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Top Nine NFL Matchups We're Looking Forward To

The 2014 NFL season kicks off Thursday with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks hosting Green Bay, a seemingly-innocuous scheduling turn that just so happens to take on another dimension because it's the latest rematch of the 2012 "Fail Mary" game.

The number of heated team vs. team rivalries in the NFL is surely the biggest such total in sports, but as much as that has to do with division ties, it also has a lot to do with individual stars and moments, too; after all, the "Fail Mary" and the "Music City Miracle" still make any Seahawks/Packers or Bills/Titans game that much more interesting, while, say, a Colts/Giants matchup would likely mean a lot less to those of a younger generation if not for it being the "Manning Bowl."

It's those moments and individual rivalries that make the gridiron game that much greater, and as this year's slate of 256 games gets set to go, we spotlight nine (spoiler alert: it's actually 11) that shine a little brighter thanks to that caveat.

  • BRONCOS AT SEAHAWKS (9/21)
    What more incentive do you need than this being a Super Bowl rematch? Well, let's see what happens when the Broncos' vaunted offense has to try the 'Hawks D in Seattle (and without both suspended wideout Wes Welker and the departed Eric Decker).
  • REDSKINS AT EAGLES (9/21)
    Any NFC East rivalry game is a big one, but the first time flashy (and mouthy) wide receiver DeSean Jackson returns to his old stomping grounds in Redskins crimson? That one could even make Santa Claus join in the theoretical snowball throwing at Lincoln Financial Field.
  • PANTHERS AT RAVENS (9/28)
    Steve Smith was an institution in Carolina for 13 seasons, and is the Panthers' all-time franchise receiving leader. He's now a Raven, and while he has vowed revenge on the team that cut him this past winter, we'd bet that he still gets a hero's welcome in Charlotte.
  • PACKERS AT BEARS (9/28)
    There's always bad blood between these two rivals, doubly so this year because of what happened in Week 17 last year. With Julius Peppers now an ex-Bear and current Packer, though, that blood could be triply bad come Week 4.
  • BROWNS AT JAGUARS (10/19)
    It's entirely possible that this will be a game between two winless teams, but it's also entirely possible that it's the first of many pro matchups between Johnny Football and Blake Bortles. Either way (and for different reasons), it's worth watching.
  • BRONCOS AT PATRIOTS (11/2)
    Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have been intertwined for over a decade and their seemingly-annual meeting have become an instant check mark on the calendar - but with Manning now 38 and Brady now 37, their meetings are even more exciting because you never know when it will be the last.
  • A TERRIFIC TURKEY TRILOGY (11/27)
    Dallas and Detroit have long been "rivals" fighting for viewers on Thanksgiving Day. This year, though, new TV rules mean we get a pair of epic divisional matchups in Eagles/Cowboys and Bears/Lions - and when you add in Seahawks at 49ers in prime time, that's a Turkey Day to remember.
  • REDSKINS AT COLTS (11/30)
    Ryan Leaf wasn't around long enough to build a rivalry with Peyton Manning, and ditto for Tim Couch with Donovan McNabb. This is the first-ever meeting between 2012's top two picks, but we have a feeling that Andrew Luck and RGII will both be around long enough to play a few more times.
  • PATRIOTS AT JETS (12/21)
    Darrelle Revis opened last season back in MetLife Stadium when the Jets beat his Buccaneers. But now that the All-Pro corner is in a Patriots uni, we have a feeling the response will be much, much different - especially at a point in time where one or both teams' playoff lives could be on the line.
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