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Freud: Welcome back, Peyton, and other schedule thoughts

And refresh. And refresh. And …

Thank you. The 2012 NFL schedule appeared at last on my computer, and it was good. Yes, it’s April, but we can always plan for football season.

• First, the Broncos. Welcome back, Peyton Manning, here’s the Steelers defense in Week 1 on Sunday Night Football. Denver’s on five times in prime time, be it Sunday, Monday or Thursday. Three of those are in the first six weeks – Steelers, at Atlanta, Week 2 and at San Diego, Week 6 – as in the networks want to make sure Manning’s playing.



The Raiders are in town Sept. 30 and the two teams play in the Black Hole Dec. 6, which is an NFL Network Thursday nighter. Do take the over for Saints and Broncos during Week 8, a Sunday NBC broadcast from Mile High. And though, it isn’t a prime timer, the Broncos are at New England in Week 5 for Brady-Manning hoopla.

The early impression is that Denver needs to survive the first half of the schedule. It gets a lot better – with the exception of at the Ravens in Week 15 – in the second half. And just in case you’re wondering, the Broncos don’t face Tim Tebow and the New York Jets.



• Opening Week: The Super Bowl champion New York Giants get to play Thursday Night Football on Wednesday – because it’s Democratic Convention week and the president takes precedence. But do the G-men have to play the Cowboys? (See later rant on this subject.)

The Monday Night Football doubleheader is Bengals at Ravens, which gets good marks here – see quarterback Andy Dalton, who was my pick for Rookie of the Year last season, run for his life against the Baltimore defense. The nightcap is Chargers at Raiders, an obligatory West Coast matchup, where one tries to root for Philip Rivers.

• Thanksgiving football: Hey, the Lions are good again. That’s a good start for turkey football, and the Texans at Detroit should be an interesting opener for one of the greatest days of the year. (Let’s face it, Thanksgiving is about football and stuffing your face. It’s a great holiday.) Redskins (RG3?) at Cowboys is the worst game of the day, and it’s a good rivalry, followed by Patriots at Jets, which is always amusing. (Seriously, which team and their fans are more noxious? That will be a game-time decision.)



• OK, we’ve got Thursday Night Football. More football is always good, but … some of these games are less-than-stellar. The NFL is trying to do two things here. One, with Thursday broadcasts, every team gets a prime-time broadcast. Sure there may be surprises with parity these days, but, really some teams shouldn’t be on TV.

Week 10 – Colts at Jaguars? (Yes, there is likely the Andrew Luck factor, but yikes.) Weeks 5 and 7 – Cardinals at Rams and Seahawks and Niners? I’m a Niner fan, but I’ll be one of six people watching the latter game.

The other factor here is that the NFL Network is trying to build Thursday night into a franchise that it can sell to a network. This also makes one wonder how much the NFL really cares about player safety in the wake of the New Orleans bounty scandal. Yes, some teams may have byes, but a lot will be playing on three days of rest.

• The Cowboys. (Insert primal scream here.) Dallas (a 9-7 team which did not add Peyton Manning) has four prime-time appearances, plus its traditional Thanksgiving game. “Dear NFL, Stop shoving the Cowboys down our throats. We would also appreciate not seeing the NFC East in prime time seemingly every week.” Really, Week 13, Eagles at Cowboys? Here’s hoping the NFL actually has the guts to use the flex schedule here.

• See a handshake from every angle possible: Week 2, Lions at Niners.

• Best Sunday Night Football: Week 10 – Ravens at Steelers

• Worst Sunday Night Football: Week 5 – Chargers at Saints

• Best Monday Night Football: Week 14 – Texans at Packers

• Worst Monday Night Football: Week 8 – Niners at Cardinals

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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