Well it finally happened. The NFL has released their 2012-2013 season schedule and it isn’t without the usual fanfare as you would expect. It took me a couple of days to fully process what I was looking at.
I can say that there are some teams that will be thrown into it early (Cincinnati and Baltimore play week 1), some teams that may be looking at an early hole (Philadelphia plays the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions before the break, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints right after it) and some teams could benefit if they play their cards right (Helllllloooooooo Jacksonville!). Here are some of my thoughts on all things good, bad or otherwise regarding the 2012-2013 schedule.
America will get to see A LOT of the Atlanta Falcons: The only question is, will this team make it worth our while? They had a disappointing exit from the playoffs and have, for the most part, under-performed when it counts. Weeks 2 and 16 they are on “Monday Night Football” in Denver against the Broncos (who I think just signed a quarterback) and then at Detroit week 16, they play Dallas on “Sunday Night Football” and then New Orleans on Thursday night week 11. They will have a tough schedule throughout, but with the Saints going through some “issues” and Tampa Bay and Carolina possibly a year away still this could be the Falcons opportunity to make something happen in the South again.
So Denver has a new quarterback: Peyton Manning gets thrown into it early with a week one match-up against the Steelers. While I don’t necessarily see this as anything other than “Peyton Manning’s first game back” I can’t help but wonder how the Broncos will fare against the Steelers, Falcons, Texans, Chargers and Patriots. That’s before the bye week. Right after they face Drew Brees and the Saints, Andy Dalton and the Bengals, Cam Newton and the Panthers then Philip Rivers again. I still see Denver as the favorites, but I would keep an eye on Kansas City. Welcome back, Peyton!
About my Jacksonville comments: There are scores of Jaguars fans full of confused delight at the fact that I even mentioned Jacksonville as a “surprise” team. There are some who have stopped reading and probably laughed and said bad words about me. But hear me out on this one. I don’t think Jacksonville is a playoff team by any stretch of the imagination. I do think they have a chance to make a tiny bit of noise in that AFC South. Why? Their first five games are against Minnesota, Houston, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Chicago. After the bye week they have Oakland. Their first six games are against teams with a combined record of 40-56. Jacksonville, despite all of their issues went 5-11 and if they can manage a 4-2 or 3-3 start, stealing one against Cincinnati or Houston (who they play at home) that’s a win for me. Don’t forget that the Jaguars were sixth in defense, had the league’s top rusher, and with new head coach all I’m saying is keep an eye on them.
Philadelphia might be looking at another tough season: For you Eagles fans that thought last season wasn’t indicative of the team you have, you will most certainly get to prove it this year. Philadelphia has the toughest schedule in my estimation. Weeks two through 10 will see them play eight consecutive teams with a .500 or better record (Baltimore, Arizona, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas). Last season the Eagles finished strong and were considered a top-five team in the league. They won’t be running any tables this season.
Cincinnati is playing the AFC West at a good time: Last season Andy Dalton and A.J. Green were offensive breakouts as rookies. With the help of a solid defense they were able to put together a playoff berth and solid foundation for the future. They brought in a ton of picks in the Carson Palmer trade and have three picks (two first round) within the first two rounds of the draft. Put all of that with them playing a significantly weaker division in the AFC West and you might have the makings of a team built for two straight trips to the playoffs.
NFC East might be in for a rude awakening: The New York Giants won the Super Bowl on the back of a strong defense and Eli Manning turning into Eli Manning in the playoffs. Despite all of this, the NFC East may have been one of the more under-performing divisions in football (New York was the “champ” at 9-7). Looking at each schedule I don’t know what else to say but this could possibly be a repeat offender in the “who wants to be a division champ” sweepstakes. You will have a rookie quarterback in Washington, Dallas will figure out a way to beat themselves, Eli Manning will turn into Eli Manning in November and December (29-36), and Philly might not get win number two until 2013 with that schedule.
AFC North could be best division in NFL: Pittsburgh and Baltimore had 12 wins, Cincinnati went 9-7 and is improving, and all three have favorable match-ups on their schedules with this being an AFC West year. Their toughest opponents will be themselves.
Just some of my thoughts on the schedule. Obviously they are just that until the first snap happens in September. Either way one thing is clear:
We probably won’t be seeing much of this guy anytime soon.
Best game: Week 11 Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Worst game: Week 1 Minnesota vs. Jacksonville (How low can the attendance go?)
Tebow’s first game as starter: Week 10 vs. Seattle
First coach fired for losing: Andy Reid