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Wed, 23 Jun 2010 01:22 PM EDT

The National Football League generated their annual buzz with the release of the schedule. Each home teams fan base immediately started speculating what their team’s record might look like except for Minnesota (they have grandfatherly quarterback from the South who likes to take his time) and Oakland (who doesn’t know the Raiders will have losing record). Sports bettors also like to think about the future, especially the prime time matchups. We’ll start with key games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday nights, all prime wagering territories.

Thursday feels different

The NFL took John Madden’s advice from several years ago and has made opening weekend a big deal, just like baseball does. That includes a top shelf game to whet the football appetite and Minnesota at New Orleans certainly fits the bill. The home teams are 7-1 and 5-1-2 ATS since this was introduced.

The NFL started sneaking in Thursday games a few years ago and had a more complete slate in the second half starting last year. In order to keep their partners from FOX and CBS happy, for the most part the games lacked pizzazz with mostly mediocre teams playing.

Not this year, bettors will see Baltimore at Atlanta (Week 10), Cincinnati at the N.Y. Jets (Thanksgiving night) and Indianapolis at Tennessee (Week 14) to name a few quality matchups.

Sunday Night Adventures

Since NBC took over the Sunday night package, sports bettors have made this an instant turnaround scenario. This is mostly square action, with NFL bettors trying to cover losses or pressing wins seeking the bigger score. While neither strategy is recommended, no debating the quality of games this far out before the season begins.

Week 1 we have the traditional Dallas and Washington rivalry, almost always good theatre. A number of other excellent divisional matchups will take place like the Jets at Miami (Week 3), the Giants at Philadelphia (Week 11), Pittsburgh at Baltimore (Week 13) and the Eagles at Cowboys (Week 14). One other confrontation could be a ratings bonanza with Minnesota and certain quarterback, visiting his former place of employment Green Bay on October 25.  Scores and Odds

The Packers are also involved in other entertaining contests, hosting Jerry Jones club in Week 9 and making trip to New England for the first time in eight years on Dec. 19.

Week 2 will conjure up a great deal of intrigue in the “Manning Brothers Bowl” at Indianapolis.

Monday’s with Tirico, Chucky and Jaws

A good portion of last year’s Monday action was terrific, especially early in the year. John Gruden’s enthusiasm carried thru and he and Ron Jaworski talked football for three hours making the booth more true football fan friendly.

Their first assignment is Baltimore at the New York Jets, with Rex Ryan going up against his former team. Later that same night, San Diego makes another opening game appearance on MNF versus another division rival, Kansas City, where they are 3-8 ATS.

This season will feature 13 division rivalry contests, always a treat for the sports bettors with the most anticipated one being Philadelphia in rematch at Donovan McNabb’s new crib in Washington on Nov. 15.

There is only one non-conference hookup and hostility could be in the air if Brett Favre actually does return. Minnesota will visit the new Meadowlands and the New York Jets, which will down as an asterisk in his storied career and one Jets’ fans will not forget for many reasons.

Changes in the schedule

Roger Goodell tried to address the last part of the schedule to become more meaningful and all 16 games the final Sunday of the season will be divisional contests. While some question what Oakland at Kansas City and St. Louis at Seattle might mean, this writer applauds the effort in trying to make the end of the season not just several exhibitions that count in the standings. Scores Odds

In all, 28 division games will be played the last three weeks of the year (29.1 percent of the total).

The NFL has graciously stepped aside from the World Series for years on Sunday night’s in late October, but with falling ratings for the former national pastime, Goodell and the guys decided to make baseball’s life that much more difficult with Nov. 1 conflict of Pittsburgh at New Orleans.

A few scheduling observations………….

No team has a duller schedule than Buffalo. Besides no national TV games, all 16 Sunday contests have a 1:00 Eastern start time.

San Diego is notoriously slow starter, however anything less than 4-2 with at Kansas City, Jacksonville, at Seattle, Arizona, at Oakland and at St. Louis would qualify as not mentally prepared.

Cincinnati is seeking first back to back winning seasons in 28 years with fourth toughest schedule.

Kansas City will have Play Against sequences, with three pairs of two road games.

Cleveland won their last four contests a season ago and could start 2-0 going to Tampa Bay and hosting the Chiefs. The Browns close to the year is taxing. Three straight road games Weeks 13-15 and finishing at home with division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Denver has three consecutive road games in Week 13-15.

Houston has Indianapolis at home and three of next four games against the NFC East to begin 2010.

Washington was 4-12 in 2009; however the power of Mike Shanahan leads to five national tilts.

The Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints move to the role of hunted and first road test in at San Francisco on Monday night.

Dallas finally broke late season blues; however they could return having to face (@) the Colts, Philly, Redskins, (@) Cardinals and (@) Eagles in final five weeks.

Matt Leinart will receive a quick baptism as the Arizona starting quarterback again with three of first four games on the road.

The Cardinals and Detroit have three consecutive home games in Weeks 12-14.

The Falcons have a road game on Oct. 17 and don’t wear visiting uniforms again until Nov. 21 with three home contests and a bye.

Pittsburgh will play three home games and three road games without suspended Ben Roethlisberger and when he returns three consecutive national telecasts at the Saints, Cincy and home with New England.  Odds and Scores

The normally profitable West to East three time zone games have nine occurrences, with seven having a 1:00 Eastern start (10:00 Pacific for West Coast teams). This is usually the best value early in the season, before teams have traveled much and the Falcons have Arizona and San Fran in town the first four weeks of regular season.

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