What a long, strange trip it’s been this NFL offseason. It seems like only yesterday the news was filled with talk of  a lockout and threats of a fall and winter without football. It’s now all in the past with nothing left to worry about but the fate of your favorite team.

Good and bad things happen in early stages of the NFL season. Here are the matchups for week one of the NFL season

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

Thursday, September 8th at 8:30 PM

The NFL season kicks off Thursday night at legendary Lambeau Field with a matchup of the Super Bowl champion Packers against the always dangerous New Orleans Saints. Is opening week too soon to call this a possible NFC championship showdown? Aaron Rodgers and company will attempt to avoid a Super Bowl hangover and everyone on the roster (along with the state of Wisconsin) is expecting a repeat. Both teams are loaded with offensive weapons, so look for a high scoring affair.

The following games are on Sunday, September 11th…

Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears – 1:00 PM

Jay Cutler is still taking heat regarding his playoff knee injury and has to win back the fans in Chicago. With Greg Olsen now in Carolina and Roy Williams already looking like a bust, it’s getting frigid in the Windy City and it’s only September. Matt Ryan has the keys to the offense for the Falcons and has a new weapon in rookie wide receiver Julio Jones. Atlanta is again a Super Bowl contender, but proved last season it’s not always good to be the number one seed.

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns – 1:00 PM

The up-and-coming Browns could be a playoff contender but they’re in a stacked AFC North. Colt McCoy will get a chance to prove he is the face of the franchise and Peyton Hillis hopes to avoid the Madden curse. Another long, agonizing season for the Bengals and their fans kicks off this Sunday with a completely different offense from last season — Carson Palmer is sitting out, while Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are gone. The defense also lost its best corner, Johnathan Joseph, to free agency.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs – 1:00 PM

Chiefs head coach Todd Haley might have sealed the team’s fate in the final game of the preseason. Letting starters play into the second quarter proved costly with injuries to quarterback Matt Cassel (cracked ribs) and tight end Tony Moeki, who’s lost for the season. The Bills will try to play above expectations with some young talent that should at least make them fun to watch.

Philadelphia Eagles at St. Louis Rams – 1:00 PM

“The Dream Team” from Philadelphia opens up with a trip to an upstart and dangerous Rams team. Sam Bradford looks to lead a young Rams team to the playoffs in a very weak NFC West. Michael Vick needs to stay healthy for 16 games or the Eagles dream season could turn into as nightmare.

Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1:00 PM

Tampa Bay, with quarterback Josh Freeman under center, was the surprise team of 2010 in a tough NFC South. The Lions are projected to be the surprise team this year. For that to happen, Matthew Stafford must stay on the field so they can get more out of a potentially dynamic offense. The Lions defense will be ferocious with one of the best front lines in the game.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars – 1:00 PM

Even with veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck at the helm and a happy Chris Johnson, the Titans will have a rough first season under new coach Mike Munchak. The Jaguars are once again looked at as a team with a lot of promise, but the never seem to measure up. David Garrard is out and Luke McCown is in at quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens – 1:00 PM

The black-and-blue division starts off with it’s nastiest rivalry: the Steelers and Ravens meet twice every season and always seem to have games decided by a last minute score. The Steelers have a smothering defense. Normally, the Ravens have the advantage in that category, and it’s still good, but will be tested early against the best Steelers passing attack in a long time.

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans – 1:00 PM

Peyton Manning is out of action, which should have been obvious the moment the Colts signed veteran free agent Kerry Collins out of retirement. Collins is a serviceable starter and a couple years removed from leading a Titans team to 14 wins. The Texans showed promise in the preseason, but it’s all about what happens in the regular season.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins – 4:15 PM

Big Blue travels to the nation’s capital to take on the Redskins for an emotional game on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Rex Grossman gets his first start since 2008 against a swarming New York pass rush.

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers – 4:15 PM

The Seahawks won the NFC West last year with an 7-9 record and managed a win in the playoffs. That will seem like decades ago with a new quarterback Tarvaris Jackson running the show. The 49ers are giving Alex Smith one more chance to live up to his top draft spot. Again.

Minnesota Vikings at San Diego Chargers- 4:15 PM

Another year and another veteran quarterback expected to take the Vikes to the next level. Donovan McNabb gets one last chance at a Super Bowl run against a team favored many believe can win it all in the Chargers. If only they didn’t get off to such abysmal starts.

Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals – 4:15 PM

Cam Newton is starting his pro career against Kevin Kolb, a quarterback trying to restart his on a new team. Newton will have some weapons to play with — Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams — but look for some growing pains in Carolina. Kolb takes over in the desert with a Cardinals bunch that is hobbled by injuries on both sides of the ball.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Jets

Sunday, September 11th at 8:20 PM

Another Jets season and another Super Bowl guarantee. Mark Sanchez, in his third season, will be the key to that guarantee. Tony Romo returns from an injury-plagued 2010 season to lead a potent Dallas offensive attack. The Ryan family butts heads in the first game of the season with Rob Ryan’s defense ready for everything his brother and Jets coach, Rex, will throw at him.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Monday, September 12th at 7:00 PM

The offensive line has questions, but Tom Brady has the same weapons he had last year, plus the addition of Chad Ochocinco. The Patriots will be tested early by a solid Dolphins defense.

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos

Monday, September 12th at 10:15 PM

Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback. For now. If the “boo birds” start early in the season the Tim Tebow era could begin earlier than expected. The Raiders have promise, and talent, but as always they are plagued by being the Raiders.

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