Despite the lockout, the NFL’s individual team schedules were released on Tuesday evening. Regardless of the lockout however, both NFL and team executives must plan as if there will be no missed time, and thus as is typical this time of year schedules were released. Whether or not there will even be a season is in fact in question, but if there is we now know who will be playing who. It’s like seeing a menu for a new restaurant, and not knowing when the restaurant may actually open.
As this is a day that sheds light on the season to come, one might be tempted to think “what a day for fans and analysts”. This week is supposed to be the week of planning trips, scheduling flights, buying tickets and planning times with buddies to meet up at the local stadium. Instead this year we all have to wonder-will the games even happen?
Anyway here is the top five week one games to watch.
(New Orleans Saints vs Green Bay Packers) The season opener takes place on Thursday Night and pits the past two Super Bowl Champions against one another. With two of the best young quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers for the Pack and Drew Brees for the Saints) opening the season against one another in primetime, it should be an exciting game to watch and a very entertaining way to open the season.
(Pittsburg Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens) Often heralded as the greatest rivalry in football-and perhaps all sports-this division battle between AFC North teams typically means a hard fought, physical battle. Last year we saw broken bones (Ben Roethlisberger’s nose by Haloti Ngata), and exactly 27 points scored both both teams (27 each, not total) between both regular season match ups. They faced each other in the divisional round of the playoffs as well and the game was decided by just one touchdown. It should be a close game, and likely the opposite of the Packers vs. Saints game where we expect lots of scoring by two elite quarterback’s, here we expect very little scoring and hard defensive play.
(Dallas Cowboys vs New York Jets) While the Green Bay and Saints game brings together the last two champions, and the Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh match up brings us two of the greatest defensive teams, the Sunday night opener bring us two of the most talked about teams from…HBO’s show “Hard Knocks”, a show that follows a football team each season through its preseason preparation. Last season-as in the season before that-the Jets made a great run thought the playoffs only to be stopped just short of the big game for the second year in a row-by the Steelers this time-in the AFC Championship. While the Cowboys missed the playoffs last season and overall just had a down year, Dallas is still America’s Team. A great side story from this game is that it will feature Jets’ head coach Rob Ryan battling against his brother, Rob Ryan who is now the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys. It’s also a great mix of two highly colorful “Hollywood” type quarterbacks (Cowboys Tony Romo and Jets Mark Sanchez).
Monday Night game Double Header Includes two division battles
(New England Patriots vs Miami Dolphins) After losing to the Jets in the playoffs last season after dominating the regular season with a 14-2 record, the Patriots may be motivated more now than ever before to secure their dominance in the AFC east in 2011. The Dolphins however, would like to revenge the final game of their 2010 season in which they took a thrashing from the Patriots. This could be the Dolphins to shine. The big question about the fish right now is who will line up under center. They seem to have given up on second round pick Chad Henne, who at one point was considered the quarterback of the future for the franchise but lost his job at times last year to Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington. Some believe that the Dolphins might target a quarterback like Ryan Mallet or Jake Locker in the upcoming draft. This would be a tough game for either to start their career.
(Oakland Raiders vs Denver Broncos) Regardless of each of their record or previous year’s battles there are two dates circled on either team’s calendar each year when the schedules are released, and it’s when they have a chance to beat each other. These two AFC west teams simply hate each other. Last season the Raiders clobbered the Broncos both in Denver and in Oakland, winning the two match ups by a combined 61 points. The Broncos are hoping to get some revenge this season while the Raiders are looking to return back to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. For either team opening up the season with a victory over the other would be a great step. Newly appointed head coach Raiders Hue Jackson makes his first appearance in Denver.
No matter how good the match ups, we still don’t know if these games will be played or not. For now let’s all keep our heads up and hope that not only will the labor issues be resolved, but this will be one of the greatest seasons ever, both overall and for your team.