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2012 NFL Schedule Released; Eli and Peyton Manning to Make 2012 Debuts in Primetime

2012 NFL Schedule
Ezra Shaw, Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

The 2012 NFL schedule was released by the league on Tuesday night. Each week of the 2012 NFL season is filled with divisional match-ups and conference rivalries, but these are the most interesting games. See the full 2012 NFL schedule for more detail.

Opening Night: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants will host the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Wednesday, Sept. 5. Some fans might not recall that these teams met in an elimination game in Week 17 of last season, when the Giants won 31-14 en route to the NFC East title. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo will have to outperform Eli Manning and avoid the Giants’ rush, if the Cowboys are to start 1-0 in 2012.

Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning will make his Denver debut at home against the Steelers on Sunday night in prime time. While the Pittsburgh defense, led by Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, looks to stop Manning, the Broncos’ defense presents a challenge for Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Week 2: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers

After Detroit coach Jim Schwartz and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh were involved in a heated exchange after last year’s meeting between the teams, all eyes will be on this game. The 49ers’ defense must stop the Lions’ highly potent passing attack led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Expect intensity throughout this Sunday night contest.

Week 3: New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

These two powerhouse teams dueled in the exciting AFC championship game, won by New England 23-20 last January. Ravens’ kicker Billy Cundiff will be forced to remember his miss of a chip-shot field goal that would have forced overtime, while New England will attempt to build another AFC juggernaut. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady will be challenged to have a big game against the vaunted Baltimore defense on Sunday Night Football.

Week 4: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay were the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl last year, but they stumbled in the playoffs. Drew Brees and New Orleans will still be without suspended head coach Sean Payton and interim coach Joe Vitt, who will return in Week 6. Can the Saints stay in contention until their brain trust returns?

Week 5: Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

It’s Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, but this time with a slight twist. Manning is now a Bronco who figures to guide Denver to the top of the AFC West. The Denver defense, led by Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, were as responsible for the 2011 Broncos’ playoff run as Tim Tebow. Dumervil and Miller will look to put more pressure on Brady than they did when the Patriots routed the Broncos in the playoffs.

Week 6: New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers

The combatants of January’s thrilling NFC title game revisit each other at the scene of the battle. More than any other team in the playoffs, San Francisco’s defense held Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense in check. Fortunately for New York, two 49ers’ special teams gaffes helped get the Giants to the Super Bowl. San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh will have his team motivated for this game.

Week 8: New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams in London

Bill Belichick guides New England across the Atlantic to face a Rams’ team that should have more young talent and a better record than 2011. By this point in the 2012 NFL schedule, St. Louis will be able to evaluate if they should have kept the rights to the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Patriots will know if a Super Bowl hangover is holding them back.

Week 9: Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins

If, as expected, Washington drafts Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III out of Baylor with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he could be starting by Week 9. The Panthers are led by their own versatile quarterback, Cam Newton. As the 2011 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Newton became a weapon and the focus of the Carolina offense. Griffin hopes to do the same in Washington for coach Mike Shanahan.

Week 12: New England Patriots at New York Jets on Thanksgiving Night

New York Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez will have to dodge opposing defenses, as well as the shadow of new teammate, and backup, Tim Tebow this season. With the rivalry between the teams on such a huge stage, expect Tebow to find a way to factor into the outcome. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady will be under pressure to deal with the aggressive Jets’ defense and the partisan crowd.

Week 12: Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer returns to Cincinnati to face his former team. Last year, Palmer threw 16 interceptions in just more than a half-season with the Raiders. The Bengals made the playoffs with rookie Andy Dalton as quarterback, and they have an extra first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft and a second-rounder in 2013 thanks to the trade of Palmer. Former Raiders’ coach Hue Jackson, who was fired by Oakland after the team missed the playoffs in Week 17, is now on the Cincinnati staff. Jackson should help the Bengals put together a monster game plan.

Week 12: San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

New Orleans hosts San Francisco in a rematch of teams that played what may have been the most exciting game of last season’s NFL playoffs. The Saints will be seeking a measure of revenge, while the 49ers will return a stalwart defense and add free agent wide receiver Mario Manningham to their offense.

Week 12: Green Bay Packers at New York Giants

Green Bay handled the Giants in the regular season last year, but the playoffs were a different story. After a big football weekend in Week 12, expect fans across the nation to be locked into the Sunday night match-up that could provide the front-runner for the NFC championship. Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning usually save their best for prime-time.

Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys

These proud franchises revisit a latent rivalry built through three Super Bowl matchups. Pittsburgh should once again be a playoff team on the strength of a bruising defense, but can the Ben Roethlisberger-led offense rise to that same level? Dallas will be under pressure to return to the Super Bowl for owner Jerry Jones.

Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants

As is often the case in Week 17, division titles and playoff spots will be on the line. That figures to be the case in this match-up between NFC East foes. Philadelphia is heading into 2012 to prove that its sub-par performance last year was a fluke. The Giants expect to be back in Super Bowl contention. The Eagles’ offensive weaponry is one of the few that can get New York’s defense on its heels.

[NFL.com]

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