Can’t Miss Games of the 2012 NFL Season

The 2012 NFL Season was released today, and I thought that I’d give a few thoughts on one game each week and why that will be the “Can’t Miss” game of that week.

Week 1: Sunday Night, Pittsburgh @ Denver: Right away, Peyton’s return catches my attention as the Steelers venture back to Denver, the site of their playoff defeat. It will be interesting to see the new Denver offense and what Peyton has left, but since it is the first week and these offenses will still be gelling, I don’t expect an insane shootout. Remember, the Steelers lost RB Rashard Mendenhall for at least the beginning of the 2012 season, so expect Big Ben to sling the ball around early in 2012.

other notable games: Indy @ Chicago, SF @ Green Bay

Week 2: Sunday Night, Detroit @ San Fran: NBC’s Sunday Night Football snags another great game as it will be interesting to see these two coaches follow up their epic ending of last season. These two teams should be evening matched, and they’re both coming off seasons where their young coaches somehow led them to playoff appearances. I’m particularly intrigued to see how the 49ers will play as their division is all there’s for the taking once again.

other notable games: NO @ Carolina, TB @ NYG, Baltimore @ Philadelphia

Week 3: Sunday Day, Houston @ Denver: Finally, not a Sunday Night game! The primary reason why I’ve chosen this game is because I want to see if Houston is for real. Sure, they made the 2nd round last year but they beat a fairly weak Cincy team at home then lost to Baltimore in the 2nd. I also want to get a better look at Peyton.

other notable games: Jax @ Indy, NE @ Baltimore

Week 4: Sunday Day, New Orleans @ Green Bay: Arguably the two most talented teams in the NFL (at least offensively), I want to see how this Saints team responds without Sean Payton and without interim HC Joe Vitt. If you don’t remember last year’s ending, check this out.

other notable games: CAR @ ATL, TEN @ HOU, NYG @ Philadelphia, SF @ NYJ

Week 5: Monday Night, Houston @ New York Jets: I’m intrigued with this Sanchez/Tebow relationship, and I want to see what Wade Phillips has in-stored for the young QBs. Plus, I need a Monday Night game to spruce up my picks. I really like this Houston team, they’re my dark horse for the Super Bowl.

other notable games: ATL @ Washington, Den @ NE, SD @ NO

Week 6: Sunday Day, New York Giants @ San Francisco: A rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, I want to see how year 2 under Harbaugh will go. I don’t want to alarm any 9ers fans, but I just don’t see the team repeating last year’s results. I’m not saying they won’t have a good year, but when you 13-3 it’s pretty hard to improve on your win-loss record

other notable games: Den @ SD, Det @ Philadelphia,Dal @ Baltimore

Week 7:Monday Night, Detroit @ Chicago: This bears team were primed for the 5th or 6th seed last year before injuries took out Cutler and stud RB Matt Forte. I see regression for the Lions, but they should be tough out no matter what with that young D and particular the defensive line. Weather could be a factor, but it’s only Mid October so we’ll see

other notable games: NYJ @ NE, NO @ TB, Baltimore @ Hou

Week 8: Sunday Day, Atlanta @ Philadelphia: I think the Eagles will be back in ’12, with a vastly improved defense. They’ll actually have a full offseason to fully grasp the complexities of the wide-9 defensive formation along with potentially having a healthy offense. Did I mention that I think the Falcons will miss the playoffs and Matt Ryan will take a step back?

other notable games: NO @ DEN, NYG @ Dallas

Week 9: Sunday Day, Tampa Bay @ Oakland: While most would wonder why I would pick two teams that missed the playoffs, I believe the Bucs will return to their 2010 form and will be strong challengers in the NFC this year. I also like the Raider’s hiring of Dennis Allen and we’ll get to see if Carson Palmer has anything left in the tank. If you want further explanation of my pick, just look at the other notable games

other notable games: Pittsburgh @ NYG, Philadelphia @ NO

Week 10: Sunday Day, Buffalo @ New England: The Chan Gailey led team will be one to watch, after starting 5-1 they quickly went back to old form and promptly finished 6-10. They need to improve their o-line, but they have a great running duo in Fred Jackson & Spiller. I don’t think the Pats will slip, but I wonder if they’ll show more 4-3 looks after experimenting with it last season.

other notable games:Dallas @ Philadelphia, ATL @ NO

Week 11: Sunday Day, San Diego @ Denver: Another solid look at Peyton, this will be the race for the division as I see the Chargers poised to steal the thunder and the AFC West this season. Everyone thinks the Broncos will run away with the division, but if Rivers plays the entire 2012 season like he finished ’11, this should be a competitive division to watch.

other notable games: Chicago @ SF, Baltimore @ Pittsburgh, GB @ Detroit

Week 12: Sunday Night, Green Bay @ NYG: A rematch of last year’s playoff game, I’m interested to see how the Giants will respond after hoisting the Lombardi trophy. They showed fatigue during the 08 season, perhaps burned out on their headlines but this team may have a new look with the subtractions on offense of Brandon Jacobs and Manningham. Expect a close one.

other notable games: SF @ NO, NE @ NYJ, WAS @ DAL

Week 13: Sunday Day, Pittsburgh @ Baltimore: Another great interdivision match up, these guys will continue to dog it out for AFC North supremacy. I want to see how Flacco does in this season after proclaiming himself to be the best QB in the league, and I want to see how the Steelers draft helps them whether it’s their O-Line or defense they target early on. With only 4 games left after this week, this could very well decide the division baring a major injury to either side.

other notable games: NO @ ATL, Philadelphia @ DAL

Week 14: Monday Night, Houston @ New England: I think this game will decide who get’s top seed in the AFC and we should have plenty of offense in this one as both teams’ defenses have big holes. I suspect Arian Foster won’t be able to match last season’s numbers as the Texans have already lost 2 starters on their o-line and still have to find replacements.

other notable games: NO @ NYG, DET @ GB, Philadelphia @ TB

Week 15: Sunday Day, Washington @ Cleveland: I know what you’re thinking, Redskins and Browns in the Can’t Miss Game? Will it even be on National TV? I like this match up, two young teams with young QBs without playoff implications. It may be sloppy, but this could be a great look at what RG3 can do. Remember, Colt McCoy has been known to put up big passing numbers too.

other notable games: SF @ NE, Carolina @ SD, DEN @ Baltimore, NYG @ ATL

Week 16: Sunday Day, New York Giants @ Baltimore: Another can’t miss game for these clubs, but if they lose this one they could very well be out of the playoff picture. Both have great defenses while the Ravens have the advantage with running and the Giants with passing. Huge playoff implications here, no Monday Night game either.

other notable games: SD @ NYJ, CIN @ Pittsburgh, TEN @ GB

Week 17: Sunday Day, Oakland @ San Diego: During the final week, I see a few games that could well decide who gets into the playoffs and who misses it. I have a feeling about the Raiders this season, and the Chargers are bound to rebound after last year’s disastrous start.

other notable games: TB @ ATL, Baltimore @ CIN, Carolina @ NO

Stay tuned for playoff predictions coming later tonight…