Stephen O’Brien previews the ten games he’s looking forward to most in the 2012 NFL Season.
Making a list is dangerous. People start getting upset when you try to tell them who is best at this, who is best at that and what to look out for. So, I made a list. I decided not to rank the games below in order of what is going to be most exciting and opted to list them chronologically. Who knows what will happen this season but whatever does happen, it will be exciting. Players get injured and have to sit on the sidelines watching their teams get demolished or even worse; do better without them. That means that the game between the Broncos and Patriots will be a slug fest if Peyton stays healthy. If not, Brady’s Offense will make mince meat of the Broncos while Manning directs from the sidelines. Whatever the injury situation, we are all in for an exciting season!
1. Week 1 – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
The fact that this is the first game of the season should be enough to get this on the list. But we have the old Cowboy Giant rivalry on show in this first game. Last season, the Giants beat the Cowboys twice. The first game was a QB shootout between Romo and Manning with the score ending at 37 – 34. The second meeting was somewhat of a rout by the Giants. They were 21 – 0 up at half time and quashed a Cowboy come back in the 3rd and 4th quarter to take the NFC East Divisional title. I see other analysts saying that this is the year that Romo must use to silence the Haters but Eli has won 2 Superbowls and still has his detractors so I don’t think Tony should be overly concerned! All he needs this year is for his WRs to stay out of jail and for his consistency to remain high. Will Eli stamp his authority from the outset or will he leave the run of good form to the end of the season like last year? Tune in on September 5th!
2. Week 1 – San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
When the Colts announced they were parting ways with the 4 time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, many teams around the league went on the charm offensive. The Broncos landed him in the end after fending off interest from the Dolphins, Titans and the 49ers. Cue the awkward silence. Alex Smith has had his doubters for many years now but last year, he made the Playoffs and looked like he was finally becoming the Franchise QB the Niners need. Then Jim Harbaugh (even though he denies it) started flirting with the prospect of getting Manning to Candlestick Park. Well, this week one clash between Smith and the no.1 Player in the League Aaron Rodgers, we get to see if Alex can prove he is worthy of Harbaugh’s trust. The Niners added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J Jenkins at WR this year so Smith has one of the deepest WR cores in the League to throw the ball to. This match up will be a great game in Week 1. Afterall, San Fran were the team who picked Smith 1st Overall in the 2005 Draft despite widespread belief that they would pick Aaron Rodgers, who had been a childhood Niners Fan. Regrets? They’ve had a few.
3. Week 1 – Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
The Broncos host the Steelers at home. Added to that is the fact that this will be Peyton Manning’s first regular season game in his new home. Sure, we will all monitor his play in the preseason but this game will be the first time Manning will open up and play to his full potential. Manning won’t risk injury in the preseason. Will Manning be able to take a hit? The Steelers first ranked Defense might help show the world the answer to that question. The Broncos had Tebow at the helm last season and they defeated the Steelers in the Playoffs. The Steelers will want revenge. Unfortunately for them, Peyton Manning is in charge now. Let’s see if Big Ben can carry on the rich history of Steeler success against the Broncos or will Manning pick up where Tebow left off.
4. Week 1 – Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears
Two QBs will take the field with an equal amount of anticipation. Andrew Luck will be making his NFL debut whereas Jay Cutler will be back to attempt to take the Bears to the Playoffs after his winning start was stopped last season by a hand injury. Luck is supposedly looking great in Training Camp but that is because he doesn’t have Urlacher trying to break him in two. Many speculate that the Colts don’t have enough weapons around Luck to make a dent in the coming season. Meanwhile in Chicago, we have a reunited partnership in Cutler and Brandon Marshall. Watch this space. Luck could get a tough welcome to the NFL.
5. Week 2 – Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
With the Bears looking like they were in cruise control early in the season last year, and with both teams looking to start the season with a winning streak, it will be even more of a tasty match up between the two heavyweights of their division. Both teams could realistically top the division and lets face it; this historically rich match up needs no introduction or explanation in order to hype it up as a must see. These two rivals have been battling it out since the beginning of professional Football. In 1924, the match up became the first ever in the League to feature players being ejected for fighting! We don’t need a brawl for this to be exciting as we have Rodgers and Cutler to give us all the entertainment we need.
6. Week 5 – Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Manning V Brady. I was tempted to just leave it at that. Both QBs are going to have busts in the Hall of Fame. Both QBs can slice open Defenses with devastating accuracy. This should be a Masterclass in passing but we will have to see if Manning has the Receiving Core to make the catches that he can supply. Brady has an 8-4 winning ratio over Manning and I predict another Brady led victory. It will be a spectacle.
7. Week 8 – Patriots V Rams – Wembley Stadium
A must see match involving the Rams I hear you say? Well, this game is different. This game is in London! The International Series Game is a big deal for us Europeans. It gives us the opportunity to have a tangible input into the NFL action. The atmosphere is always fantastic at the International game with the Patriots having a massive following on this side of the pond. When Robert Kraft spoke with Neil Reynolds in London, he waxed lyrical about how the Players loved playing at Wembley. We have to support this venture and if the NFL see how popular it is in Europe, we could see more than one game a year! Watch the game, invest in it and we could all be going to more than Tailgate Party in London soon! There was a rumor of a game coming to Ireland but I think we’ll have to wait some time before that dream is realized! Tom Brady throwing passes in Croker while Michael D. Higgins waves his American flag? Yes Please!
8. Week 12 – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
Packers V Giants games are always a good view. This will be a particularly great game as it is a replay the Packers will want to win as they lost to the Giants in the first game of the Playoffs last year. They had an almost perfect run to the Playoffs and were the heavy favorites. At this point in the season, both teams will want to seal off their assault for the playoffs and secure home advantage. The Giants tend to pick up momentum coming up to the end of the season so let’s see if the Big Blue can slay the Cheseeheads.
9. Week 12 – Houston Texans at Detroit Lions
Texas and Detroit both had great seasons last season. They will be looking to show this season that this success is here to stay. Stafford has been phenomenal for the Lions and that has been hugely helped by the partnership he has with Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Will the Stafford – Johnson pairing be as potent against the number 2 ranked Texans defense? The Texans offloaded the right side of their O line this off season and Megatron might be suffering from the Madden Curse after appearing on the cover of Madden 13, so it might be a very different Match up than anticipated! It will be interesting to see if Suh will put Schaub back on the PUP or if he will put himself on the Suspension List.
10. Week 13 – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
This is an old rivalry that has been so evenly matched over the years. The Ray Lewis inspired Ravens won both matches last year. The inspirational veteran has slimmed down considerably over the off season and we will see if he is as effective. He has consistently altered his body to suit the changing game style and as of late, the NFL has been more pass orientated so Lewis’ slimmed down physique should allow him look to pick off more passes. Big Ben will be looking to settle the score after the two losses last year and at this late in the season, both teams will be looking to use these games to top the AFC North division.