With the National Football League off-season feeling longer than usual, due to the moving back a month of the annual Draft, it was no surprise that the schedule release was also delayed.
The announcement of the schedule has become so eagerly anticipated that it even has its own three hour show on NFL Network.
This year with the ever growing clamour for something more than trade rumours and mock drafts, it was no surprise that leaks of the schedule found their way onto social media sites in the two hours prior to its official release.
We found out that Seattle will start the defence of their first title in the now traditional Thursday Night opener, against the Green Bay Packers. A chance to relive all those Fail Mary moments.
Of course, there are the usual suspects playing out the Thursday, Sunday and Monday night slots with marquee matchups to catch the Prime Time audience. Away from those headline acts each week there is a weekly fix of football which will have a huge impact on the outcome of who wins the divisions, and which teams get to play playoff football in January next year.
After analysing each week here are ten games that may just have a big say in who does what away from the big lights of Prime Time.
WEEK ONE – 49ERS at COWBOYS
When these two meet its always drama, and this will be no different. An early chance to lay down a decent conference tiebreaker.
WEEK THREE – BRONCOS at SEAHAWKS
Rematch of February’s Super Bowl. Seattle has home field advantage, and should have too much in their locker again, even with the Broncos new additions.
WEEK FIVE – CHIEFS at 49ERS
Alex Smith returns to San Francisco and will want to put one over the team that dumped him. A good test for both teams as the dust has now settled a month into the season.
WEEK SEVEN – BENGALS at COLTS
Two teams that will need to keep pace with New England and Denver. A win for here will add credence to their status as the teams that could be the new breed of excellence in the AFC.
WEEK NINE – CHARGERS at DOLPHINS
Another two teams that will want to be in the mix come December. They will be riding the coattails of their divisions rivals but will be waiting for any slip up. Tiebreakers cost Miami last time.
WEEK ELEVEN – EAGLES at PACKERS
A traditionally tough game. No real edge in the weather for either at this time of year. Two division favourites could be jostling for playoff seeding.
WEEK TWELVE – LIONS at PATRIOTS
Detroit wants to be considered a legit contender. To do this they must win the big games down the stretch. Win in Foxboro at this time of year they may open some eyes.
WEEK FOURTEEN – PANTHERS at SAINTS
It’s going to be loud – and fun. Huge potential for big points here as well as the small matter of a division on the line.
WEEK SIXTEEN – LIONS at BEARS
Two that could be on the outside looking in, but with any kind of slip up from the teams above them in the playoff chase they will be eager for this win. Another chance for Detroit to be taken seriously.
WEEK SEVENTEEN – RAIDERS at BRONCOS
Oakland would love nothing more than to put a dent into Denver right before the playoffs. That is of course if they aren’t in the mix themselves…