The NFL has released their schedule for the 2012 season. Although the matchups were previously announced (determined based upon 2011 schedules), fans can now circle the big games to watch for in the 2012 season.
Some games of note are highlighted below, with extra emphasis on the early season games. Let’s be honest, the beautiful thing about NFL parity is what games will truly matter in December is really anybody’s guess.
Week 1 – San Francisco at Green Bay, Sunday, September 9
Green Bay, who looked undefeated most of last season, hosts the surprising NFC runner up 49ers, who have retooled adding Mario Manningham and Randy Moss. This will be the debut of the new look 49ers passing game. And the Packers will be looking to avenge a surprising early exit from the playoffs. One of these teams will start the season 0-1.
Week 1 – Pittsburgh at Denver, Sunday Night, September 9
Peyton Manning makes his debut as a Bronco, in prime time against one of the best defenses in the league. The four-time NFL MVP doesn’t get a lot of time to adjust to his new teammates, in this rematch of the game that knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs last season.
Week 1 – Indianapolis at Chicago, Sunday, September 9
Is this also the beginning of the Andrew Luck era in Indy? If so, he gets a tough start against the Bears defense to start the season (although the Colts defense against Jay Cutler and the Bears offense might be the bigger mismatch). If Luck does earn the starting job in camp, the other early parts of the schedule are a little more forgiving – after the Bears, Indy plays the Vikings and Jaguars before an early week 4 bye. He could very well enter week 5 with a 2-1 record.
Week 1 – Washington at New Orleans, Sunday, September 9
Is this the beginning of the RGIII era in Washington? How will the Saints start the season without head coach Sean Payton and assistant coach (and interim coach starting in week 9) Joe Vitt? The Saints franchise has had the hardest off-season of any team (perhaps ever) and the Redskins will be looking to start the season with likely number 2 overall pick Robert Griffin III. Lots of story lines to watch.
Week 2 – Detroit at San Francisco, Sunday Night, September 16Broncos at Patriots, October 7
The rematch of the two of the biggest powerhouses in the NFC is also the rematch of Handshake Gate. If the 49ers win, can Jim Harbaugh suppress his exuberance, or can Jim Schwartz exact his revenge for last season.
Week 5 – Denver at New England, Sunday, October 7
The next chapter in the great Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry, now renewed with Peyton wearing orange when he comes to Foxboro. Always an epic battle, by week 5, we’ll know if Manning has the weapons around him to make a run, and the Patriots are always game.
Week 12 –New England at New York Jets, Thanksgiving Night, November 22
In addition to the traditional Detroit and Dallas games, who are hosting the Texans and Redskins respectively, for what promises to be a full slate of good games on Thanksgiving, we are treated to the 8:20 pm matchup of the Patriots and Jets. Always a heated contest, with no love lost between these division rivals, what could be a better Thanksgiving treat? Belichick versus Ryan, Brady versus Sanchez… or is it Brady versus Tebow by then?
Week 12 – San Francisco at New Orleans, Sunday, November 25
The rematch of one of the greatest showdowns in playoff history takes on added significant in light of the release of the Gregg Williams tape of his speech targeting 49ers players in that game. Do you think Harbaugh will play that tape a few times before the game to fire up his team?
Week 17 – Carolina at New Orleans, Sunday, November 30
In the last week of the season, we have Drew Brees facing off against Cam Newton. Newton has promised significant improvement over his stellar rookie debut. Since he threw for over 4,000 as a rookie, can he be gunning for 5,000 by week 17 this season?