Out of sympathy, the first NFL column of the new season will be dedicated to the letter "L," or, to be more precise, the Roman numeral "L" - 50. In a typical season, you would have learned that numerical lesson during the NFL playoffs. It would have been hammered into your head over and over and over again that Super Bowl L was going to be the greatest extravaganza in the history of these great extravaganzas.

Not this year, however. Despite Sesame Street protests from Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, the letter - or is it number? - "L" is being left out of this Super Bowl. The NFL wants to make sure that you absolutely, positively know that this big game is the 50th staged by the most grandiose league in the world.

That's why the L-yard line is painted in gold this season.

"Lousy," Big Bird chirped from his giant nest after hearing the news.

"What the L is going on out here?" wondered Oscar the Grouch, a distant relative of the late Vince Lombardi.

It's no surprise that the guys in the Eagles locker room did not care nearly as much about this executive NFL decision as our feathery and furry friends from Sesame Street.

"I don't really like the Roman numerals," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "I feel like football is kind of like America's game, so why are we doing Roman numerals? I guess because we are gladiators. I don't really care either way. As long as they call it the Super Bowl."

They will still call it the Super Bowl. The road to Santa Clara I, the first big game played in the 49ers' new Levi's Stadium, started Thursday night with New England's win over Pittsburgh and will continue with the rest of the NFL teams playing games Sunday and Monday.

So what would make for the most interesting Super Bowl 50 matchups on the first Sunday in February?

Here are the top five:

Eagles vs. Kansas City. No, this would not be the most interesting Super Bowl nationally, but from a Philadelphia perspective it will always top the list as long as Andy Reid is the coach of the Chiefs. Imagine the two-week wait for a game between the Eagles and their former coach to see which one is going to end the long pursuit of a title?

New England vs. Seattle. A rematch of last year's game would make for one special week leading up to the Super Bowl. How many times would Pete Carroll have to answer the question about his goal-line decision to throw the football? How awkward would it be for deflated commissioner Roger Goodell to have to deal with the Patriots in public? How can Marshawn Lynch mock the league's media rule a third straight year?

Indianapolis vs. Green Bay. The Colts' Andrew Luck is the best of the league's young quarterbacks, and the Packers' Aaron Rodgers has surpassed Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees as the best in the business. These two teams would likely stage a great shootout.

Dallas vs. Pittsburgh. It would be fitting if the two teams that have had the most success in the Super Bowl era met in the golden anniversary event. Their three meetings are the most between opponents, and their eight appearances each are tied for the most (with the Patriots). The Steelers have won a record six and Dallas is tied for second with San Francisco at five.

Cleveland vs. Detroit. Only four franchises have never been to the Super Bowl and these are the two that have been around the longest. The other two are Houston and Jacksonville. Somehow, however, you get the feeling the Browns and Lions will never make it to the big game.

Can't wait for the "L" to arrive.

The other Manning

There's a lot of focus on how much Peyton Manning has left in the tank as he enters his 19th season and fourth with Denver, but it appears as if bad comedian and younger brother Eli has plenty of football left in him.

At 34, he is the seventh oldest quarterback in the league, but his greatest strength has been his durability. Since becoming the team's No. 1 quarterback on Nov. 21, 2004, he has started every game for the Giants, a streak of 167 in a row.

The Giants obviously believe the streak is going to continue for a while, which is why they gave him a four-year extension with a guaranteed $65 million last week. Just as important, they gave him a first-round draft pick - tackle Ereck Flowers - to protect him.

Eli is coming off arguably the best season of his career and has arguably the best young receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., so he should be around long after Peyton is finished.

The unlikely winner

Raise your hand if you had Tyrod Taylor as the winner of the Buffalo quarterback competition when training camp opened. It was a gutsy decision by new Bills coach Rex Ryan to go with Taylor, and it will be fascinating to see how the dual-threat quarterback from Virginia Tech performs as a starter.

He clearly won the competition with Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel, even though his career numbers in four seasons with Buffalo consisted of 35 passes that resulted in two interceptions and zero touchdowns. During the preseason, however, he completed 24 of 31 passes and ran 11 times for 108 yards. He should be a lot of fun to watch.

Thumbs up

DeMarco Murray's response to LeSean McCoy's adolescent rant about who belongs in the conversation about being the best running back in the NFL was as good as it gets. McCoy is obviously suffering from an acute case of jilted-lover syndrome and would be wise to heed Murray's advice to "move on."

Thumbs down

How is it possible that the Patriots could be part of a headset controversy on opening night in Gillette Stadium one week after they finished dealing with Deflategate? After a while, you start to think the NFL has a better script than the WWE.