NFL Baltimore RavensChicago BearsCincinnati BengalsDallas CowboysDenver BroncosDetroit LionsGreen Bay PackersNew England PatriotsNew Orleans SaintsNew York GiantsNew York JetsPhiladelphia EaglesPittsburgh SteelersSan Francisco 49ers

2012 NFL Schedule: Top 10 Games to Watch in September

The 2012 NFL schedule was officially released for the first time on Tuesday night–which means fans finally know when their beloved teams will be squaring off against certain teams. From New York Giants beginning their journey to defend their Super Bowl title by opening the season against the Dallas Cowboys to the Green Bay Packers key matchup against the San Francisco 49ers , here’s a look at the top 10 games to look forward to in September for the upcoming NFL season.

10. Week 1: Cincinnati Bengals vs Baltimore Ravens

At this point last year, nobody gave the Bengals any shot (including this writer) at reaching the playoffs, but this team ended up becoming one of the biggest surprises from the 2011 season thanks to Andy Dalton and a younger defense. Cincinnati certainly has what it takes to compete with Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North and a Week 1 win would be a huge step in the right direction for this young, emerging squad.

9. Week 1: Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants
Not only did the Giants steal both wins from the Cowboys in 2011, but they stole the NFC East title by winning the regular season finale before going on to win the Super Bowl. Don’t be surprised if that thought is in the back of the minds of Tony Romo and company when these two teams kickoff the start of the 2012 season on September.

8. Week 4: New England Patriots vs. New York Jets

Ah yes, the first of two matchups between these two AFC East rivals that seem to just absolutely hate each other with a passion. On paper, the Patriots seem to be more talented considering all of the weapons they have on offense, but Rex Ryan’s squad always looks like a completely different ball club when going against Tom Brady.

Plus, the Jets have been known for their dominant defense over the years–so this wil certainly be a fun matchup to watch.

7. Week 2: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers

Everybody knows the Bears-Packers rivalry is one of the best in sports and it will most likely be obvious as to why in 2012 considering both teams seem to be talented enough to win the NFC North. Chicago’s always been known for their defense, but all eyes will be on Jay Cutler (shocker) now that he finally has a legit target to throw to
in the passing game after the team acquired Brandon Marshall during the offseason.

6. Week 4: New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The two yearly matchup between the Giants and Eagles are always fun to watch for both fan bases and that was exactly the case in 2011 as they split their two meetings. Philadelphia faces plenty of pressure after all of the disappointment surrounding the “Dream Team” hype, but the most interesting factor should be how well New York is performing considering their first three weeks consist of games on a Wednesday, Sunday, and Thursday.

5. Week 4: New Orleans Saints vs. Green Bay Packers
Nobody could have asked for a better way to kickoff the 2011 regular season than the way Green Bay and New Orleans did last September and there’s every reason to believe this Week 4 matchup will be just as entertaining to watch. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees played at a completely different high level last season when compared to the rest of the quarterbacks in the league and it really wouldn’t be a surprise if these two offenses combined for over 1,000 yards in the game.

4. Week 2: Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers 
Remember what happened last year when these two teams met during the regular season? While there may be no heated handshakes at the end of the game, this matchup will certainly display two of the toughest teams in the NFC.

Matthew Stafford squaring off against one of the league’s top defenses–who wouldn’t want to watch this matchup?

3. Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos
These two teams will pick up right where they left off last January, but with a few key changes. The Steelers will be in much better shape considering how banged up they were on both sides of the ball during last year’s playoffs, but the main difference is the Broncos will have Peyton Manning under center instead of Tim Tebow.

Obviously, it’s completely unfair to compare Manning’s numbers to Tebow, but all eyes will be on how Peyton’s neck holdup in his first big test during the regular season–assuming nothing happens during the preseason.

2. Week 3: New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
These two teams gave football ones of the most exciting AFC Championship matchups of all time last year and the Ravens will be anxious for revenge considering they were a chip shot away from heading into overtime agains tthe Patriots. While New England will always enter the regular season as one of the favorites with Tom Brady healthy, the same can be said about Baltimore and their defense considering their defense always seems to be one of the bests.

This Week 3 matchup could easily be an early preview of another meeting in January.

1. Week 1: Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers 

This was a matchup that many expected to see during the 2012 NFC Championship considering they were the No. 1 and No. 2 seed. The 49ers should have one of the league’s top defenses once again and they’ll be heavily tested early against Aaron Rodgers and one of the best passing games in the league.
Honestly–what’s not to love about this matchup?

“Like” Dan Parzych on Facebook

Be sure to follow Dan on Twitter @DanParzych

Email Dan: Dan.Parzych@RantSports.com

Be sure to check out the Rant Sports group on the new RantFinance.com