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Top 10 Most Anticipated Match-ups of the 2014-2015 NFL Regular Season

Football
Top 10 Most Anticipated Match-ups of the 2014-2015 NFL Regular Season

Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports Images

As the 2013-2014 NFL season becomes more a thing of the past, it’s time for teams, managers, coaches and players to consider where or how they may find themselves in September. A few days into the frenzied free agency, there have already been some major transactions occurring across the league. Despite a disappointing Super Bowl loss back in February, the Broncos seem to be gearing up for another Lombardi run while the Patriots, Eagles and Saints are scrambling to keep up. Although some of the biggest trades so far have caused a lot of conversation, it’s nearly impossible to predict the true impact it will have on their new team’s success until season kickoff.

To make the cut, the games must be confirmed from NFL.com as a match-up during the 2014-2015 regular season and judged by their pasts together, memorable moments or games from the 2013-2014 regular and post-season. Honorable mentions go out to two exciting rematches: San Francisco 49ers against the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos against the Dallas Cowboys. Looking into the history of these rivalries on NFL.com, we put together some interesting fun facts and statistics. These duels are explosive and deep-seeded, which is not surprising since most of them are division rivals. Now that the hype of Super Bowl XLVIII has blown over, let’s take a look at where rivalries stand in the National Football League right now.

10. Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY Sports Images

Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY Sports Images

Out first divisional match-up brings a season double-header. Despite the Saints having dominated this rivalry since the arrival of Sean Payton and Drew Brees, the hate between these two teams is palpable. The Saints shut Atlanta down both times they faced off last season and if it weren’t for the Bucs’ dismal record, Atlanta would have gone from first to worst. The Falcons must spend the off-season sorting out their kinks if they have any chance of surviving the Who Dat Nation. They may only have one or two more years before this clash is put to rest with the Saints dominantly on top of the Southern dog pile.

9. Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images

Despite being one of the most successful divisions in NFL history, the NFC East has been dismal in recent years. The Cowboys have a tough schedule ahead of them and this territorial match-up is no exception. The Eagles have been trying to gain momentum and it seems free agency has finally lit a spark. The only two RBs to have over 150 catches and 8 receiving touchdowns since 2011 will be lacing up together in Philadelphia next season. LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles have a combined 386 catches and 22 receiving touchdowns in their offensive arsenal and look to do some serious damage on the ground. The former New Orleans Saint was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for the final year of his contract. The Cowboys just lost half of their defensive line due to budget issues while the Eagles found their current starter a new running buddy. How Sproles will affect Chip Kelly’s offense and LeSean McCoy’s carries remains unknown but the NFC East just got a little bit better.

8. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports Images

Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports Images

If Cincinnati can continue in the same direction as last year, it’s only a matter of time before this rivalry is the best in the AFC North. Andy Dalton showed once again that there’s potential that hasn’t been fully unlocked yet while A.J. Green and Gio Bernard helped the Bengals to their 3rd consecutive winning season.  The Bengals finished with a top 5 defense during the 2013-2014 regular season and they surely hope to continue that success next season if they have any chance at playoff contention.

On the other side, the Steelers are hyped to have acquired former Titans head coach, Mike Munchak, as the Steelers new Offensive Line coach to boost and shape their struggling offensive drive. The Steelers still have a ton of work to do over the offseason and either need to start making some moves in this free agency or seriously load their arsenal at the NFL Draft. The Bengals dominated the AFC North last season, taking the division 11-5 over both the Steelers and the Ravens who both finished 8-8 in the regular season. Although, their last meeting resulted in a 30-20 Steel City victory Steel City victory, it appears the power may be shifting away from the East Coast and into the Midwest.

7. Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Images

Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Images

This divisional match-up is one of the oldest and most played rivalries in professional sports. As far back as this one dates, 2013 was a tiresome season for these two teams. As usual, Green Bay and Chicago faced off twice last season and while their last game berthed the RodgersCobb comeback touchdown, the first match-up in November was a cheesehead catastrophe. Aaron Rodgers was sacked and suffered a fractured collarbone that would bench him until the Packers saw the Bears again in Week 17. With Rodgers out half the season, Green Bay finished 8-7-1 while Chicago finished 8-8 pushing them to second place in the NFC North. Since both teams have spent the free agency period swapping teammates, it seems the race to the top of the NFC North is pretty close. Expect Aaron Rodgers and injuries to be the deciding factors here.

This is all not to mention that Julius Peppers has crossed over to the other side of the rivalry and will be especially hungry to bring Jay Cutler to his knees.

6. Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos

Rob Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images

Rob Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images

Well, we all know what’s going on here. Peyton Manning vs. the Indianapolis Colts. It wasn’t too long that Manning was dropped by the Colts and after another typical Manning post-season, this is likely to be a good game for any remaining bitter Colts/Manning fans out there. The last time they met, the Colts upset the Broncos with a 39-33 win at home.

To top it off, Manning’s return to Lucas Oil Stadium without a new Super Bowl ring kind of makes it seem like the Colts have already won the game. All things aside, the Colts released Manning with the intention of “going in a different direction than one Super Bowl in 14 years”. The 2014-2015 regular season shows that neither the Colts nor Manning have changed their direction and it’s about time one of these teams did.

5. New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images

Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images

Currently facing two heated Tri-state area rivalries, the Patriots surely have their hands full in the 2014-2015 regular season. The last time these two AFC East teams faced off, New York walked away with the overtime victory 30-27 in New York. The Patriots get two shots this season to tie up their all-time head-to-head record against the New York Jets. And New England recently made a special addition to their defense just for Rex Ryan. Welcome the patriotic return of Revis Island.

4. Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

USA_Brady and Manning

AFC Championship. Brady versus Manning. East versus West. This match-up has every aspect required for a high-caliber Monday Night Football game. Their last meeting saw Manning put on a tutorial as the Broncos shut Brady down with a 26-16 win and earned a spot in Super Bowl XLVIII. With the Patriots at home against the Broncos in 2014, we can only hope for a better turn out than their last meeting.

Tom Brady is 10-4 against Peyton Manning in the regular season.

3. Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports Images

Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports Images

Welcome to another double-header match-up! The Steelers and the Ravens are set to face off at Heinz Field and M&T Bank Stadium, respectively, in the 2014-2015 regular season. We welcome this long-standing rivalry every year and the dynamics of the AFC North are hot. The Ravens and the Steelers both finished 8-8 last season as well as 1-1 against each other while the Bengals steamrolled the division.

The last meeting was a controversial win for the Baltimore Ravens with Tomlin’s $100,000 white line stroll nearly costing them the game and the Steelers’s future draft picks. Although the Ravens took home the W with a 22-20 victory, the Steelers lead this series and with some off-season activities, this rivalry could explode.

2. San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images

Welcome to the 2014-2015 Class of the New School. With Wilson, Kaepernick, Luck, Newton and RGIII still calling the shots for the cities that stand behind them, a passionate rookie rivalry was only a matter of time. Why not make it between the runner-ups of Super Bowl XLVII and the champions of Super Bowl XLVIII? While we’re at it, let’s make the coaches of these two teams old college rivals – Carroll coaching at USC and Harbaugh coaching at Stanford.

Their last meeting saw the end of the 49ers season with a Seahawks rally from behind to win 23-17 in the NFC Championship game and move onto Super Bowl XLVIII. Wilson and Kaepernick are tied 2-2 in the regular season of this series, so here’s to the 2014-2015 season bringing us a season-long double-header. Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree will have plenty time to catch up — home and away.

1. Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

With both the Broncos and the Seahawks finishing this past regular season with a stellar 15-3 record, the Super Bowl was the QB test. And, surely, Russell Wilson was the better quarterback that Sunday, but just about every other Sunday, Manning reigns. Regardless, the Seahawks’ 43-8 victory was convincing and if Manning were 10 years younger, we may have just witnessed the birth of a great rivalry.

Unfortunately, Manning’s time clock is running down and the likelihood of witnessing this relationship blossom seemed nearly impossible until a few days ago. The Broncos seem to have some super plans next season with the free agency addition of Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware. But for now, we can relish in the Game Day Highlights from Super Bowl XLVIII and play out all of the possible outcomes of this rematch in the 2014-2015 regular season. Best of all… the  12th man gets to watch at home.

Fun Fact: Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson have never met in the regular season.

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