The NFL has announced that the 2013 regular-season schedule will be revealed on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday night, allowing fans to set their calendars en masse. But of course, the actual matchups are set, and we already know each team's home and road opponents. So, which showdown are you most anticipating in the 2013 regular season?
While the intrigue of the developing rivalry between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos is certainly worth the attention it'll receive, especially given Wes Welker's recent move, there's another showdown that probably merits even more: Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers.
This NFC West rivalry could make for must-see TV for the foreseeable future. Two young rosters, loaded with talent, capable of making deep postseason runs. And the best part? We'll get to see this divisional game twice per season. Five years ago, it might have been among the worst games. Now? Bring it on.
Seattle against Sam Francisco, both times they play -- and maybe even a third time in the playoffs. With the additions of Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, the Seahawks have a true No. 1 receiver and an improved pass rush on one of the best defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, the 49ers still have a strong defense and a talented offense, having added CB Nnamdi Asomugha and WR Anquan Boldin in the offseason.
***EDITOR'S NOTE:** Elliot Harrison wrote a full column ranking the top 13 games of 2013. Here is his commentary on the No. 1 bout, Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts:*
I kid because I care. Peyton Manning, of course, is the Broncos player who had some great moments at Lucas Oil Stadium -- though most of his best Colts highlights (like winning the 2006 AFC Championship Game after facing a 21-3 deficit in the first half) actually came at the Hoosier Dome. However, regardless of the stadium, Manning will always be linked to the city of Indianapolis.
The "cool factor" of this AFC battle goes way up when you factor in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck's incredible play in the clutch (despite his youth). Tell me you can't see Luck exploiting the Broncos' secondary on a last-gasp drive, spoiling what is sure to be a celebration of Manning's Hall of Fame career.
The balance of power has shifted back to the West Coast, and the Seahawks and 49ers comprise the NFL's most enticing matchup. The two rivals have stockpiled talent like they're on an NFL version of "Hoarders." I can't wait to see these two NFC favorites (apologies to the Green Bay Packers) go at it -- not once, but twice.
Instead of anticipating one showdown, how about I just get a season pass to all of the Denver Broncos' road games? All season, I promise to watch every New York Jets game and every Broncos roadie -- that's all I need. With Wes Welker and an even healthier Peyton Manning, Denver is still the must-watch team of the year, coming off a heart-breaking playoff defeat to Baltimore. Now, throw these games into the mix:
1) At Indianapolis Colts: Peyton's return (and showdown with Andrew Luck). 2) At New England Patriots: Brady vs. Manning, part 1,000. 3) At New York Giants: Another matchup against lil' bro Eli. 4) At Houston Texans: Could be an AFC Championship Game preview.
You know it's a stacked road slate when a remaining road game against the Dallas Cowboys is No. 5 on this list. I don't know if there's ever been a more daunting, more emotional outside-of-the-division road schedule in the history of the game. At least the rematch with the Ravens is in Mile High, but still. If you made me pick just one game, it would be Manning back in Indy, but man is it close. I'm so glad the schedule makers have a flair for the dramatic. Good luck, Peyton.