Man, I love football season. The opening game between the Vikings and Saints gave us just a little taste of what to come this season, as the defending Super Bowl champions outlasted the Brett Favre and the Vikings 14-9. There wasn’t as much offense as we’ve seen out of these two teams and neither team was very sharp, but nonetheless the Saints played solid defense and came out on top. But there should be plenty more action and excitement come Sunday and Monday with the lineup of games scheduled. This will be the first chance for teams to show us what they have and give us some gauge on what we can expect from them this season. Some, not all, questions will be answered after Week 1 and I’m sure many others will arise. Here are a few intriguing matchups to keep a close eye on for the NFL’s opening weekend.

Falcons at Steelers, Heinz Field
Sunday, September 12, 1:00pm

The biggest draw for this game is obviously the absence of Big Ben, who was suspended for the first four games of the season after his questionable offseason behavior involving young girls. It will be interesting to see how Dennis Dixon handles being the starter against a worthy opponent in the Falcons. Dixon did well when he started against the Ravens late last season mostly because of his ability to scramble and make things happen with his legs. It will also be intriguing to see how Matt Ryan performs after somewhat of a down 2009-10 season. A quarterback’s third season is usually when they begin to come into their own and show us if they are going to be around for a while. I think Ryan has what it takes to eventually become a championship-caliber quarterback, and what better way to prove it by facing the always tough Steelers’ defense. I see this one being close all the way to the end, but I have to give the edge to the home team simply because they always seem to come through when their backs are against the wall, which is most definitely the case here.

Packers at Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field
Sunday, September 12, 4:15pm

A lot of experts have the Packers in the Super Bowl because they seem to have all the pieces in place to get there. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league, they have a nice combination of veteran experience and young talent on offense and their defense is stout as ever. The Eagles, on the other hand, have started the rebuilding process with the subtraction of veterans Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook this past offseason. Fourth-year quarterback Kevin Kolb will lead a core of young offensive starters including running back LeSean McCoy (2nd season), receivers DeSean Jackson (3rd) and Jeremy Maclin (2nd) and tight end Brent Celek (4th). It may take a couple games for the Eagles to start clicking, but I fully expect them to be in the conversation by the end of the season. They have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball and a great head coach in Andy Reid. Needless to say, I don’t think the Packers are going to have as easy a time as people expect taking this one from the Eagles at home.

Cowboys at Redskins, FedEx Field
Sunday, September 12, 8:20pm

The Cowboys may have the most mixed feelings of any team as it pertains to what people think they can accomplish this season. Some people are already putting them in the Super Bowl and others are predicting a flop. The fact is they probably are the most talented team in the league, but that doesn’t always translate into wins. They took a step forward last season with winning some games in December and January as well as winning their first playoff game in 14 years. But expectations are higher for this season and with the fourth toughest schedule in the NFL (they face seven playoff teams from last season) we should find out a lot about what the Cowboys are made of. The Redskins are supposed to be a rejuvenated team with the addition of head coach Mike Shanahan, quarterback Donovan McNabb and running back Larry Johnson (Willie Parker would’ve been mentioned, but he was more washed up then we all thought and was cut a couple weeks ago). It’s just tough for me to buy into this reconstructed version of the Redskins. Most teams that try and put together a championship team don’t take older players from teams that don’t want them and try to transform them into a championship team. It just doesn’t work that way. But we will find out quickly if Daniel Snyder’s plan is going to work or not (I’m betting on the latter).

Ravens at Jets, New Meadowlands Stadium
Monday, September 13, 7:00pm

This is most definitely the marquee matchup of the weekend. Not only is it a matchup between two teams that most think have a good shot at getting to the Super Bowl, but it is a matchup between familiar foes. Rex Ryan will be trying to beat his former team and if the game was decided on the amount of s*** talked before the actual game, he would’ve already won. He thinks that his sarcastic and cocky comments are going to motivate his team to play better and embed it in their heads that they’re better than they actually are. But all I think he’s doing is putting more fuel in the fire, which is the wrong thing to do when going up against Ray Lewis, who had some words of his own for his former coordinator. And you better believe that the Ravens’ defense will be looking to lay the wood even harder then they normally would. It’s a given that both defenses will play tough, but I think this game will come down to the quarterbacks. And if that’s the case, I have to give the edge to Joe Flacco and the Ravens because I just don’t see them going into the Meadowlands and laying an egg. Plus beating your former coordinator that likes to run his mouth should give them the extra motivation they need to get the job done.

Submitted by Steve Giles