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Peyton Manning to make Denver debut in prime time

The NFL releases its 2012 schedule, with the Broncos quarterback slated to make his mile-high entrance against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first Sunday night of the season.

April 18, 2012|Sam Farmer
  • Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will make his Denver debut against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will make his Denver debut against… (John Leyba / Associated…)

Peyton in prime time?

It won't take long.

As the NFL revealed Tuesday with its schedule release, the Denver Broncos — Peyton Manning's new team — will play host to the first "Sunday Night Football" game of the 2012 season, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's one of five prime-time games for the Broncos, the maximum allowable in a league that, for the first time, will give each of its 32 teams at least one night game on national TV.

Eight days later, the Broncos will be on "Monday Night Football," marking the first time the Broncos have opened the season with consecutive prime-time games.

The Broncos beat the Steelers in Denver in a first-round playoff game last season, an overtime thriller that ended with an 80-yard touchdown — a Tim Tebow-to-DeMaryius Thomas pass — on the opening play of the extra period.

Other observations on the 2012 schedule:

•It won't be easy to be a Manning this season. Eli's New York Giants have the toughest schedule (based on last season's records of their opponents), and Peyton's Broncos have the second-toughest schedule.

•Dallas is on the road for six of its first nine games, including the kickoff opener at the Giants.

•San Francisco, which came within one victory of the Super Bowl last season, opens at Green Bay. That could be a very early glimpse at the NFC title game. At least it won't be cold — as the San Francisco Chronicle notes, the average temperature in Green Bay on Sept. 9 is 71 degrees.

•The season-opening "Monday Night Football" doubleheader features a pair of bitter division games: Cincinnati at Baltimore, and San Diego at Oakland.

•Two teams have three consecutive road games: the Packers and Houston Texans.

•The challenge of holding off Tebow will be especially difficult for New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, seeing as his team faces the Steelers and 49ers in the first month. The Jets open against Buffalo, which might have the league's best defensive line.

•Assuming he's the No. 1 pick by Indianapolis, Andrew Luck will open his NFL career at Chicago. Gulp.

•Since 1984, the Bears are 16-3 in openers played at home.

•Assuming Washington takes Robert Griffin III second, the Heisman Trophy winner will open at New Orleans against a defense that could be depleted by player suspensions.

•The Cowboys play host to the Redskins on Thanksgiving. It will be the first time since 2002 that classic matchup will take place on Turkey Day.

•Two years after getting no prime-time games, the Detroit Lions have four.

•Carolina's Cam Newton grew up in Atlanta rooting for Michael Vick. This season, the quarterbacks will meet in the Week 12 Monday night game when the Panthers play at Philadelphia.

•Oakland's Carson Palmer returns to Cincinnati to face his former team, one that now employs ex-Raiders coach Hue Jackson.

•The Saints have four prime-time games, including a Sunday night game against San Diego in Week 5, before Coach Joe Vitt will be cleared to return from his six-game suspension. Vitt, who will take over for the suspended Sean Payton, will make his coaching debut in another Sunday night game, Week 8 at Denver.

•Week 4 features a rematch of Saints at Packers, last season's kickoff opener.

•The traditional Peyton Manning-Tom Brady game — with a twist — will resume Oct. 4 when Denver plays at New England.

•In keeping with the league's efforts to make the end of the season as meaningful as possible, all Week 17 games are divisional matchups.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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