The schedule for the 2012 NFL regular season has been released, and that means we can all start looking forward to Monday Night Football.
MNF had a regrettable slate of games lined up in 2011, and they routinely failed to entertain. I highly doubt that pigskin fans are looking forward to seeing more Colts vs. Buccaneers and Chargers vs. Jaguars matchups after what they saw last year.
Well, good news. There are some so-so matchups on this year's Monday Night Football slate, but there are other matchups that look pretty good on paper.
Here's the 2012 MNF schedule, courtesy of ESPN.com.
Note: as always, all times are eastern, and all games will be shown on ESPN.
The Ravens won the AFC North in 2011, but the Bengals were a lot better than many people expected them to be. They will look to make an early statement right away in a hostile environment.
The Raiders pulled Monday night duties to open the season last year, and they will do the same in 2012. In a matchup of two teams that shook up their organizations in the offseason, this one should have plenty of fireworks.
This will be a tough road test for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. The Falcons may not have what it takes to win in the playoffs, but they are very tough to beat at home in the regular season.
The subplot in this one will be the matchup between Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn, who is likely to start in Seattle after backing up Rodgers in Green Bay. If he doesn't, we will get Rodgers vs. Tarvaris Jackson, which doesn't sound nearly as fun.
This matchup has the look of a fun old-school matchup. The Bears were pretty active improving their offense this offseason, but they will have their work cut out for them against a Dallas defense that features a very good front seven.
Yet another Manning showcase. In this game, he will go head-to-head with Philip Rivers, which could lead to some big numbers going up on the scoreboard.
These two teams played one of the more memorable Monday night games last season, which is a compliment. Don't be surprised if this one turns into a shootout.
This game will be a lot better than it looks on paper. The 49ers are the class of the NFC West, but don't overlook how well the Cardinals were playing at the end of the 2011 season.
Whatever you do, don't underestimate the Chiefs. They're going to be healthy in 2012, and they're going to be dangerous. As for the Steelers, my guess is that their inevitable demise is still another season or two away.
Week 11: Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers, Nov. 19 at 8:30 p.m.
I fear for Jay Cutler going up against San Francisco's defense. Then again, Cutler is going to have a lot more to work with in 2012 than he ever did in 2011, so this game could be a close one.
Cam Newton vs. Mike Vick. Need I say more?
It looks like a mismatch on paper. But remember, the Redskins beat the Giants twice last year, and they're going to have a new franchise quarterback in 2012. This game will loom large in the chase for the NFC East.
Week 14: Houston Texans at New England Patriots, Dec. 10 at 8:30 p.m.
Circle this one on your calendar. The Texans and Patriots are going to be two of the best teams in the AFC in 2012. This game will shift the balance of power in the AFC one way or the other.
Not too sure about this one. The Jets probably won't be anything special in 2012, and the Titans are a team that's hard to get excited about.
Week 16: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions, Dec. 22 at 8:30 p.m.