once the schedule was released that the NFL was going to make sure Peyton Manning, Indiana’s prodigal son, returns home to Indianapolis against the team that originally drafted him. Last year, the story of the offseason was Peyton Manning’s impending release from the Colts and signing with Denver. Manning should get a standing ovation, in what will be a terrific game featured on Sunday Night Football in week 7.
Peyton Manning will lead the league in marquee matchups and in week 2, which may be one of the best weeks of the season in terms of marquee matchups, he will face little brother Eli in the Meadowlands. In a game which will surely feature at least 20 to 30 camera pans on Archie and Olivia Manning, sitting in a press box, this will be a great test for a Giants defense that was pourous against the pass. Regardless of who you root for, Eli versus Peyton is always high drama.
Kansas City travels to Philadelphia in week 3 for Andy Reid’s return. This will not be a warm welcome for Reid who, despite his success, was never able to win a title in a town that is dying for a Super Bowl. Do not underestimate this Chiefs team. There is solid talent and Reid will be extremely motivated to win this game. Very underrated matchup.
The Seahawks and 49ers will renew acquaintances and try to live up to all the offseason hype as being the best rivalry in football. Both teams matched each other offseason move for offseason move, seemingly improving their teams solely for the purpose of besting each other on the field. Even better than the way they play tough and physical defense, is how both Quarterbacks are young, athletic and are coming off terrific “rookie” seasons where they mastered the read-option. This two-game set begins at home for the 49ers in week 2(SNF) and concludes in week 14 with the rowdy 12th man.
Speaking of the 49ers, they have a rematch against the Falcons, on the second to last weekend of the season. Atlanta is widely considered as favorites to be the NFC representative this season with the return of Tony Gonzalez and signings of Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora, among others. The Falcons were 10 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl, so it will be interesting to see how their receivers match up against a team that lost Deshon Goldshon.
The Saints have not been the same since Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks euthanized them. Finally, they will be traveling to “C-Link” for the first time since the 2010 Wild Card round. This will be a terrific matchup with a much improved Seattle pass rush and Drew Brees who throws the ball around the yard to a plethora of receivers. Look for this to be a high scoring affair, with terrific matchups including Seattle’s corners and the Saints receivers.
The NFC East teams always draws the ire of most NFL fans. As mentioned, they get the most primetime games (Washington has 5) and the storylines are always endless. Will RGIII be ready for week 1? Will Tony Romo finally win a playoff game for the first time since 2009? Chip Kelly talks fast and coaches even faster, but will his up-tempo style mesh well with Michael Vick and the Eagles? And is this the year the Giants finally run out and be an elite team, without needing controversy to fuel another Super Bowl run?
While this reads like a 1970’s Batman tagline, the NFC East games and teams will be on the same Bat-channels you usually find them and will once again bring about compelling matchups all across the board.
The are countless other games on the mend. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are back at it to renew their, decade long, rivalry in week 12 in NBC. New England at Carolina could be an underrated matchup with Cam Newton facing Bill Belichick for the first time in his career. St Louis is the sexy pick to be a 9 or 10 win team this season and they have great back-to-back matchups in week 2 at Atlanta and at Dallas.
Thankfully, the Monday Night Football Schedule has the potential to be better than last season’s (which featured many blowouts), but the Sunday Night fixtures are absolutely mouth watering. Apart from the matches mentioned above, you have: New England @ Atlanta (Week 4), Redskins @ Cowboys (Week 6), Green Bay@ Minnesota (Week 8) Dallas @ New Orleans, (Week10), Atlanta @ Green Bay (Week 14), Patriots @ Baltimore (Week 16).
There has never been a better slate of Sunday primetime games in NBC’s history of broadcasting in this timeslot. Virtually every game has great storylines, a current or budding rivalry or marquee matchups with the biggest stars of the game.
The schedule release is another step towards football. September cannot get here fast enough.
Which games are you looking forward to?