NFL Top 5: Can't-miss games of the 2012 NFL season

Apr 20, 2012 |
NFL Top 5: Can't-miss games of the 2012 NFL season
Alex Smith and the Niners have a rematch with the Saints on Nov. 25.
Alex Smith and the Niners have a rematch with the Saints on Nov. 25.
Tuesday was a big day for those who love football on Sundays, with the unveiling of the 2012 NFL schedule.

How many games is your team going to win? How many will it lose? What game stands out to you the most?

Inevitably, the latter means different things for different people. We try to cater to as many parties as possible and offer up our Top 5 can't-miss games for 2012.

For the purposes of being politically correct, we elected not to use any one team twice. So while this is awfully subjective, have at it and enjoy the games that we know we won't miss:

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos, Sept. 9

This would have made the list even before Peyton Manning joined the Broncos. After all, these two teams combined for a beauty of a playoff game last year, when Tim Tebow led underdog Denver to a thrilling 29-23 overtime win in the wildcard round.

Tebow is long gone now and this will be Manning's debut in the orange and blue. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have an awfully potent offense, which should make for a dandy in the Mile High City.

Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills, Nov. 4

OK, this is an under-the-radar one for sure. But reunions are always a big deal in the NFL and defensive lineman Mario Williams, the biggest offseason free-agent acquisition not named Manning, will face the team he entered the league with and the one he helped to the playoffs for the first time last season.

Williams' decision to sign with Buffalo surprises many around the league and for that reason, this should fire up both teams beyond belief. Plus, these teams are pretty good, too. The Texans made the divisional round last season and Buffalo, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the way, opened 5-2 last fall.

New England Patriots at New York Jets, Nov. 22

We try to keep the focus on the field and that's tough with Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan on the sidelines. But now, with Tebow in green, there's even more reason to relish this rivalry.

Give credit to the NFL for getting it right with these Thanksgiving nightcaps. After your turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie, you can kick back and throw on New England and New York, battling for what could be sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

Will Tebow be the starter by that point? Will Mark Sanchez? Who knows. All we do know, is that Belichick will be in his Thanksgiving best: A grey sweatshirt and a headset.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints, Nov. 25

Subplots aplenty here, as the 49ers and Saints renew acquaintances in what may be a key game for both the NFC West and South divisions.

Not only was San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith at the top of New Orleans' bounty wish list, the 49ers also outlasted the Saints, 36-32, in one of the more entertaining wildcard games you will ever see last season.

Who knows what to expect of the Saints, but something tells us Drew Brees and Co. will be able to score. And with a great San Francisco defense on the other side, this is one matchup to watch.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, Nov. 25

Eli Manning is back in offseason training with New York now, preparing to defend a Super Bowl title. And on the side, he's training for an appearance hosting Saturday Night Live. Not a bad life.

Manning will face a team in November that often sparks some of his best performances. On Jan. 15, in the NFC Divisional round, Manning was 21-for-33 passing, with 330 yards and three touchdowns as New York pounded the once-beaten Packers 37-20 en route to their surprising crown.

This game will have much less on the line, but no less interest, especially considering the star power on both sides.

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