Before the pre-season begins, I’m continuing my series of ranking certain aspects of football. Last week, I ranked the divisions from best to worst. Now I’m going to rank the ten most must see game games of the season. Even though Sunday night is supposed to get the best games of the season, there are some afternoon games that were included.
The teams may be predictable, but you have to expect that the teams that are included will be mostly the best teams. You’ll see some rivalry games, along with rematches from the playoffs. It all comes together, as this list has the top ten games this year that you don’t want to miss. I’ll start from ten and then make my way down to the most exciting game headed into the 2013 NFL season.
10. Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings- Week 8 Sunday night football
While Minnesota isn’t quite on Green Bay’s level, the rivalry is starting to heat up. Who can forget week 17 of last year when the Vikings upset the Packers to earn the last seed in the playoffs? It was an epic game that featured Christian Ponder going throw for throw with Aaron Rodgers. You read that sentence properly; he stepped up and had the game of his life.
The rivalry has heated up now with Greg Jennings joining the Vikings and it’ll be his first game against his former team. Minnesota can’t forget the blowout loss in the playoffs, while Green Bay is being somewhat forgotten about in the NFC when it comes to making predictions on who’s going to the Super Bowl.
Both teams will be looking to make a statement and have arguably the best players at their respective position. Aaron Rodgers is always making jaw-dropping throws, while Adrian Peterson continues to break tackles and make 20-yard runs look easy. With the game being in the dome, you can expect a rabid crowd and a great atmosphere perfect for Sunday night football.
9. Green Bay Packers at New York Giants- Week 11 Sunday night football
This game may seem like two very good NFC teams that are a notch below being the best. It’s more than that simply because the Giants have simply owned the Packers for the past two years. The Giants were heavy underdogs in the 2012 playoffs, yet they manhandled them on their way to another Super Bowl run. Then last year, they harassed Aaron Rodgers and blew out the Packers once again with ease.
You have to think that Green Bay has to have a chip on their shoulder going into this game based on the past two seasons. The Giants pass rush isn’t as good as it once was, but Green Bay’s offensive line continues to struggle. As dynamic as the Packers offense, a poor offensive line can lead to a dynamic offense becoming diminished in any game if Rodgers can’t look at his options.
The Giants thrive off turnovers and if they can get off to a quick start, it could lead to another one-sided affair between both teams. I’m expecting this to be much closer and this game could have potential playoff implications even in November. Hopefully both teams remain mostly healthy considering both teams are known for having banged up rosters on a yearly basis.
8. Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons- Week 10
It was either this game or Ravens versus Broncos that was the best game of the playoffs. After being shut out in the first half, Russell Wilson came out and proved how he doesn’t need a running game to be successful. After being put in the game manager role for most of the season, Seattle needed Wilson to throw the ball at will. He did that and nearly led Seattle to one of the biggest comebacks in history.
Matt Ryan will never forget that day, as it was his first playoff win in his career. It was a memorable game and I’m surprised it didn’t get a primetime slot. Both teams are arguably the two most popular picks to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl as well. We’ll see how new star talent adjust to their team in Steven Jackson and Percy Harvin.
Another big part to this game will be Richard Sherman covering Roddy White and Julio Jones. It’s well documented that Sherman doesn’t think highly of White. Sherman has made a big name for himself by being a ball hawk and being very outspoken. If you watched the game closely, Ryan didn’t shy away from Sherman and threw his way several times. I’d expect more of the same with Atlanta having two star receivers that are more than capable of getting open even against the best cornerback.
7. Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers- Week 1
This is another playoff rematch, although it was far from an epic game. It was more of the Colin Kaepernick coming out party. He ran all over the Packers, while throwing to Michael Crabtree at will. The majority of analysts picked Green Bay to win that game yet they were out schemed and had no answer for Kaepernick.
This game has more fuel after Kaepernick said in an interview that the Packers’ defense was arguing in their own huddle. They were in complete disarray and he capitalized on it by embarrassing them for 181 rushing yards. You have to think that Dom Capers has to be making a special game plan to not have the same thing happen again. How fitting is it that the Packers last competitive game was against the 49ers and now their first regular season game is against the same team?
I’m not sure how much the Packers improved defensively. They didn’t make many changes besides drafting Datone Jones. It’ll be on the linebackers and safeties to keep Kaepernick under control. You can only score so many points on the 49ers terrific defense. It’ll be on the Packers’ defense to start making stops and forcing turnovers if they want to avenge their two losses from last season.
6. Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers- Week 16 Monday night football
It’s nice of the NFL to put the best matchup on Monday night football on the last week possible. This is the rematch from the NFC championship and it could possibly settle home field advantage. I’m not sure if Falcon fans will be excited if the Falcons get off to a fast start. It may sound awkward, but who could forget their 17-0 lead be cut down to single digits in a matter of minutes?
Obviously Steven Jackson is capable of being the running back that they need to hold leads. If he was playing in that game, it’s safe to say Atlanta could have very well been in the Super Bowl. They still have issues on their defensive line and pass rush will be an issue unless young players step up. San Francisco’s biggest problem has to be finding a new go-to receiver with Michael Crabtree likely gone for the season.
By Week 16, I assume Kaepernick will either have Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis as his new go-to target. Similar to the Packers, you got to believe the Falcons haven’t forgotten how much success the 49ers had on them whether it was running the ball or finding Davis wide open. Both teams will score, but it’ll come down to winning the turnover battle to settle it between such even teams. It’s great to see that there is one game on Monday night that features two elite teams.
5. Denver Broncos at New England Patriots- Week 12 Sunday night football
Usually you would expect this game to be much higher. Due to New England’s issues regarding their top receiver talent, this game has lost some luster. I’m not sure what to expect from New England come late November. They have Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, who are among the most injury prone players at their respective positions. The defense is still average and there isn’t a lot of depth in their receiving core.
Denver looks to be the best team in the AFC without much competition from anyone else. The offense looks unstoppable with Wes Welker being paired with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The front seven is a bit of a concern, but the defense still has playmakers like Von Miller, Champ Bailey, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Regardless of the directions each team is going in, nobody can deny that Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning is always going to be a huge game. New England may be on the downside, but they should still win that division. Also don’t forget about Welker making his return to New England that night. I’m expecting him to get booed, despite having so many productive seasons in New England. Those fans are ruthless and the stadium should be rowdy for the showdown of the never-ending rivalry between both quarterbacks.
4. Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos- Week 1 Thursday night football
Nobody should be surprised that opening night was going to be included. There is going to be a lot of bad blood in this game, especially with Denver fans still bitter about losing to a team that they should have beaten. Denver was careless in that game with uncharacteristic turnovers and allowing too many passing yards that eventually caught up to them.
To this day, I still believe Joe Flacco should go up to Rahim Moore anytime he sees him and shake his hand to say thank you for all the money he made. I’m sure the cameras will keep a close look at Moore, as the game wears on. Denver had that game in hand and should have won, if it wasn’t for Moore misjudging the deep ball from Flacco. Regardless of what happened, it’s expected that Denver will be heavily favored going into opening night.
That could change if Von Miller gets suspended for failing a drug test. He is such an integral part to that defense and can create so many matchup problems. Everyone always watches the opening game of the season, but there feels to be more of an edge to it. This is a playoff rematch, where the Broncos let that game slip away and the Ravens capitalized on their mistakes. Also, it will be the beginning for Joe Flacco in proving his legitimacy as a top-tier quarterback. He needs to start being more productive in the regular season.
3. San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks- Week 2 Sunday night football
It may not be the most heated rivalry, but it sure is the most balanced rivalry when you look at teams playing division opponents. These teams are so evenly matched based on their talent on both sides of the ball. It might be hard to believe that considering how Seattle dominated San Francisco last year on Sunday night football.
Everybody knows by now that Seattle has the best home field advantage in football and the stadium gets even louder when the games are at night. This will be the home opener as well, which will make it nearly impossible to hear the stadium when the game begins. Russell Wilson will benefit from that and he should be in control like he was for most of his rookie season.
The big change for San Francisco will be who steps up for Michael Crabtree. Does Kaepernick finally get on the same page with Vernon Davis or will Anquan Boldin prove that they can play at a high level even for his age? There will be a lot of questions answered that game against an elite defense like Seattle. This could very well be an old school defensive slugfest. You can expect this game to be very physical to see who has the early edge in the very competitive NFC West.
2. Denver Broncos at New York Giants- Week 2
The Manning bowl will always be a must see game, especially when this could be the last one ever. Peyton Manning is still playing at a high level, although age will eventually catch up to him in about two years. At least his team is in much better condition than the Giants are. I’m expecting the Giants to just make the playoffs, while the Broncos should be playing in the Super Bowl this year.
This is still a huge game and it will be the ultimate test for the Giants defense. Their pass rush doesn’t seem to be as good as it once was, while the secondary is still horrendous. This game could very well be a shootout with Eli trying to keep up with Peyton, if the Giants want to keep this game competitive.
With this game being in the afternoon and the 49ers versus Seahawks game being in the primetime slot, week two is looking like a great week of football. Denver could very well pull away in this game, but the nostalgia of two brothers playing against each other will never go away. We shall see if Eli can keep up with the prolific Denver offense led by Peyton. He has the receiver duo in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks to put up points in a hurry.
1. Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts- Week 7 Sunday night football
There is no game that is going to get more media attention and buzz from fans than this game. The return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis will be historic for sure. Then we’ll have the showdown of the present elite in Manning against the future elite in Andrew Luck. The rebuilding process in Indianapolis has been a great success so far led by Luck, which has led them to being put in some primetime games.
Similar to the Giants game, I’m expecting Denver to score at least 30 points or more. They are too good offensively and Indianapolis defense is still shaky, especially in their secondary. It could very well be another shootout, which Luck won’t shy away from. He’s used to throwing over 30 passes a game since he didn’t have much of a running game to work with last year.
Luck is used to carrying the load similar to Peyton, which makes this a fascinating matchup. With the AFC not having many great teams, we could very well see this again in the playoffs. An NFL game’s popularity is usually based on how good the quarterbacks are. This is the most must-see game of the year from all aspects of football. I’m expecting a great ovation for Manning and for the game to have plenty of passing touchdowns.
Most of the primetime games on Sunday night will be very competitive and compelling. It was tough to keep it within ten, so I had to look at the background of that matchup and see if there is any fuel behind it. You always have to look at the possible playoff rematches or star players returning to their former teams before anything else. That’s what makes certain games so exciting and nostalgic for all fans.
Pre-season is only about two weeks a way, I’m sure more people will be writing about football. Our TJR Sports writer search is still happening so be sure to click here and apply if you are interested.
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