The top XLIII games of the NFL season   

Updated: April 16, 2008, 12:49 PM ET

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The NFL schedule was released on Tuesday. As you may know, this is the most important day on the sporting calendar outside of the day that the first NFL mock drafts come out.

Here are the top XLIII games on the road to Super Bowl XLIII.

XLIII. Cardinals at 49ers -- Sunday, Sept. 7
Matt Leinart. In San Francisco. Who knows who will end up in his hot tub the night before the game.

XLII. Vikings at Packers -- Monday, Sept. 8
Week 1. And no Brett Favre. So this is what it sounds like when doves cry.

XLI. Jets at Dolphins -- Sunday, Sept. 7
I'm definitely watching Tony Sparano's first game as Dolphins head coach. Mainly to see if the marionette strings connecting him to Bill Parcells are visible on television.

XL. Ravens at Steelers -- Monday, Dec. 29
The Pittsburgh faithful will be plenty loud for this "Monday Night Football" matchup. Especially with a liquored-up mascot leading the cheers.

XXXIX. Dolphins at Bills -- Sunday, Dec. 7
Ricky Williams returns to Canada. Might want to check all of his body orifices closely, customs officials.

XXXVIII. Chiefs at Patriots -- Sunday, Sept. 7
Clearly, Roger Goodell wanted to give the Patriots a Week 1 opponent that it's not necessary to cheat to beat.

XXXVII. Patriots at Bills -- Sunday, Dec. 28
Late December in Buffalo? Brrrr. Tom Brady might want to pack an extra-heavy ascot for that postgame press conference.

XXXVI. Falcons at Raiders -- Sunday, Nov. 2
Is this a Super Bowl preview? Anything is possible. (You'll recall that a young man by the name of Elisha Manning won the Super Bowl last season.)

XXXV. Saints vs. Chargers -- Sunday, Oct. 26
This game is being played in London. And, Brits, despite what you may think you see with your eyes, Reggie Bush is a huge football superstar. You just don't understand the game.

XXXIV. Chargers at Buccaneers -- Sunday, Dec. 21
Think the Chargers' defense will control this game? Aha! Not so fast! What if Jon Gruden plays all 11 of his quarterbacks at once?

XXXIII. Seahawks at Cardinals -- Sunday, Dec. 28
This is coach Mike Holmgren's last game as head coach of the Seahawks. He will then start his new career as Wilford Brimley's younger, sexier replacement on those dia-beet-us commercials.

XXXII. Bengals at Ravens -- Sunday, Sept. 7
With Baltimore getting to open up with the Bengals at home, that post-Brian Billick offense should look outstanding. At least for a week.

XXXI. Cowboys at Packers -- Sunday, Sept. 21
Week 3. And the Packers play on NBC's "Sunday Night Football." So this is what it sounds like when John Madden cries.

XXX. Falcons at Chargers -- Sunday, Nov. 30
Michael Turner plays for the Falcons now, but it's the Falcons. So he should start for your fantasy team only if LaDainian Tomlinson gets hurt.

XXIX. Cowboys at Browns -- Sunday, Sept. 7
It's good Tony Romo has a very public relationship with a woman, or Terrell Owens and Brady Quinn might team up before the game to hurl insults at him.

XXVIII. Bears at Colts -- Sunday, Sept. 7
This is the first time ever that two black coaches will go head-to-head two years after meeting in the Super Bowl as the first two black coaches to meet in a Super Bowl. Gather your kids around the television to watch this bit of history.

XXVII. Rams at Patriots -- Sunday, Oct. 26
It's not worth the risk trying to spy on the Rams' red zone offense, Coach Belichick. It's now basically: "Give the ball to Steven Jackson and try not to get in his way."

XXVI. Redskins at Bengals -- Sunday, Dec. 14
Expect a desperate Chad Johnson to come onto the field before this game wearing a replica Redskins uniform he bought at the mall.

XXV. Panthers at Giants -- Sunday, Dec. 21
The Giants might have their playoff position already wrapped up at this point, so maybe David Carr will get to unleash the wrath of the white gloves on his former teammates.

XXIV. Lions at 49ers -- Sunday, Sept. 21
You're in for a whupping, Lions. Mike Martz didn't call any good plays during his two years in Detroit because he was saving them all for this revenge game.

XXIII. Saints at Lions -- Sunday, Dec. 21
Detroit has a suspect defense. Is this the game Reggie Bush breaks off a 6-yard run?

XXII. Bears at Vikings -- Sunday, Nov. 30
This is currently scheduled as the Sunday night game, but it could be changed due to flex scheduling. However, since these teams are quarterbacked by Rex Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson, respectively, I'm sure the Bears and Vikings will be awesome in 2008 and this game will remain in prime time.

XXI. Patriots at Jets -- Sunday, Sept. 14
You probably watch football for the intense competition, the strategy, the unchecked violence. How adorably prehistoric. The modern, evolved fan watches football to divine the subtle messages conveyed in postgame handshakes between head coaches.

XX. Steelers at Eagles -- Sunday, Sept. 21
Half of Pennsylvania is going to be especially bitter after this game is over.

XIX. Packers at Bears -- Monday, Dec. 22
This is Green Bay's third appearance of the year on "Monday Night Football." I think someone at ESPN has the scoop that Brett Favre is returning. (Not that that's much of a scoop.)

XVIII. Steelers at Redskins -- Monday, Nov. 3
It's said that if the Redskins lose their last home game before a presidential election, the incumbent party loses the White House. If they win, the incumbent party wins. And for a tie, Ralph Nader becomes king for life.

XVII. Cowboys at Giants -- Sunday, Nov. 2
If you're excited about this playoff rematch, I've got some good news for you: Their postseason game from last January is scheduled to be aired another 7,438 times on the NFL Network between now and the end of August.

XVI. Seahawks at Cowboys -- Thursday, Nov. 27
It's Thanksgiving, this is the second game of the day, your family will have imbibed more than a few adult beverages by now. So expect the halftime show to be your parents announcing their divorce or your cousin telling everyone he's gay.

XV. Packers at Seahawks -- Sunday, Oct. 12
This is the game that Brett Favre returns. (Turns out I'm the ESPN person with the scoop. Ha-ha! And you thought my skill set was limited and contained no actual skills.)

XIV. Giants at Eagles -- Sunday, Nov. 9
On your toes, Eagles defensive backs. Asante Samuel could "tip" an Eli Manning pass to you at any moment.

XIII. Cowboys at Steelers -- Sunday, Dec. 7
This is a classic NFL rivalry, like 49ers-Giants or Bengals-law enforcement.

XII. Patriots at Chargers -- Sunday, Oct. 12
If LaDainian Tomlinson sits out this game with a legitimate injury that, if he played on it, could shorten his career, and while he would be less effective than his backup ... he is absolutely making the wise decision. There, I said it. Take that, Tomlinson.

XI. Colts at Jaguars -- Thursday, Dec. 18
OK, OK, OK. The Jaguars were only kidding the past five years. THIS is the game they really prove they are the best team in the AFC South.

X. Redskins at Giants -- Thursday, Sept. 4
This season debut game on NBC featuring the Super Bowl champion taking on a playoff-caliber division rival will be entertaining. But not nearly as entertaining as watching Tiki Barber throw up on himself when the Giants unveil their Super Bowl banner.

IX. Steelers at Patriots -- Sunday, Nov. 30
You've been warned, Patriots: Anthony Smith has had this game circled on his calendar since ... since ... well, since yesterday around 2 p.m. ET. And he guarantees that if Anthony Smith does not play, the Steelers have a chance to win.

VIII. Chargers at Steelers -- Sunday, Nov. 16
Pittsburgh's offensive line could struggle with San Diego's pass rush. But then they would also struggle with San Diego State's pass rush.

VII. Cowboys at Eagles -- Sunday, Dec. 28
This is Wade Phillips' last regular-season chance to pretend he is the head coach of the Cowboys.

VI. Colts at Steelers -- Sunday, Nov. 9
The Colts' offense is fantastic on turf in a dome. But how about outdoors on a field made of shale, mud and old decaying rags?

V. Patriots at Cowboys -- Friday, Aug. 22
This is a preseason game, but it's the matchup that so many wanted in the Super Bowl last year. Not me. I'd like to see Gisele Bundchen and Jessica Simpson get together in front of cameras and bright lights, but not their boyfriends.

IV. Patriots at Colts -- Sunday, Nov. 2
The Giants can gloat all they want. Everyone knows Super Bowl XLI.5 was the only Super Bowl that mattered last year.

III. Patriots at Colts -- Sunday, Nov. 2
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Which legendary quarterback will out-choke the other?

II. Patriots at Colts -- Sunday, Nov. 2
I've installed an 8-foot by 3-foot countdown clock in my living room waiting for this most important game of games.

I. Patriots at Colts -- Sunday, Nov. 2
The winner of this regular-season classic has gone on to win every Super Bowl since 1894. True fact.

DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site He is also a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book -- "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck" -- is on sale now.



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