Training camp is in full swing. Preseason games are underway. It’s enough to satiate the appetites of the football-crazy public for now, but there are plenty clamoring for the real thing in Week 1. The season-opening match-up between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos will be the catalyst for what promises to be another riveting NFL season. It’s also one of the top 10 matchups to look forward this upcoming season.
Here are the rest of our top 10 must-see games for the 2013 NFL season:
10. Denver Broncos at New York Giants, Week 2
Most of the early season games are fixated on contrived storylines, so why not make a big deal about some brotherly love? There was talk, whether or not it was real, that when Peyton Manning was going to sign with a team after leaving Indianapolis, is was going to be an AFC team, partly so that he wouldn’t be in constant competition with little brother Eli. Well, here’s the first edition of the Manning Bowl that will feature one of the brothers wearing Denver orange.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings, Week 4 in London
There really haven’t been many good games played overseas, highlighted by the Patriots’ 45-7 drubbing of the St. Louis Rams a season ago, but this could be the game that changes that. Both the Steelers and Vikings have no problem handing the ball off, which could be a necessity in the possible (probable?) gloomy London weather.
8. Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos, Week 1
It’s become tradition that the defending Super Bowl champion plays in the game that kicks off the NFL season, but the curveball this year is that the Ravens will be opening on the road. It will be by no means a cakewalk, however, as Peyton Manning and the Broncos will be waiting for Joe Flacco and his fat new contract in the Mile High city.
7. San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins, Week 12
If you like traditional grind-it-out type of football, look elsewhere. This Monday Night Football game will showcase two of the game’s bright young stars in Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick. By this point in the season, both quarterbacks should be fully healthy and have their teams in contention for division titles. With the ball in one of the duo’s hands nearly every play, there’s a potential for a highlight reel play on every down.
6. Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens, Week 3
It’s not quite Peyton-Manning-returning-to-Indianapolis, but it’s still a sure-fire Hall of Famer coming back to his old stomping grounds. Ed Reed isn’t 100 percent healthy quite yet, but a few games into the season, he should be back to his ball-hawking self. Put a healthy veteran in Reed to go with young studs like J.J. Watt on the Texans’ defense, and it might not be the defending champions that are the favorites in the AFC. But no matter what happens this should be a fun game to watch.
5. Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, Week 12
It’s a rematch of a playoff game from a season ago, but it’s also a trip back to Lambeau Field for a handful of players that defected from Green Bay to Minneapolis. Greg Jennings and Desmond Bishop will have to face the Packers faithful at the place they once called home, and the matchup has been ramped up even due to Jennings’ accusations of brainwashing in Green Bay. This will be another chance for the Packers’ defense to see if it can stop Adrian Peterson, who racked up 508 yards in three games against Green Bay last season.
4. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, Week 14
It’s late enough in the season that we’ll have a realistic idea of each team’s playoff hopes, but more than likely this game will have major implications on the NFC West race. The 49ers could easily be 12-1 and cruising at top seed, but the Seahawks could have also proved that last year was no fluke and Year 2 of the Russell Wilson Era is the real deal. The bonus for the 49ers is that it will be at Candlestick Park, not that road games are a big deal for Wilson, who led Seattle to its first road playoff win since 1983 last year.
3. Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers, Week 1
Sensing a theme here? The road to home-field advantage in the NFC is going to go through the defending conference champions, and that begins the very first week of the season. The 49ers beat Green Bay twice last season, including a 45-31 beat-down in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Packers will have a chance to show off their improved defense right away, and will be tested by last year’s breakout star, Colin Kaepernick.
2. Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, Week 7
It’s not quite Michael Jordan returning to the United Center to face the Chicago Bulls, but it’s close. Peyton Manning will head back to the Midwest to face the team that he led to a Super Bowl title in 2007. I can only imagine the rousing response that Manning will get, as there is unlikely to be a boo in the entire place. The game will also be one more chance for Andrew Luck to remind the Indianapolis faithful that yes, the Colts made the right decision.
1. Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, Week 12
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Who knows how many more of these matchups are left? The best two quarterbacks of the past decade facing off against each other, with both clubs likely jockeying for playoff positioning. It will be prime time football in late November, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, and will likely be one of, if not the most watched game of the year.