9 Games I’m looking forward To In The First Month Of The NFL Season (Pre-Draft)
1. Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos – Thursday, September 5, 8:30 p.m.
In the opener of the regular season, the defending champion Baltimore Ravens will meet the Denver Broncos in a rematch of the AFC divisional matchup in the 2012 playoffs in which the Ravens stunned the Broncos in overtime with a game winning field goal. Perhaps more intriguing is the new look of both of the teams and the Baltimore defense vs. the Denver offense matchup. Baltimore lost a ridiculous amount of key pieces on their defense, none more important that the retired Ray Lewis. Baltimore also lost key secondary players Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, as well as Paul Kruger, Cary Williams, and Dannelle Ellerbe. Denver’s main acquisition came in the form of Wes Welker, who will look to torch the Ravens’ new defensive unit. Denver’s 4th ranked offense from last season only got stronger.
2. Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins – Monday, September 9, 7:10 p.m.
All of the offseason hype in the NFC East seemed to circulate around two things: Robert Griffin III’s rehabbing knee, and the Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach, Chip Kelly. A hot commodity over the past two off seasons, Chip Kelly finally decided to make the leap to the NFL and will probably attempt to implement his high-octane offense that he ran at the University of Oregon throughout his entire career. He will be working with one of the NFL’s fastest offenses, featuring Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and Desean Jackson. The buzz in DC is focused around the rehabbing of Griffin III, who tore his ACL and MCL in the Redskins’ playoff loss to the Seahawks. The two teams will face off in the first Monday Night Football game of the season, looking to improve on their 2012 seasons.
3. Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears – Sunday, September 15, 1:00 p.m.
The two NFC North division rivals will face off in week two of the NFL season after playing two times last season. The teams split the season series 1-1, and both teams have incredible expectations. For the Vikings, despite losing the dynamic Percy Harvin to the Seahawks, Minnesota has a new face in town, Greg Jennings from the division-rival Green Bay Packers. The Vikings also feature the machine, Adrian “All-Day” Peterson who will look to improve on his incredible, nearly record-setting season from 2012. The Bears, on the other hand, are looking to get back into the playoff picture, after missing the postseason by a tiebreaker to the Vikings, despite having a 10-6 record. The tiebreak went to the Vikings after they defeated the Packers in an exciting week 17 matchup, and now Chicago has a chance for payback, early in the season.
4. Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers – Sunday, September 15, 1:00 p.m.
Again, the Redskins are playing in a notable game early in the season, and they will do so against arguably one of the most complete teams and potentially a Super Bowl favorite in 2013. The Packers, on the other hand, are in the process of resigning Aaron Rodgers and may be making him the highest paid player in league history. The Packers will have to deal with the departure of start wide receiver Greg Jennings, but finding receivers has never been an issue for Aaron Rodgers. The Pack still features Randall Cobb (84 receptions), James Jones (64 receptions), and Jordy Nelson (49 receptions). The league’s ninth ranked passing offense will look to continue in 2013, and Clay Matthews and company have a tough matchup against Washington’s offense.
5. Denver Broncos @ New York Giants – Sunday, September 15, 4:25 p.m.
It’s the battle of the Manning brothers, yet this time, Peyton is playing in an orange Denver uniform. The last time the two brothers met was in 2010, where Peyton, then an Indianapolis Colt, helped his team defeat the Giants 38-14 rather easily. While the Broncos have a huge shakeup since 2010, the Giants’ roster has remained relatively the same since their Super Bowl title in 2011. Despite missing the playoffs in their chance to defend their title, the Giants, still, have done relatively little to change their roster, still featuring the same core of Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Eli Manning and the Giants will look for revenge against older Peyton and the Denver Broncos in a marquee matchup in week two of the season.
6. Indianapolis Colts @ San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, September 22, 4:25 p.m.
Week three features two of the biggest young quarterback sensations in the NFL. Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts surprisingly returned to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in 2012, after finishing a dismal 2-14 the year before. Andrew Luck, in his rookie season, threw for nearly 4,400 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions while starting all 16 games for Indianapolis last year. Luck will look to improve on those stats in his sophomore season, but will have a tough time against an incredibly stingy 49er defense. On the other sideline, the 25-year-old Colin Kaepernick grabbed the starting job in San Francisco in week eleven of the NFL season and never let go, driving the 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl. Kaepernick threw for just over 1,800 yards. Kaepernick contributes with his legs too, having 415 yards on the ground in the regular season with five touchdowns. This truly has potential to be a huge matchup for the future of the NFL.
7. San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams – Thursday, September 26, 8:25 p.m.
This matchup is purely one of revenge from San Francisco’s standpoint. One of the few teams the 49ers struggled with last season was the St. Louis Rams, who tied and beat the 49ers in overtime in their two meetings last season. This was a tall feat for the Rams, who only won seven games on the season and went 7-8-1. The two wins that St. Louis had against the 49ers were also part of an impressive divisional stint, in which the Rams went 4-1-1. However, the Rams’ front office was not able to strengthen a weak team, and to make matters worse, they lost receiver Danny Amendola to New England, as well as many defensive pieces, and only added tackle Jake Long for a large sum of money. The Rams may surprise people, but they will need key wins against excellent division foes like the 49ers if they want to make the playoffs.
8. Seattle Seahawks @ Houston Texans – Sunday, September 29, 1:00 p.m.
Two of the premier offenses in the league will face off in week four of the NFL season. The Seattle Seahawks surprised everyone last season with their stellar play behind rookie quarterback Russell Wilson out of Wisconsin, and Marshawn Lynch. The defense was mightily improved behind leadership from corner Richard Sherman. The Seahawks also brought in playmaker Percy Harvin to work with the offense. Seattle now has one of the most lethal units in the game. The Texans, on the other hand, have been consistently solid on offense behind play from quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster, and wide receiver Andre Johnson. Seattle and Houston have only met twice since the 2005 season, with the Seahawks blowing out Houston in 2005, and the Texans blowing out Seattle in 2009. The two teams will now face off in a premier matchup in which two top-ten rushing offenses and two top-ten overall defenses, points will be important, but the ability to shut down the other team’s offense will be more important. It’s going to be a highly entertaining firefight.
9. New England Patriots @ Atlanta Falcons – Sunday, September 29, 8:30 p.m.
It wouldn’t be a loaded schedule without two of the best offenses in the game squaring off in a Sunday Night Football matchup. The Patriots, although losing Wes Welker and having Brandon Lloyd remain unsigned, have brought in/retained Danny Amendola, a quick, oft-injured, slot receiver and secondary players Adrian Wilson and Aqib Talib. The Falcons bring in an unbelievable passing attack riding on the shoulders of quarterback Matt Ryan out of Boston College. However, the running game remains a huge question mark because new addition Stephen Jackson is 29 years old (30 seems to be a magic number with running backs) and he has yet to play in the Falcons system. The league’s best offense (New England) will try and outduel the league’s eighth best offense (Atlanta) against two bottom-ten defenses. There will be a lot of points put up, that’s a guarantee.