An NFL Opening Night Primer

Some sports fans believe that nothing is sweeter than the day in late March/early April when baseball has it's Opening day. Unfortunately, they're wrong. 

Baseball had its day. Now football is king, and there is no greater feeling than Opening Night in the NFL which is upcoming this Thursday.

The NFL season starting on a Thursday is actually a fairly new idea. The first official NFL kickoff game was introduced in 2002. It featured the San Francisco 49ers playing at the New York Giants and it was supposed to be a boost to the New York area, given that, as a country, we were still in the first year of grieving following 9/11.

2004 was the first year to feature the defending Super Bowl champions in the season's first game. In the time since 2004, defending champions are 9-2 in NFL kickoff games.

YearDefending ChampScoreOpponentScore
2014Seattle Seahawks36Green Bay Packers16
2013Baltimore Ravens27Denver Broncos49
2012New York Giants17Dallas Cowboys24
2011Green Bay Packers42New Orleans Saints34
2010New Orleans Saints14Minnesota Vikings9
2009Pittsburgh Steelers13Tennessee Titans10
2008New York Giants16Washington Redskins7
2007Indianapolis Colts41New Orleans Saints10
2006Pittsburgh Steelers28Miami Dolphins17
2005New England Patriots30Oakland Raiders20
2004New England Patriots27Indianapolis Colts24

So what does that mean for tomorrow's kickoff game between the defending champion New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers? If you're a betting man, it means that you should take the Pats at home this week.

Given the success of defending champs, the energy that will inevitably be in the stadium and the massive chip on Tom Brady's shoulder, it's probably not a bad bet.

The game should be a high-scoring affair. Both the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are impressive offensive teams, but both will be without their number-one option at running back which should open up the offense even more.

While Brandon Bolden and DeAngelo Williams are okay options, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are perennial Pro Bowlers who will determine their teams' fates on Thursday.

Neither team lacks in the defensive department, but neither sport an embarrassment of riches either. The defenses should put up a fight, but it will be tough to stay strong for the full game.

Whether the game is high scoring or not, it really won't matter for most of us fans. The real deal is no more 24/7 deflategate coverage, no more OTAs, and no more NFL filler.

Nothing can really compare to the joy created by the kickoff of the NFL season. So grab some popcorn and enjoy the season; football is back!

Orlando Jorge Ramirez - USA TODAY Sports

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