Even though the National Football League is still in talks for a new labor agreement with the players, the 2011–12 schedule was released Tuesday night.
I know it’s hard to get excited about a schedule that might not come to fruition. Assuming the owners and players are able to settle their differences, there are 10 games that you should circle on your calendar just in case.
Week 1: Dallas at New York Jets
Emotions will be running high as the New York Jets host the Dallas Cowboys on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Head coach Rex Ryan will have something to prove after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 playoffs.
Week 2: Philadelphia at Atlanta
Quarterback Michael Vick returns to the Georgia Dome and the city where he started his NFL career. Vick will be looking to prove that the Falcons gave up on him too soon.
Week 5: New York Jets at New England
The Jets–Patriots rivalry reached epic proportions during last year’s playoffs. When I tell you that these two teams don’t like each other, they really don’t like each other. Head coach Bill Belichick will seek revenge for the Jets’ 28–21 playoff victory.
Week 7: Indianapolis at New Orleans
Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees could combine for 800 passing yards and eight touchdowns in this Sunday night showdown from New Orleans.
Week 8: New England at Pittsburgh
These two teams faced off last year at Heinz Field with the Patriots knocking off the Steelers 39–26. Quarterback Tom Brady will look to improve on his 6-1 record in Pittsburgh.
Week 9: Baltimore at Pittsburgh
If dealing with the New England Patriots wasn’t bad enough, the Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens the following week. The Steelers have knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs two out of the last three years.
Week 11: Philadelphia at NY Giants
If it weren’t for a 4th-quarter collapse against the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants would have made the playoffs. Hopefully the Giants special teams have learned to never punt the ball to DeSean Jackson. Ever.
Week 13: Indianapolis at New England
You’re almost guaranteed to get a competitive game when the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots face-off against each other. The Patriots held off a late rally by the Colts last year to win 31–28.
Week 15: Baltimore at San Diego
The San Diego Chargers have an established track record of finishing the season strong, which means their home date during Week 15 with the Baltimore Ravens could be a playoff preview.
Week 16: NY Giants at NY Jets
Make sure you don’t wait until the last minute to get your shopping done as playoff implications could be on the line when the New Meadowlands Stadium hosts the first Giants-Jets regular season game since 2007 on Christmas Eve.
(Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)