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While they might not rival Brett Favre's 2009 return to Lambeau Field or Donovan McNabb's visit to Philadelphia last season, there are a few very intriguing homecoming games this season. There were high-profile players who changed teams during the offseason, and some of them will have a chance to face their former squad right away.
Here are our picks for the must-see games involving players who are facing their previous teams, listed in order of when the game is played.
49ers at Eagles, Week Four — While a kicker returning to face his former team will never steal the headlines, David Akers' return to Philly deserves mention. Akers spent 12 seasons with the Eagles, kicking 294 field goals in the regular season and converting 31-of-38 attempts in 19 playoff games. Akers, a five-time Pro Bowler, will be wearing a Niners uniform the next time he kicks at The Linc, and Eagles fans will be kicking themselves if they fall to San Francisco on a game-winning field goal by Akers.
Panthers at Bears, Week Four — While he wasn't a huge star, the trade of TE Greg Olsen from the Bears to the Panthers was one of the strangest transactions of the offseason. Olsen was a former first-round pick of Chicago and a close friend to QB Jay Cutler. The Bears, however, didn't see a place for the tight end in their lineup, and the team opted to trade him to Carolina for a third-round draft choice. Olsen — along with former Bears defensive coordinator and current Panthers head coach Ron Rivera — will have some extra motivation for this Oct. 2 game at Soldier Field.
Cardinals at Eagles, Week 10 — One of the worst-kept secrets of the four-month lockout was that the Eagles were looking to trade QB Kevin Kolb, and that the Cardinals were the likely landing spot for him. Sure enough, soon after a CBA was agreed upon, Kolb was sent to the desert in exchange for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. In Week 10, Kolb returns to the city that showed him little brotherly love after he was injured and replaced by Michael Vick last season.
Bills at Jets, Week 12 — Brad Smith's return to the New Meadowlands Stadium to face the Jets is noteworthy because of the situation surrounding his exit from the Gang Green. Smith wanted to stay in New York, but he was not willing to wait as the Jets pursued Nnamdi Asomugha, whom they ultimately did not land. Now, playing in the same division as the Jets, Smith can remind Rex Ryan and company twice a year what they are missing out on.
Patriots at Redskins, Week 14 — Albert Haynesworth was a bust, a distraction and a waste of a lot of money during his time in Washington. Redskins fans thought they were getting a dominating force, an All-Pro D-lineman. Instead, Haynesworth's time in Washington was marked by conditioning tests, off-the-field issues and his refusal to be a part of the 3-4 defense. If anyone can get the best out of Haynesworth, it's Bill Belichick, and Redskins fans will be sick to their stomachs if Haynesworth dominates for New England when it travels to FedEx Field, giving Washington a glimpse of what Haynesworth was capable of if the situation was right.
Vikings at Redskins, Week 16 — The holiday season is all about seeing people closest to you and remembering all the fun times of the past year. For some reason, it doesn't seem like that's going to happen prior to this Christmas Eve matchup between Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan. The two didn't exactly see eye-to-eye on a lot of things during the quarterback's one season in D.C. with the Redskins. Now with the Vikings, McNabb will try to play Scrooge to his former team.
Giants at Jets, Week 16 — While this is technically a Jets home game, they share a stadium with the G-Men, so there will be plenty of blue and red watching Plaxico Burress in a Jets uniform. Giants fans will be watching their Super Bowl hero play for their rival. In 2008, the Giants had an 11-1 record before Burress got suspended. The Giants lost three of their final four regular-season games and fell to the Eagles 23-11 in the playoffs. Think there are any hard feelings there? Not to mention that the Giants reportedly were in the running to sign Burress, considering they were the first team he visited after he was reinstated. It will be tough to stomach if Burress dominates the Giants in a Jets uniform.
Associate editor Kevin Fishbain contributed to this article.