Coming attractions


Every NFL team starts the season 0-0, but not every team starts as an equal. Which teams are looking good going in? Which teams are already in trouble? What issues will bubble up over the next five months? Here's a primer of what to look for in 2006 and what the fallout might be.


It's a long season, but these are the matchups you can't afford to miss:

Week 1 / / Colts at Giants

This Sunday night kickoff not only marks the official return of NBC to the NFL stable, but also the first on-field meeting of the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli.

Week 2 / / Patriots at Jets

Patriots coach Bill Belichick advised protege Eric Mangini against taking the Jets' coaching job. This week, we'll see if he was right.

Week 3 / / Falcons at Saints,

Monday night

More than a year after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Saints finally get to play a home game.

Week 4 / / Seahawks at Bears

The defending NFC champions get their first serious road test on a Sunday night, and the Bears' defense will be waiting.

Week 5 / / Cowboys at Eagles

The week leading to Terrell Owens' return to Philadelphia will be one big distraction for Bill Parcells. The Cowboys coach doesn't like distractions.

Week 6 / / Panthers at Ravens

New Ravens QB Steve McNair should have the offense down pat by this point, but will he get a chance to execute it against the Panthers' stifling defense?

Week 7 / / Panthers at Bengals

Carolina's third straight October game against the AFC North may prove the most troublesome, coming against Cincinnati's high-powered offense.

Week 8 / / Colts at Broncos

Broncos coach Mike Shanahan knows he has to beat Manning's Colts sooner or later. Later this season would be better.

Week 9 / / Broncos at Steelers

QB Jake Plummer's meltdown against the Steelers in the AFC championship game wasn't pretty. Now we'll see if he learned anything from it.

Week 10 / / Bucs at Panthers, Monday night

The Panthers have pretty much owned the Bucs the past three years. They renew their back-alley rivalry on prime time.

Week 11 / / Colts at Cowboys

There's a good chance Terrell Owens will be overshadowed by Reggie Wayne in this game.

Week 12 / / Broncos at Chiefs, Thursday night

For the debut of the NFL Network's game coverage, Gene Upshaw should join Bryant Gumbel in the broadcasting booth.

Week 13 / / Bucs at Steelers

Tampa Bay travels to the Rust Belt for a December game in Pittsburgh. Defense and hitting will carry the day.

Week 14 / / Giants at Panthers

The Giants couldn't score on the Panthers' defense in the playoffs last season. Eli

Manning will have to do better this time around.

Week 15 / / Bengals at Colts,

Monday night

Carson Palmer vs. Manning on a Monday night. What else is there to say?

Week 16 / / Ravens at Steelers

Who's up and who's down on Christmas Eve? Regardless, this should be a brawl.

Week 17 / / Dolphins at Colts

If it holds potential home-field playoff implications, it will be a humdinger. If not, it'll look like a preseason game.



Plot: What didn't Cowboys coach Bill Parcells understand about Terrell Owens' single-handed dismantling of the Eagles' Super Bowl team a year ago? To sign the narcissistic wide receiver is to invite a media frenzy and endless upheaval into your camp. The relationship between Parcells and Owens was already tenuous once T.O. bicycled his way through training camp (Parcells hates malingerers). It got worse when Owens missed or was late for team meetings. And this from a guy who knows he has to be on his best behavior.

Probable outcome: A Parcells eruption -- measuring 9.8 on the coaching scale of vitriol -- is coming, perhaps as early as Week 5. That's when the Cowboys prepare for an Oct. 8 game in Philadelphia and Owens will command center stage. We can only hope the eruption is not behind closed locker room doors.


Plot: New Orleans kept its football team in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina largely because of commitments made by Paul Tagliabue in his final season as commissioner and the local governments in Louisiana. It wasn't from any sense of loyalty by Saints owner Tom Benson, who was trying to bail on the Big Easy and reroute his team to San Antonio. On Sept. 25, after two road games, the Saints return to the refurbished Superdome for the first time since Katrina. The NFL will herald the event on its Monday night broadcast.

Probable outcome: It will be a spectacular reunion between football team and city, even if Benson doesn't deserve the love. With the most exciting player in the draft (Reggie Bush), a new quarterback (Drew Brees) and a new coach (Sean Payton), the Saints will be infinitely more entertaining this season than last. But a weak defense and a schedule that ties for third-most difficult will make this year -- the Saints' 40th in the NFL -- another forced march.


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.