By Nick Villano @nick_villano on April 25, 2014
The NFL schedule is out, and it seems that the league really got it right. Over 17 weeks, there will be 512 games. Some teams will come out of nowhere and play amazing, while others will disappoint at every turn. This year's schedule includes some of the biggest matchups we have seen in years. It all starts with the first game. These are the 15 games you cannot miss in 2014.
This is the first meeting of these two teams since the debacle that caused the replacement refs to get fired. What a way for the Seahawks to start their defense of their title on that first Thursday night game of the season. They welcome one of the best QBs in the game in Aaron Rodgers to CenturyLink Field. Will this ending be as crazy as the last time these two met in the regular season?
43-8. That was the final score of the final NFL game of the 2013 season. Peyton Manning was on the losing side of that effort. He will look to show that lightning will not strike twice. It won't take long to see a rematch of one of the most lopsided Super Bowls in history. The Broncos are now retooled and feel like they are better suited to play Seattle.
Part of me feels like NBC wishes they could flex this game into primetime. DeSean Jackson makes this matchup a must see. While Robert Griffin III's comeback is a great storyline, nothing beats what happened between Jackson and the Eagles this offseason. This is going to be the most motivated we have ever seen Jackson, and the results could be plain scary.
Drew Brees and the Saints come to Jerry's World in Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Both of these teams can score at will, so the final score could equal over 100 after it is all said and done. This is the kind of game NBC wants on national television, and this is also the Cowboys in September, not December.
This may be the most defensive matchup in the league this season. These two hard-hitting units will be down each other's throats. At this point of the season, you will know how Colin Kaepernick is dealing with his off-the-field issues. Hopefully this isn't Alex Smith going up against Blaine Gabbert.
The 49ers have a terrible road in 2014. Not only do they have teams like Seattle and Arizona in their division, but they take on all of the AFC West. This is the marquee game here. The 49ers can now see if they would have had the same matchup nightmares for the Broncos that the Seahawks had. Will Peyton Manning be able to show that last year was a fluke?
This is now the biggest rivalry in all of football. With the trading of players and the one-ups-manship in free agency, it seems that these two teams are setting their teams up to play each other. You have Tom Brady against Peyton Manning, Aqib Talib returns to the place here he resurrected his career and Darrelle Revis shows why he spurned the Broncos. These two teams will likely meet again.
It was a rough season for Eli Manning in 2013, but history shows he follows those seasons up with great ones. Andrew Luck is the golden goose of the best draft class since Eli's in 2004. These two QBs will be the story, but their team's attempt to rise to the top of their respective conferences will be what the teams focus on. It will be a great Monday night game.
After both team's bye week, we have a rematch from the playoffs. Brady welcomed Andrew Luck to the NFL Playoffs officially with a 43-22 drubbing. This is the level of elite Luck needs to get to if he is going to compete in the AFC while Brady and Manning are still in his way. This will be a nice game for him to establish himself as a top QB.
The Miami Dolphins seem to be that team that nobody can pinpoint how good they are. They can win 11 games and they can win five; either way, nobody will be very surprised. They will have a true test when they go to Denver. This will also be a test to see if Joe Philbin is the right choice to take the Fins into the future.
You knew that at least one of these matchups would end up on this list, and it might as well be the game on the night of Thanksgiving. While everyone in America will be working on their food coma, these two teams are going to be licking the wounds from a physical game. This will end up coming down to Kaepernick against Russell Wilson. Whichever QB penetrates the defense best will win this game.
This is a typical strength versus strength clash. Drew Brees is going to look to test a secondary that won't have as many familiar faces. Will Troy Polamalu be able to make it this far into the season without an injury like he did last season? The way the conferences are looking, both of these teams might be on the edge of a playoff spot coming into this game.
The Atlanta Falcons can't possibly be as bad as they were last season. Matt Ryan will have a healthy receiving corps, despite losing Tony Gonzalez, and the defense made some moves to get better. The Packers are the Packers, so this will be a great Monday night bout.
What do you get when you put a huge rivalry with a game that can likely decide playoff positioning, then add Tony Romo and a Philadelphia crowd? The answer is unpredictability. We have seen these games go down to the wire and other times turn into blowouts. The Eagles beat the Cowboys to knock them out of the playoffs last season. Will they do it again?
This game will be great as long as the Broncos have something to play for. I don't see them clinching anything until they finish this game. The Bengals have made the playoffs for three straight seasons. These two teams are in very different positions in terms of their franchises, but the Bengals could be the sneaky pick in the AFC. It will be a great game to watch towards the end of the season.
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