NFL Schedule 2014: Marquee Matchups and Must-Know Info

NFL Schedule Release
The 2014 NFL schedule is set! We’ve known the 256 regular-season matchups for some time, but now you can conveniently strategize which days you plan on being “sick” this year. NFL tickets are always the hottest commodity in sports and with the anticipation building for another year of hard-hitting action, revenge bouts and primetimes-to-prove-yourself, we’ve got all the best games and storylines to prep you up for the season. Roll out those jerseys and see which key matchups you cannot miss this year!

Notable NFL Scheduling Changes

  • If you haven’t yet realized, the 2014 NFL Draft has been pushed back to May 8. The life-changing day will host a record 30 players at Radio City Music Hall this year. Pro-hopefuls including Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney, Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Cody Latimer, Johnny Manziel, CJ Mosley and Khalil Mack will all be in attendance. No matter which team picks up Johnny Football, when the season commences, brace yourself for the unrelenting “is he the real deal” question every week.
  • Accompanying the schedule release, the NFL revealed games may be flexed into “Sunday Night Football” as early as Week 5. This is a significant shift upwards from flex scheduling (Sunday afternoon games are subject to being moved into the Sunday night window) permitted in Week 11 of last year. The league can also “cross flex” select games between CBS and FOX.
  • There are three more games in London this season. Oakland, Atlanta and Jacksonville are the teams to lose home games for a trip across the pond.
  • For the first time in nearly ten years, the NFL will make a (non-holiday) return to Saturday. Taking place in the afternoon, there are a two showdowns to catch:
    Philadelphia at Washington, December 20
    San Diego at San Francisco, December 20
  • Here’s a sampler of the awesome Thursday night matches that will get you through the workweek. Notice the bevy of divisional games (14 in total), a massive upgrade from the snooze-fests we’ve become accustomed to: Pittsburgh at Baltimore, Vikings at Packers, San Diego at Denver, New York Giants at Washington, New York Jets at New England.

Which Teams Have the Strongest and Weakest Schedules of 2014?

The AFC and NFC Wests are loaded with five playoff teams from last year—not to mention, Arizona, who slightly missed the mark. They’ll be frequently pitted against each other this season, making postseason runs even harder to obtain this time around.

Noteworthy teams with lower strengths of schedules include Indianapolis, Houston, Baltimore and Tennessee. On the other end of the spectrum, some unlucky teams are the Broncos, Cardinals, Rams, Bengals and above all, the Oakland Raiders. The Black and Silver have, statistically, the worst schedule (opponents with a combined winning percentage of .578). They’ll play six playoff teams in 7 weeks.

Brady Manning

2014 NFL Key Games and Storylines

Below you’ll find the most expensive games of the season immediately after the NFL schedule released. Read on for information on the most pivotal games of 2014.

Top 5 Most Expensive Games Avg. Price
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers $617.00
Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks $566.00
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots $554.00
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers $545.00
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks $529.00

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks: September 4
Avg. Price: $566
The NFL may be in desperate attempts to wipe the “Fail Mary” call from the collective conscience, but it will be front and center in the league opener. The seasonal kick off will feature the Seattle Seahawks, as reigning Super Bowl champions, hosting the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. Though many were speculating a Super Bowl replay or West coast grudge match, we got something a little less expected, but exciting nonetheless. See these NFC foes face off in a big-stage rematch that should set the tone for the rest of the season.

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos: September 7
Avg. Price: $449
This is the fourth year in a row that the Broncos will open in primetime, and they’ll do so against Manning’s former team. Luck defeated his predecessor in their first matchup of Week 7 last season; this engagement will take place at Mile High, where Denver will debut their overhauled D.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: September 11
Avg. Price: $367
These two teams have given fans some of the most exciting 60 minutes of football in recent history. If last year’s Turkey Day thriller is any indication, this matchup is sure to be a doozy. Glance at the sideline for this one: after the Tomlin-foot controversy of last year, Pittsburgh’s head coach is likely to get a chilly reception in Baltimore.

Mike Tomlin hop Jacoby Jones

Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers: September 15
Avg. Price: $545
The Niners will debut their brand new Levi’s Stadium when they play their first-ever regular-season home game against Chicago in Santa Clara. Chi-town was pummeled when Colin Kaepernick made his monster debut at quarterback, and Harbaugh is looking for a repeat performance to extend his record to 4-0 in home openers.

Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks: September 21
Avg. Price: $504
Deja vu, anyone? It’s absurd to expect another one-sided burn between the two, what with Denver’s shiny new defense. DeMarcus Ware, Aquib Talib and TJ Ward are sure to help Denver serve up some revenge.

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles: September 21
Avg. Price: $272
New Redskin DeSean Jackson is probably frothing at the mouth to get a piece of Chip Kelly and his old team. Let’s not forget about the amount of pressure barreling under center—RG3 and Nick Foles both have something to prove this year. With all the stakes riding on this battle, get ready for a tidal wave of action.

Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens: September 28
Avg. Price: $316
Steve Smith promised “blood and guts” when he next faces the team that cut him. Enough said.

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears, September 28
Avg. Price: $398
Incontestably one of the best rivalries in all of sports, the Packers and Chicago enmity was as gripping as ever last year. Returned hero Aaron Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb in the division title match; the throw would demolish all postseason hopes for Chicago and dub the Packers NFC North champions. The rivalry is only heightened with Julius Peppers’ departure from the Windy City in favor of a spot on Green Bay’s roster.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers: October 5
Avg. Price: $457
Really, any early season game featuring Kanas City will be one of intrigue. Will they manifest last year’s same blazing start, even with 2014’s tougher schedule? The last look we got at KC was a one-and-done appearance in the playoffs–are they ready to take on these tough NFC foes? And, lest we forget the revenge of the QB: Will Alex Smith succeed in showing his former employers what they’re missing out on?

New York Jets at New England Patriots: October 16
Avg. Price: $375
Jets fans, need another reason to despise the Pats? Enter ex-Jet and cornerback-extraordinaire, Darrelle Revis.

San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos: October 19
Avg. Price: $488
We’ve heard it a million times: what kind of a game has football become? That’s right, a passing one. This matchup presents the classic, rough-and-tumble Niners defense against Manning and his elite offense. Bust out the popcorn.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos: October 23
Avg. Price: $343
Though the Bolts lost two of their three matchups to Denver in 2013, Phillip Rivers and company were also the only team to hand the Broncos their only home loss of the season. San Diego has always been considered the underdogs in the race towards playoffs, but they’ve showed strength time and time again. These AFC West opponents always promise a hard-fought battle, and this game should follow suit.

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints: October 26
Avg. Price: $332
The AFC has Manning-Brady; the NFC has Rodgers-Brees. Tune in for this shootout.

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots: November 2
Avg. Price: $554
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet again in a titanic showdown, this time, at Gillette Stadium. Both of these teams engaged in an offseason arms race, see if the new toys pay off in Manning-Brady XVI.

Washington Redskins at Indianapolis Colts: November 30
Avg. Price: $171
The top two picks in the 2012 draft, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, will face off for the first time in the latter part of the 2014 season. To compare: RG3 is 12-16, while Lucks is 22-10 in their young careers.

New York Jets at Tennessee Titans: December 14
Avg. Price: $170
Geno Smith and Michael Vick will have dueled all preseason long for the starting designation, but no matter who’s at the helm, he’ll have great help with the addition of Chris Johnson. The RB is the only player to reach 1,000 rushing yards in each of the last six seasons, and Johnson is sure to turn the heat up when he returns to Nashville to take on his former team.

dallas eagles

Have a Football Feast on Turkey Day

This year’s Thanksgiving lineup is one for the ages:

  • Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: November 27, 12:30 PM, CBS
    Avg. Price: $260
    You’ll be watching a lot of Da Bears this year, Jay Cutler and co. are slated for the (maximum) five primetime slots (two Sundays, two Mondays, one Thursday) in addition to the Thanksgiving game at the Lions.
  • Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: November 27, 4:30 PM, FOX
    Avg. Price: $272
    These two rivals square off twice this season, and the first matchup is on Thanksgiving Day. The last time these franchises had a holiday contest, it resulted in the “Bounty Bowl” where the Eagles devoured Dallas, 27-0. Last year, Philly had the fortune of facing Dallas sans Tony Romo; see how they fare against NFC East foes this time around.
  • Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers: November 27, 8:30 PM, NBC
    Avg. Price: $617 (the most expensive game of the season)
    NFL fans sure have something to be grateful for as Roger Goodell has pitted the two NFC arch nemeses against each other for a Turkey Day nightcap. Seattle may have beat SF to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII, but this time the Pac Northwest kings will head down south to play. Taking place in primetime at Levi’s Stadium, the Hawks will swoop in looking to dump all over the Niners’ new digs. Round Two: Seattle and San Francisco will square off once more on December 14, this game averages a cheaper $529 per ticket. The gloves always come off for these games–don’t miss out on the slugfest.

2014 NFL Key Dates

April 23: NFL Schedule released
May 8-10: NFL Draft (New York)
April 21-22: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin off-season workout programs
May 2: Deadline for Unrestricted Free Agents to sign with new teams
Aug 2: Hall of Fame Ceremony
Aug 3: Hall of Fame Game (Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants)
Week 1 of NFL Preseason
Aug 28: Preseason Ends
Sept 4: NFL Regular Season Begins
Jan 3: Playoffs Begin
Jan 25: 2015 Pro Bowl (University of Phoenix Stadium)
Feb 1: Super Bowl XLIX (University of Phoenix Stadium)

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA Today, Tony Gutierrez, Gif: Buzzfeed Sports, Kevin C. Cox- Getty Images

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