This is more than just a homecoming for former Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Unless the Jets or Giants reach the playoffs, this could be the final NFL game played in Giants Stadium (the new Meadowlands Stadium opens nearby in 2010). While it appears Cincinnati will need a Midnight Miracle to reach the playoffs, the Jets also may need some luck and a season-ending victory to edge Miami, New England and Buffalo for a playoff spot in the AFC East. Alex Marvez
Week 16: Minnesota at Chicago
A chill shot down my spine typing in the time and date. If the weather gets as cold as expected, the Bears and Vikings may be forced to lean on two of the NFL's top young running backs in Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson. This game could decide the NFC North winner unless Green Bay rebounds from a disappointing 2008 season and Detroit enjoys a miraculous comeback.
Week 15: Arizona at Detroit
The NFC's best team from 2008 will face the worst. This game marks an excellent time to mark the progress of both squads. Will the Cardinals still be a playoff contender or headed back toward its prior sad-sack standing? For the Lions, any victory in 2009 is an improvement. Toppling the Cardinals would give first-year coach Jim Schwartz a big boost in his rebuilding process.
Week 14: San Diego at Dallas
The coaches may be the story of this game. In 2007, San Diego's Norv Turner was snubbed by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in favor of Phillips, the ex-Chargers defensive coordinator who enters this season on the hot seat. Turner also is under heavy scrutiny despite winning three playoff games the past two seasons. Losing this game could lead Phillips or Turner on the road to unemployment.
Week 13: Tennessee at Indianapolis
The Titans wrestled the torch from the Colts as 2008 division champions, marking the first time Indianapolis didn't win the AFC South since 2003. The Colts may get a break with star Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth now in Washington, but Indianapolis still has to find an answer for Tennessee's one-two rushing punch of Chris Johnson and LenDale White.
Week 12: Pittsburgh at Baltimore
The NFL did two favors for the Ravens. First, the league honored Baltimore's request to not open the season in Pittsburgh. The NFL then allowed Baltimore to host the first Ravens-Steelers matchup this season in prime-time. No NFL rivalry right now is as hard-hitting or heated as the Steelers and Ravens, especially with Pittsburgh completing a three-game sweep of Baltimore last season by winning the AFC Championship game.
Week 11: Atlanta at New York Giants
Falcons QB Matt Ryan was the runaway NFL Rookie of the Year winner in 2008. Ryan, though, may face his toughest test to date from a revamped Giants defense. New York is expected to field a dominating front four following the offseason acquisitions of Chris Canty (Dallas) and Rocky Bernard (Seattle) as well as the return of end Osi Umenyiora (knee).
Week 10: New England at Indianapolis
The Colts and Patriots now play in different divisions, but you would never know seeing how frequently these teams face each other in the regular season and playoffs. New England and Indianapolis played nine times between 2003 and 2008, including a spectacular 2006 AFC Championship game victory by the Colts. The Patriots hold a 5-4 edge in that span, but Indianapolis has won four of the past five contests, including last season's 18-15 home win.
Week 9: Arizona at Chicago
Here's hoping what could be lousy fall weather in Chicago doesn't ruin a battle between two of the NFL's top gunslingers in Warner and Cutler. This will mark the first time Arizona and Chicago have played since the "we-let-them-off-the-hook" Bears victory in 2006 that helped spell the end of Dennis Green's Cardinals coaching tenure.
Week 8: Philadelphia at New York Giants
The Eagles should feel right at home inside Giants Stadium. Philadelphia won both its 2008 road matchups against New York, including a 23-11 second-round playoff victory.
Week 7: New Orleans at Miami
Look for plenty of "what if" stories this week involving Miami and Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was spurned by the Dolphins in free agency in 2006 because of concerns about his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder. Brees hasn't just proven healthy in New Orleans. He came one completion from breaking ex-Dolphins QB Dan Marino's single-season passing yardage record in 2008. Chad Pennington should be taking snaps for Miami provided that he isn't beaten out for the position by promising second-year QB Chad Henne during training camp.
Week 6: Carolina at Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay's four-game slide to playoff oblivion began last December with a wild Monday night road loss at Carolina. The Panthers went on to win the NFC South and should be considered the favorites once again. Nobody is sure what to expect from the Bucs under first-year head coach Raheem Morris. The 32-year-old hadn't even served as an NFL coordinator before being promoted to replace the fired Jon Gruden.
Week 5: New England at Denver
First-year Broncos coach Josh McDaniels' life would be so much easier had New England agreed to send quarterback Matt Cassel to Denver as part of a three-way trade with Tampa Bay. Instead, Pats coach Bill Belichick shipped Cassel to Kansas City and further soured the relationship between McDaniels (his former protégé) and QB Jay Cutler. McDaniels will now have his chance for revenge albeit with former Bears starter Kyle Orton under center rather than Cutler or Cassel.
Week 4: Baltimore at New England
No disrespect to the New York Jets and new head coach Rex Ryan, but the Ravens should field the toughest defense Patriots QB Tom Brady will have to face since his return from knee surgery. This game should serve as a good indicator as to how well Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is adjusting to his promotion as Ryan's replacement.
Week 3: Arizona at Indianapolis
Not even reaching a Super Bowl has gotten the Cardinals any respect. Arizona doesn't make its prime-time debut until three weeks into the regular season. The Cards are booked in what should be a bona-fide shootout. Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning faces an Arizona defense that surrendered a league-high 36 touchdown passes during the 2008 regular season. The Cardinals, though, have sufficient firepower to keep pace, with quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin (for now, anyway).
Week 2: New York Giants at Dallas
A game against an archrival will mark the Cowboys' regular-season debut in the new Texas Stadium. Expect Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to pull out all the stops although having Jessica Simpson sing the national anthem might be a bit much.
Week 1: Tennessee at Pittsburgh
The NFL kicks off the season right. This is far more than a meeting between the defending Super Bowl champion and the last team to defeat the 2008 Steelers. Call this one a grudge match stemming from Tennessee players desecrating Pittsburgh's hallowed Terrible Towel on the sideline during that 31-14 beating.
Best NFL games: Weeks 1-17
When first formulating the 2009 regular season, the NFL used a computer that generated 1.3 million different schedule possibilities. For our purposes, let's stick with showcasing 17 of the intriguing games on the docket that was released Tuesday. From Week 1 to Week 17, here are the potentially appealing matchups based on last year's results and personnel moves made this offseason. We've gone off the beaten path some weeks for diversity, shying away from a few highly-anticipated showdowns to feature division rivalries as well as some clubs that didn't reach the 2008 playoffs or qualify for prime-time scheduling. Alex Marvez