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Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Updated: September 10, 3:10 PM ET
Tackle these NFL tilts for 2010

By Tony Guadagnoli
Special to ESPN SportsTravel

Patriots at Jets
The Pats vs. Jets is one of the league's more hotly contested rivalries, which has one new home, too.
• Photo gallery: must-see games for NFL road trips | NFL Stadium Guides

Now that your NFL fantasy league draft picks are behind you, it's time to get down to the very real matter of making arrangements to see some actual football.

Planning an NFL weekend is one of life's great pleasures, and the schedules of many people revolve around the league in the fall and winter.

We call out 10 games that are worth making a special trip.

Remember, these are not necessarily the best matchups, rather they are road trips that should be memorable for more than merely the action on the field. Most include other sporting events.

Our trips span two continents, three countries and go from the newest and most expensive stadium in the NFL, the new Meadowlands stadium, to the smallest market in the NFL, Green Bay and venerable Lambeau Field.

It's time to purchase airline tickets, make hotel reservations and get your bags packed for The Travel Ten of some of the best fun of the season:

1. Sept. 19: New England at New York Jets, 4:15 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

There's no love lost between these teams, and this is developing into one of the NFL's best rivalries. In his first trip to the new Meadowlands stadium, Tom Brady will have ample opportunity to prove his distaste for the Jets -- and vice versa -- in this key AFC East divisional opener.

Also making this a special trip is a four-game series between the Yankees and ... no, not the Red Sox, but ... the Rays. The Yankees host the Rays Sept. 20-23. (Buy Yankees tickets.) The teams should battle to the end of the season for the AL East title.

If the National League is more your style, the Mets also are home, hosting the Braves Sept. 17-19. (Buy Mets tickets.)

2. Oct. 3: Washington at Philadelphia, 4:15 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

Donovan McNabb makes his return to Philadelphia with the Eagles' NFC East rival Redskins, and we're looking forward to his reception at Lincoln Financial Field. Chances are the famous Philly boobirds will be out in full force for the quarterback Eagles fans love to hate -- despite his taking the Eagles to five NFC title games in 11 seasons.

If you can hang around Philadelphia a few extra days, the Phillies could be starting their postseason push to get back to the World Series as the NL divisional playoffs get under way. (Buy Phillies playoff tickets.)

3. Oct. 24: Minnesota at Green Bay, 8:20 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

That guy returns. Brett Favre has divided the road in this NFC North rivalry better than any construction crew ever could. This will be No. 4's second trip back to Lambeau Field after being traded away from the Green and Gold in 2008 and the contest easily could be for the division lead.

In a double treat of a Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry, the Timberwolves will play an exhibition game at the Bradley Center down the road in Milwaukee at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 22.
(Buy Bucks tickets.)

4. Oct. 31: Denver vs. San Francisco in London, 1 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

The NFL will send teams to Wembley Stadium for a fourth consecutive season. No, it's not John Elway versus Joe Montana, but Londoners are fascinated by these games and figure to be just as curious about Tim Tebow as Americans are. Chances are locals will be more than eager to show their NFL support (and maybe even take lucky visitors on a pub tour).

The Niners will lead the league in frequent flier miles this season, at just more than 35,000, according to the NFL, and get a whopping 10,740 round-trip miles for this game.

5. Nov. 7: Chicago vs. Buffalo in Toronto, 1 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

OK, OK, the Bears-Bills circa 1990 certainly would make for better football, but this gives fans a trip to Toronto, one of North America's most eclectic cities.

Plus there is a Nov. 6 NHL tuneup, with the Sabres playing at the Maple Leafs at 7 p.m.
(Buy Sabres-Maple Leafs tickets.)

The game against the Bills will be the first the Bears have played outside the United States in their 90-year history. The Bills are in a five-year, eight-game series of games in Toronto that continues through 2012.

6. Nov. 14: Tennessee at Miami, 1 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

The Titans might not have the draw of the Patriots, the Steelers or some of the Dolphins' other visitors, but sports tourists easily can justify this trip upon realizing they'll be on South Beach in November while their friends are scraping frost off windshields or even shoveling snow back home.

Another bonus here is the chance to catch two Heat games. (Buy Heat tickets.) The first is a Nov. 11 matchup with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh & Co. taking on the Celtics. The second is a Nov. 13 game as Bosh goes against his former Raptors teammates.

As a reminder of what mid-November weather is like up in Minnesota, one might consider watching the NHL's Panthers host the Wild Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. (Buy Panthers tickets.)

7. Nov. 21: Indianapolis at New England, 4:15 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

One the top rivalries in the NFL -- and probably the best nondivisional rivalry -- highlights a weekend sports smorgasbord in the Boston area.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning remain arguably the two best quarterbacks in the league, and they'll meet in Foxborough, Mass., for the first time since 2006.

Last year's game in Indy saw Pats coach Bill Belichick go for it on fourth-and-2 inside his own 30 with 2 minutes left. The Patriots failed to convert, and Manning soon delivered the Colts' go-ahead touchdown.

Start the weekend with the Celtics hosting Kevin Durant and the Thunder Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in what should be a standout matchup. (Buy Celtics tickets.)

The 127th edition of The Game, between Yale and Harvard, takes place at noon on Nov. 20 at the original horseshoe, Harvard Stadium. Yale leads the series 65-53-8.

Or if you prefer, on Nov. 20, see Boston College against Virginia in an ACC matchup.
(Buy Boston College tickets.)

Either way, it's back that evening to the TD Garden, where the NHL's Bruins host the Kings at 7 p.m. (Buy Bruins tickets.)

8. Nov. 25: New Orleans at Dallas, 4:15 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

While America sits in bloated excess from turkey and trimmings, those who venture to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex will see a possible preview of the NFC Championship Game. Indeed, there is a strong possibility one of these teams will return for the Super Bowl here at Cowboys Stadium in February.

The defending Super Bowl champion Saints will try to prove on national TV that 2009 was no fluke when they head into Jerry Jones' sparkling palace in Arlington, Texas.

Stick around for the weekend and catch the Mavericks against the Heat's aforementioned terrific threesome at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 27. (Buy Mavericks tickets.)

In between, the NHL's Stars host the Blues at 7:30 on Nov. 26. (Buy Stars tickets.)

9. Dec. 5: Oakland at San Diego, 4:05 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

Certainly the Raiders have seen better days and so has this AFC West rivalry, but this game can be wrapped around a long weekend in Southern California that might include a visit to the San Diego beaches and bountiful opportunities for golf.

The Chargers are getting plenty of attention as one of the teams to beat in the AFC and some expect them to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl.

You can begin your football weekend in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl on Dec. 4, when rivals USC and UCLA meet. (Buy USC-UCLA tickets.) This game will not have as much glitter considering USC is banned from postseason play, but still it should be an interesting buildup between coaches Lane Kiffin and Rick Neuheisel.

While kickoff time for the USC-UCLA game has not been set, there is a possibility you can catch that tilt, then head to Staples Center for the NHL game that evening at 7:30 between the Kings and the perennial powerhouse Red Wings. (Buy Kings tickets.)

Perhaps you can get an even earlier start to your trip by planning to see Kobe Bryant and the defending NBA champion Lakers host the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
(Buy Lakers tickets.)

If the wild life of L.A. is not your scene, San Diego offers some of the best traditional wildlife at the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park and Sea World.

Either way, you can remind (read: rub it in) friends or family that you are enjoying a walk in the sun, while they may be shivering.

10. Jan. 2: Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 1 p.m. ET | Buy tickets

Our NFL must-see journey started in New Orleans and that's a good place to end it, with this NFC South matchup in the regular-season finale.

Partying in New Orleans for New Year's Eve isn't the worst thing in the world. Head to Jackson Square to ring in 2011 and see the dropping of "Baby Bacchus," the city's answer to the newborn year and Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. The replica figure descends from its perch atop the Jax Brewery in the French Quarter, similar to a ball drop in other cities.

Gridiron revelers can keep the party going right on into the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4 at the Louisiana Superdome. (Buy Sugar Bowl tickets.)

A night earlier, on Jan. 3, check out the 76ers going against Chris Paul and the Hornets. (Buy Hornets tickets.)

Tony Guadagnoli is a freelance writer in western Washington.