2012 NFL Schedule’s Stunning Highlights

Intriguing statistics, matchups and other surprises you need to know before this upcoming NFL season.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

In no other sport do we critically analyze a schedule as much, literally months before play even begins; but hey, it is the NFL. From the compulsive gambler, to the sixth grader smart enough to draft Victor Cruz on his fantasy team, football has turned into the ultimate sports interest in America. Everyone's all-in

The upcoming 2012 schedule was released just days ago, and already the over-analytical predictions have been swirling in. I figured I would take a balanced approach and meet you somewhere inbetween the in-depth full-time T.V. analysts and those elementary level fantasy gurus to point out what's really important and what to look forward to when looking at the schedule that begins this fall.

#1 First and foremost…

We know we will have football! No more of this 'lock-out' jargon that almost prevented us a season last year.

#2 The toughest 2012 schedules (based upon last year's opponent's winning % and number of quality opponents they will face ) are…

1 New York Giants – .547 opponent winning % – 7 quality opponents.
2 Denver Broncos – .543 opponent winning % – 7 quality opponents.
3 Cleveland Browns – .527 opponent winning % – 7 quality opponents.

Tied for 4th – St. Louis and Baltimore, both with marks of .523%.

That's right, the Super Bowl champs get thrown right into the thick of things while Peyton Manning better button his chin strap as well. Young quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy get no help in Cleveland and St. Louis either. But wait, there's more…

#3 Fun-filled facts about the NFL 'schedule ranks'….

– The Giants are the first Super Bowl champion to enter the following season with the most difficult projected schedule.
– The Patriots have the easiest ranked schedule at No 32. However, the team with the easiest schedule has missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. (I personally doubt it will be six as long as Tom Brady can throw a pig skin). Last year the Pats went 13-3 against the second-easiest schedule.

– The Packers also catch a huge break, receiving the No. 31 ranked schedule (.469).

– Jacksonville plays the most amount of 'quality opponents,' with 8, but rank 14th on schedule difficulty.

– The Rams and Vikings will play the toughest home schedule in the NFL at .563. Another tough break for Sam Bradford, not to mention another young quarterback in Christian Ponder.

-The new schedule features rematches for eight of 11 playoff games from 2011: Giants-Packers, Steelers-Broncos, Giants-Falcons, 49ers-Saints, Broncos-Patriots, Ravens-Texans, Giants-49ers and Patriots-Ravens.

#4 The team with the most exciting overall schedule has got to be the…

The San Francisco 49ers.

What a ridiculously exciting set of games set for the red and gold. Check it out…

Sun Sep 9 – SF @ Green Bay – Old time rivals clash in this season opener with a rejuvenated Alex Smith trying to prove himself against Aaron Rodgers; who was selected after him in the NFL Draft back in 2005.

Sun Sep 16 – Detroit @ SF – Remember that hootenanny that ensued  following this matchup last year? Ya, so will Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh.

Sun Sept 30 – SF @ NY Jets – Any game that will involve Sanchez / Tebow drama will be must-see TV.

Sun Oct 14 NYG @ SF – They host the champs in this epic rivalry; a rematch of last year's NFC title game.

Sun Nov 25 – SF @ New Orleans – The first time the two teams will face off since 'bountygate' was released. You can rest assured knowing that 'kill Frank Gore's head' and take out 'Michael Crabtree's ACL' will still be fresh in the minds of 49ers faithful.

Sun Dec 16 – SF @ New England – Need I say more?

#5 Unfotunately…

The Broncos don't play the Colts or the Jets. We'll have to wait for 2013 to see a hopeful Manning vs. Luck or Manning vs. Tebow matchup.

Speaking of…

#6 Watch Andrew Luck flourish….

Four out of the first six games for Luck will be at home in Indy, and he'll be facing Minnesota, Jacksonville, Green Bay and Cleveland. The Colts could very well win some of those games, and by facing weak defenses inside of a dome, Luck could put up really good numbers.

#7 Let the games begin!….

The Cowboys and Giants will open the regular season on Wednesday, Sept 5, marking the ninth straight year that the Super Bowl champs have kicked off the season at home during prime time.

Josh Helmuth is the sports editor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JHelmuth or subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.