By DJ Gallo
Special to Page 2

On Thursday, the NFL released its schedule for the 2006 season. And although it's pointless to try to analyze it and weigh strength of schedules and such when the draft is still to be held and September is still five months away, pointlessness never stopped me from writing before.

So let's take a look at some of the key games from each week of the 2006 NFL schedule.

Week 1

Daunte Culpepper
Harry How/Getty Images
Elin Nordegren and Amy Mickelson, the first ladies of the Masters' green.

Miami at Pittsburgh -- The NFL season opens Thursday, Sept. 7, with the Super Bowl champs welcoming Daunte Culpepper and the Dolphins. Is Miami coach Nick Saban ready to make game decisions that will help his team win, or does he still not care about winning or losing as long as he can evaluate his team for the far-distant future? Dolphins fans eagerly await the answer.

Buffalo at New England -- New England opens against a 5-11 team that has a new coach, making it a bit tough for the Patriots to claim the NFL is using the schedule to conspire against them this year.

Seattle at Detroit -- The Seahawks return to the site of last year's Super Bowl, and the Lions already have their game plan drawn up: "Leave Jerramy Stevens wide open at all times."

Cincinnati at Kansas City -- One of the best-known sayings in sports is: "Defense wins championships." A lesser-known saying that's no less true is this one: "The Bengals and Chiefs won't win a championship anytime soon."

Indianapolis at NY Giants -- NBC's Sunday night schedule opens with the "Manning Bowl." Forget going against his little brother's team; Peyton Manning is probably more excited just to be playing in a bowl game that doesn't have "Citrus" in the title.

MNF debuts on ESPN -- A two-game slate offering six hours of football sees the Vikings take on the Redskins at 7 p.m. ET and the Raiders play the Chargers at 10:15. Hopefully, all the action will mean no time for a Tim McGraw musical recap of the previous day's games.

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Week 2
New England at NY Jets -- The conspiracy against the Patriots continues as they are forced to play the mighty Jets.

Kansas City at Denver -- After opening with a tough game against the Bengals, the Chiefs could start the season 0-2, meaning they'll start that push for more playoff teams again.

Pittsburgh at Jacksonville -- Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis said it was a "statement game" last year when Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh in overtime. He was right. The statement was: "We're barely good enough to beat a team quarterbacked by Tommy Maddox."

Week 3
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh -- The start of the game will be delayed a few minutes so the Steelers can retire Kimo von Oelhoffen's number.

Carolina at Tampa Bay -- Don't be surprised if the Panthers look tired in this one. Most of the guys probably will be out late the night before hoping to catch a glimpse of their cheerleaders making out again at a Tampa nightclub.

Philadelphia at San Francisco -- The Eagles and 49ers meet up to write hate mail to Terrell Owens.

Atlanta at New Orleans -- The Saints get a home game on "Monday Night Football." How losing before a national television audience will lift anyone's spirits is unclear. Maybe the NFL will hold a telethon asking for $1 donations for each point the Saints lose by.

Week 4
Arizona at Atlanta -- The league's two most mobile quarterbacks go head-to-head.

New England at Cincinnati -- This game likely will serve as another reminder to the Patriots that they might want to think about improving their secondary one of these offseasons if they can manage to find the time while ridding themselves of franchise legends.

Green Bay at Philadelphia -- The Eagles get an up-close look on "Monday Night Football" at the quarterback Terrell Owens said could have made them an undefeated team last season. And Owens was right. If the Eagles somehow could have been able to play against Brett Favre every game last season, they would have been undefeated.

Week 5
Buffalo at Chicago -- It's the Bills, Kyle Orton. I don't think your teammates will need you. Feel free to knock a few back the night before the game.

Miami at New England -- The Patriots are faced here with the displeasure of actually having to play a decent team from within their division for the first time in years. That doesn't seem right. Down is up, up is down. The whole world is crashing around us.

Oakland at San Francisco -- Having to watch these two teams should do wonders for the growth of soccer in the Bay Area.

Dallas at Philadelphia -- Terrell Owens returns to Philadelphia. The first 30,000 fans through the gates at Lincoln Financial Field get a free handful of batteries to chuck at Owens when his helmet is off during the national anthem.

Week 6
Buffalo at Detroit -- J.P. Losman and whoever the Lions quarterback will be at this point go head-to-head to see which team can get better 2007 draft position in hopes of selecting their replacements.

Oakland at Denver -- The Raiders and Broncos face off on national television in the Week 6 Sunday night game on NBC. Expect Al Davis to sport his absolute best track suit for the national TV cameras.

Chicago at Arizona -- "Monday Night Football" comes to Arizona. Apparently the NFL is intent on making it crystal clear that MNF isn't the showcase game anymore.

Week 7
Pittsburgh at Atlanta -- Like Valtrex is to herpes, Troy Polamalu is to Michael Vick.

Terrell Owens
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Owens is MNF's must-see TV.

San Diego at Kansas City -- You might have heard some say last season that these were the two best teams in football. You also might have heard that neither team made the playoffs.

Denver at Cleveland -- The Broncos head to Cleveland to see whether there are any more mediocre lineman they can have.

Minnesota at Seattle -- The Vikings and Steve Hutchinson travel to Seattle, where they'll get to see with their own eyes whether the Seahawks actually paid Nate Burleson $49 million to play for them.

NY Giants at Dallas -- Terrell Owens returns to "Monday Night Football." Since ESPN now has MNF instead of ABC, the chances of a naked Desperate Housewife jumping into Owens' arms in the pregame intro are probably pretty slim, unfortunately.

Week 8
Arizona at Green Bay -- It's the midpoint of the season, so by now Edgerrin James will have come to the cruel realization that he actually did sign with the Cardinals in the offseason.

Houston at Tennessee -- This is one of Houston's best chances for a win. Especially if the Titans bar Steve McNair from entering the stadium before the game.

Tampa at NY Giants -- The Giants finish up a brutal season-opening stretch of the Colts, Eagles, Seahawks, a bye, the Redskins, Falcons, Cowboys and Buccaneers. So apparently, whoever makes the league schedule hates Tom Coughlin as much as his players do.

Pittsburgh at Oakland -- Thirty-four years ago, the Raiders lost to the Steelers on the "Immaculate Reception." Now, Oakland gets a chance at payback, as any pass Aaron Brooks completes has to be seen as a once-in-a-lifetime experience touched by God.

Week 9
Miami at Chicago -- Two franchises still not completely healed from their respective Dave Wannstedt eras take the next step toward recovery.

Denver at Pittsburgh -- It's a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game, which -- much to the media's chagrin -- didn't include these two teams...

Indianapolis at New England -- Here's hoping Adam Vinatieri misses a last-second, game-winning kick and then Martin Gramatica, like his brother, blows out his knee celebrating.

Oakland at Seattle -- Don't cry, Raiders. You used to beat them a lot when they were in the AFC West. Let those memories sustain you.

Week 10
New Orleans at Pittsburgh -- Ben Roethlisberger sat out of Pittsburgh's Week 10 game last season with injuries. If that happens again, the Saints might have a chance. (Actually, that's not true. They still wouldn't have a chance. But I don't want to destroy anyone's hope.)

Antwaan Randle-El
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Money talks -- now, Antwaan walk the walk.

NY Jets at New England -- Eric Mangini returns to New England to take on Bill Belichick. And a hundred bucks says there's at least one fan sign in Foxborough that reads: "We still love Mangina."

San Francisco at Detroit -- Starting this week, the league may shift any Sunday afternoon game to the prime-time slot on NBC if it thinks the game will draw big ratings. This particular game will not be shifted. In fact, the NFL might just tell them not to even bother playing.

Washington at Philadelphia -- Watch out, Eagles. Antwaan Randle El might throw one of those trick passes the Redskins are paying him $30 million over seven years for. That's more than worth it for one such pass a year against a division rival, right? Right?!

Week 11
Minnesota at Miami -- Just so the Vikings know, it would be possible to take a boat all the way to Miami for their visit to see their old pal Daunte Culpepper. The Mississippi River starts in Minnesota, so all they'd have to do is take that all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, hang a hard left, then sail around the tip of Florida up to Miami. It's quite simple, really. They'd just need to realize it would take a pretty long time to make the trip -- it's almost 2,000 miles by water -- so several shifts of strippers would need to be hired for the journey.

Detroit at Arizona -- With the excitement of opening a new stadium long since over and the lowly Lions in town, look for the Cardinals to be back to drawing their usual crowds of 40 to 45. (Not including players' friends and family members, of course. Let's be fair here.)

Seattle at San Francisco -- After a successful run on the Spike network, "Pros vs. Joes" gets a Sunday afternoon time slot on Fox.

NY Giants at Jacksonville -- Tom Coughlin gets to take on his old team on "Monday Night Football." It might be tough for him to remember at times which players he is supposed to yell at and demean.

Week 12
Miami at Detroit -- The Lions kick off the Thanksgiving Day games in their traditional role of giving the entire nation indigestion.

Bill Parcells
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Can the Coach make the TO and Cowboys relationship work?

Tampa Bay at Dallas -- Bill Parcells has to deal with his least favorite part of coaching the Cowboys: playing a Thanksgiving Day game, which causes him to miss out on the opportunity to gorge himself for an entire day on turkey and stuffing.

Denver at Kansas City -- The NFL Network's first game broadcast is the third game on Thanksgiving, offering you the opportunity to never speak to or make eye contact with a member of your family the entire day. A third game also makes it easier for viewers to forget the horror of watching the Lions play.

Philadelphia at Indianapolis -- Donovan McNabb shouldn't be surprised if Peyton Manning pulls him aside to ask how exciting it is to choke in the Super Bowl instead of in an earlier playoff round.

Week 13
Dallas at NY Giants -- Terrell Owens goes to the media capital of the world. Hopefully, the visit will enable him to get some publicity at last.

Detroit at New England -- Seriously, this brutal schedule the Patriots have is so unfair! The inhumanity!

Indianapolis at Tennessee -- Peyton Manning takes his annual trip to Tennessee -- where he went to college and the home of Kenny Chesney. But, more important, the home of Kenny Chesney.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh -- It's a matchup of the last two coaches with freakish cartoon faces to win Super Bowls.

Week 14
Indianapolis at Jacksonville -- This is a great AFC South matchup because Jacksonville's defense typically gives the Colts some troubles. Of course, every team's defense gives the Jaguars troubles, so it's a bit of a wash.

New Orleans at Dallas -- Bill Parcells must be quivering with anticipation to face new Saints head coach Sean Payton, the guy who ran Dallas' lousy offense the last few years. (Apologies for the mental image of Bill Parcells quivering in anticipation.)

NY Giants at Carolina -- The last time the Giants played the Panthers was in the playoffs, and New York lost 23-0 behind four Eli Manning turnovers. Tiki Barber blamed the loss on the coaches' game plan. And for good reason. Tom Coughlin never should have instructed his quarterback to turn the ball over four times. Hopefully, for the Giants' sake, Coughlin won't make that mistake again.

Oakland at Cincinnati -- Al Davis finally gets to see the vertical aerial attack he has wanted for years. Unfortunately for him, it's not his team.

Week 15
Dallas at Atlanta -- Given that it's likely he'll have been feuding with Drew Bledsoe for weeks by now, odds are 2-1 that Terrell Owens shows up for this game wearing a Falcons jersey.

Cleveland at Baltimore -- Punting is awesome.

Pittsburgh at Carolina -- This could be a Super Bowl preview. Or, if someone decides to actually cover Steve Smith again in the playoffs like the Seahawks did, it could very well not be.

Week 16
Minnesota at Green Bay -- Minnesota takes on the Packers at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday -- the Vikings' fourth prime-time appearance of the season. Obviously, someone in the league office was drunk when those folks made the schedule.

Carolina at Atlanta -- The Panthers swept the Falcons last season, but Michael Vick hopes to unveil an Atlanta offense that is more to his liking in 2006. Carolina hopes this offense includes more of Vick passing.

New Orleans at NY Giants -- Paul Tagliabue is trying to convince the Saints that playing at Giants Stadium gives them nine home games.

Philadelphia at Dallas -- Terrell Owens gets to strut and preen in prime time on "Monday Night Football" on Christmas Day. The baby Jesus must be rolling over in his grave. Er, manger. Manger. I meant "manger." Honest.

NY Jets at Miami -- As though the lives of Jets fans aren't depressing enough, now they have to watch their team ruin Christmas for them, too.

Week 17
Oakland at NY Jets -- The Raiders and Jets will have nothing to play for at this point. But their scouting departments probably will get together to compare notes on Brady Quinn.

Miami at Indianapolis -- Instead of Miami, the Dolphins get to spend New Year's Eve in Indianapolis. Their friends must be very jealous.

Green Bay at Chicago -- This could be the last game of Brett Favre's career, meaning Chicago's defensive backs will keep every ball they intercept as a memento.

DJ Gallo is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine as well as the founder and sole writer of the award-winning sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also contributes headlines to The Onion.




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