The NFL schedule for the 2011 season was released last night, throwing us fans a small life preserver as we deal with the looming threat of not actually having a season. But threat or no threat, the masterminds behind the schedule have given us a lot to look forward to.
So what can we expect? Old Super Bowl matchups; significant games on opening Sunday, which happens to fall on September 11; Michael Vick coming back as a starter to Altanta; two coaches who are brothers who are playing each other on Thanksgiving Day. The league, owners, and players have to come to an agreement -- the thought of not seeing all this come to life on our television screens will drive any NFL fan insane.
Here are some of the games you simply can't miss, so mark your calendars. Oh, who am I kidding, my Thursdays, Sundays, and Mondays from September 8 until January 1 are officially booked.
Thursday September 8: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers
Two Super Bowl-winning teams featuring really hot (and oh yeah talented) quarterbacks will face each other to kick off the season. Yes, the Packers did kick the Steelers' butts at the last Super Bowl -- please don't rub it in, I'm a Steelers fan -- so the NFL world is definitely interested to see if Green Bay can fight off the Super Bowl hangover and make a run for the playoffs.
Sunday September 11: Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets and New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Eep, how much more drama can you put into one Sunday? NYC vs. DC on 9/11, and America's Team (don't get me started on that) taking on the Jets in NYC. I for one am looking forward to getting my patriotism on and tuning in to see how the NFL will honor and commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. Just imagine all the emotion in both of these stadiums come game time.
Sunday September 18: Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
Michael Vick will come back as a starter (last time, he was a backup to Donovan McNabb) to Atlanta to take on the Falcons with the new city and team who have come to embrace him. The heckling and signs the Falcons fans will come up with will surely be entertaining to watch.
Sunday October 23: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Chicago Bears at Wembley Stadium in London
This will be one of two games played outside the US for the 2011 season. The other game, between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills, will take place in Canada on October 30.
Sunday October 23: Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals
Who could forget Santonio Holmes' miraculous TD catch at the end of Super Bowl 43? Okay, the Cardinals have been struggling as of late, but seeing as their head coach Ken Whisenhunt was once the offensive coordinator for the Steelers (and managed to poach a bunch of players and other coaches from the Steel City), no doubt his team will have a lot to prove to make up for that heartbreaking loss.
Sunday November 6: New York Giants at New England Patriots
Yet another Super Bowl rematch that promises to be fun to watch. We all remember how the Giants beat the previously undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl 42. This will be the first time these two teams have faced each other since that amazing game back in 2008. Could the Giants pull off yet another upset?
Thursday November 24: San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens
The first matchup of sibling head coaches in NFL history of course will take place on Thanksgiving Day. John Harbaugh's Ravens vs. Jim Harbaugh's 49ers is a matchup full of intrigue you won't want to miss. Which team will their parents cheer for? Perhaps they'll just pass out on tryptophan instead and ignore this game's outcome.
Christmas Eve and New Year's Day
Talk about throwing a wrench in your holiday plans: All but three games will take place on Christmas Eve, and all 16 games will wrap up the regular season on January 1, 2012. All these games will most likely have playoff implications. That 5 p.m. Christmas Eve dinner with ham and all the fixin's? Might have to take place in front of the TV this year. Sorry Mom.
Which game are you looking forward to most? Do you think there will be a season?
Image via Gaspa/Flickr