Go ahead and try to narrow the 2012 NFL schedule into its six best games - just make sure you don’t have to get to a dinner reservation.
I just spent the better part of an hour scouring the schedule to outline six of the most intriguing matchups and had to cut myself off. There’s just too much to choose from.
In the end, this piece focuses more on the early part of the season, since there’s a good chance that the entire league will likely be turned upside down by Week 8 anyway.
Thanks to these early odds from Cantor Gaming, we’re able to get a head start with our pigskin handicapping.
Here’s a look at our exclusive on the Week 2-16 spreads. Some odds have been updated since, though we’re still waiting on totals for most of the matchups.
Week 1 - Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-3.5, 47)
The first game of the season really ought to be a national holiday and you have to admit it’d be a nice way to break up the work week with this one kicking off Wednesday, Sept. 5. Most shops had the defending champs as 3-point favorites at the open before nudging off that number to 3.5. The Cowboys will be looking for revenge after the Giants spoiled their playoff hopes on the final night of the 2011 season kickstarting their Super Bowl run.
Week 1 – Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (-11, 51.5)
One of two things happen here. Either the Saints come out and put this nightmarish offseason behind them, making every naysayer eat their words right off the hop, or we see just how costly this bounty scandal might be for Saints supporters. So we have that going for us, plus RGIII makes his debut as the Washington Redskins’ billionth starting quarterback. Tasty.
Week 2 – Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-7.5, N/A)
In case you missed it, the NFL finally realized what kind of opportunity it was missing out on and will finally give us Thursday games in every week but the final week of the regular season. This one should be a doozy to get us started too. The Bears basically ignored their offensive line issues in the offseason, but loaded up on playmakers like running back Michael Bush and wideout Brandon Marshall, who reunites with Jay Cutler. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep Cutler upright and go toe-to-toe with the Cheeseheads’ attack.
Week 5 – Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (-7, N/A)
No-brainer here: Peyton Manning’s first visit to Gillette Stadium as a Denver Bronco. Some conflicting reports are surfacing out of Broncos minicamp this week. Those that praised Peyton’s arm strength on deep throws have been followed by others that say he’s missing the power and touch he once had with his long bombs. By Week 5, we’ll know if the Peyton Manning we’re used to is back or not. Either way, this matchup should bring out the best in him.
Week 9 – Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-1, N/A)
On paper this already looks like a dream matchup for fantasy poolies, but time will tell how RGIII progresses and how Cam Newton follows up his incredible rookie season. If it all pans out, this could be the premier game for the “new generation of the NFL quarterback" – whatever that really means. Still think this line could have Carolina favored sooner rather than later.
Week 12 – New England Patriots at New York Jets (-5, N/A)
We have three delicious Turkey Day games for us this year, capped off by this doozy in the nightcap. The AFC East could be a crowded division by this point, as long as the Jets don’t completely collapse under the weight of Rex Ryan’s ego and New York’s fascination with Tebowmania. You know both clubs have this one circled on the schedule already.