Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Give the NFL credit, it has managed to turn a necessary, often pedantic exercise into an annual event which people actually care about.
The NFL Network's three-hour schedule release special Wednesday exclusively announced (if you ignore the 4,500 Twitter leaks leading up to the broadcast) the official 2014 league sked, highlighting the season's most-anticipated games, including those scheduled for Kickoff Weekend as well as Thanksgiving Day and the now-annual London matchups.
The season will open with the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, Sept. 4 in a rematch of the infamous "Fail Mary Game" at what's sure to be a raucous CenturyLink Field as the "12th Man" celebrates the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy.
Kickoff Weekend features 13 games on Sept. 7, with the first Sunday prime time matchup pitting Peyton Manning against his old team as he leads the reigning AFC-champion Denver Broncos opposite the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Thanksgiving games pit all division rivals against each other for the first time. The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions kick things off with an NFC North clash, the reigning NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles visit the Dallas Cowboys, and the Seahawks collide with the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of last year's NFC title game at new Levi's Stadium.
The participants in last season's AFC championship game -- the Broncos and Patriots -- square off in the latest Manning-Brady Bowl in Foxborough during Week 9.
The United Kingdom, meanwhile, will get three contests at the famed Wembley Stadium this season with Miami-Oakland on Sept. 28, Detroit-Atlanta on Oct. 26 and Dallas-Jacksonville on Nov. 9.
The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend set for Jan. 3-4 of next year, and culminate on Feb. 1 when Super Bowl XLIX will be contested in Glendale, Ariz., at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Perhaps the most newsworthy note, however, was that the NFL made a change in its flex scheduling, moving it from Week 11 all the way up to Week 5.
Personally, I've never really understood why people get so worked up over the release of a schedule even in the NFL, where a 16-game process makes just about every week meaningful.
Forget about the other major sports. Combing through Major League Baseball's 162-game schedule when it's released is akin to reading "War and Peace," while the NBA, whose 82-game schedule means you will face each team at least once at home and once on the road, means little expect for ticket buyers who like to plan ahead.
And think about what you were waiting for with bated breath yesterday. We already knew the opponents for each team, so the only big reveal by Rich Eisen and Co. was the actual dates the games would be played on.
At the end of the day, it's not who you play, it's who's available when you play them.
Eagles fans may be very excited today when thinking about booing DeSean Jackson when he is scheduled to return to Lincoln Financial Field with the hated Redskins on Sunday, Sept. 21, but what if D-Jax turns an ankle the week before?
All of a sudden, a projected marquee matchup turns into a run-of-the-mill NFC East affair.
That said, if you enjoy playing Mike Franceca's patented "Dat's a win, dat's a loss game," knock yourself out.
Just understand if you rewind to this time last year, teams like Atlanta and Houston looked poised to make serious postseason runs and served as "logical losses" for the fans of many teams who like to project.
So when you're rattling off those Ws this time around, it's probably a good idea to recognize there are always worst-to-first scenarios in today's NFL and, in turn, penthouse-to-outhouse narratives.
We are still two weeks away from the draft and really have no idea how teams will look by the opening of post-draft minicamps around the league, never mind training camp or Kickoff Weekend.