Are you ready for some football?
There are 256 games on the schedule released yesterday by the NFL. They all count equally in the standings. But some games are more equal than others in the minds of fans. Here are ten dates to circle on your calendar.
10. Green Bay @ Seattle, Thursday, September 4
This is it. This is what football fans have been waiting seven months for, the opening kickoff of the 2014 season.
9. NY Jets @ Tennessee, Sunday, December 14
Chris Johnson returns to Tennessee for the first time as a visiting player. He has something to prove to the team who gave him his walking papers after he gave them 7,965 rushing yards over the last six seasons.
8. Pittsburgh @ Baltimore, Thursday, September 11
The opening game of the new CBS Thursday night package sends the message that Thursday no longer means throwaway games as two perennial playoff teams play smashmouth football on primetime network television.
7. Philadelphia @ Washington, San Diego @ San Francisco, Saturday, December 20
Two 4:30 p.m. (Eastern) games mark the return of late-season Saturday afternoon football to the NFL. There’s now no reason to watch an absolutely horrible college bowl game featuring two 7-6 teams who shouldn’t be playing this time of year. Thank you, NFL.
6. Seattle @ Denver, Sunday, September 21
A rematch of last year’s Super Bowl normally would find itself higher on a list of anticipated games. Blowouts, unfortunately, will have that deflating effect on fan interest. Still, this is the cream of the respective conferences. And playing on the formidable home turf of the Broncos should even the scales a bit.
5. Chicago @ San Francisco, Sunday, September 14
An excellent game in its own right, this Sunday Night Football matchup takes on added significance as the first game in the new Levi’s Stadium. Two construction workers died to build the state of the art facility. Hopefully, NBC and the NFL give them their due.
4. Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh, Sunday, December 28
The last Sunday of the season should feature games that matter. This past season’s last Sunday surely did. I’m not seeing too many on the schedule but, hey, they play the season for such surprises. The Bengals and Steelers are two legit teams. There’s every reason to believe that they will be vying for a playoff spot on the final day of the season.
3. Washington @ Philadelphia, Sunday, September 21
The Eagles not only cut DeSean Jackson, but gave him a goodbye gift consisting horrible press depicting him as a thug that couldn’t help but depress the free agent market on the speedy receiver. Think he’ll play with a chip on his shoulder when he returns to Philadelphia? Think his former Eagles teammates, who never quite gelled with him, will too? How about the denizens of the City of Brotherly Love? Think they’ll give him the kind of greeting that they’re famous for?
2. Denver @ New England, Sunday, November 2
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning square off for the sixteenth and perhaps final time. ‘Nuff said.
1. Seattle @ San Francisco, Thursday, November 27
Christmas morning comes on Thanksgiving night for football fans. A rematch of last year’s unofficial Super Bowl has the Richard Sherman-Michael Crabtree drama heightening the storyline–as if this game needs anything more to generate excitement.