Appointment TV: The 10 Best NFL Games of 2012
But now that the NFL has just released its complete 2012 schedule, we know it’s only a matter of time before Pigskin Claus slides down the chimney and deliver 256 gift-wrapped games of life-affirming pro football.
A lot will change between now and September and then again, of course, once the footballs start flying in anger. But here are 10 games you should mark immediately on your 2012 football calendar.
“Sorry, baby. Cam Newton is facing RGIII that day. We’ll have to get married some other season.”
1. San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (Sept. 9, Week 1)
The NFL races out of the gate in glorious form. The 49ers were the NFC’s No. 2 seed in 2011. The Packers were the Senior Circuit’s No. 1 seed. The two heavyweights went a combined 28-4 – but missed a chance to face off as each team was upset by the Giants in the 2011 postseason.
We’ll get our chance to see what might have been in Week 1. The Packers and 49ers are two of the NFL’s most glamorous and successful franchises over the years and faced off in several notable postseason battles in the 1990s. Keep in mind, though, that Green Bay OWNS the 49ers. The Packers have won eight straight in this series dating back to 1999 and are 13-1 vs. San Francisco since Joe Montana last played for the 49ers.
2. New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens (September 23, Week 3)
Admit it: the Patriots were lucky to get to the Super Bowl last year, after the Ravens handed them a pair of gifts in the final moments of the AFC title game. Receiver Lee Evans dropped what would have been a game-winning TD pass from QB Joe Flacco and then kicker Billy Cundiff shanked his shot at a game-tying 32-yard field goal with just seconds to play.
The two get a shot to meet again in a battle of AFC heavyweights. It’s a battle that usually ends in frustration for the Ravens. They are 1-7 all time vs. the Patriots.
3. Houston at New York Jets (October 8, Week 5, Monday Night Football)
The Monday Night Football Media Circus rolls into New York complete with big-mouthed Rex Ryan, a Big Apple showdown against a top-to-bottom talanted Houston team and, in all likelihood, a Big Time QB Controversy for the Ages. Can Mark Sanchez and/or Tim Tebow stand up to the primetime pressure and deliver in a big showdown against the Texans? We'll know by about midnight ET.
4. Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (October 7, Week 5)
Denver’s last visit to New England ended in disaster: a 45-10 victory by Tom Brady and the Patriots in the divisional playoffs back in January. This time the Broncos will return to Foxboro with former Colts legend Peyton Manning at the helm of the offense. It gives sports fans another precious chance to revisit the greatest quarterback rivalry in NFL history: Brady vs. Manning.
Never in history have the two elite quarterbacks of their time produced so prolifically and/or met so consistently with so much on the line. The winner of the regular-season meetings between Brady’s Patriots and Manning’s Colts went on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in the 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 seasons. Manning, of course, did not play in the 2011 match-up. But, wow! What a history between the two.
This year, Brady and Manning will take into battle of the AFC’s four defending division champs. Might feel just like old times for two quarterbacks now deep into the back nine of their respective careers.
5. New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (October 14, Week 6)
Coach Jim Harbaugh’s 13-3 49ers of 2011 were minutes from matching the legacy of Bill Walsh’s legendary 13-3 49ers of 1981 by representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
You know what happened: back-up punt returner Kyle Williams fumbled away two punts – one in the fourth quarter to help give the Giants a 17-14 lead and another in overtime to hand the G-Men the game-winning field goal attempt. New York walked away with a 20-17 overtime victory and went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
The 49ers have an opportunity to gain some semblance of revenge in what looks like, at this point five months before the season, a meeting of NFC heavyweights.
6. New Orleans at Denver (October 28, Week 8)
Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are probably the two most popular quarterbacks in the history of New Orleans – Brees, for leading the Saints to their only Super Bowl title; Manning because he was a schoolboy hero in New Orleans and a Favorite Son of South.
Oh, the two QBs have a bit of a history: Brees and the Saints beat Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. This time the meeting will be a little surreal – way up on Mile High. Brees, by the way, has never won in Denver. He went 0-3 there went quarterbacking the Chargers and lost his only game in Denver while with the Saints.
7. Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (Nov. 4, Week 9)
Cam Newton won the 2010 Heisman Trophy and went on to a spectacular rookie season with the Panthers in 2011. Robert Griffin III won the 2011 Heisman Trophy and many fans expect him to go on to a spectacular rookie season – and expect him to do it with the Washington Redskins, who moved up in the draft to take the No. 2 pick behind the Indianapolis Colts.
If all goes according to the best hoped-for plans, Carolina-Washington could prove a harbinger of the future of quarterbacking in the NFL and the first meeting of the potential Next Great QB Rivalry.