2012 NFL Schedule: The Big Games
by Darin Zank - 5/2/2012
It seems so far away, it's almost not worth talking about. Then again, it is the NFL, and a lot of us are already getting the itch for the upcoming season. So now that the 2012 regular-season schedule is out, we might as well take a look at it, see what kind of fun is in store for us football-betting fools this fall.
Here's my quick take on some of the biggest games that catch my attention.
Week 1 – San Francisco at Green Bay
Opening weekend features this potential NFC Championship Game preview from Lambeau Field. This game is the first involving a four-team round-robin among the four NFC divisional-round qualifiers of last year. After this the 49ers host the Giants in an NFC Championship Game rematch in Week 6, and visit New Orleans in Week 12; The Packers host the Saints in Week 4 and visit the Giants in Week 12; And New York hosts New Orleans in Week 14.
So those teams, many of whom played each other last year, too, should be very familiar with each other by the time January rolls around.
BetOnline, in offering early betting action on the Week 1 games, is lining the Packers at -6 over the Niners.
Also opening weekend No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck will presumably make his pro debut when his Indianapolis Colts visit the Chicago Bears, and No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III might do the same when his Washington Redskins visit the Saints. Finally, not to get monotonous, but Peyton Manning will presumably make his debut as something other than a Colt that Sunday night when his new outfit, the Denver Broncos, host a playoff rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
BetOnline is listing the Giants at -3.5 over the Cowboys; the Bears at -9 over the Colts; the Saints at -9 over the 'Skins; and the Broncos at -2 over the Steelers.
Week 2 – Detroit at San Francisco
The last times these teams met the Niners rallied to steal a 25-19 victory at Ford Field last October. Afterward, San Francisco Head Coach Jim Harbaugh almost started a fight with Detroit Coach Jim Schwartz. So there might be some more extra circulars going on into this game. Oh, yeah, and these two teams could meet in the playoffs, too. TopBet is offering the 49ers at +500 to win the NFC this season, with the Lions getting +1,000.
Week 3 – New England at Baltimore/Houston at Denver
These two games might go a long way toward deciding who plays where in January on the AFC side of the NFL Playoff brackets. The Ravens got within a botched field goal of pushing last year's AFC Championship Game vs. the Patriots into overtime, so that should be a good one in Maryland. And Manning vs. Schaub might be fun to watch. These games are part of a round-robin among the four AFC divisional-round qualifiers of last year. After this the Patriots host Denver in Week 5 and Houston in Week 14; and the Ravens visit the Texans in Week 7 and host the Broncos in Week 15. TopBet is listing the Pats as a +350 favorite to win the AFC this season, with Denver and Houston both getting +600 and Baltimore +750.
Week 4 – New Orleans at Green Bay
These two teams played a memorable opening-night game last year, also at Lambeau Field, a game (featuring little defense) won by Green Bay, 42-34. This one might play out along the same lines. BetOnline has the Packers pegged as a +300 favorite to win the NFC this season, with the Saints, minus Coach Sean Payton, getting +650.
Week 5 – Denver at New England
Technically this game is a rematch of a divisional-round playoff game of last season, but, of course, the Broncos will presumably be quarterbacked by Mr. Manning rather than Mr. Tebow. The Patriots destroyed Denver in that playoff bout last January, and they're well-acquainted with Manning.
Week 6 – Green Bay at Houston
The Texans get several chances this season to prove themselves to be among the league's elite, and this Sunday nighter is one of them.
Week 8 – New Orleans at Denver
If Manning is healthy and can play to something close to his past abilities, Denver has a chance to be tough. The Broncos were good enough to win a playoff game last year, and they're liable to be a lot more effective on third downs with Manning than with Tebow. This matchup with Drew Brees and the Saints should be one of the better inter-conference games of this season.
Week 9 – Pittsburgh at New York Giants
This is another good inter-conference matchup. BetOnline is offering the Steelers at +950 to win the AFC, the Giants at +900 to repeat as champs in the NFC.
Week 11 – Green Bay at Detroit
If the Lions are going to get over the hump and contend for the NFC North title they'll have to start beating the Packers a little more regularly. Last year Detroit couldn't even beat Green Bay on a day the Packers sat a bunch of their starters and played their backup quarterback.
Week 11 – Baltimore at Pittsburgh
These rivals, known for good, close, brutal games, meet twice in three weeks, playing again in Week 13 in Baltimore. These are must-see games thanks to the rabid intensity these teams bring out in each other. The Ravens swept the two games from the Steelers last year for the first time since 2006. And there's always the chance they'll meet again, say, in January. Wouldn't that be fun?
Week 15 – San Francisco at New England
Harbaugh and the Niners are trying to become what Coach Belichick and the Patriots are; perennial contenders. This game gives San Francisco a chance to measure itself against one of the powers of the AFC. A preview of Super Bowl 47?
Early NFL Schedule 2012 Picks
Yeah, we're four months away, but what the hell, I like a challenge. With the Super Bowl hangover theory in mind I like Dallas plus the points vs. the Giants on that opening Wednesday night. To complete a Week 1 three-team parlay I'll add the Bears minus the points over Indy and the Steelers plus the points at Denver. On the futures market I like the prices on the Ravens at +750 and Pittsburgh at +950 to win the AFC, while Chicago at +1,500 to win the NFC looks tempting.
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