The 2012 NFL season has been nothing if not wild, and there is plenty more to come as the year rolls along. Starting in Week 5, there are matchups in nearly every week that are as entertaining as they are important.
From another old-school Ravens/Steelers game, to the new-age duel between the dual-threat quarterbacks in Carolina and Washington, there is a lot to look forward to as the NFL's 32 teams make their run to the Super Bowl.
It will be a new chapter in the history of Brady-Manning, a history that is graced by memorable games and incredible individual performances. The future Hall of Famers haven’t played against one another since a 31-28 Patriots win over the Colts in November of 2010.
We may be in for another air show, as each team ranks in the Top 10 in passing yards per game. And expect Manning and Brady to up the ante—they know that they are forever connected as two of the greatest players ever, and want to one-up each other no matter what the cost.
This could also be a possible playoff preview, so if one team is able to beat the other, it could go a long way in determining potential playoff seeding.
Could this be a Super Bowl preview?
Few teams can match Green Bay and Houston in terms of raw talent on both sides of the ball. The Texans have a better overall team, but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, which always counts for something.
Through four weeks, the Texans have looked like one of the best teams in the league. They have outscored the opposition by 70 points and haven’t really been challenged yet.
Despite the fact that they haven’t really played a legitimately good team (although the Broncos are nothing to sneeze at), the Texans have proved that good teams do win games that they’re supposed to win.
The Packers have had a wild start to the year, experiencing everything from a three-week stretch of absolutely anemic offense to a controversial game-ending call in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Green Bay finally looked like the team we know in a 28-27 thriller against the Saints. Could the Packers offense finally be on track?
This game could come down to whichever team makes a big stop on defense at a critical moment. It will also be a measuring stick for the Texans, who will be able to prove to the nation that they’re for real.
A few short years ago, the NFC West was the laughingstock of the NFL.
Those days are long gone, and the new-look NFC West appears to be one of the toughest divisions in football.
Save for an uncharacteristic hiccup at Minnesota, the 49ers have looked as good as advertised. The offense has been frighteningly efficient and the defense has been, well, frightening.
Then there’s the Seahawks. The Seahawks are a very good 2-2 team despite a 19-13 loss to the Rams on Sunday. Nothing Seattle does is pretty, but there are two things that the Seahawks are very good at: running the ball and stopping the run.
If you want to watch an old-fashioned, smash mouth football game with physical defense, then this is the game for you. Blood will be shed, as both of these teams are in the Top 10 in running the ball and stopping the run. It should be a very entertaining matchup between two good teams battling for prime position in a tough division.
A possible AFC Championship preview will be on hand when the Ravens visit the Texans in Week 7. Houston will be looking for a measure of revenge for last season’s agonizing 20-13 playoff loss to the Ravens, and Baltimore will be trying to fight for playoff position.
This is simply a matchup of two really, really good teams. Each team has a solid defense, a good quarterback and great running backs. They match up very well with each other, and we could be in for an epic battle that comes down to the very last play.
Both of these teams are very good at stopping the run, so whichever squad can generate the better ground game could find themselves on top when the clock runs out. Who wouldn’t want to see Arian Foster and Ray Rice go blow for blow with each other?
This could be one of the best games of the year in the NFL.
If you’re not looking forward to this game, you don’t have a pulse.
Expect lots of offense when Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III go head-to-head at FedEx Field. Newton, last season’s runaway Rookie of the Year award winner, is playing well in 2012, and RGIII is following in his footsteps with a spectacular start to his own NFL career.
Because of their similar skill sets and the time in which they entered the league, Newton and RGIII will be inextricably linked for the rest of their careers. This should be an exciting matchup between two rising stars that represent the shift in offensive philosophies that have permeated the NFL in the last few years.
There is a good chance that both teams will be way out of the playoff chase when this game begins, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t must-see television. Points will be put up in bunches and there won’t be another game this season with as many offensive highlights as this one will provide.
Is Steelers/Ravens the best rivalry in the NFL? You’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks otherwise. When these two teams convene on Sunday, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco are among the best quarterbacks in the league, and the two aging defenses that have paced the league for so long will find it hard to stop the gunslingers.
Of course, it is a divisional matchup between two teams that hate each other more than anyone could imagine. That fact alone ups the ante, and defense could rule the day. When this generation’s two best safeties, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, are on the same field, anything can happen.
No game this season is liable to create tension and fireworks like a matchup between the Steelers and Ravens. Buckle up. If there’s a playoff spot on the line, things could get nasty.
It’s the new guard against the old guard as the Colts/Patriots rivalry takes a decidedly different turn and pins Andrew Luck against the great Tom Brady.
Through three games, Luck has been as good as advertised for Indianapolis and seems well on his way to a very nice career. Brady does not seem to be slowing down at all at age 35.
With apologies to the rest of the players participating in this game’s proceedings, there will be no storyline bigger than the quarterbacks. It will be fun to see if Luck can beat Brady at his own game and write a chapter in what he hopes to be a long line of great performances. This could be a potential AFC championship matchup within a couple of years.
The Packers hate Eli Manning. Manning has bounced the Packers from the playoffs twice in his career—in 2008, a 23-20 win in Brett Favre’s last game as a Packer, and last season, a 37-20 drubbing that ended the 15-1 Packers' Super Bowl aspirations.
So you can expect some bad blood to boil when Green Bay visits the Meadowlands for a game that could decide a playoff spot.
The sting of last year's shellacking is still fresh in the minds of Green Bay fans who believe the Super Bowl was theirs to have in 2011. Aaron Rodgers was another quarterback bested by Eli Manning, who has cemented his status as one of the game's best.
As is the case with many of the games on this list, the matchup is all about the quarterbacks. Two of the finest in the last several years will go head-to-head in an important matchup at Lambeau Field.
The best rivalries in football come out of the NFC East, and there are few that result in games as hard-hitting as Eagles/Cowboys. These teams absolutely despise each other, and the division and a playoff spot could be up for grabs when they convene in Week 13.
Through four weeks, the Eagles and Cowboys are both teams defined by disappointment.
Dallas is 2-2 coming off of a brutal 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears. Philadelphia is 3-1, but it might be the ugliest 3-1 start in NFL history. Both teams are supremely talented on offense and the Eagles are very good on defense, but nothing has seemed to come together yet for either side.
When everything is on the line, Dallas/Philly is always great theater. With players you love to hate on both sides (paired with the fact that the players all hate each other anyway), how could you not tune in?
When all is said and done, the winner of this game could be the No. 1 seed in the AFC heading into the playoffs.
The Texans and Patriots are once again among the top class of the league. New England is a deceiving 2-2, and the Texans have blown out all comers en route to a 4-0 mark.
The Patriots are the defending AFC champions, but many people think that the Texans could have made a run to the Super Bowl last season, if they had been healthy.
If a No. 1 seed is on the line this week, the Texans will have a chance to show the league that they have finally arrived and are ready to take it all the way to the end.
Are the Texans ready to overtake New England and form the NFL's next great dynasty? This game will go a long way towards deciding that.