Ranking possible Pats openers

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
6:00
AM ET
Tuesday's announcement of the NFL's kickoff game -- Cowboys at Giants -- sparked a question closer to home: If you had to predict which game will open the Patriots' season, what would it be?

Here is one viewpoint:

1. Broncos -- Peyton Manning's Denver debut, against Tom Brady, would be a signature game on the NFL slate. If this is the choice, expect it to be in prime-time (Sunday or Monday night). This is a home game.

2. 49ers -- Randy Moss and the revived Niners visiting Gillette Stadium? Get your Moss masks ready. The last time the Patriots had a season-opener against an NFC team was 2000, Bill Belichick's first year as head coach. There were two AFC/NFC games on opening weekend last year (Vikings/Chargers and Jets/Cowboys).

3. Ravens -- Rematch of the AFC Championship Game. This would put the Patriots on the road for the second straight opener (last year, at Miami).

4. Texans -- Could be billed as the up-and-coming team trying to knock off the AFC's gold standard over the last decade. A home game for the Patriots.

5. Jets -- Can't go wrong with this one. The only drawback is that the game has so much sizzle regardless of when it's played, it's almost smarter to save it for another week if you're the NFL's schedule-maker.

6. Bills -- The NFL likes the idea of filling the early schedule with division games, and Mario Williams' first game in Buffalo figures to generate a buzz. Would probably be away because the '09 opener was at home against the Bills.

7. Seahawks -- Looking forward to a return trip to the Pacific Northwest, where the Patriots' last visited in 2008. A Bill Belichick/Pete Carroll storyline, coupled with Tom Brady vs. Matt Flynn, has some appeal.

8. Titans -- The last time the Patriots visited Tennessee was the 2006 finale, when Rodney Harrison was taken out by Bobby Wade. Would be a tough game against an opponent that seems to fly under the radar nationally.

9. Colts -- Rebuilding team, most likely with Andrew Luck at quarterback, comes to Gillette Stadium once again.

10. Cardinals -- The last time Arizona visited Gillette Stadium (2008), it was snowing and they wanted no part of it.

11. Jaguars -- The Patriots' last visit to Jacksonville was in the 2006 season. Site of the team's last Super Bowl victory, in the 2004 season.

12. Dolphins -- Don't think the NFL would have the same opener in back to back years.

EXTRA POINT: The Rams game, which counts as a road contest, is already locked in for London on Oct. 28.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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