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Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Schedule release does Giants no favors

By ESPN Stats & Information


Kirby Lee/US Presswire

The Giants and Patriots face much different roads following their Super Bowl matchup.

Just over two months after meeting in Super Bowl XLVI, the New York Giants and New England Patriots learned their 2012 outlook when the NFL schedule was released Tuesday night. To put it simply, one team has a slightly tougher road than the other.

The Giants will face the league’s most difficult schedule this season, including a lethal stretch that will pit them against four of last year’s playoff teams (vs Green Bay Packers, vs New Orleans Saints, at Atlanta Falcons, at Baltimore Ravens) in the final six games. In fact, each of their last 11 games is against a divisional opponent or team coming off a postseason appearance.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, New York is the first defending champion to have the toughest schedule, and the club with the hardest slate has failed to make the playoffs in six of the last seven years.

History is on the Giants’ side, though, when they face the Dallas Cowboys in the 2012 opener, which will be the first Wednesday NFL game since 1948. The reigning Super Bowl champs have won 12 straight openers.

Meanwhile, after having the second-easiest schedule last season, the Patriots have the simplest set of opponents in 2012. Tom Brady and company play exactly one road game against a 2011 playoff team: Week 3 at Baltimore.

Having the easiest slate hasn’t been a blessing in recent years, however. According to Elias, the last five such teams have failed to reach the postseason.

SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS
Peyton Manning
Manning

• In his first game with the Denver Broncos and first start since January 2011, Peyton Manning will square off with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night in a rematch of last season's playoff clash. The Steelers will then face Denver’s previous quarterback, Tim Tebow, when they host the New York Jets in Week 2. The Jets open the campaign against the Buffalo Bills.

• Both Ravens-Steelers matchups will take place within a 15-day span (Weeks 11 and 13) and are part of a treacherous closing stretch for Baltimore. The defending AFC North champs face playoff teams from last season in five of their final seven games.

• The 15-1 Packers have an interesting start to their slate, hosting the San Francisco 49ers in the opener before a quick turnaround for a Thursday-night clash with the rival Chicago Bears. They then are likely to face former quarterback Matt Flynn when traveling to play the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night before returning home to face the Saints.

• If the draft goes as expected, with the Indianapolis Colts selecting quarterback Andrew Luck first and the Washington Redskins taking quarterback Robert Griffin III second, that pair will not exactly be eased into professional competition. The Colts open the season on the road against the Bears, and the Redskins start the year at New Orleans.

• Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh, who famously had a sideline spat after last season’s contest, won’t have to wait long to see each other again. The 49ers host the Detroit Lions in Week 2 on Sunday night.