NFL TV Schedule Week 1: How and When to Watch Opening Week's Biggest Games
Our long national nightmare is over as Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season has begun, and it's time for speculation to end and the contests to actually be decided on the field.
And as is seemingly the case every week in the NFL, there is a cavalcade of great games to watch on Sunday.
However, when choosing between games, it's almost always difficult to pick which one to watch. With that in mind, here's a look at how you can watch this weekend's best games and a complete schedule to Week 1 of NFL action.
Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets
When: Sunday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Listen: WGR AM 550, Sirius 106 (Buffalo), ESPN FM 98.7, Sirius 93 (New York)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Bills Key Player: DE Mario Williams
Peyton Manning will not be the only player with a massive contract to live up to on Sunday, as the $100 million defensive end makes his debut with the Bills.
Williams will move back to defensive end after a brief move to linebacker last season in Houston. Though he seemed to handle the move well, producing five sacks in as many games, Williams was never fully comfortable standing up.
Buffalo's willingness to move him back to defensive end was a key to his acquisition. And with Pro Bowler D'Brickashaw Ferguson lining up to block him for the Jets, this is a perfect opportunity for the 27-year-old to prove the Bills' money was well-spent.
Jets Key Player: QB Mark Sanchez
It's overwrought at this point, but all eyes will be focused on Sanchez from the moment he takes his first snap on Sunday.
As long as Tim Tebow's shadow lingers on the sideline, every misstep from the 25-year-old Jets starter will be scrutinized and dissected from every part of the sports media.
To quell the pressure and instill confidence going forward, Sanchez needs to perform well against the Bills' ferocious front seven.
With the Jets offense looking anemic in the preseason, a solid performance and a victory will be the only way to stop the rampant speculation (for now).
San Francisco 49ers vs. Green Bay Packers
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
When: Sunday, Sept. 9 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
49ers Key Player: WR Randy Moss / WR Mario Manningham
Michael Crabtree is in place and ready to play his role as the reliable possession guy, meaning one of the two big free-agent splashes at receiver has to break out Sunday.
Brought in to bring explosion to a conservative offense, Moss will line up alongside Crabtree as a starting flanker while Manningham will handle the slot duties.
Those are just positions, though. It's rather apparent that either Moss or Manningham will wind up as quarterback Alex Smith's favorite target by the end of the year.
A game against Green Bay's anemic pass defense should help clear up which of the two guys you'll have to watch for going forward.
Packers Key Player: RB Cedric Benson
Nearing the death-knell age of 30 for running backs, 2012 will be a huge season for Benson. Backup Alex Green has pushed him throughout camp and could take the job if Benson continues struggling to grasp the offense.
And considering the 49ers are returning all 11 starters from the NFL's best defense from last season, Week 1 won't be an easy task.
Nevertheless, the Packers need to establish a ground game early to open the field for Aaron Rodgers. If Benson is effective, he should keep his job and the Packers will win.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo.
When: Sunday, Sept. 9 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Listen: WDVE 102.5 FM (Pittsburgh), 850 AM KOA (Denver)
Live Streaming: Sunday Night Football All Access
Steelers Key Player: QB Ben Roethlisberger
With questions surrounding Pittsburgh at the offensive skill positions (especially at running back), it's likely that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin relies heavily on his star quarterback Week 1.
And coming off a season where the Broncos showed massive weaknesses in pass coverage, there should be openings through the air on Sunday. According to Football Outsiders' weighted DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, Denver had just the 22nd-best pass defense in the league.
However, the Steelers quarterback will need time from his offensive line to find receivers and that unit has yet to prove its worth. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker Von Miller are among the most fearsome pass rushers in the league, so it could be an uphill battle.
If Roethlisberger stands strong in the pocket in the face of pressure (he usually does), it could be a long day for the Denver secondary.
Broncos Key Player: QB Peyton Manning
It's almost a cop-out to take No. 18 as the most vital player for Denver, but there is no other correct answer.
The Broncos' fate in 2012 and throughout the entirety of Manning's five-year, $96 million contract rests in the quarterback's hands.
However, we know the Manning we see against Pittsburgh will not be the one we see in Week 17, for better or for worse. Despite all of the assurances, there is the possibility that Manning is never the same quarterback he once was.
And with his first test coming against a Steelers defense that gave up just 171.9 passing yards per game last season, Sunday will be the first glimpse at how Manning handles elite competition.
If the Broncos quarterback comes out firing, the team's front office can sleep well at night with its decision. On the other hand, if Manning comes out and looks like a quarterback who is playing his first game in nearly 20 months, it will lead to some worries going forward.
Week 1 NFL Schedule
|Indianapolis at Chicago|| 1 p.m. ||CBS|
|New England at Tennessee|| 1 p.m. ||CBS|
|Buffalo at New York|| 1 p.m. ||CBS|
|Washington at New Orleans|| 1 p.m. ||Fox|
|Jacksonville at Minnesota|| 1 p.m. ||CBS|
|Atlanta at Kansas City|| 1 p.m. ||Fox|
|Philadelphia at Cleveland|| 1 p.m. ||Fox|
|St. Louis at Detroit|| 1 p.m. ||Fox|
|Miami at Houston|| 1 p.m. ||CBS|
|San Francisco at Green Bay|| 4:25 p.m. ||Fox|
|Seattle at Arizona|| 4:25 p.m. ||Fox|
|Carolina at Tampa Bay|| 4:25 p.m. ||Fox|
|Pittsburgh at Denver||8:20 p.m.||NBC|
|Cincinnati at Baltimore||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|San Diego at Oakland||10:15 p.m.||ESPN|
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