NFL fans know that the league's landscape changes from week to week. Players get injured, players breakout and sometimes coaches really do a rabbit out of their hats. Even in a league of any given Sunday, the 2011 NFL schedule provides more than a few gems that you can start looking forward to even before the season starts. Five of the best games this year feature old reliables like the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers along side up and comers like the Atlanta Falcons and surprise entrants like the Detroit Lions. Here are five of the best NFL games on the docket this season.
This looks like the toughest game on the Chargers' schedule this season, right now. Philip Rivers and his team garnered some preseason hype, so they need a respectable showing in this game to maintain legitimacy. Bolts from the Blue, SBNation's Chargers site, notes the timing and hints at a bigger issue off the field that the Chargers are dealing with.
"Even if there is another early-season slow start for Norv's boys, the Chargers under Turner are historically great in the months of November and December. There will be a lot of Packer fans traveling to San Diego for this game, so it will be interesting to see which team gets comfortable first."
Will the whispers about greener pastures in Los Angeles prove to be a distraction for the Bolts this season?
Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule had a top ten song, "I'm Real," the last time the Lions played a Monday night football game. That was ten years ago. Like J Lo, the Lions reinvented themselves over the last decade, though not quite as often, and will be looking to prove that they are indeed "real."
Pride of Detroit circled this one on their calendar in the Lions' season preview. "Now with Detroit finally getting a Monday night game for the Lions (and not one for a division rival whose stadium was unplayable), the anticipation is through the roof for this matchup."
3. New York Jets at New England Patriots, Week 5
The regular season games between these two teams last year lacked the intensity of their division battle. Those games did offer plenty of kabuki in the press before hand, and that combined with the outcome of last year's playoff matchup should make for a five-star round of gridiron theatre. The people at Pats Pulpit are counting on it.
"This matchup is certain to have a lot of hype, a lot of smack-talking, and should contain a lot of hard-nosed football. And the Patriots could want some kind of revenge... I don't know... maybe."
Ben Roethlisberger has a perfect record in his last seven starts against the Ravens. Why should this year be any different? The onus is on Baltimore and QB Joe Flacco to establish themselves as on the league's truly elite teams, and that cannot happen until they beat the Steelers with Big Ben in the game. I fully expect the physical intensity from last season's division game to spill over into this one. Baltimore Beatdown called this the best rivalry in the NFL; simple understatement at its best.
The Falcons are the best team nobody ever really talks about this year. Expect that to change by the time this week 16 tilt rolls around, giving you one last present that Santa tucked away behind the tree.
Canal Street Chronicles described the game like this: "...the most important game will end up being a Monday night divisional battle against the Falcons the day after Christmas. It could have epic consequences. " Epic indeed. A win here, and the Falcons officially and unofficially re-route the road to the NFC South title through the Georgia Dome.