October 24, 2011; Jacksonville FL, USA; A fireworks and laser light show entertains fans during halftime of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

A Look At The 2012 NFL Primetime Schedule

The 2012 NFL regular season was released after much anticipation on Tuesday afternoon. The first thing fans tend to do is run to the schedule and see when their team plays in primetime. This year, thanks to the extended Thursday Night Football schedule on the NFL Network, every team will get a chance to play in primetime for their fans. Unfortunately for the teams, this also means all 32 teams will play one game on their schedule on a short week.

So Thursday Night Football aside, let’s take a look at the Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football schedule and see how the NFL did at giving fans enticing and deserving match ups.

Games They Got Right:

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos on opening weekend. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL has mastered opening weekend. This season, to kick off the 2012 NFL season, the fans will get a Wednesday night match up between the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and their division rival and America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys.

As with any NFC East face-off, the ratings will be through the roof. Everyone will tune in not only because it is the first game of the NFL season, but because it features one of the most loved and hated franchises in the NFL. A bitter rivalry, a Super Bowl champ and the league’s most dividing team is a recipe for success.

After the Wednesday night season opener, the league will feature the Steelers and Broncos match up on Sunday Night. It is a rematch from the AFC Playoffs Divisional Round, where the Broncos mounted an impressive comeback and eliminated the Steelers from the postseason. Pittsburgh will now be looking for redemption and hoping to start their season better than it ended in Mile High.

Oh, I didn’t even mention that the Broncos will be led by their new quarterback — future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.

Week 3: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens: Two of the AFC’s powerhouses will do battle to determine who has the early lead for the AFC’s top seed.

Week 5: Houston Texans vs. New York Jets: The Jets face a brutal start to the season and could very well need this win to silence their critics and keep their fans happy. If the Jets struggle early, as their schedule indicates they could, we may start to hear the chants for “Tebow” on this Monday night. This should be an important early season match up between two teams with high playoff hopes.

Week 11: Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Every time these two AFC North titans clash, you are in for an exciting and physical game that showcases the beauty of football. It is games like this that remind us of the days before Goodell was looking to eliminate physicality from the game.

Week 12: Carolina Panthers vs. Philadelphia Eagles: A potential Cam Newton vs. Michael Vick match up? Talk about exciting plays from the quarterback position.

Monday Night Football season finale: Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions: If these two teams live up to their potential, there should very well be a playoff spot on the line in the Monday Night Football finale. Atlanta and Detroit could be fighting for a Wild Card position or looking to lock up their seeds as they prepare for a deep run in the playoffs.

Games They Got Wrong

Week 3: Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks: On paper, this should be an uneven match up. The Seahawks are a middle of the road team, while the Packers are among the NFC elite. The most exciting thing in this game should be the Seahawks uniforms.

Week 8: San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps one of the weakest and least exciting conferences to the NFL masses is the NFC West. While these teams could be battling for a spot at the top of the division, it is a game best suited for a 4:15 pm ET kickoff time.

Sunday Night Football Finale: San Diego Chargers vs. New York Jets: Thankfully, this game could end up being flexed out of the primetime slot. The Chargers are perennial underachievers, while the Jets could be led by Tim Tebow at this point in the season. San Diego is the likely AFC West favorite, so they could be on cruise control at this point in the season while the Jets are fading and preparing for the offseason.

For the most part, the NFL did an excellent job at creating an appealing primetime schedule.

It’s nice that every team will be featured at some point during the season, but the NFL should also remember that this is an entertainment business and not a Pop Warner league. Everyone doesn’t deserve the spotlight. Some teams just draw bigger crowds and bring in more money, so the league should feature them in primetime more often.

What are your thoughts on the primetime schedule and what games are you looking forward to the most?

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