The NFL released the 2012 regular-season schedule today, doing so in a three-hour special televised on both ESPN and the NFL Network. Here’s a link to the complete schedule.
The season will open on Wednesday, September 5th, when the Super Bowl champion Giants host the Dallas Cowboys. It will be the first time an NFL game will be played on a Wednesday since 1948.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. the following night, causing the shift from the typical Thursday opener. Network coverage of the Obama speech is clearly the priority.
An interesting aside — the last time the Giants opened the season was 2008, when they hosted the Washington Redskins on Thursday, September 4th at Giants Stadium. The game, which was initially scheduled for 8:30 P.M., kicked off at 7 P.M. to avoid a conflict with John McCain, who made his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination that night.
Other prime-time games in the season’s first week include the Denver Broncos hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, in what will be Peyton Manning’s first game as a Bronco. This game, which will be played on Sunday, September 9th, is a rematch of last season’s playoff thriller, when Denver knocked off the Steelers in overtime, 29-23.
On Monday, September 10th, we’ll see the only scheduled Monday Night Football doubleheader: Baltimore at Cincinnati at 7 P.M., and San Diego at Oakland at 10:15 P.M. The latter game will feature the NFL head-coaching debut of the Raiders’ Dennis Allen, while the first game will showcase two of the three teams that made the postseason last year in the rugged AFC North, arguably the best division in the NFL last season.
This year’s Thanksgiving games will see the Texans facing the Lions at 12:30 P.M. Eastern, while at 4:30, the Redskins will tangle with the Cowboys. At 8:30, the Patriots and Jets will battle at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Two games will be played outside of the United States: Patriots “at” Rams in London, England on October 28th, and Seahawks at Bills in Toronto, Canada on December 16th.
The Super Bowl champion Giants have the toughest schedule in 2012, as their opponents this season went 140-116 in 2011, good for a .547 winning percentage. The team they defeated in Super Bowl 46, the Patriots, appear to have the league’s easiest schedule, facing opponents who went 116-140 (.453) in 2011.
Check back later as I highlight some of what should — barring signifiant injuries — be the most exciting games of the season!