Posted Tue Mar 27th by Monty
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
The 2012 NFL season will kickoff Wednesday, September 5th on NBC.
Which game would you prefer, folks?