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Be Sure To Circle These 15 Games

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All eyes will be on the defending Super Bowl champions. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
All eyes will be on the defending Super Bowl champions. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

The schedule for the 2013 NFL regular season was just released on Thursday. From playoff rematches to competitive division rivalries, there’s a full slate of can’t-miss matchups throughout the year.

Unfortunately, there will be no Super Bowl rematch during the regular season, but the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will get plenty of time under the bright primetime lights.

Both the NFC and AFC are crowded at the top with no clear favorite in each conference, and the road to Super Bowl XLVIII in New York will be paved right from the start of Week 1 all the way until the final play in Week 17.

Here are 15 games to circle on your calendars.

Week 1

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Thursday, Sept. 5 at 8:30 p.m.

The Baltimore Ravens will open up the season on the road in Mile High Stadium. Fresh off of their Super Bowl win, the Ravens will begin their title defense against arguably the best team in the AFC.

After a crushing overtime loss to the Ravens in the playoffs last season, the Broncos will be able to quickly gauge their standing in the AFC against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Sunday, Sept. 8 at 4:25 p.m.

The San Francisco 49ers manhandled the Green Bay Packers in their last matchup during the playoffs last season. Colin Kaepernick ran circles around their defense to the tune of 181 yards, and the 49ers won by a comfortable 45-31 win. After getting embarrassed, the Packers will be looking to get revenge at Candlestick Park.

Week 2

Denver Broncos at New York Giants

Sunday, Sept. 15 at 4:25 p.m.

Manning vs. Manning. In what has come to be known as the “Manning Bowl”, big brother Peyton will duel with little brother Eli for the third time. Peyton has the upper hand at 2-0, and he’ll have the advantage this year with the better team.

However, Eli will have the home field advantage and a hungry Giants team looking for redemption.

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks / Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (Week 14)

Sunday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 p.m. / Sunday, Dec. 8 at 4:25 p.m.

Yes, I’m cheating a bit here by lumping these two matchups together, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave either one out or to list them separately.

Now who would have thought that the NFC West would produce arguably the two top teams heading into 2013? It’s no coincidence that both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are built on the same foundations: a tough defense, a smash-mouth running game and an athletic playmaking quarterback behind center.

These will be beat ‘em up and knock ‘em down cage matches as each team vies for division supremacy.

Week 3

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday, Sept. 22 at 1:00 p.m.

As if a matchup between two of the best the AFC has to offer wasn’t enough, Ed Reed will be playing against his old team for the first time in his career. Even though he may have hopped the fence and switched sides, Reed will likely get a warm welcome from Ravens fans.

Week 4

New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m.

The last time Tom Brady and Matt Ryan went head-to-head, Ryan was only in his second year and with an inferior team. Now, Ryan is more seasoned and on near-equal footing with one of the best teams in the NFC. This should be a fantastic matchup between two elite quarterbacks battling in prime time.

Week 6

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots

Seeing a familiar theme here? Whenever you put two of the best quarterbacks up against one another, expect nothing short of a high-scoring affair.

With Sean Payton prowling the sidelines once again, Bill Belichick will have his hands full trying to figure out what sort of tricks Payton has up his sleeve.

Week 7

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts

Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8:30 p.m.

Peyton Manning will be returning to the “House that Manning built”, making his first trip back to Lucas Oil Stadium to face off against his old team. Anticipation and emotions will run high as Manning will battle against some of his old teammates and successor at quarterback, Andrew Luck.

Week 10

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, Nov. 10 at 1:00 p.m.

Last season’s NFC Divisional playoff game was an instant classic. Down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, the Seattle Seahawks scored three touchdowns, including on a Marshawn Lynch goal-line plunge with 31 seconds left to put the team ahead by one point. However, Ryan quickly put the Falcons in kicking range, and Matt Bryant nailed a 49 yard field goal with eight seconds left to seal the victory 30-28.

Week 12

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

Sunday, Nov. 24 at 8:30 p.m.

Manning vs. Tom Brady has long been one of the marquee matchups over the last decade, and nothing has changed even if Manning is wearing some new duds. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are two of the top teams the AFC has to offer, so this could be a potential preview of the AFC Championship game.

Week 13

New England Patriots at Houston Texans

Sunday, Dec. 1 at 4:25 p.m.

After getting dominated in both of their matchups against the Patriots last season, the Houston Texans surely have revenge on their minds when they host Tom Brady and company. This late-season matchup could have a major impact on playoff positioning, and the Texans will need to bring their A-game if they hope to figure out a way to beat the Patriots.

Week 14

Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers

Sunday, Dec. 8 at 8:30 p.m.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Ryan can mean only one thing: expect nothing short of an epic shootout. These two high-powered offenses will quickly go to the air, and it should primarily an aerial battle. Don’t be surprised if both teams combine for 70-plus points when all is said and done.

Week 16

Denver Broncos at Houston Texans

Sunday, Dec. 22 at 1:00 p.m.

This late in the season, the Broncos and Texans may very well be fighting for homefield advantage in the playoffs. If their rematch is anything like the exciting 31-25 finish from last season, this should be a good one. When you have QB Matt Schaub sacrificing (well, not voluntarily) a part of his ear to win the game, how could you expect any less?

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday, Dec. 22 at 8:40 p.m.

A rematch of the AFC Championship game from last season, the Patriots will be looking for redemption after missing out on yet another Super Bowl berth. New England lost both matchups against Baltimore last season, and both teams could be jockeying for playoff positioning or home field advantage throughout the playoffs in this Week 16 showdown.

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

Monday, Dec. 23 at 8:30 p.m.

In a rematch of the NFC Championship game from last season, the Falcons managed to blow a 10-point first half lead to fall to the 49ers 28-24. This tight loss that prevented a Super Bowl berth for Atlanta may very well be the reason Tony Gonzalez decided to postpone his retirement for another year. If last year’s exciting game is any indication of how this one will turn out, you can’t miss this one.