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2012 NFL schedule highlights: Peyton Manning, Broncos host Steelers in SNF opener

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The NFL released its 2012 schedule on Tuesday night. Shutdown Corner has the instant analysis.

• Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a blockbuster Sunday Night Football season opener, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It's a rematch of January's wild card game (you know, the one where Tim Tebow threw a game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime) in name only; this one is all about Peyton's return and Mile High debut. Manning's second game will also be in primetime -- Denver travels to Atlanta in Week 2 for Monday Night Football. The Broncos' third game is a nationally televised affair on CBS against the Houston Texans. And Week 5 is the doozy: Peyton vs. Tom Brady at 4:15 ET on CBS. (How hard do you think CBS fought to keep that one off of primetime?)

• Monday Night Football opens its newly-traditional doubleheader with a 7 PM game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens. The nightcap features the San Diego Chargers traveling to the Oakland Raiders. Woof. That sounded like a sign of a bad schedule to come, but the MNF sked looks improved in 2012. After two years of unwatchable midseason games, the ESPN slate doesn't have any obvious holes.

• Five best Monday night games: Broncos at Falcons (Week 2), Texans at Patriots (Week 14), Bears at Cowboys (Week 5), Eagles at Saints (Week 11), Falcons at Lions (Week 16).

• Three worst Monday Night games: Chiefs at Steelers (10), 49ers at Cardinals (Week 8), Jets at Titans (Week 15).

[ Related: The best and worst NFL games of the 2012 season | Schedule |Team by team ]

• Five best Sunday night games: Steelers at Broncos (Week 1), Packers at Giants (Week 12), Lions at 49ers (Week 2), Ravens at Steelers (Week 11), Lions at Packers (Week 14).

• Sunday night game most likely to be flexed: Chargers at Jets (Week 16).

• The primetime dregs are dumped on new, full Thursday Night schedule. For the first time, every NFL team gets a primetime game this season. Celebrate the elementary school-ification of football! This leads to such lowlights as Buccaneers at Vikings (Week 8), Colts at Jaguars (Week 10) and Cardinals at Rams (Week 5).

• That's not to say quality Thursday night television will relegated to "Parks and Recreation." Highlights of the NFLN's schedule include: Giants at Panthers (Week 3, in Cam Newton's national TV debut) and Saints at Falcons (Week 12).

• The Dallas Cowboys will host the Washington Redskins in a traditional NFC East Thanksgiving game. In the day's other games, Houston travels to Detroit and the New York Jets host New England in NBC's first-ever Thanksgiving game. You know what the cure for tryptophan is? Tim Tebow.

• Every NFL team plays at least one Thursday night game this season, just like in the days of George Halas and Vince Lombardi. #sarcasm #oversaturation

• Speaking of the Saints; if you were wondering whether the NFL would subtly punish the team through its television schedule, wonder no more: Bounty-happy New Orleans got four primetime games in 2012 and is in line to play at least seven nationally-televised games. Controversy sells.

• If Andrew Luck enters the season as Indianapolis Colts starter, as expected, he'll face Brian Urlacher and the Chicago Bears. His expected slow start shouldn't tell us much about his NFL future. Peyton Manning lost eight of his first nine games in Indy.

• Last year's almost-NFC champs San Francisco 49ers, will travel to 2010's actual NFL champion Green Bay Packers in Fox's Week 1 national game. Four days later, Green Bay hosts another game, the season debut of NFL Network's Thursday Night Football, against the Chicago Bears. And because the NFL loves to schedule teams for back-to-back primetime games, the Packers will travel to Seattle for a Week 3 Monday Night game. Get ready for six days of overplayed "Matt Flynn faces his former team" storylines on ESPN.

• The Cleveland Browns home schedule leaked early, Shutdown Corner writes in the most unexciting sentence ever. That hotly-anticipated Chiefs/Browns game is on Dec. 9, in case you weren't wondering.

• Most likely candidate for the "all on the line" Week 17 Sunday Night flexed game: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants. Least likely: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans.

• Excited about the regular season? This should serve as a splash of cold water: The regular season doesn't start for 140 days.

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