Now that the 2012 NFL schedule has been released, it's time to start picking apart the matchups we can't wait to see this coming season.
Here's a look at the Thursday night schedule, complete with the Thanksgiving games.
Week 2 9/13: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 5 10/4: Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams, 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Week 16 12/22: Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
What better way to start off the Thursday schedule than with the historic rivalry of Bears vs. Packers?
Other notable matchups include Seahawks vs. 49ers, Chiefs vs. Chargers, Texans vs. Lions, Redskins vs. Cowboys, Patriots vs. Jets, Saints vs. Falcons, Broncos vs. Raiders, Bengals vs. Eagles and Falcons vs. Lions.
The Thanksgiving games in particular should be fantastic. Remember, the Redskins defense improved in 2011, and they will likely draft Baylor star quarterback Robert Griffin III. Then, you have two rising teams in the Texans and Lions and then finish off with another great rivalry in Patriots vs. Jets.
The schedule closes off with some exciting games, complete with the high-octane matchup of Saints vs. Falcons and Peyton Manning's Broncos going to the Black Hole.
There are some duds, however. The Ravens should dismantle the Browns, and few care about Cardinals vs. Rams, Buccaneers vs. Vikings and Colts vs. Jaguars.
Most Pivotal Matchups
Bears vs. Packers: The Bears stumbled to an 8-8 record in 2011, but don't forget, they made it to the NFC Championship Game the season before. This is always a fun rivalry to watch.
Redskins vs. Cowboys: The NFC East was wide open last season, and given the Giants' fearsome schedule in 2012, it should be this season, as well. The Redskins' defense improved last season and who knows what Griffin could do for them.
Patriots vs. Jets: Even if you could care less about the Patriots and Jets, you always have to watch this matchup. It's one of the great rivalries in football today, and it's always loud. Rex Ryan running his mouth + Bill Belichick looking ornery in a hoodie = entertaining. And that's not even talking about the products on the field.
Saints vs. Falcons: If you love offense, tune into this NFC South battle. The Saints and Falcons have been the top two teams in the division for the past three years. After a close 26-23 Saints victory in Week 10 last season, the Saints erupted for 45 points in a big game in Week 16.
Broncos vs. Raiders: The Broncos and Raiders both finished 8-8 last season, but now, there's an added dimension with Peyton Manning being in Denver. Just imagining Manning going into the Black Hole makes me smile.
Falcons vs. Lions: The Falcons beat the Lions, 23-16, in Week 7 last season. This should be another close matchup, as both teams enter Week 16 potentially needing a win to clinch a playoff berth.
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