Sunday Night Football Schedule 2012: Matchups and Predictions for Every Week

Gabe Zaldivar@gabezalPop Culture Lead WriterApril 18, 2012

Sunday Night Football Schedule 2012: Matchups and Predictions for Every Week

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    The NFL finally released the official 2012 season schedule, giving us everything we need to know about who will entertain us every Sunday night. 

    There is a reason the schedule's release was received with so much hype and hoopla. Simply, we can't wait to watch the NFL. 

    We are greedy little fans that would watch a few more months of football if it were granted to us. Instead, we savor what we are given, and that puts extra emphasis on a special night like Tuesday, when we can grab hold of the schedule and daydream. 

    Here is a rundown of every single Sunday night matchup released by the NFL. For a full list of the schedule, visit the official NFL page. 

    What do you consider the best week of the bunch? Sound off in the comments section as to which games are must-see and which can be largely ignored. 

    The last piece of the puzzle is in place, and now the debate begins. Who will hold sway throughout this exciting season?

    The obvious note is that these predictions are extremely early, but we can finally get the discussion started. Let the fun begin. 

Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    There will be only one player having his name bandied about prior to this game, and that's Peyton Manning. It's a new era in Denver, and the fate of a storied franchise rests on the shoulders of a legend. 

    Early Predictions: 

    Our initial gut feeling on this is the Broncos are going to go through some growing pains. I have every last bit of confidence that Manning can lead a new offense, but it will take some time. 

    The Steelers are a seasoned team that will prove deadly with their perennially tough defense. 

    Prediction: Steelers Win

Week 2: Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    Handshakes.

    Get ready for a ton of video on the infamous handshake shared—or not shared—by 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. 

    Discussion on the actual game may be sprinkled in. 

    Early Predictions: 

    The Lions lost the battle that led to a handshake fiasco, and I expect this one to be hard-fought affair. I give the 49ers, with another offseason of grooming, to get this one. 

    Prediction: 49ers Win

Week 3: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    Joe Flacco pulled an Eli Manning and answered that he was the best QB in the league when asked where he stands in the NFL.

    The man was just answering from the heart, but will be tested early.  

    Early Predictions: 

    The Ravens will be looking to get even after losing to the Patriots in the postseason, and I will give them the edge at home. 

    The Patriots need to prove they have indeed turned the corner defensively. 

    Prediction: Ravens Win

Week 4: NY Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    It's time for the defending champions to take a bow on Sunday night. By this time, we will know whether there is any Super Bowl hangover. 

    The Eagles better hope for a far different start in 2012 if they want to survive. 

    Early Predictions: 

    The Eagles broke out of an early funk, but there is no way that I can give them this game over a proven Super Bowl champ. 

    Prediction: Giants Win 

Week 5: San Diego Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    The New Orleans Saints are being thrown into the deep end. Many think they will sink well before they learn to swim in the wake of the bounty program scandal. 

    The NFL season is tough enough without the amount of turnover the coaching staff will have to deal with to start. 

    Early Predictions: 

    The Saints will have assistant head coach Joe Vitt as the interim head coach to start the season, but he will be out until the Denver Broncos game in Week 8, per ESPN

    The Chargers may be slow starters, but there is too much to deal with for the Saints here. 

    Prediction: Chargers Win 

Week 6: Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    It's a bit ridiculous to consider the Packers as having to bounce back from a remarkable regular season, but that is exactly what they will be doing in 2012. 

    The Texans will presumably be healthy entering this game, making themselves scary enough to take down even the stoutest of title contenders.

    Early Predictions: 

    If healthy, the Texans have more than enough to keep in tow with the Packers prolific offense. I am not convinced the Mario Williams departure will not hit this team hard, though.

    That will be the difference.  

    Prediction: Packers Win

Week 7: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    The Bengals finally made the postseason, and will be that much tougher in 2012. I am interested to see how Andy Dalton and company bounce back from a Texans beatdown in the playoffs. 

    Early Predictions: 

    Despite making big strides as an organization, the Bengals were 0-2 against the Steelers in 2011, and lost by a cumulative 59-24. 

    I don't expect that trend to continue, with the Bengals closing the gap next season, but I can't pick against Pittsburgh here. 

    Prediction: Steelers Win 

Week 8: New Orleans Saints vs. Denver Broncos

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    I wish I could take a time machine and get to this point in the season. We will know if the Saints were destroyed by offseason tumult, and whether the Broncos are true contenders under Peyton Manning. 

    Early Predictions: 

    Nothing changes in my estimation, obviously. 

    The Saints are going to be rattled, but the Broncos should be clicking on all cylinders offensively. That leaves the rest of the game in the hands of the Broncos defense. 

    They proved to be a dynamic bunch that is just getting started. I am interested to see if they take the next step and bring an even deadlier pass rush. 

    Prediction: Broncos Win

Week 9: Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    The Cowboys have a tough early schedule, facing the Ravens, Bears and New York Giants twice before this time. The Falcons will be better rested by this time. 

    Early Predictions: 

    Both teams were inconsistent last year, showing flashes of brilliance and falling flat at the wrong time. Both have the talent to compete for a deep postseason run, but they have to put it together. 

    I will walk tentatively out on the limb and say the Cowboys are ready to be serious this year. I am sure this prediction will haunt me later this year. 

    Prediction: Cowboys Win

Week 10: Houston Texans vs. Chicago Bears

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    The Bears and Matt Forte continue to be at an impasse over his contract, and there is no telling where this will lead to prior to the season. 

    The Bears may be a talented team on both sides of the ball, but Forte is the man that really gets them, going. He is vital to the season's success. 

    Early Predictions: 

    With a franchise tag hanging over his head, Forte should join the team eventually, making the Bears offense a prolific one, barring durability issues. 

    The Bears are always off the radar to start the season, and I will remedy that here. 

    Prediction: Bears Win 

Week 11: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    You can either hit the record button on the DVR or schedule Sunday chores. It all depends on how you see this battle of defense versus defense. 

    I, for one, will not be able to tear my eyes off this one. 

    Early Predictions: 

    Both teams come into the season with strong rosters, and may be even deeper with the right moves at the draft. 

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Joe Flacco is in for a big year, but this game is coin flip that I am willing to give to the home team. 

    Prediction: Steelers Win 

Week 12: Green Bay Packers vs. NY Giants

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    This will be a clash with huge playoff implications, we hope. Again, it's far too early to guarantee anything, but I will assume two of the best in the league meet in this one. 

    Early Predictions: 

    The Packers lost to the Giants in their last meeting in the NFC playoff game, 37-20. The Giants forced the Packers to look absolutely sloppy at home, and Eli Manning out played Aaron Rodgers

    You might call it fate, or a team of destiny getting hot, but the record stands. The Giants had the defense, and the Packers didn't. Nothing much has changed as of yet. 

    Prediction: Giants Win

Week 13: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    There will be no talk of dream teams or Super Bowls to start the Eagles' season, and that may be the best thing for them. 

    Philadelphia were far less dreamy than they would have liked, and couldn't even make the postseason. That has to change, considering their personnel. 

    Early Predictions: 

    Despite a woefully inconsistent season, the Eagles took two from the Cowboys, and they weren't even close, winning by a margin of 54-14 in the two games combined. 

    Prediction: Eagles Win

Week 14: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    Again, we get to a game that will have postseason implication, especially in what should be a crowded NFC North. 

    Early Predictions: 

    The Packers beat the Lions in both games last season, and did so in two different ways. In Week 12, the then-unbeaten Packers stifled the Lions offense for nearly the entire game. 

    Matt Flynn then stepped in and looked every bit like Aaron Rodgers in a shootout to end the season. Flynn may be gone, but Rodgers is still around. 

    Prediction: Packers Win

Week 15: San Francisco 49ers vs. New England Patriots

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    Super Bowl preview? Perhaps. Both teams have to get through a gauntlet of a season, but the talent is there and so is the veteran leadership. 

    Early Predictions: 

    I am looking at the defense for an extremely early edge in this one. The 49ers bring back most of their weapons on offense, and should be just as tough to beat. 

    Prediction: 49ers Win 

Week 16: San Diego Chargers vs. NY Jets

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    Intriguing Storyline: 

    We get to Tim Tebow to end the NBC broadcast of Sunday Night Football of the season. At least, we think we will get to Tebow. 

    Your guess is as good as mine as to whether Tebow will usurp Mark Sanchez as the starter at this point in the season, or just be a regular old backup quarterback. 

    A third option is that the Jets surprise us all and actually incorporate Tebow as some magical hybrid that works in some fashion. 

    Early Predictions: 

    The Chargers love to flat line or surge, and there is no telling when it will happen. The Jets are a mess in regards to chemistry right now. 

    If you want a prediction that is months away and myriad of plot twists from taking place, I will take the Jets at home. 

    New York did take their Week 7 matchup in 2011, 27-21. The Charges would go on to lose the next five games. So who knows what shape they are in at this time. 

    Prediction: Jets Win 

Full Sunday Night Schedule

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    One note: 

    Week 17: Concludes season with four games at 4:15 p.m ET

    Here is the full list of Sunday Night Games on NBC. 

    Sound of in the comments on the most exciting matchups. 

    Full Listing of Games

    For an extensive schedule, visit the Official NFL Page

    For Flex Scheduling Procedures, Visit Official Schedule 

    Matchup Date and Time (ET) TV Info
     Week 1: Steelers @ Broncos   Sunday, Sept. 9th - 8:20 p.m.   NBC
     Week 2: Lions @ 49ers  Sunday, Sept. 16th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 3: Patriots @ Ravens  Sunday, Sept. 23rd - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 4: NY Giants @ Eagles  Sunday, Sept. 30th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 5: Chargers @ Saints  Sunday, Oct. 7th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 6: Packers @ Texans  Sunday, Oct. 14th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 7: Steelers @ Bengals  Sunday, Oct. 21st - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 8: Saints @ Broncos  Sunday, Oct. 28th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 9: Cowboys @ Falcons  Sunday, Nov. 4th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 10: Texans @ Bears  Sunday, Nov. 11th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 11: Ravens @ Steelers  Sunday, Nov. 18th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 12: Packers @ NY Giants  Sunday, Nov. 25th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 13: Eagles @ Cowboys  Sunday, Dec. 2nd - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 14: Lions @ Packers  Sunday, Dec. 9th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 15: 49ers @ Patriots  Sunday, Dec. 16th - 8:20 p.m.  NBC
     Week 16: Chargers @ Jets  Sunday, Dec. 23rd - 8:20 p.m.  NBC