Denver Broncos among eight teams with five prime-time games

Tebow Time didn't translate to Prime Time, at least in terms of how the former Denver Broncos quarterback stacked up against the team's new QB, Peyton Manning. The Broncos join the Eagles, Steelers, Chargers, Packers, Bears, 49ers and Giants as the teams that will be broadcast a league-high five times during prime time in the 2012 NFL schedule.

Sure, the Broncos made the playoffs last season, but Denver isn't being featured because of the progress it made in finishing 8-8 to win the AFC West. Manning's return to the NFL with a team other than the Colts is the allure, and rightly so. There's no waste of time to get him in the spotlight, either, as the Broncos play host to the Steelers in Week 1 on Sunday Night Football.

As for Tebow Time? The Jets are playing in national games four times, although one of those is a Thanksgiving Day game, but it's high-profile nonetheless. What's interesting is three of those games come in the season's final six weeks -- the portion of the season when Tebow could be The Guy if incumbent Mark Sanchez doesn't establish himself.

As for the other prominently featured prime-time teams, quarterbacks (what else?) are the premier attractions: Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick and Eli Manning. But there is also some love being shown for defense, with the Niners' fearsome front being featured five times.

To note, some of the games on the schedule could be flexed into (or out of) prime time, so what we see now might not be what we actually get when everything shakes out.

Here's some other notable takes on the prime-time slate:

• Rookies underexposed: The NFL doesn't seem excited enough about rookie QB prospects Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III to risk scheduling them in many evening games. The Colts play Week 10 in Jacksonville on NFL Network in their only prime-time game. Washington plays host to the Giants on Monday night Week 13 and plays at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.

• Strong start for TNF: NFL Network opens its expanded Thursday night slate in Green Bay with an NFC North showdown against long-time rival Chicago.

• Shaking things up: The pot will be firmly stirred -- and shaken -- in Week 2: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz revisit the handshake, this time at Candlestick.

Saints stand strong: The Saints might be embroiled in controversy with the bounty scandal, but they're still popular enough to be featured four times. All but one of those games will come after interim head coach Joe Vitt's six-game suspension has been completed. In fact, his first game back will be at Denver on Sunday night, Oct. 28. That's followed by a Monday night game in the Superdome against Philadelphia.

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Lions love the spotlight: How far have the Lions come? Wide receiver Calvin Johnson and 5,000-yard passer Matthew Stafford play four games in prime time, two being on Monday night. And throw in the Thanksgiving afternoon game against the Texans for good measure.

• The shorter, the better: The NFL made good on trying to reduce the amount of cross-country travel teams have to make for Thursday night games. The longest hauls teams have to make: Tampa Bay to Minnesota in Week 8; Kansas City to San Diego in Week 9; and Miami to Buffalo in Week 11.

• Plenty of Patriots: The Patriots, one of the league's most popular teams, make four appearances, the first coming in Week 3 against the Ravens in an AFC Championship Game rematch. This time the game will be played in Baltimore.

• Hello, Houston: The Houston Texans join the ranks of the most prominently featured teams, playing four times -- three on the road. Houston plays at Chicago, at New England and at New York (Jets). It plays host to Green Bay on Oct. 14. And it also has a Thanksgiving day game in Detroit.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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