The Game Plan: Ranking The NFL Week 1 Matchups

August 30, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) jogs in front of his team before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Football season is back, and SB Nation is here to help you pick and choose which Week 1 games are most worth your time.

The NFL kicked off Wednesday night with an NFC East matchup between the Cowboys and the Giants. Football gets into the full swing of things again Sunday. In the interest of your time, which I know is precious, I offer the following viewing guide, a cheat sheet of which games are worth abandoning your family for and those games where your time would be better spent mowing the yard.


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1. San Francisco 49ers Vs. Green Bay Packers

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Adult football. This game is serious business, featuring a pair of NFC favorites. The last time these two teams squared off, in 2010, the 49ers were an afterthought in a division full of forgettable. Now, second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh has his team wired tight, coaxing above average play from Alex Smith. More than anything, I'm looking forward to the matchup of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense against the 49ers defense. Green Bay lost its first playoff game last season to the Giants, who sacked Rodgers four times. San Francisco is capable of that and more.

2. Dallas Cowboys Vs. New York Giants

Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

How exciting was this game? Not particularly. In fact, the sight of Jerry Jones making his son-in-law clean his half-moon specs might have been the highlight of the night, a glaring reminder that you too would do damn near anything to please your wealthy father-in-law. This was the season opener, for the whole got dang NFL season. This game might be far more important in late December, when the fate of the NFC East is likely to be decided.


More: Cowboys Vs. Giants Recap | VIDEO: Cowboys Beat Giants


3. Buffalo Bills Vs. New York Jets

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

This game would top the list if you factored in the potential fallout should the Jets lose, a very distinct possibility. Monday, the day after the game, should be really interesting to experience. Mario Williams leads a remade Bills defense, one that features the best defensive front in the AFC East. That should be more than enough trouble for Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Jason Smith and the rest of the dilapidated Jets' offense, wildcat or not. More than anything, this could be a battle for defensive supremacy in the division.

4. Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Baltimore Ravens

Monday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Experts expect the Bengals to pick up where they left off last season when they surprised the world with a 9-7 run to one of the AFC Wild Card spots. They did lose twice to the Ravens, who many of those same experts are picking to win the Super Bowl. I want to see if this really is going to be the year of Joe Flacco, the year when the Ravens open up their offense a little bit and let the big arm from Delaware do more of the heavy lifting with Torrey Smith working behind defenses.

5. Indianapolis Colts Vs. Chicago Bears

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Andrew Luck, perhaps you've heard of him, makes his regular season debut against a solidly upper middle class defense. Unlike so many rookie quarterbacks, Luck at least has some viable options in the passing game, not the least of which is Reggie Wayne, who leads the NFL with 11,708 receiving yards since 2001.

6. Atlanta Falcons Vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Fitting that future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez starts his season in Kansas City, where he spent the first 12 years of his career dazzling Arrowhead audiences. With 50 receptions this season, he would join Jerry Rice as the only other NFL player to have 15 seasons with 50 catches or more. He could get a nice head start in this game.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Denver Broncos

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

It seems like someone important is playing in this game. Oh yeah, this is the week we start to get a feel for whether Peyton Manning is legitimately starting over somewhere close to his former self or if this is one of those Joe Namath goes to Los Angeles type of comebacks. Pittsburgh would like to erase the memory of its last trip to Denver, but it could at least stomach losing to Manning more than Tim Tebow.

8. Washington Redskins Vs. New Orleans Saints

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The final score in this game could end up looking more like an NBA game. New Orleans can score points at will, and Robert Griffin III gets to make his regular season debut against a soft Saints defense. I wonder about disarray in New Orleans. Is the loss of Sean Payton and professional interim Joe Vitt really going to undermine this team? We should know more this week.

9. Philadelphia Eagles Vs. Cleveland Browns

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Just how prominent is the NFL? Well, Jimmy Haslam bought the Cleveland Browns for more than $1 billion. The Browns. He had to sell more than a few chicken fried steaks at his truck stops to pony up such a handsome bounty. Trent Richardson is likely going to play. Unfortunately for the Browns, so is Brandon Weeden. The football world will be watching the Eagles closely to see if they will contend in the NFC East or have another implosion; I'd say it's 50-50.

10. Miami Dolphins Vs. Houston Texans

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

I really think the Texans are in store for a big season. Getting a fifth preseason game against a paper thin Dolphins team makes for a soft landing and an easy 1-0 start to the year. Ryan Tannehill impressed me during the preseason. Taking on the Texans defense is a tall order for any rookie quarterback.

11. New England Patriots Vs. Tennessee Titans

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Patriots have won eight straight season openers. That streak should move to nine games this week. Tom Brady needs one more win to get to 125 for his career. If he pulls it off this week, that would put yet another historical footnote on his resume, getting to 125 wins with the fewest starts, 160, of any quarterback.

12. Carolina Panthers Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Things are supposed to be different for both of these teams this season. Cam Newton, fresh off a historic rookie campaign, has a better supporting cast around him this season. The biggest question mark for the Panthers is whether or not their run defense is any better. Tampa Bay will test that early and often with rookie running back Doug Martin.

13. St. Louis Rams Vs. Detroit Lions

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh were the first and second picks in the 2010 NFL Draft. Since then, Bradford has had trouble staying upright behind a shaky line and Suh has had trouble staying out of trouble on the field. Both players could be poised for a big season, though it really is make or break for Bradford.

14. San Diego Chargers Vs. Oakland Raiders

Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

The battle of old Los Angeles! The winner gets one step closer to Farmers Field. OK, maybe not, but both of these teams are among the front runners to return to L.A. in the near future. For now, they both face a prove-it year.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars Vs. Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The NFL did a pretty decent job with the Week 1 schedule. This is the only game with two total dogs playing each other, but both of these teams are on the upswing. Expect to hear plenty about Maurice Jones-Drew, whose holdout will relegate him to third-down duties. I'll be interested to see what happens if Rashad Jennings has a big game, making it harder for the offensively challenged Jaguars to hide him behind their disgruntled superstar. Speaking of superstars, this will probably be our first chance to see if Adrian Peterson can still be one after tearing his ACL and MCL less than a year ago.

16. Seattle Seahawks Vs. Arizona Cardinals

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Unless you're a Cardinals fan, you can skip any game involving them this year. Go outside. Mow your yard. Drink some cider. John Skelton is the de facto starter, having been slightly less disappointing than Kevin Kolb through the preseason. Either signal caller could file a negligence suit against the Cardinals for the kind of offensive line the front office is putting on the field. Seattle's defense is going to eat them alive.

Which games are you most looking forward to?

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