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NFL releases 2014 league schedule

After a prolonged (emphasis on long) wait, the NFL's 2014 schedule was finally released on Wednesday night. Seriously, can you imagine the SEC waiting until four and a half months before kickoff before putting out its conference schedule? Regardless, the slate is out and there's a lot to digest.

The biggest change this season is the beefing up of Thursday night football. Previously, Thursday night games were given to NFL Network, and the match-ups reflected the quality of the league's least-viewed television partner. No more. With games now on broadcast networks, the NFL has boosted its Thursday night package to rival the types of games given to NBC for its Sunday night affairs.

A few of the highlights:

- Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (Sept. 11)
- New York Giants at Washington Redskins (Sept. 25)
- San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (Oct. 23)

NFL Network takes control of the Thursday night schedule after Oct. 23, and its slate is highlighted by New Orleans at Carolina on Oct. 30 and Dallas at Chicago on Dec. 4.

Of course, the first Thursday night game is the annual kickoff game on NBC, where the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks will begin the 2014 season for the entire league by hosting the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 4. 

After Green Bay, the Seahawks visit San Diego on Sept. 11 and then host Denver in a Super Bowl rematch on Sept. 18. Bang, bang and bang. Seattle visits Carolina on Oct. 26, visits Kansas City on Nov. 16, and then faces a three-week stretch where they visit San Francisco on Thanksgiving night, visit Philadelphia on the following Sunday and then host San Francisco a week later. 

By the way, Brady-Manning XXXXIVIXI (or something like that) is set for Nov. 2 in Foxboro. 

Notable Monday night games:

- Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts (Sept. 15)
- New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (Sept. 29)
- Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (Nov. 10)
- Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints (Nov. 24)
- Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 22)

ESPN will show the first NFL playoff game in the history of the network in January.

And finally, noteworthy Sunday night telecasts:

- Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (Sept. 7)
- San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos (Oct. 19)
- Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (Oct. 26)
- Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (Dec. 14)

The NFL has altered its flex policy, which means the league can now move premier match-ups from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night as early as Week 5. 

View the full schedule here.