Let the countdown to the NFL season officially begin: the schedule for 2012 has been announced.
The NFL season opener, between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, takes place Sept. 5 at MetLife Stadium, as everyone has known for weeks. The identity of the Giants’ opponent aside, the biggest question had to concern Peyton Manning and just where Primetime Peyton and his new team would open. The answer: at home, on “Sunday Night Football” on Sept. 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The game is a rematch of the January playoff game between the teams — and means that safety Ryan Clark in all probability will miss the opener. Clark suffers from sickle cell trait, a condition that is aggravated by exertion at high altitudes and Coach Mike Tomlin has said he will not risk Clark’s health. The Broncos won the playoff game last year, with Tim Tebow beating them on a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime.
Manning and the Broncos follow up with another prime time game in Week 2, playing the Falcons in Atlanta on “Monday Night Football.” That’s a home game, followed by a dome game, for those who keep track of these things. The Broncos play four of their first seven games in primetime.
“Monday Night Football” kicks off with a doubleheader featuring the Cincinnati Bengals playing the Ravens in Baltimore and the San Diego Chargers playing the Raiders in Oakland.
Now...on to other matters:
How will you and the family be spending Thanksgiving? The day’s tripleheader will begin with the Houston Texans visiting the Detroit Lions. Then the Washington Redskins will travel to Dallas and, finally, the New England Patriots will play the New York Jets in MetLife Stadium.
The Handshake Bowl: Maybe Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz will try a bear hug instead of a handshake after the San Francisco 49ers and Lions meet on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 2 in San Fran. The NFL already has made a trailer out of Harbaugh-Schwartz II.
TV loves them: The Broncos, 49ers, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers, Packers; Bears and Giants will each get five primetime games.
More primetime games: There will be “Thursday Night Football” on the NFL Network for Weeks 2 through 15. (The traditional Thursday opener on NBC was moved to Wednesday, Sept. 5., because of the Democratic Convention. There’s no Thursday night game, so forget about it.)
Giants get special treatment (and not in a good way): The Giants will play seven teams that made the playoffs in 2011. They’ll play the Packers, Saints, and Steelers at home and the Falcons, 49ers, Ravens, and Bengals on the road.
Rematch, shmematch: The Giants and Patriots won’t play each other...unless it’s in the Super Bowl. Nah ... right?
How’s it look for the Saints? Well, they get a bye Week 6 and will be missing their head coach, Sean Payton, for the entire season. He’s in the NFL’s isolation booth, listening to soothing music and speaking to no one, until the day after the 2013 Super Bowl. Given the placement of the Saints’ bye, Joe Vitt, the interim coach who has been suspended himself the first six games, won’t be coaching a game until Week 8, when the Saints play Peyton Manning and the Broncos on “Sunday Night Football.” The Saints will open with a home game against the Redskins, then play at Carolina on Sept. 16, host the Chiefs on Sept. 23, play at the Packers on Sept. 30 and host the Chargers on “Sunday Night Football” on Oct. 7. They’ll play Tampa Bay on Oct. 21.
As for Bountygate and the scandal that has rocked the NFL, the Saints will host the San Francisco 49ers, whose players they targeted in the playoffs, in a 4:15 p.m. EST game Nov. 25 (Week 12).
That’s a quick glance at the schedule. What’s your take?
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