It’s here! The NFL schedule was announced on Thursday and Laces Out breaks down the best storylines, snoozers and matchups to watch this season. For a week-by-week schedule, click here. For a breakdown of the games on FOX, go here. And make sure to vote for the most appealing game below. Ok, enough already. Let’s dig in.
Get your popcorn …
Ravens at Broncos – The 2013 season kicks off with the Thursday night special as the defending champions open on the road against the team they knocked off in the 2012 divisional round. Will Peyton Manning get some revenge?
Packers at 49ers — Remember when Colin Kaepernick flexed his muscles after that long touchdown run in the 2012 playoffs? Well, now the Packers get a chance for a little payback in Week 1.
Eagles at Redskins – Chip Kelly’s new offense will be unveiled for its first regular-season test. Monday night. On the road. Against a (hopefully) fully recovered RG3 and the Redskins in an NFC East test. Not bad.
Broncos at Giants — It’s Manning vs. Manning in Week 2 as Peyton’s Broncos take on Eli’s Giants. We’ve seen this before, but it still hasn’t gotten old.
49ers at Seahawks — Week 2 is the first time the two NFC West powerhouses collide, however Seattle has the advantage as it gets to play this Sunday night game in front of the 12th man at home.
Chiefs at Eagles — Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia in Week 3 for a Thursday night matchup. How will the Eagles fans treat him? We’ll have to wait and see.
Patriots at Falcons — Two Super Bowl contenders clash for a Sunday night game in Week 4. Will it be Tom Brady leaving with a win, or will Matt Ryan get it done at home?
Cowboys at Eagles — New Dallas defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin couldn’t stop Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense at the college level. How will he fare in the NFL? Let’s see if Kelly can light up the scoreboard in Week 7.
Broncos at Colts — Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis in Week 7 in what’s sure to be an emotional game for him and for all the Indy fans. We also would love to see if Manning and new Colts quarterback Andrew Luck have anything to say to each other before the game.
Seahawks at Falcons — Two tough NFC squads explode in Week 10 as both teams will no doubt begin fighting for playoff positioning. Oh, let’s not forget that Russell Wilson will be looking to get some payback for last season’s NFC Divisional Game loss.
Broncos at Patriots — Once again, it’s Manning vs. Brady. Seriously, these two better enter the Hall of Fame in the same year. Appreciate this Week 12 matchup. How many more will we see?
Steelers at Ravens — Thanksgiving night couldn’t end better than with two hated division foes battering each other. Expect another low-scoring, hard-hitting affair.
Seahawks at 49ers — The NFC West race will probably be coming down to the wire in Week 14. What more perfect time for these two teams to fight it out?
Grab your NyQuil …
Chiefs at Jaguars — If the Chiefs take Luke Joeckel with the No. 1 pick in the draft, let’s avoid watching him tear holes in a porous Jaguars defense in Week 1. In fact, the real Joke-(el) is that someone will actually be forced to watch this game.
Jaguars at Raiders — The Jaguars stink. The Raiders are getting somewhat better, but they also still stink. Find some errands to do instead of sitting through this Week 2 stink bomb.
Bills at Jets — Oooh, goody! Let’s watch two teams who can’t move the ball trade punts and fumbles for four quarters! Psssh, pass on this one in Week 3.
Jets at Titans — Sanchez vs. Locker. Two former Pac-10 quarterbacks head-to-head in Week 4. We can’t say anything particularly bad about this game, but we can’t say anything good. That doesn’t bode well. Nothing to see here, folks.
Bills at Browns — Why is the NFL Network doing this to us? These two teams on a Thursday night in Week 5? It almost makes us mad that this channel is now more widely available. Forget it, watch whatever FOX has on instead.
Seahawks at Cardinals — Here’s another Thursday night gem in Week 7. A team with arguably the best pass defense in the league against a team that couldn’t hit sand if it threw off a camel. Prediction: 55-7 in the second quarter.
Chiefs at Bills — What goes “Stuff, stuff, false start, incomplete, punt?” Every offensive possession in this Week 9 game.
Bills at Jaguars — This game in Week 15? Snoooooooore.
Titans at Jaguars — Snoooooore, wha? Huh? Is it Week 16 already?
Bills at Patriots — Predicted QB matchup: Tarvaris Jackson vs. Ryan Mallett. In Week 17, no less. Thankfully, the regular season is over.
Who should be upset?
Jags owner Shahid Khan — Will Blaine Gabbert be the Jags’ starting quarterback in Week 7? Well, he better win the job in training camp first. But if the third-year QB does line up under center for Jacksonville, he’ll face a daunting stretch of games in the first six weeks. The Jags will play four of their first six games on the road, including showdowns with the 12th Man in Seattle and the thin air in Denver. Oh yeah, three of the last four games are at home. They’ll likely be out of it by then. Expect more tarps to be draped in the nosebleeds to keep them from being blacked out in the local market.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers — The Panthers finished with a 7-9 record in 2012, but own the toughest strength of schedule in 2013. In each of Ron Rivera’s first two seasons as Carolina’s head coach, the team has started 2-8. They must get off to a fast start as they go through a bruuuuuutal three-week stretch starting in Week 9 when the Panthers play the Falcons, at 49ers and home against the Patriots.
Green Bay Packers — You read it here first: The Packers will be 1-2 or 0-3 going into their bye week and not make the playoffs following an 0-4 stretch from Weeks 14-17. Clay Matthews may have inked a monster deal this week, but he won’t be enough to halt some high-powered offenses.
Kansas City Chiefs — The Chiefs might own the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft, but primetime appearances will be rare during the season. Andy Reid’s team will only have one appearance in front of a national audience, when the Eagles’ former head coach heads back to Philly to take on Chip Kelly’s blur offense.
Who should be thrilled?
Seahawks — Richard Sherman and the Seahawks might be having a helluva offseason, but the regular season could be just as rewarding. Talk about a cake walk. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Seattle have a 10-1 or 9-2 start heading into their bye week.
Jets — Have the Jets fully recovered from a disappointing six-win season? Well, Thursday’s schedule announcement could help ease the pain. Although the Jets open up the season against the Bucs, who they’ve been in trade negotiations with for Darrelle Revis, they cap the season with five very winnable games. If Rex Ryan and the gang can hang on during a tough three-week stretch (Week 6: Steelers, Week 7: Patriots, Week 8: at Bengals), they could be in position for a late playoff push.
Chargers — San Diego takes on Philadelphia in the Eagles’ home opener in Week 2. Four of the last Super Bowl champions have played in the Eagles’ home opener. Should Mike McCoy and Philip Rivers start making Super Bowl plans? Don’t count on it.