Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Monday Night Party: 2006 NFL Schedule

Warning: Explicit NFL content to follow.

It is schedule release day for the NFL, which has grown to be a bigger and bigger deal as the NFL has slowly shown it’s smarter, better run and better marketed than the rest of sports. However, I have to question what the folks in the league office are up to. Granted, they adopted the fantastic, being-implemented-five-years-too-late plan of shuffling around the Sunday night games in the second half of the season so we don’t have to watch a meaningless 49ers/Cardinals game when the majority of the nation has Falcons/Buccaneers blacked out.

Some of the Monday night games are, um…not so hot. Did you know the Raiders and Packers have twice as many games on Monday night as your defending Super Bowl champions? Also, where are the basically-guaranteed awesome games, such as Dolphins/Patriots (I’d much rather have that then Dolphins/Jets, for obvious reasons), Steelers/Bengals and Panthers/Falcons/Buccaneers? Why isn’t TO returning to Philly in primetime?

I think the NFL screwed up when they made it Dolphins vs. Steelers on Opening Night instead of Broncos vs. Steelers, their other best bet. They could have billed this as an AFC Championship Rematch, which certainly has more cache at the beginning of the season than later in it. Granted, I’m going to be just as excited to see the Dolphins drop forty on the champs as anyone else, but come on.

I’ll give the NFL credit for gambling. Games like Bears/Rams and Bears/Cardinals look “Ehhh” right now, other than getting to show off the new Arizona stadium, but if the Cardinals finally turn it around or the Bears offense catches up with their (regular season) defense, then those could be really interesting. Then again, odds are you’re going to be seeing Kyle Orton vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week Fourteen. Onto the Monday Night schedule, skipping the double-header opening night.

Disclaimer: Remember, it’s really hard to prognosticate NFL seasons because there are always a few teams that fall on their face and there’s always a few teams that rise up and should be on Monday night late in the season. I’m going with some of the more consistent teams from the last few years – Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Broncos, AFC West, NFC South, Seahawks, Philly – although it’s very possible they all could suck this year.

Week Two

Current Game: Pittsburgh @ Jacksonville

Should Be: I have no problem with this, as these two teams always provide hard-hitting, close games. (Look at the Sunday nighter in 04 and the Tommy Gun game in 05) There really isn’t another game that blows your socks off, although Tampa Bay/Atlanta and Kansas City/Denver would be suitable replacements. Good work, NFL, although you do have the Steelers in consecutive primetime games.

Week Three

Current Game: Atlanta at New Orleans, Return to the SuperDome.

Should Be: This is a pretty cool game, too, despite the fact we’ve lost the cousins angle. Drew Brees might make the Saints respectab…naw, just kidding, but you’ll have division rivals playing in the much bally-hooed return to N’awlins. Your other option here would be Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, which is going to be a helluva game, but we’ll have to wait all the way until the end of the season to see Carson’s Revenge.

Week Four

Current Game: Green Bay at Philadelphia

Should Be: Anything else. Brett Favre isn’t that good anymore, people, just let it go. New England at Cincinnati would be a great return to the Nati, or maybe San Diego at Baltimore, although that’s much more of a gamble with Philip Rivers taking over and Kyle Boller still there.

Week Five

Current Game: Baltimore at Denver

Should Be: Again, rolling the dice with Baltimore, and slightly with Denver, who relied on Jake Plummer’s miraculously error-free season to guide them to the AFC Championship game, where they got behind, had to take him out of the bubble wrap and got embarrassed. Tonight’s game should be Miami at New England, who have produced awesome games for the last five years, even when the Dolphins sucked and the Patriots were awesome. Or, even better on a storyline standpoint, TO’s return to Philly.

Week Six

Current Game: Chicago at Arizona

Should Be: Eli vs. Mike Be Nimble? Cincinnati at Tampa Bay? The guaranteed Seattle/St. Louis shootout? Pittsburgh finally getting to play Kansas City at home? Pick a game, any game…

Week Seven

Current Game: NY Giants at Dallas

Should Be: A good game, not too much to complain about. If you wanted another Steelers or Vick game in primetime, they play each other this week. Redskins/Colts would be fun, with that offense against that defense, and San Diego/Kansas City would also fall into the shootout column. It must be World Series time, because there’s no Sunday Night game scheduled that week.

Week Eight

Current Game: New England at Minnesota

Should Be: Why do the Vikings get to host a Monday night game? Do they show signs of promise, having slowly bottomed out over the last two seasons? Indy at Denver usually produces close results (in the regular season, at least), Jacksonville travels to Philly, Tampa Bay batters Eli and Seattle heads east to Arrowhead for a shootout with KC. And because I love me some Vick and some Palmer, the two face off in Cincy this week as well. New England/Minneosta looks kind of weak on paper, although if the Vikings miraculously turn it around, it’ll be interesting.

Week Nine

Current Game: Oakland at Seattle

Should Be: Are the Raiders really that big of a draw? Aaron Brooks to Randy Moss should be exciting, but for the completely wrong reasons. Here’s your Denver at Pittsburgh game that should have opened the season, or the battle of Missouri in Kansas City vs. St. Louis. I guess there really isn’t a whole lot in the way of good games to put here, as Sunday night is Indy/New England. Dallas/Washington, Miami/Chicago, both decent, nothing spectacular. Just get the Raiders off of here.

Week Ten

Current Game: Tampa Bay at Carolina

Should Be: This works just fine. Nothing really jumps out on the rest of the schedule, the NFC South has been solid for a few years now and it’ll al least be hard-hitting and chippy if nothing else.

Week Eleven

Current Game: New York Giants at Jacksonville

Should Be: I really like this game, so I won’t complain too much. Atlanta at Baltimore would be fun, as would Indy at Dallas. I’d even take a stab in the dark and give Cleveland a home Monday Nighter, letting Charlie Frye take on the Supah Stees again. Washington/Tampa Bay wild card rematch, Daunte’s chance to beat up the Vikings, and San Diego at Denver lead a loaded week.

Week Twelve

Current Game: Green Bay at Seattle

Should Be: I’m surprised they just don’t schedule Raiders vs. Packers for one of these things. I don’t know, how about Steelers/Ravens in primetime, Philly at Indy in the Coulda-Been Bowl of 2003 and 2004, Chicago at New England or Carolina at Washington? Honestly, Green Bay? Again?!

Week Thirteen

Current Game: Carolina at Philadelphia

Should Be: This works fine for me. Nothing really jumps out on the schedule, save for perhaps Seattle at Denver or Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh.

Week Fourteen

Current Game: Chicago at St. Louis

Should Be: Very risky. Baltimore/KC, New England/Miami, Atlanta/Tampa Bay, Indy/Jacksonville…

Week Fifteen

Current Game: Cincinnati at Indianapolis

Should Be: Awesome. If you wanted to take this shootout off of primetime, Pittsburgh at Carolina would be a suitable replacement, but little else worthy of the slot.

Week Sixteen

Current Game: New York Jets at Miami

Should Be: Maybe your Baltimore/Pittsburgh game here, or San Diego at Seattle could be really exciting. (I have to keep remembering Drew Brees is gone, and therefore the Chargers are one giant question mark.) Christmas weekend is just loaded with special games, and you would be correct to guess that Green Bay and Oakland are both playing in two of those games. Philly/Dallas precedes Jets and Dolphins in the most anti-Christmasy game I can think of.

The NFL Schedule

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