Breaking down the NFL schedule
The 2011 NFL schedule came out this week. It was a bittersweet announcement. We have the excitement of meaningful football games on the horizon, but the very real possibility that those games are never played. And if the lockout continues into the season, we are truly in for some grim realities.
Saints at Packers -- The NFL season opens up on Thursday, Sept. 8, with a great matchup between the last two Super Bowl champions.
If the lockout continues: Aaron Rodgers, looking for an income and desirous of winning a real championship belt, embarks on a professional wrestling career that leaves him physically battered.
Steelers at Ravens -- The NFL's most physical rivalry gets going on the opening Sunday.
If the lockout continues: Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger set out on a nationwide, Billy Graham-style spiritual rival tour together.
Cowboys at Jets -- The opening Sunday night game of the season pits the NFL's two biggest headline-generating teams.
If the lockout continues: Already desperate for attention just one week into the football-less regular season, Jerry Jones and Rex Ryan are spotted dancing in clear heels at a Times Square nightclub.
Eagles at Falcons -- A game between two 2010 playoff teams has the added storyline of Michael Vick's return to Atlanta.
If the lockout continues: A depressed Andy Reid fills the time without football by eating. If and when the lockout ends, he is unable to fit through the doorway of his home to report to the Eagles' facility.
Green Bay at Chicago -- A rematch of the NFC Championship Game.
If the lockout continues: With too much time on their hands to play with their hair, Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk both appear in public looking like this.
Steelers at Colts -- Two of the NFL's premier teams play on Sunday night.
If the lockout continues: Because he has absolutely nothing else in his life other than football, Peyton Manning shows up to Lucas Oil Stadium in full uniform and runs through every play in the game plan all by himself. It is a depressing sight to see. Especially because his last still pass gets intercepted and is returned for a game-winning touchdown.
Jets at Ravens -- The Sunday night game gives us a physical matchup between Rex Ryan's old team and his current team.
If the lockout continues: Without the income to pay for his intense grooming regimen, poor Joe Flacco is reduced to freak shows.
Jets at Patriots -- The Patriots look to avenge their playoff defeat to their division rival.
If the lockout continues: Bill Belichick? He'll be dating your mom.
Bears at Lions -- The Lions make their return to Monday Night Football.
If the lockout continues: OK, maybe it's not every instance of there being no football is a bad thing.
Cowboys at Patriots -- The Super Bowl that many predicted at the beginning of last season happens in Week 6 of the 2011 season.
If the lockout continues: Tom Brady and Tony Romo? They'll be dating your girlfriend/wife.
Packers at Vikings -- The Vikings get to take a shot at the Packers without having to play Brett Favre.
If the lockout continues: Seeing an opportunity to fill the football void and get himself the attention he so adores, Favre launches the Wrangler Field Football League that features him, his friends and their dogs playing two-hand touch in a field with their pickup trucks parked on the sidelines. The WFFL's games are run by all four broadcast networks.
Colts at Saints -- Peyton Manning returns to New Orleans to take on the high-scoring Saints.
If the lockout continues: Peyton Manning shows up to the Superdome in full uniform intent on playing another game by himself, but is arrested for trying to break into the stadium. The incident shames his family in its hometown.
Patriots at Steelers -- The NFL's two best teams of the last decade meet at Heinz Field.
If the lockout continues: James Harrison launches into Roger Goodell's head and neck area as Goodell steps out of the NFL's Manhattan headquarters to grab lunch.
Cowboys at Eagles -- Two hated rivals play on Sunday night.
If the lockout continues: With nowhere to expend their rage on Sundays, Eagles fans begin booing kids at youth football games and getting in fights at church.
Chargers at Chiefs -- Monday Night Football pits the top teams in the AFC West.
If the lockout continues: The nation misses out on the opportunity to see Norv Turner coach in prime time.
Giants at Patriots -- Week 9 is highlighted by a Super Bowl XLI tilt between two of the NFL's big name franchises.
If the lockout continues: Free from football, Eli Manning continues to have the most enjoyable year of his life.
Saints at Falcons -- Two 2010 playoff teams from the NFC South meet in the Georgia Dome.
If the lockout continues: Matt Ryan and Arthur Blank sign up for the next season of "Dancing With the Stars" essentially killing a popular television franchise.
Buccaneers at Packers -- Week 11 gives us a game between two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL: Josh Freeman and Aaron Rodgers.
If the lockout continues: Riots begin in Green Bay that are 1,000 times more intense than any of the recent demonstrations in Madison, as local residents begin to realize that their hometown is quite boring without NFL football.
Packers at Lions -- The Lions make their annual appearance on Thanksgiving Day.
If the lockout continues: Again, not everything about the lockout is bad.
Browns at Bengals -- The Battle of Ohio!
If the lockout continues: Even if the CBA is resolved, maybe it's best that the NFL just doesn't play Week 12 this year.
Colts at Patriots -- A regular-season NFL staple: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.
If the lockout continues: Without their annual Brady-Manning game, the bodies of NFL media members litter the streets around their high-rise office buildings.
Bears at Broncos -- Jay Cutler returns to Denver to take on his old team.
If the lockout continues: America misses an amazing sports moment: Cutler goes down injured, but Tim Tebow heals his knee and the Bears quarterback returns to the game. (It is later debated whether Tebow actually healed him or if Cutler was just overdoing his initial injury.)
Jets at Eagles -- Rex Ryan gets a shot at stopping Michael Vick with his defense.
If the lockout continues: Mark Sanchez? He'll be dating your daughter.
Giants at Jets -- New York's (actually, New Jersey's) two football teams go head-to-head.
If the lockout continues: Olivia Manning comments that she has never seen her son Eli so happy. He wins Stockboy of the Month at his local supermarket.
Bears at Packers -- Another tough division game for the Super Bowl champs.
If the lockout continues: The Green Bay riots continue. Cheese supplies are running low. A terrified populace faces the possibility of having to eat healthy food.
Bears at Vikings -- Week 17 brings a key matchup in the NFC North.
If the lockout continues: The Wrangler Field Football League becomes the nation's new most popular sports league. Brett Favre considers a run for president.
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain-book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.