Can the NFL season start already?

Since the Super Bowl ended on February 5th, I’ve shifted my attention over to the 2006 NFL season and watching the events leading up to a new season.  First is the Free-Agency period, the scouting combine, draft preparations and on last Thursday one of the biggest developments of the off-season – NFL Schedule Release Day.  The new schedules are out, and I couldn’t open it fast enough to see what’s to come for my beloved Broncos.

After looking at their 2006 schedule my immediate reaction was "We’re screwed".  While the Broncos don’t rank very high on the official "Strength of Schedule" statistics, they still must have one of the toughest schedules in the league.  When you play both Super Bowl teams from the previous years, as well as the Patriots, the Colts, and the Bengals – all play-off teams from last year.  On top of that we’re in arguably one of the toughest division teams – you know that San Diego and Kansas City are going to contend this year and give us a run for the money.  We also have a lot of teams we’ve historically struggled against with the Ravens, and the Rams.  Right now outside of possibly San Francisco and Arizona there really isn’t any teams we can pencil a "W" next to their name. 

Also, we’ve stuck with the Bye in September, on the 4th week of the season (the 2nd week of bye’s).  The last few years we’ve enjoyed having our bye week in the middle of the season, giving our players enough time to rest, recover and get ready for the remainder of the season.

As a season ticket holder, it’s a pretty strange assortment of home games.  We have one in September (W2 vs Kansas City), then we have 3 home games in October (2 of those being prime-time games), one home game in November (week before Thanksgiving), then 3 in December.  December’s a bit disappointing because we have another Christmas Eve game (but so does the rest of the NFL), then a home game on New Year’s that I’ll miss because I’ll be in New Orleans (hey but I could see the Saints play the Panthers – hmmmm…  ).  So in the end, a pretty strange season home game-wise.

One really cool thing is that we have 4 prime-time games (Sunday Night Football vs the Patriots & Raiders, Monday Night Football vs the Ravens, Thanksgiving Night Game vs the Chiefs).  I’m also glad that we’re playing both San Fran and Arizona in December, when wins seem most crucial for play-off berths.

Super Bowl XLI here we come!