Looking Ahead In NFL


What a week!

The headlines just keep coming in the NFL, as big name after big name either gets traded…signs a big contract with a new team…or signs a big contract to stay with the same team. You've barely absorbed the news of one big deal, and another one interrupts!

It's too early right now to get accurate bearings on all the ramifications from the past few days. And, frankly, the dust hasn't even settled yet anyway. More shoes are going to drop this week. Since we won't be betting any NFL Preseason games until a week from Thursday, or any regular season games until September 8th, prudence seems in order when it comes to making projections.

We noticed through the whirlwind coverage this past weekend that NOBODY was talking about how the season was going to start. It's like everyone jumped ahead to the playoffs! Philadelphia was suddenly a frontrunner in the NFC even though they hadn't played a game yet. Were they really better than last year's Packers? Some put New England in the Super Bowl after they brought in Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. Doesn't the media give the Lombardi Trophy to New England before every season starts? It's been awhile since they won it.

Let's leave the postseason for 2012. There won't be any playoff games until January, and there's a lot of football to be played between now and then. Today, let's spend some time looking at the opening week schedule. THAT'S the first time you can bet these Philadelphia Eagles in a game that matters (or fade them if you're so inclined). THAT'S the first time Tom Brady will be throwing to Ochocinco with an opposing defense going at full speed. For ALL the teams you've been reading about recently, that's when it will be time to put up or shut up.

And, once you see the schedule, you're going to realize how dramatic things could get…

New Orleans at Green Bay

No big deal. Just the last two Super Bowl winners! And, no doubt, two teams who are tired of reading about how great everyone else is going to be. The Packers want to remind the league that they were the best team last year when healthy by quite a good bit. New Orleans is in a bounce back year after stumbling through their Super Bowl hangover. Drew Brees vs. Aaron Rodgers? Great matchup!

The other prime time games in the opening week will be:

SUNDAY NIGHT: Dallas at the NY Jets
MONDAY NIGHT: New England at Miami
MONDAY NIGHT: Oakland at Denver

Hello! Tony Romo, who's getting a ton of positive press for leading intense offseason workouts for his teammates, will be matched up against the fantastic Jets defense. New York has reached the AFC Championship game two years in a row, and believes they've done enough to upgrade the roster this year and go even further.

Oh, by the way, Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. Rex Ryan is the head coach of the Jets. Think that will get some coverage?

Monday brings the debut of the Brady-Ochocinco connection to start off ESPN's annual kickoff doubleheader. One of the most anticipated games of the first week will get a national showcase. And, a trip to Miami is far from easy given the intensity of that divisional rivalry, and the sense of urgency in Miami for the current management/coaching regime.

Oakland at Denver isn't a matchup of playoff contenders. But we do have a quarterback drama in Denver, and a pair of franchises who are looking to take serious steps forward this season.

That's a pretty strong start to the season right there. But, we've only talked about a quarter of the schedule. Everyone else plays Sunday afternoon. Here are the highlights:

Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Atlanta at Chicago
Philadelphia at St. Louis
Detroit at Tampa Bay
Indianapolis at Houston
NY Giants at Washington
Minnesota at San Diego

Yes, the extremely intense Pittsburgh/Baltimore rivalry…that's been a huge part of the regular season and recent playoffs…isn't even ready for prime time this week! What could be one of the most important games of the full regular season kicks off the first Sunday. Don't forget that Atlanta and Chicago were the bye teams last year in the NFC. Both teams would lose to Green Bay on the Packers path to the Super Bowl. Any other week, and that would be one of the showcase games Sunday Night on NBC or Monday Night on ESPN.

Moving down…Philadelphia brings its 'dream team' hype to St. Louis to face Sam Bradford. In a sense, that's an easy draw for the new look Eagles because they should be much better than the Rams. But, it's far from a virtual bye given that it's a road game against an up-and-coming franchise. Detroit, a popular darkhorse team in 2011 because of their scary defense…will face a near darkhorse team from last year in Tampa Bay. The Bucs just missed sneaking into the playoffs in a 'shock the world' kind of season. The Detroit-Tampa Bay winner will be hoping to springboard into the postseason mix for sure.

Peyton Manning, remember him? The media darling won't be as prominent this week as he will in other matchups given the nature of the schedule. But, Indianapolis/Houston has turned into a nice little rivalry. And, there are multiple indicators suggesting that the Texans might finally be able to make a run at the Colts in the standings this year. Just one big game among many on the first Sunday of the season, which you can also say about Giants/Redskins and Vikings/Chargers.

Cincinnati at Cleveland
Buffalo at Kansas City
Tennessee at Jacksonville
Seattle at San Francisco
Carolina at Arizona

There had to be some relative yawners. The league matched up some uglies to allow for so many marquee matchups. These games will mostly be big deals for the home viewing areas of the franchises rather than the nation as a whole. JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK could easily be stepping out in at least one of these games though because it's those 'under the radar' situations that often prove most lucrative.

So, THAT'S WHAT WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO once the dust settles in the personnel parade! Too bad the media didn't mention the full context of all the recent acquisitions. JIM HURLEY is always a few steps ahead of the game. That's why you should sign up NOW for our early bird packages. That will put YOU a few steps ahead of the game with special savings!

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The exhibition slate is just days away. The first week of the regular season is going to be one for the history books. AND 2011 IS DESTINED TO BE JIM HURLEY'S BIGGEST FOOTBALL SEASON EVER!!

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