'Manning Bowl', MNF twin bill highlight schedule peek

Updated: March 28, 2006, 12:45 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ESPN will kick off the new era of "Monday Night Football" with a doubleheader, as NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced part of next season's schedule Monday.

NFL schedule sneak-peek
Thursday, Sept. 7:
• Dolphins at Steelers, 8:30 ET (NBC)
Sunday, Sept 10:
• Cowboys at Jaguars, 4:15 ET (FOX)
• Colts at Giants, 8:15 ET (NBC)
Monday, Sept 11:
• Vikings at Redskins, 7 ET (ESPN)
• Chargers at Raiders, 10:15 ET (ESPN)
Thursday, Nov. 23:
• Dolphins at Lions, 12:30 ET (CBS)
• Buccaneers at Cowboys, 4:15 ET (FOX)
• Broncos at Chiefs, 8 ET (NFL Network)

Art Shell will begin his second stint as Raiders head coach when Oakland opens at home against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 11. Washington will host Minnesota in the opener at 7 p.m. ET, followed by Chargers-Raiders at 10:15 p.m.

"MNF" makes the move to ESPN after spending 36 seasons on ABC. ESPN hired Mike Tirico, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann and Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser to man the broadcast booth, replacing Al Michaels and John Madden, both of whom went to NBC.

The Vikings-Redskins game pits new Minnesota coach Brad Childress against a Redskins team that stocked up with a slew of free agents to go with an already talented 2005 playoff roster.

The second game is highlighted by the debuts of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has replaced Drew Brees as the team's No. 1 quarterback, and Shell, who was hired in February to replace Norv Turner.

The season opens Thursday night, Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh as the Super Bowl champion Steelers take on Miami on NBC. It will be the Dolphins debut for quarterback Daunte Culpepper, if he's healthy enough to start the season. That game is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.

There also will be a Thanksgiving night offering in Kansas City, where Denver takes on the Chiefs to cap a turkey-laden tripleheader. The Chiefs used to host a Thanksgiving Day game in the AFL days and have long campaigned to host one in the NFL.

"I've thought all those games should be rotated," Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said Monday. "But it's a plus for us to have the first one at night."

Also, the Manning brothers -- Peyton of the Colts and Eli of the Giants -- will play opposite each other for the first time to open NBC's Sunday Night football schedule. That game is Sept. 10 (8:15 p.m. ET) at the Meadowlands. According to the NFL, it will be the first time in league history that brothers will start at quarterback against each other.

Other schedule highlights announced Monday:

Terrell Owens will make his Dallas debut in the first late Sunday afternoon telecast of the year (FOX) when the Cowboys visit Jacksonville.

Dallas last played a regular-season game in Jacksonville in 2002.

"Our first game [last year, a 9-7 season] gave us confidence and was a building block for us," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "If we can go in there and play well and get a win, it gives us a big positive to start the season off against a very credible team."

• The first-ever tripleheader on Thanksgiving. The Dolphins will visit the Lions in the early game (CBS), followed by the Buccaneers at the Cowboys (FOX) and capped off by the Broncos at the Chiefs -- the first live, in-season game on NFL Network, which will show eight prime-time games from Thanksgiving through the end of the season. Those games will be on either Thursday or Saturday nights.

• The Broncos-Chiefs match will be the first live, in-season game on NFL Network, which will show eight prime-time games from Thanksgiving through the end of the season. Those games will be on either Thursday or Saturday nights.

"It ought to bring a great rating," Hunt said. "People will be worn out from all of their Thanksgiving Day activities, so they can sit down and enjoy the game."

As things stand right now, Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson will be starting against one of his former teams. The Vikings traded Johnson to the Redskins in 1999, and Johnson made the Pro Bowl, but left after the 2000 season for Tampa Bay.

He returned as Daunte Culpepper's backup last season, but became the starter after Culpepper was injured against Carolina and helped the team to a 7-2 finish. He then was promoted to the No. 1 quarterback when the Vikings traded Culpepper to Miami earlier this month.

Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot also is a former Redskin. Smoot was drafted out of Mississippi State by the Redskins in 2001 and played for the team until 2004 before coming to the Vikings as a free agent last season.

The entire 2006 schedule will be announced in early April when it is finalized. According to one report, the Raiders and the Eagles have been picked to play in the Hall of Fame exhibition game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.