The 2012 NFL Season got underway on Wednesday, as the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants in the opener. The rest of the teams begin their season this weekend.
In a 16-game schedule, each contest is very important. This includes Thursday night games, which will take place all the way up to, an including, Week 15.
Below are five of the most highly anticipated games in 2012. Click here to see the schedule in its entirety.
Week 5 Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady square off every year, but this will be the first time the matchup won't include the Colts. The Patriots are the favorites to win the Super Bowl, while the Broncos are some experts' dark horse pick to win the title. The future Hall of Fame quarterbacks bring out the bets in each other, and should have another competitive contest in 2012.
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Week 6 New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
It's a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game, in which the Giants needed overtime to claim the victory. San Francisco's top ranked defense will look to slow down New York's aerial attack, led by Eli Manning. The 49ers also feature some key players that helped the Giants win the title last year. They signed Brandon Jacobs and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham in the offseason.
Week 9 Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins
These teams might not be in the playoff picture at the end of the season, but they feature two of the best young players in the league. Cam Newton set multiple rookie record at quarterback for the Panthers last year. The Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III second overall, who showed in the preseason that he has the potential to be a special player for years to come.
Week 12 San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
The two teams played probably the best game of last season, as the 49ers came from behind in the final seconds to advance to the NFC Championship Game. Drew Brees is coming off the heels of one of the best quarterback seasons in NFL history, setting a record with 5,476 passing yards. Both San Francisco and New Orleans are expected to be in the race to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.
Week 12 Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
Last year's best regular season team visits the defending Super Bowl champions in a rematch from a year ago. The Packers will be looking for revenge against the Giants, who beat them in their first playoff game. Aaron Rodgers meets Eli Manning in a matchup of, perhaps, the two best quarterbacks in the conference.