2012 NFL Schedule: Which Games to Watch Every Week

Alan Rubenstein@@uarubyAnalyst IIIApril 18, 2012

2012 NFL Schedule: Which Games to Watch Every Week

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    The NFL has become appointment TV every Sunday. Fans don't have to sit on the couch anymore to watch a game. Laptops, tablets and cell phones make it possible for us to get our NFL fix wherever we are.

    The 2012 season offers at least one great game every week. From inter-conference matchups to key divisional games, the 2012 season should be fun to watch. 

Week 1: San Francisco at Green Bay, Sunday, Sept. 9, FOX

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    When the NFC playoffs began in 2011, many pointed to a potential NFC Championship showdown between Green Bay and San Francisco. The Packers' second-ranked offense would match up with the NFC’s top-ranked defense.

    That matchup never materialized as Eli Manning led the Giants to their second postseason victory in Green Bay during his tenure. 

    The Packers have won 13 of the last 14 meetings with the 49ers, including playoffs. San Francisco's only win since 1990 came on the memorable Young-to-Owens touchdown pass with three seconds remaining in the wild-card playoff game at the end of the 1998 season. 

    The 49ers' expectations are the highest they’ve been since George Seifert led them to their fifth Super Bowl title after the 1994 season. Last season the 49ers finished the regular season 13-3, their best record since they had an identical finish in 1997.

    With their season-ending loss to the Giants, the Packers season ended in disappointment. But on the strength of their 15-1 regular-season record, the Packers will open the season as the favorites in the NFC. This early-season showdown between last year’s two best NFC teams could be a statement game. 

Week 2: Bears at Packers, Thursday, Sept. 14, NFL Network

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    The Packers have dominated the NFL’s oldest rivalry recently, winning six of the last seven meetings.

    The Packers won both meetings last season and the final two in the 2011 season, including the 2010 NFC Championship game in January of 2011. 

    This game, which matches the last two NFC North champions, will set the tone in the black-and-blue division for the rest of the season.

    The Bears hold a 91-85-6 advantage in the all-time series.

Week 3: Patriots at Ravens, Sept. 23, NBC

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    This is a meeting of two of the AFC’s elite franchises for more than a decade. The Ravens have never beaten New England in the regular season, going 0-6. Overall, the Patriots have a 7-1 advantage. The Ravens only win was an upset victory in the 2010 playoffs at Gillette Stadium. 

    The Ravens squandered late opportunities to tie and win the game at the end of last year’s AFC Championship game in New England. A dropped Lee Evans pass could have given the Ravens the lead in the last minute, and Billy Cundiff missed a chip-shot field goal that would have tied the game.

    The meeting is always intriguing, matching up perhaps the NFL's most feared players on each side of the ball. Watching Tom Brady and Ray Lewis on the same field is always a treat. The game matches the Patriots' second-ranked offense against the Ravens' third-ranked defense. 

Week 4: Saints at Packers, Sept. 30, FOX

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    Last season's NFL opener produced one of the most exciting regular-season games in recent memory. The Packers won 42-34 as the teams combined to produce 876 yards in total offense. The last three Packers-Saints game have produced an average of 71 points. The Packers hold a 15-7 edge in the series, but have dropped two of the last three.

    This matchup features arguably the two best quarterbacks and the two most explosive offenses in the NFL. New Orleans led the NFL in total offense in 2011 and the Packers finished third. 

Week 5: Chargers at Saints, Oct. 7, NBC

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    This Sunday night game features two of the NFL’s elite passers in former teammates Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. The Saints led the league in passing in 2011, while the Chargers finished sixth. The Saints also finished 2011 as the NFL’s second-highest scoring team, averaging 32.4 points per game, while San Diego’s 25.4 tied for fifth. Expect plenty of fireworks in the Superdome.  

    New Charger receiver Robert Meacham returns to New Orleans after four solid seasons in the Big Easy. 

    The Chargers have won seven of the 10 all-time meetings, but the Saints have captured two of the last three. In their last meeting in 2008, New Orleans won 37-32. Brees and Rivers combined for 680 yards and six touchdowns. 

Week 6: Giants at 49ers, Oct. 14, FOX

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    The Giants travel to San Francisco for the third time in two seasons. Both games last season were close. The 49ers won the regular-season meeting 27-20, with the Giants defeating the 49ers 20-17 in overtime in the NFC Championship game. 

    The 49ers' fourth-ranked defense matches up against the Giants' fifth-ranked passing attack. The 49ers were only 16th against the pass in 2011.

    Eli Manning continues to develop into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. He was third in passing yards last season. The 49ers Alex Smith had the best season of his career in 2011. He threw 17 touchdown passes against only five interceptions and had a plus-90 quarterback rating. 

    The Giants have won four of the past five meetings to even the all-time series at 14 apiece. 

Week 7: Ravens at Texans, Oct. 21, CBS

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    The NFL’s second- and third-ranked defenses from 2011 meet at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Can Houston continue its rise to become an elite team in the NFL?

    The Texans were carried last season by their running game and defense. Can their defense be one of the best in 2012 with Mario Williams leaving via free agency to Buffalo?

    Arian Foster and Ben Tate form one of the NFL’s best backfield tandems. Houston finished 2011 second in the NFL in rushing, while the Ravens had the second-stingiest rush defense.

    With the Colts in a down year, the Texans finally claimed the AFC South last season. In their first playoff appearance in franchise history, the Texans eliminated Cincinnati before losing 20-13 at Baltimore. Baltimore has owned the Texans with a 6-0 series edge. 

Week 8: Giants at Cowboys, Oct. 28, FOX

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    Dallas and the Giants have had many memorable meetings and 2011 was no different. In the teams' first meeting last season, the Giants rallied for a 37-34 victory with two touchdowns and blocked field goal in the last 3:41. They followed that up with a 31-14 win in Week 17, a victory that earned the Giants the NFC East title.

    In the first meeting, Eli Manning and Tony Romo combined for 721 passing yards and six touchdowns,  and Felix Jones and Brandon Jacobs both rushed for more than 100 yards.

    Dallas leads the all-time series 56-42-2, but the Giants have won five of the last six games. 

Week 9: Steelers at Giants, Nov. 4, CBS

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    The Steelers and Giants are two of the NFL’s marquee franchises. The Steelers' six titles and eight appearances in Super Bowl are the most ever. The Giants are tied for fourth with four titles and fifth with five appearances. They have combined to win four of the last seven Super Bowls and have combined to appear in five of the last seven. Amazingly, they have never met in the NFL’s biggest game. 

    The Giants' fifth-ranked passing offense goes up against the Steelers' top-ranked defense and top-ranked pass defense from 2011.  Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning’s two Super Bowl titles are second only to Tom Brady among active quarterbacks. 

    The Giants lead the series 44-28-3 and won 21-14 in the team’s last meeting in 2008.

Week 10, Cowboys at Eagles, Nov. 11, FOX

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    Two of the NFL’s most disappointing teams in 2011 meet for the first of two games in a four-week span.

    The Eagles were being proclaimed as the NFL’s version of the Heat last season. At least the Heat advanced to the NBA Finals. 

    The Eagles won their last four games to finish 8-8. Given a chance to seize control of the NFC East race, Dallas lost four of its last five games. 

    With a tight race expected between Dallas, Philadelphia and the Giants, this will be a key game in determining the NFC East champ.

    Dallas leads the all-time series 56-46. After Dallas had won four of five in the series heading into 2011, the Eagles dominated last year, outscoring the Cowboys 54-14 in their two meetings. 

Week 11: Ravens at Steelers, Nov. 18, NBC

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    The Steelers-Ravens meetings the last few years have epitomized old-school, smash-mouth football. Both defenses ranked in the top 10 in overall defense last season and against the pass and run. 

    After Pittsburgh won twice in 2010, Baltimore won both meetings last season. The Ravens dominated 34-7 on opening day. In their second meeting, the Ravens needed a diving catch from Torrey Smith on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco with eight seconds remaining to essentially clinch the AFC North title.

    Pittsburgh holds an 18-14 advantage in the series. 

Week 12: Giants at Packers, Nov. 25, NBC

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    The Packers will get a chance to exact a small measure of revenge when they travel to New York to face the team that knocked them out of the 2010 playoffs. The Packers were riding a dream season before the Giants outscored them 37-20 in last season’s divisional playoffs. 

    This game on Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend features another meeting of two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks and the last two Super Bowl-winning teams. 

    Green Bay leads the all-time series 27-21-2.

Week 13: Steelers at Ravens, Dec, 2, CBS

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    The Ravens and Steelers meet for the second time in a three-week span in a game that could decide the AFC North. 

    The Steelers and Ravens have combined to win nine of the last 11 division titles. The Bengals won AFC North titles in 2004 and 2009 to prevent a clean sweep. 

Week 14: Saints at Giants, Dec. 9, FOX

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    Eli Manning and Drew Brees accounted for 769 passing yards in the Saints-Giants game in New Orleans last season. The difference is that Brees had four touchdowns passing and one rushing. 
    The Saints led 35-10 after three quarters and cruised home 49-24. 

    The Giants lead the all-time series 14-12, but have been outscored 127-58 in the last three meetings. 

Week 15: 49ers at Patriots, Dec. 16, NBC

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    Two Super Bowl contenders meet when the hosts of last season's conference title games play at Gillette Stadium. 

    The Patriots' second-ranked offense goes up against the 49ers' fourth-ranked defense. The difference could be that the 49ers passing defense ranked only 16th.

    After losing seven of the first eight meetings, New England has won the last three. 

Week 16: Giants at Ravens, Dec. 23, FOX

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    Another battle between a great defense and great offense will play out at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands. 

    The Ravens and Giants have played only four times. Baltimore won the first three meetings, including Super Bowl XXXV. 

    This game could have huge playoff implications on both conferences. 

Week 17: Bears at Lions, Dec. 30, FOX

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    Most people focus on the Bears-Packers when great NFL rivalries are discussed. The Bears and Lions actually have the second-oldest rivalry in the NFL. Chicago leads the all-time series 94-65-5. 

    Last season Detroit posted its first winning record since 2000 and made its first playoff appearance since 1997. The Bears, meanwhile, missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. 

    The addition of Brandon Marshall should make Chicago a more potent offense in 2012. 

    Matthew Stafford passed for more than 5,000 yards in 2011 and Calvin Johnson led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards.

    Marshall and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s most productive seasons were spent together in Denver. 
    Both teams should be in the thick of the playoff race when then meet at Ford Field in Week 17.