The NFL announced its regular season schedule this past Tuesday. The 2012 season kicks-off on Wednesday, September 5 with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys and it wraps-up on Sunday, December 30 with a full slate of 16 games. While there are 17 weeks of great matchups on the schedule the following is a brief look at a couple that jumped off the page.
While an old-fashioned NFC East rivalry between the Cowboys and the Giants is a great way to get things started, the key game on opening day weekend is a Sunday night showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos. Forget about the fact that the Broncos completely humiliated the Steelers in last season’s Wildcard round in a 29-23 overtime win as 13.5-point home underdogs, this game is all about the return of Peyton Manning. All eyes will be on the future ‘Hall of Famer’ to see if he can return to championship form with his new team.
Until someone knocks the Giants off of their throne, they remain the team to beat in the NFC East. In Week 4, they will get an early chance to prove it when they travel to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in another Sunday night primetime battle. While the Cowboys and even the Redskins will have something to say about which team eventually wins the division, the winner of this clash would have to be considered the front runner to claim this year’s crown.
The Sunday night schedule is jam-packed with crucial matchups and Week 6 is no exception. In what could very well be a preview of Super Bowl XLVII, the Green Bay Packers travel to Reliant Stadium to square-off against the Houston Texans. The Packers only posted one loss in the regular season last year but made a hasty exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Giants. The Texans were tied for the best record in the AFC before they lost quarterback Matt Schaub for the season in Week 10. They went on to win the South but were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the playoffs by Baltimore.
The battle for the AFC North title should once again come down to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, who will play the back-end of this season’s home-and-home series in Week 13 at M&T Bank Stadium. This game could very well act as a tie-breaker for the division crown considering that these two rivals face-off against one another in Week 11 at Heinz Field. The Ravens swept the series last season which vaulted them to the top of the division and into the No.2 seed for the playoffs by virtue of, you guessed it, a tie-breaker against the Steelers.
A few seasons ago the NFL decided to schedule intra-division games for the last few weeks of the season to try and add meaning to as many games as possible so teams would not be able to rest their starters for the playoffs. Unless you have a crystal ball, it is hard to know which of the final 16 regular season games will carry implications for the postseason, but since all of the contests are matchups between teams in the same division, there are bound to be a few that will qualify as ‘must see TV’.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.