On Thursday evening, the NFL will announce the 2013 schedule. It will do so during a live, three-hour special on NFL Network. Is this overkill? Heavens, yes. But I say beat that horse through a couple more lives, NFL, because it's summer time and we're far enough away from football being played that I want my fix and I want my fix to last a while.
Scheduling out the 2013 NFL season doesn't completely satisfy that fix, but it will be fun to see what the NFL comes up with in terms of primetime games. There are obvious storylines when it comes to divisional rivalry games -- Eagles and Cowboys is a great game even without the possibility of Chip Kelly shredding a Monte Kiffin-run defense for the third time in as many years despite both guys starting new jobs. Obviously, 49ers-Seahawks games are going to kick so much butt they kick ass. No one denies this.
And the reality is 90 percent of the games on the NFL schedule are great (this seems especially true in April, sigh). But in advance of the schedule being released on Thursday night, here are 10 games, in no real particular order, that I want to see plugged into prime time for the 2013 season.
Broncos @ Patriots
Ratings gold. The two best teams in the AFC (sorry, Ravens) go toe-to-toe for the second year in a row since Peyton Manning joined Denver. Last year's game wasn't as exciting, but both these teams should be clicking when they play in 2013. And the best part it all? Wes Welker. The diminutive wide receiver ended up bouncing out of New England and heading to Denver, where he gives the Broncos a stacked group of wideouts along with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. I'd love to see this game later in the year for playoff and seeding stakes.
Buccaneers @ Jets
The Jets? In prime time? This year? Yeah, I don't disagree. It's a potential disaster. But unless you've been living under a rock, you're firmly aware that John Idzik and Co. are trying to trade Darrelle Revis. And the only team that's involved in any potential trades for the All-Pro cornerback? The Bucs. Tampa Bay at New York has letdown potential if the Revis trade doesn't go down or if the game is too early and Revis isn't 100 percent. But if the trade goes down, you put this puppy on a bigger stage for Week 4 and just wait and see how many viewers tune in to see Revis going against Mark Sanchez.
Broncos @ Giants
The draw for this one is easy and obvious: it's the Manning Bowl. Yes, yes, the storylines leading up to the game would get stale quickly. That's what happens when Eli Manning and Peyton Manning go head-to-head in an NFL game. But it's two of the game's best quarterbacks squaring off in an awkward family situation. How can you not enjoy that? An ideal situation would be Week 7 or 8, perhaps, with Cooper Manning wearing one of those "house divided" jerseys in a luxury box.
Chiefs @ Eagles
This should be obvious, yes? Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia. Bovada's not even setting up a prop bet on whether Reid gets booed. The bet will be how many times that he gets booed, the length of the booing and the over/under on batteries thrown at his head. I'd love to see this game slotted for something like Week 10. Regardless of whether the Eagles and Chiefs are respectively doing well, it'll be a draw. If both teams are good, the interest is obvious. If the Chiefs stink, Philly has a chance to rub it in their face. If they're good, Philly can mess up a great season. If the Eagles stink, it's Reid's revenge. And if Kansas City holds Chip Kelly's high-powered offense to only a few points? Well, that would probably go over smoothly with the fans in Philly.
Ravens @ Broncos
This is a layup and might very well be the season opener. Denver looked like a Super Bowl favorite until Joe Flacco and Jacoby Jones got deep on Rahim Moore and helped Baltimore roll to a title. Peyton Manning and Co. have added pieces in free agency and expect to be ready for another title run. But then there's the biggest storyline of all: Elvis Dumervil and Why Do We Still Use Fax Machines For Important Business Deals In The NFL-Gate. Dumervil's with the Ravens now, and there's a possibility they'll end up opening up their championship defense in Denver against his old team. Please let this be the first game of the year.
Vikings @ Seahawks
One of the things lost in this matchup of playoff teams from 2012 is whether Seattle's run defense will be as good as it was last year. Obviously, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright should keep the linebacking corps stout. But can they defend the run without Chris Clemons? And if they can't, what will Adrian Peterson do to them? The larger story, of course, is the Percy Harvin trade. Will Harvin be healthy and happy when these two teams play? What kind of numbers will he throw on his old team? And will the Vikings' first-round pick that they acquired from Seattle for Harvin be working out? Week 7 or 8 should give us plenty of time to find out.
Cowboys @ Saints
Sean Payton returns to the sideline after spending much of his time during his suspended season living in … Dallas. You know what else he has in common with Dallas? They were reportedly ready to chase him if the Saints didn't lock him up after the NFL voided his deal with New Orleans. His ties to the Cowboys' coaching staff aren't the same as they used to be, but these could very well be a pair of teams heavily involved in the NFC wild-card race. Add in a brand new defense for the Cowboys under Monte Kiffin, and seeing these teams square off around Week 12 would be quite nice.
Dolphins @ Browns
Wut? Yeah, I know this doesn't seem like a marquee matchup. But the Dolphins and Browns were the offseason champions in 2012, and they're going to have high expectations for the coming season. Perhaps they both end up relegated to their respective basements again, but I could see both teams making some noise. Slap this puppy up in Week 1 and see how Brandon Weeden (or Geno Smith?) does against Ryan Tannehill. Find out how well the offseason acquisitions are prepared to help their new teams and perhaps jump start one of these teams' season.
Patriots @ Ravens
This is just an old-fashioned rematch from the last two AFC Championship Games. In fact, I'm not even sure that I need to pump it up for you. But what makes this game particularly fascinating, aside from regular Patriots and Ravens games, is that both teams are reloading a little bit. The Ravens lost a lot of personnel to free agency, and some folks think they'll be in trouble. I think differently and am honestly a little more concerned with the Patriots' losses. I mean, they'll be fine. But are you totally and absolutely convinced that Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are going to be healthy enough to be productive? It's a potential championship preview, but it also lets us see how these teams adjust against elite competition. Run it back in Week 3. Just like last year.
Broncos @ Colts
Don't you think that Peyton Manning is glad this game didn't happen in 2012? He's now firmly established in Denver, and the Broncos are set to be a winner for the next few years. The Colts are pretty well set, too, having made the playoffs in Andrew Luck's first season and looking like franchise on the (re) rise. But there will be plenty of drama involved here with Peyton's return to Indy. Both he and Luck will handle it like true professionals, of course, but a Week 2 reunion for Manning and the drama involved in this matchup would be superb.