Last night felt like Christmas here. I was wicked excited, waiting for 7 PM (ET) to roll around so I could start planning my fall vacations and road trips. I hadn’t done the dishes in two days and they were piling up in the sink. I was hungry and should have been making dinner. But instead, I stayed on the couch, best dachshund friend (BDF) snuggling by my side, waiting for the release of the 2011 NFL schedule.
The NFL Network orchestrated a two hour special to go over every single team’s schedule in painstaking detail. It was a big circus for a season that’s still up in the air and many doubt will even happen. There’s enough constant babble about the status of the 2011 season, so I won’t bore you with it here. This guy and this guy can provide plenty of chatter if you’re interested.
The NFL and the NFLPA can’t afford to lose the upcoming season. The NFL is a billion dollar business, and it’s growing. I would say more than any other major sport in the US, the NFL really understands its consumer, and more importantly, its brand.
But business aside, let’s talk about the games. I actively follow two teams: the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. I also check out the San Diego Chargers from time to time (hi, Philip Rivers). If you’re interested in the full schedule, check it out here.
In the meantime, here is my take on the top games of each week.
There are two should-be favorites here. The Saints travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers, and holy cow — the NFL Network clowns really didn’t want anyone to forget the fact that this features the LAST TWO SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS playing each other (Thursday, 8:30 PM).
The other sentimental favorite will be on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, when the Dallas Cowboys travel to the Meadowlands to take on the Jets. The NFL wants us to believe that this game is going to be extra sentimental because America’s Team is playing in America’s City. Except Dallas sucks and the Meadowlands is in New Jersey. (Sunday, 8:20 PM)
My picks of the week: Eagles at Rams (Sunday, 1 PM) and Steelers at Ravens (Sunday, 1 PM).
This one’s easy: who doesn’t want to watch Michael Vick and the Eagles return to Atlanta (Sunday, 8:20 PM).
My runner-up pick: The Decatur Dreamboat travels to my hometown to take on crusty Belichick and pretty-boy Brady (Sunday, 4:15 PM).
There’s a number of good match-ups this week, including some nice divisional rivalry games going on, so take your pick: Eli Manning tries his luck in Philadelphia (Sunday, 1 PM), the Packers travel to Chicago in a repeat of the 2010 NFC Championship (Sunday, 4:15 PM), and the Redskins take on Mr. Romo and his mediocrity (Monday, 8:30 PM).
My pick of the week: Big Ben and the Steelers travel to Indianapolis for the Sunday night game (8:20 PM)
The Jets at the Ravens seems to be getting the most excitement out of the fans, but I don’t care much for the Jets (Sunday, 8:20 PM). Not just because they are our AFC East rivals, but also because I don’t like Mark Sanchez. Even though it probably won’t be broadcast here, I’d like to see the Vikings take on Matt Cassel in Kansas City (Sunday, 1 PM)
My pick of the week: Broncos at Packers (Sunday, 4:15 PM)
Many exciting match-ups this week. Let’s start with my second candidate for my Colts home game – the Patriots v 2.0 (that’s the Chiefs; see: Pioli, Cassel, Vrabel, Crennel) travel to Indy. Expect to be sick of hearing about Mark Sanchez and the Jets traveling to New England before the season even starts (Sunday, 4:15 PM). But get excited for the first Monday Night Football game that Detroit has hosted since 2001. Looks like the Chrysler commercial paid off, eh?
Also of note: the Bye weeks start this week. Teams on Bye: Ravens, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins.
My picks of the week: Chiefs at Colts (Sunday, 1 PM) and Bears at Lions (Monday, 8:30PM).
What will you watch this week? If your team’s not on a Bye, how about the Eagles in
DC errr, Maryland (Sunday, 1 PM) or the Vikings at Bears (Sunday, 8:20 PM). The Dallas Cowboys will try to beat the Patriots at home (Sunday, 4:15 PM), and the NFL hopes that more than just the AFC East fans care about the Monday night (8:30 PM) match-up between the Dolphins and the Jets (Jets at home).
Teams on Bye: Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks, Titans
My picks of the week: Jaguars at Steelers (Sunday, 1 PM), Vikings at Bears (Sunday, 8:20 PM)
No contest: Peyton Manning travels to his hometown to take on the NFL’s favorite pet, Drew Brees and the Saints, for the Sunday night game (8:20 PM). I’m seeing a road trip to New Orleans on my fall schedule.
I wish I could be excited about the Bears “at” the Buccaneers in London (Sunday, 1 PM), but I really can’t get excited about the Buccaneers. If Jon Gruden were still their coach? Well, that’d be another story.
Teams on Bye: Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers
My runner-up pick: Chargers at Jets (Sunday, 1 PM)
Let’s switch it up a bit this week. How about the Cardinals at the Ravens (Sunday, 1 PM)? Or let’s watch Matthew Stafford take on Josh McDaniels’s Broncos (Sunday, 4:05 PM). If that doesn’t work, there’s always the divisional rivalry between the Cowboys and Eagles (Sunday, 8:20 PM, in Philly) and the Colts at Titans (Sunday, 1 PM, in Nashville).
Teams on Bye: Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jets, Raiders, Buccaneers
My picks of the week: Patriots at Steelers (Sunday, 4:15 PM), Chargers at Chiefs (Monday, 8:30 PM)
So many good match-ups this week. The Buccaneers travel to New Orleans (Sunday, 1 PM), Aaron Rodgers heads to San Diego to visit the Chargers (Sunday, 4:15 PM), and the other Manning heads to Gillette to take on the Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII (Sunday, 4:15 PM), which promises to bring out the best in the always-polite New England fans. The Ravens head to Pittsburgh to take on their perma-rivals (Sunday, 8:20 PM), and the Bears will visit Philadelphia (Monday, 8:30 PM).
Teams on Bye: Panthers, Lions, Jaguars, Vikings
My pick of the week: Falcons at Colts (Sunday, 1 PM).
I’m hoping the Lions at Bears (Sunday, 1 PM) will prove to be a good show. The Titans will travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers, and I can’t name a single player who plays for the Panthers (Sunday, 1 PM). The Vikings (who is their quarterback?) in Green Bay would be a thousand times more exciting if Brett Favre was still playing (Monday, 8:30 PM).
Teams on Bye week: None! Everyone plays!
My picks of the week: Saints at Falcons (Sunday, 1 PM), Patriots at Jets (Sunday, 8:20 PM)
How bad will the Bills and Dolphins game be (Sunday, 1 PM, in Miami)? Maybe I’m just jaded because there’s really only two legitimate teams in the AFC East. The Seahawks and Rams (Sunday, 4:05 PM) could be good, and Sam Bradford is always fun to watch. I love horses and I hate the Jets, so here’s hoping the Broncos stomp the Jets, no matter how unlikely it is (Thursday, 8:20 PM, in Denver).
Also of note: Thursday Night Football starts this week!
Teams on Bye week: Texas, Colts, Saints, Steelers
My picks of the week: Chiefs at Patriots (Monday, 8:30 PM), Eagles at Giants (Sunday, 8:20 PM)
Show some love for the worst state in the country, as its two teams (seriously, why does Ohio get TWO teams?) face off against each other. The Cleveland Browns travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals (Sunday, 1 PM), in a game that you probably couldn’t pay me to watch.
The games you can fall asleep to after your turkey-induced coma: Packers at Lions (Thursday, 12:30 PM), Dolphins at Cowboys (Thursday, 4:15 PM), and a third game that was probably scheduled after a raging bender by the head scheduler, 49ers at Ravens (Thursday, 8:20 PM). If the turkey and wicked boring NFL Network commentators aren’t enough, this game probably will be.
My pick of the week: Eli Manning goes home, but no one really cares about him. Giants at Saints (Monday, 8:30 PM)
There is exactly one game to care about this week — Sunday, 8:20 PM. In fact, it’s the only game I care about all season: the annual Manning-Brady shootout. Colts-Patriots.
The game is late this year, as it usually occurs around week 9. The odds (home, weather, Gillette) clearly favor the Patriots.
Jay Cutler and his crybaby face return to Denver this week to face off against another crybaby (Sunday, 4:05 PM). The Giants and the Cowboys renew their rivalry (Sunday, 8:20 PM), and we can only hope that Romo botches another hold, which would make me a liar, because then I would definitely write about him again.
But I’ll take the Indianapolis-Baltimore rivalry myself.
My pick of the week: Colts at Ravens (Sunday, 1 PM)
Bill Belichick and his always-underdogs the Patriots travel to Denver this week to take on his pupil and the Broncos (Sunday, 4:15 PM). Ray Lewis and the Ravens head to San Diego for some primetime (Sunday, 8:20 PM). You could also check out the Packers at the Chiefs (Sunday, 1 PM) if you are so inclined, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Vikings victory over the Saints (Sunday, 1 PM, in Minnesota).
My pick of the week: Jets at Eagles (Sunday, 4:15 PM)
Do you want to avoid your relatives this Christmas Eve? The NFL has an answer for you: 13 Christmas Eve games. How about Rams at Steelers (1 PM) or Eagles at Cowboys (4:15 PM)? On Christmas Day, you’ve got Bears at Packers (8:20 PM), and on Boxing Day you’ve got Falcons at Saints (8:30 PM).
My pick of the week: Giants at Jets (Saturday, 1 PM), Texans at Colts (Thursday, 8:20 PM)
The season ends on January 1, 2012, with 16 games for your enjoyment. As is typical, the NFL has made the last few weeks of the season chock-full of divisional games, which is always enjoyable, unless your team has no mathematical chances of making the playoffs.
My picks of the week: Colts at Jaguars (1 PM), Bills at Patriots (1 PM), and Chargers at Raiders (4:15 PM)