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17 Intriguing Games On The NFL Schedule

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The better-late-than-never edition of my annual preview of the upcoming NFL schedule:

Week 1 New Orleans at Green Bay Welcome back, NFL.  The last two Super Bowl champions kick off the 2011 season with a potential NFC Championship preview.

Week 2 Dallas at San Francisco The most recent edition of this once-mighty rivalry is also a matchup of two of the most disappointing teams from 2010.  Both are capable of winning their respective divisions and an early boost of confidence from either could go a long way.

Week 3 Houston at New Orleans Bombs away!  Look for Matt Schaub and Drew Brees to light up the scoreboard in this battle of two of the NFL's best aerial teams.

Week 4 Minnesota at Kansas City Not that long ago the Chiefs were rebuilding and traded away Jared Allen to the Vikings.  The move was supposed to help put Minnesota in the Super Bowl.  Now it's four years later and the teams are again in opposite directions with the Super Bowl window just starting to open for KC.

Week 5 Chicago at Detroit The Lions return to Monday Night Football for the first time in 10 years but will a return to respectability follow?  A win over the defending NFC North champs would make a statement.

Week 6 Philadelphia at Washington Last year in DC the Eagles embarrassed the Redskins 59-28.  The score only reinforced the fact that Philly was right to go with Michael Vick.  Will the same be said in 2011?

Week 7 Seattle at Cleveland Mike Holmgren's current team against Mike Holmgren's former team.  Now the president of the Browns Holmgren is trying to do in Cleveland what he did in Seattle.  Meanwhile the Seahawks are trying to repeat the success of the Holmgren era that included four straight division titles.  

Week 8 Indianapolis at Tennessee In 2008 the Titans ended Indy's five year run as AFC South champions but now Tennessee is a far cry from three years ago.  That doesn't mean the Colts won't have their hands full.  In two meetings last year the Colts won both by a combined five points.

Week 9 Baltimore at Pittsburgh Once again in 2011 the Steelers and Ravens should be the top two teams in the AFC North, putting a premium on what is already one of the league's fiercest rivalries.

Week 10 Oakland at San Diego Thursday night football returns with this AFC West showdown.  In 2010 the Raiders swept through the division,, leading to a surprising 8-8 record.  San Diego stumbled to 9-7 despite having the top offense and defense in the NFL  Once again success in the division will be needed for both teams.

Week 11 San Diego at Chicago After a three year hiatus the Punk Bowl returns with the matchup of Phillip Rivers vs. Jay Cutler.  Rivers got the better of Cutler while he was in Denver in two key late season showdowns in '07 and '08.  Will the trend continue in '11?

Week 12 Arizona at St. Louis The Rams enter 2011 as the team to beat in the NFC West, a title held by the Cardinals not that long ago.  But the days of Kurt Warner have given way to the days of Sam Bradford and a win here would solidify the Rams as the new kings of the division.

Week 13 Indianapolis at New England Colts-Patriots.  Sunday night.  Early December.  'nuff said.

Week 14 Atlanta at Carolina An NFC South team led by a rookie quarterback shocks the NFL with a trip to the playoffs.  Can the Panthers do what the Falcons did in 2008?  Not likely...then again, no one thought the '08 Falcons would do anything.  A win over the defending division champs will make the league take notice.

Week 15 Miami at Buffalo The schedule makers did no favors for the Dolphins as this game marks the first of back-to-back road games in the Northeast in December.  Division wins this time of year are necessary.

Week 16 NY Giants at NY Jets The Giants have made a habit of disappearing in December thus a win over the Jets would be a step in the right direction.  Don't look for peace on Earth in this Christmas Eve matchup between bitter rivals.

Week 17 Jacksonville at Indianapolis The division could be at stake in this matchup of the top two AFC South teams from 2010.  This rivalry has become must-see considering six out of the last seven meetings have been decided by seven points or less.

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