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Published on 03/27/2012 at Tue Mar 27 18:00.
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Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looses the ball against Elvis Dumervil #92 of the Denver Broncos during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

(Image courtesy of Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos have been informed there is a “strong chance” they’ll open their season on Sunday Night Football, Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports.

“Our fans should get ready for more night games,” Broncos president Joe Ellis said. “Home and road.”

So which game on the Broncos’ 2012 scheduled list of opponents fits the primetime opener bill?

Our top five candidates, rated in the standard measure of NFL appeal and awesomeness (Manning Mustaches), after the jump.

5. Denver Broncos vs. New Orleans Saints


Why it belongs in primetime: Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning will always be a big seller, especially since the two faced off in the Super Bowl not long ago. Both teams were division champions who advanced in the playoffs, and a cross-conference games are always interesting for their rarity.

Fit for season opener? There was once a much stronger chance that this game would be highlighted for a season opening slot, but that was before BountyGate, something we guess the NFL won’t want to highlight right out of the, umm, gate. This may get moved to primetime, but it doesn’t feel likely for the season opener.

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Manning Mustache Meter: 6.5 out of 10

4. Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers


Why it belongs in primetime: The San Diego Chargers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, but they were still considered the cream of the AFC West crop the past two years (and next year, before the Manning signing). Any division foe of the Broncos will have that certain rivalry appeal, but the Chargers are the only team in the AFC West with a top-tier quarterback to help light up NBC’s marquee.

Fit for season opener? One of these two games will certainly get the primetime treatment, but our guess is it will be an Away game for the Broncos. With that sunny San Diego weather we’re hoping it’s later in the season.

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Manning Mustache Meter: 7 out of 10

3. Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos


Why it belongs in primetime: The Baltimore Ravens are one of the few teams throughout Peyton Manning’s career that have, at times, found ways to rattle the four-time MVP. Aging NFL all-star Ray Lewis vs. fellow aging NFL all-star Peyton Manning will certainly sell, and the Ravens have been traditional Broncos-killers to boot. This is one of two Monkey Off the Back games for the Broncos — will they start the season with the opportunity?

Fit for the opener? It’s a strong fit. The only thing that may detract it is the fact that the Broncos aren’t home. The Broncos are the story of the offseason for winning Peyton Manning, and it makes a bit more sense for the NFL to want to highlight the Broncos as hosts. “Come see our new quarterback everybody. This will be fun.”

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Manning Mustache Meter: 8.5 out of 10

2. New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos


Why it belongs in primetime: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Enough said.

Fit for season opener? See our thoughts on the Away game vs. Baltimore above. Also, the league tends to favor this Brady vs. Manning matchup take place later in the year. Most recently, Manning has faced Brady’s Patriots in Weeks 11, 10, 9, 9, 3, and 9. Schedule-makers just tend to save this match for later in the year. Manning and Brady last opened a season against one another in 2004.

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Manning Mustache Meter: 9 out of 10

1. Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers


Why it belongs in primetime: Two hugely popular franchises with large followings that made the playoffs last year. Two of the AFC’s best quarterbacks. The Broncos knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs last year. The last time the Steelers faced Peyton Manning in the playoffs (2005), they knocked him out of the playoffs. The storylines go on and on.

Fit for the opener? This game is the best fit for the Broncos to open their season. It’s a home game for the Broncos, and the Steelers will draw huge ratings.

One thing that may offset this, though, is the lack of a rivalry element. Manning has only faced off against Ben Roethlisberger once since the sixth-seed Steelers knocked off the top-seed Colts in the 2005 playoffs (a 2008 Colts win). You’d think Roethlisberger and Manning would face each other more often, but, for one reason or another, they simply haven’t.

Our money’s on the Steelers visiting Denver to open the Broncos’ season on Sunday Night Football — assuming, of course, that Klis’ report is true.

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Manning Mustache Meter: 10 out of 10

The 2012 NFL season will kickoff Wednesday, September 5th on NBC.

Which game would you prefer, folks?

Against which opponent do you hope the Broncos open their season on Sunday Night Football?

View Results

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TV wants Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos to work nights this year [Denver Post]
Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule: Opponents Announced [BroncoTalk]

  • Jon

    Manning mustaches! Haha we should use that rating tool more often! I believe a Pats/Broncos opener would be far better than a Steelers/Broncos one, though.

    The Steelers lost to Tim Tebow, not Peyton Manning.  They don’t want revenge on Manning.  Tom Brady however has been Manning’s rival his entire career, how about a classic Manning vs. Brady to start the season?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want to go against the Steelers week 1. If Manning lost to the Steelers the 1st week of the season the talking heads wouldn’t shut up about us trading Tebow until week 14 when we secured a playoff spot.

    Two things cannot happen this year.

    1. We cannot lose to the Steelers week 1.

    2. Manning can’t be his normal choking self in the playoffs.

    Either of those happen and the media will be up the Bronco’s asses till hell or high water.

  • Mikepg01

    Why not pair the old vs. new Manning teams with the Colts against the Broncos to see how the injured, discarded master fares against his freshout replacement? Or match Tebow’s old vs new teams with the Broncos vs. the Jets?  

  • Jon

    We don’t play the Colts or Jets this season.

    See our opponents here:

  • Speer

    Manning vs Manning would be cool, but we have to wait until 2013 for that. Next season we will be even stronger.

  • Tim Lynch

    I’m definitely going to find uses for them…

  • Mikepg01

     Thanks!  I guess we’ll have to wait for those pairings later. 

  • Tim Lynch


  • Tim Lynch

    Then don’t lose at home to the Steelers.  Problem solved.  :)

  • Speer

    I was under the assumption it would be next season.  I found it on wiki:
    “The next “Manning Bowl” is scheduled to take place in the 2013 season, when Eli’s Giants will host Peyton’s Broncos.”

  • Tim Lynch

    :)  I said February.

  • Tim Lynch

    Meaning Super Bowl baby!

  • Tim Lynch

    Meaning Super Bowl baby!

  • Mcvette111

    Bring on the Raiders

  • Mcvette111

    Bring on the Raiders

  • Anonymous

    I was thinking the same thing.  I picked Pittsburgh though due to the fact we are playing at home.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have season opener at home (Peyton’s first game).  I wouldn’t mind New Orleans as well.

  • Mike Birtwistle

    13 and 3 till we ain’t!

  • Mike Birtwistle

    I’ve been saying the Broncs would play on SNF and it’d be Manning vs Brady since the Pats lost the Superbowl and before the Broncos got Manning.  I’d prefer Pitt but I also like being smug and right!