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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Top 10 games: Already salivating over Thanksgiving weekend

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We'll see a familiar Brady-Manning showdown in Week 5 (with one slight difference). (Getty Images)  
We'll see a familiar Brady-Manning showdown in Week 5 (with one slight difference). (Getty Images)  

I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving week this year.

Not because my belly craves turkey and all the fixings -- I think I'll be working the actual holiday -- but because that just might be the best weekend of NFL football we will have in 2012.

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The league released its schedule Tuesday and scanning it for the 10 most intriguing games, I kept coming back to Week 12.

It is loaded with great games. It starts with a Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit between the Lions and the Houston Texans and finishes with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers playing against Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on a Monday night. In between, it's filled with several games that make us salivate just thinking about them.

Several are on my list of the 10 most-intriguing games of 2012. But you have to read on to find out which ones.

Week 12. I can hardly wait.

Here are my 10 intriguing games:

Week 1
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
This is Peyton Manning's first game. That's intrigue enough. But it comes against the Steelers, the team the Broncos beat in the AFC playoffs last season. What a first test for Manning to show that his neck is OK. You know the Steelers will get after him.

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
This is the NFC Championship Game most expected last season when the playoffs started. The Packers were the top seed, with the 49ers the No. 2 seed. But the Giants beat them both to win it all and prevent a possible title game between these two. Now they'll have to settle for a big regular-season game. The intrigue is that San Francisco defense against that Green Bay offense.

Week 3

New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
Does it get any better than watching Tom Brady and his passing offense matched up against that Baltimore defense? The Ravens lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, a game they would have won had Lee Evans caught that late pass in the end zone. That still has to sting. The rematch will be their chance to take out some of that frustration.

Week 5
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Any time Manning and Brady get together, no matter what uniforms they're wearing, it has to be listed here. Manning is now in a Broncos uniform, but this rivalry of two future Hall of Fame passers is still top-notch.

Week 6
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers
This is a rematch of the NFC title game, a game the 49ers probably felt they would have won if not for special-teams mistakes, two by Kyle Williams. Now the 49ers have to travel to the East Coast for a chance at redemption. The 49ers play a nasty brand of football and this should show it. But the Giants don't back down to anybody.

Week 9
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
This is a game that matches two quarterbacks from the 2006 draft with two Super Bowl rings apiece: Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. It also features two defenses that get after the quarterback. Passers and pass rushers. That's great stuff.

Week 12
Houston Texans at Detroit Lions
This Thanksgiving Day game features big-time offenses that feature two of the best receivers in the league in Andre Johnson (Texans) and Calvin Johnson (Lions). There should be plenty of points in this Turkey Day shootout.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
The Packers beat the Giants on the road, but then the Giants went into Green Bay and upset the Packers in the playoffs. This matches the past two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning. That should make for a lot of fun. Oh, it's also on Sunday night, giving the Giants fans an entire day to get lubed up.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
This is a rematch of the Bounty Game from last season's playoffs when Gregg Williams delivered his now-famous pregame speech. But it also happened before a classic game, one the 49ers won in the closing seconds. That game was big for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. He'll most likely have to match scores with Drew Brees. That isn't easy -- especially in the Superdome.

Week 14
New Orleans Saints at New York Giants
The Saints lit up the Giants last season in New Orleans and the Saints appeared to be a total mismatch. But the Saints have to go to New York in this one. But this time they will play outdoors late in the season, a big difference from the previous meeting. It's Brees and that passing game against a good Giants front. That's always fun.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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