NFL Schedule 2012: 5 Most Anticipated AFC Matchups

Ryan BothmannSenior Analyst IIApril 18, 2012

NFL Schedule 2012: 5 Most Anticipated AFC Matchups

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    On Tuesday, the NFL released the dates and times for the 2012 regular season.

    While there are going to be many great games in the AFC and in the NFC this season, there are a few that stand out above the rest. They are labeled as must-see television.

    Here are the five most anticipated AFC matchups for the 2012 NFL regular season.

    You can also view my most anticipated NFC matchups for the 2012 NFL regular season by clicking on the link provided.

5) New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

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    Dates: Sunday, October 21, 4:15 p.m.; Thursday, November 22, 8:20 p.m.

    If the Jets and Patriots rivalry was not interesting enough, now we throw Tim Tebow into the mix.

    By the time the Jets and Patriots have their first encounter in Week 7 of the season, Tebow will be well established into the New York offense and could even be the starting quarterback according to some. Whether he is starting or not, it should be a very entertaining two weeks leading up to both of the games.

    Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick always provide outstanding theater before their encounters, and the games are pretty good as well.

    The second game falls on Thanksgiving night also, so the drama will be heightened a bit more for the occasion. 

4) New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    Date: Sunday, September 23, 8:20 p.m.

    Playoff rematches are always fun to watch, especially when it is a rematch of the AFC Championship Game.

    With both organizations' franchise players reaching the final stages of their careers, they each know that the window of opportunity on winning another championship is closing. That should provide for a fiery contest already.

    The Ravens vs. Patriots early Sunday night matchup will certainly have some fireworks, and it will be interesting to see if any bitterness carries over from the heart-wrenching loss the Ravens suffered in the AFC Championship Game.

3) Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Dates: Sunday, November 18, 8:20 p.m.; Sunday, December 2, 4:15 p.m.

    Throughout the years, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have become must-see football. Currently, it is arguably the greatest rivalry in the NFL, if not in all of sports.

    The battles are always physical and competitive, and there is always a lot on the line in the AFC North division.

    This year will be no different. The games will feature bone-crushing hits that will leave the players bruised and battered on the field.

    It's old-school football at its finest.

    It's the Ravens and the Steelers.

2) Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos

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    Date: Sunday, September 9, 8:20 p.m.

    And so the Peyton Manning era will officially begin in Denver, as the Broncos host the Steelers on Sunday Night Football in Week 1.

    There is so much anticipation around the NFL to see how Manning will perform with his new team, and how he will hold up against the vaunted Steelers defense after having multiple surgeries on his neck.

    What a great way to kick off Sunday Night Football for the year.

    Manning's debut in Denver is something you just cannot miss.

1) Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

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    Date: Sunday, October 7, 4:15 p.m.

    The last time they met was in November of 2010, and the most anticipated AFC game of 2012 will be a renewal of their historic rivalry.

    Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.

    Two of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen will go head-to-head once again. The encounter, just like their past encounters, will be extraordinary. Forget AFC game of the year, this is straight-up the NFL game of the year. 

    If you call yourself a sports fan, you will be tuned in to see the Brady vs. Manning rivalry reignite.