No sport commands attention quite like the NFL. The season doesn’t start for more than four months and the draft is still two weeks away, but the league is in headlines today because it released its The 2014 NFL schedule Wednesday night.
Here’s what you need to know about the schedule and the upcoming season:
1. The Seahawks Will Host the Packers in the Season Opener
The defending champion Seahawks will host the NFC rival Green Bay Packers in the first game of the season, set for Thursday, September 4 on NBC.
The matchup pits two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks up against one another: Aaron Rodgers (pictured above) for the Pack and rising star Russell Wilson for Seattle.
2.Week 1 is Loaded With Enticing Matchups
There are no shortage of storylines in Week 1. Several pairs of rivals will square off, including the 49ers at the Cowboys and the Browns at the Steelers.
The highlight of Sunday’s slate will be Peyton Manning (pictured above) taking on his former team when the Broncos host the Colts on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
3. The Seahawks and Niners Are Playing on Thanksgiving Night
When the league added a third game on Thanksgiving, it provided an opportunity for more AFC teams to take part in Thanksgiving games, given that the Lions and Cowboys are always involved in each of the earlier games, making for an NFC-heavy slate.
This year, though, all six teams playing on Turkey Day are in the NFC.
All three games pit division rivals against one another. The Lions host the Bears at 12:30, the Cowboys host the Eagles at 4:30, and the 49ers host the Seahawks in an NFC Championship Game rematch at 8:30. That means Richard Sherman will be in the national spotlight against the Niners. Could be interesting.
4. Flex Scheduling Starts in Week 5
Flex scheduling, which allows TV executives to pick which games they want in primetime, starts much earlier this year. NBC will be able to pick which teams it wants on its Sunday Night Football telecast beginning in Week 5. In years past, flex scheduling didn’t start until Week 11.
That means the potential for better mid-season matcups for the Sunday Night Football broadcasting team (pictured above) of Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth and Michelle Tafoya.
5. The Seahawks and Broncos Are Co-Favorites to Win the Super Bowl
With the schedule out, there’s sure to be increased focus on predictions and betting lines. And the early odds paint a picture awfully similar to what played out last year.
Vegas Insider has the Seahawks and Broncos both favored to win their respective conferences and tied with 6/1 odds to win the SUper Bowl. The 49ers and Patriots, the runners up in their respective conferences, are also high on the list. Vegas Insider has San Francisco and New England each at 8/1. The Niners are at 7/2 to win the NFC title, and the Pats are 3/1 to win the AFC.
The Packers (8/1), Saints (12/1) and Eagles (12/1) are next on the list of NFC favorites. The Colts (11/1) and Bengals (13/1) have the third and fourth best odds to win the AFC, respectively.
Several odds makers have also posted over-unders. The Sporting News has a list right here from CG Technologies.
The Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks all have over-unders of 11 wins. The Packers and patriots are at 10, with no one else in double digits.