Mike Tirico on 2012 MNF schedule

Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden form the new Monday Night Football team.

With Tuesday night’s release of the 2012 NFL schedule, we now know the slate of games for the 43rd season of Monday Night Football.

Front Row caught up with MNF play-by-play man, Mike Tirico, to get his thoughts on the 17 games — 16 of which he will call with analyst Jon Gruden and sideline reporter, Lisa Salters. (The first Monday of the season has a MNF doubleheader between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders at 10:15 p.m.)

What are your thoughts on the overall MNF schedule?
It is always exciting to know where you will be spending your fall weekends and there are some stellar storylines this year. Peyton Manning twice in the first 6 weeks (Sept. 17 and Oct. 15), terrific QB matchups like Michael Vick versus Drew Brees (Nov. 5); Vick vs. Cam Newton (Nov. 26); and Matt Ryan versus Matthew Stafford (Saturday, Dec. 22) make for some great storylines. I think Chicago and Philadelphia are two of the biggest NFC stories this year and we see those teams a combined five times.

What game are you looking forward to most and why?
I would say Houston at New England. Considering how close the Texans came to the AFC Championship game last year with their third string QB, if healthy, I think these two teams and the Ravens are the favorites in the AFC.

What is the best restaurant in a city you’ll visit this season?
Two jump out: Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix has been voted among the top 5 pizza restaurants in America by USA Today. George’s at the Cove in LaJolla, Calif. before the Broncos and Chargers, a favorite of our producer Jay Rothman and is a can’t miss in San Diego.

The MNF crew has a tradition of spending time together on Saturday nights during the season. Is there something the team is likely to do together in one of these cities?
I will definitely be looking at the college football schedule over the next week to see where we can get to a good game on a Saturday night. I have noticed that Alabama at LSU is the Saturday before our Monday nighter at New Orleans — that sounds like a road trip!

You tweeted at Cincinnati Bengals radio play-by-play man and fellow Syracuse alum, Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard), during the schedule special. How often do you see former SU classmates/friends on the road?
Probably half of the stops during the year. Dan is in Year 2 as voice of the Bengals, our ESPN co-worker Dave Pasch is voice of the Arizona Cardinals so we get to see him as well during the year. There are others covering NFL teams and friends around the country. It is one of the great perks of traveling so much.

How nice will it be to finish the MNF season with the Saturday night “home game” in Detroit before Christmas?
What a great bonus, since we are always on the road on Christmas Day for the NBA, to have a little more family time during the holidays will be great. Now hopefully the Falcons and Lions will make it a great game as well.

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