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NFL Releases 2014 Regular-Season Schedule

The Seattle Seahawks will start their quest to defend their Super Bowl hosting the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s annual kickoff game on Sept. 4.The defending Super Bowl champion typically hosts the first game, played on a Thursday night and broadcast in prime time on NBC.

NFL releases 2014

The NFL had several intriguing options for an opening night opponent for the Seahawks, including games against NFC West rival San Francisco for an NFC championship game rematch, or a Super Bowl rematch against the Denver Broncos.

2014 NFL schedule: Week-by-week

2014 NFL schedule: Team-by-team

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But the league went with Green Bay, who will return to Seattle for the first time since the Fail Mary debacle of 2012, when the Seahawks stole a Monday Night Football win after the replacement referees incorrectly awarded Seattle a touchdown on a final Hail Mary pass.

The Seahawks have lost only once game at CenturyLink Field since – last December to the Arizona Cardinals.

“This game won’t be about the past. It will be about the 2014 Green Bay Packers,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.

Other marquee games in the NFL’s opening weekend include Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s second game against his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, who travel to Denver for a prime time game on NBC on Sept. 7; and a Monday Night Football doubleheader on Sept. 8 featuring the New York Giants at Detroit Lions, and the San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals.

San Francisco’s first regular-season game in its new home, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., comes in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football.

Wednesday’s schedule announcement helped satisfy the NFL cravings in the lull between free agency and the draft, still two weeks away. Though opponents and locations of games have been known for months, the schedule release is a tangible sign the season is approaching – giving teams and fans alike the ability to start making plans for the fall.

For the defending AFC champion Broncos, they knew the path to returning to the Super Bowl would be difficult. Now they know that it includes the maximum of five prime time games, and six road games over the final nine weeks of the season. The Super Bowl rematch against Seattle will come Week 3 in Seattle.

“We have to get off to a quick start,” executive vice president and general manager John Elway said. “We knew it was going to be a tough schedule playing the NFC West, and when we finish first in our division like we have the past three years, it is always going to be a tough schedule with a lot of good football teams on it. I think there are a lot of good things about it and we’ll do the best we can with it.”

Seven other teams, the Patriots, Steelers, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Saints and Giants, join the Broncos with five prime time games. The Seahawks, Niners, Colts, and Eagles each have four prime time games. Every team is guaranteed at least one of these nationally televised games, and seven teams will appear only once (Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland, Detroit, Minnesota and Tampa Bay.)

The kickoff times released on Wednesday aren’t necessarily final. The league announced earlier in the day that “flex scheduling” will begin in Week 5, allowing the networks to twice move more desirable games into prime time between Weeks 5-10.

Among the games that won’t change are the slate of Thursday Night Football games, the trio of games to be played in London’s Wembley Stadium and the three Thanksgiving games. The annual Thanksgiving games will feature the Bears at Lions, the Eagles at Cowboys and the Seahawks at 49ers.

That Thanksgiving nightcap is the first matchup of the year between Seattle and San Francisco as they renew the league’s nastiest rivalry. The series will conclude in Seattle on Dec. 14.

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