The Upcoming 2006 NFL Football Season

The 2005 NFL football season passed with new all time records being set, with everything from Shaun Alexander’s record breaking 28 touchdowns in one season to Nathan Vasher’s longest return of a missed field goal at an incredible 108 yards (also the longest play of any kind in NFL history) to the Seattle Seahawks amazing regular season performance and loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.

Super Bowl XL was the 40th Super Bowl. The game was played on February 5, 2006 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, following the regular football season of 2005. The American Football Conference (AFC) champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, defeated the National Football Conference (NFC) champions, the Seattle Seahawks, 21–10. Although the Seahawks won the turnover battle, 2-1, and outgained the Steelers by 57 yards, Pittsburgh won on the strength of three big plays converted for touchdowns. The Seahawks were plagued by controversial penalties, dropped balls, poor clock management, and a game-ending interception on a drive deep into Steelers’ territory. This was the Steelers fifth Super Bowl win, and with this victory the Steelers join the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers for the most Super Bowl wins by a team.

The upcoming 2006 NFL season will be the 87th season of the National Football League. This season is scheduled to begin on September 7 and the opening kickoff game will feature the Miami Dolphins playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 8:30 pm Eastern time (ET). The regular series of games start on Sunday, September 10, with the Indianapolis Colts playing the New York Giants in New York. Then on Monday Night, September 11, there will be a doubleheader: the Minnesota Vikings at the Washington Redskins at 7 pm ET, followed by the San Diego Chargers at the Oakland Raiders at 10:15 pm ET.

Three games are scheduled to be played on Thanksgiving Day. In addition to the traditional annual Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys home games during that day (who will host the Miami Dolphins at 12:30 pm ET and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4:15 pm ET, respectively), the Denver Broncos will travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs at 8 pm ET.

The season will conclude on New Year’s Eve, December 31. Super Bowl XLI, the Super Bowl championship game for the 2006 season, will be held on February 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Lakes, Florida, and the post-season will conclude with the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

Based on the NFL’s scheduling formula, the intraconference and interconference matchups for 2006 will be:

AFC East v AFC South
AFC North v AFC West
NFC East v NFC South
NFC North v NFC West

AFC East v NFC North
AFC North v NFC South
AFC South v NFC East
AFC West v NFC West

2006 will be the first year that the NFL will use a “flexible-scheduling” system for the last seven weeks of the regular season. The system is designed so that the league has the flexibility in selecting games to air on Sunday night that will feature the current hottest, streaking teams. This system’s primary purpose is to prevent games featuring losing teams from airing during primetime late in the season, while at the same time allowing surprise, playoff-potential teams a chance to play at night. During the previous 2005 season, a December 19 Monday Night game featured the 4-9 Baltimore Ravens versus the 3-10 Green Bay Packers, while hot, streaking teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars had little or no primetime games.

Because Christmas Eve (December 24) falls on a Sunday during the 2006 season, the flexible-scheduling will actually occur in seven of the last eight weeks. Instead of a Sunday night game on Christmas Eve, two games will be held on Monday, Christmas Day: The Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas at 5 pm ET, and the New York Jets at Miami at 8:30 pm ET. Therefore, the first real test of the new flexible scheduling will come with the 2007 season, with the final seven weeks scheduled to begin on November 18 of that year.

Under the flexible-scheduling system, all Sunday games in the affected weeks will have the start time of 1pm ET/10am PT, except those played in the Pacific or Mountain Time zones who will have a start time of 4 pm ET/1pm PT (or 4:15 PM ET/1:15 PM PT if it is a doubleheader weekend). On the Tuesday 12 days before the games, the league will move one game to the primetime slot, and possibly move one or more 1 pm slotted games to the 4 pm slots. During the last week of the season, the league could re-schedule games as late as six days before the contests so that all of the television networks will be able to broadcast a game that has playoff implications.

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