|2006 National Football League season|
|Duration||September 7 to December 31, 2006|
|Start date||January 6, 2007|
|AFC Champions||Indianapolis Colts|
|NFC Champions||Chicago Bears|
|Super Bowl XLI|
|Date||February 4, 2007|
|Site||Dolphin Stadium, Miami, Florida|
|Date||February 10, 2007|
|National Football League seasons
The 2006 NFL season is the 87th of the National Football League. The regular season began on Thursday, September 7 2006 with the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-17 win over the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The season will conclude on New Year's Eve, December 31. Super Bowl XLI, the Super Bowl championship game for the 2006 season, will be held on February 4 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, and the post-season will conclude with the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
- 1 Schedule
- 2 The Regular Season
- 3 Final regular season standings
- 4 New NFL Commissioner
- 5 Television
- 6 Major rule changes and other items of interest
- 7 Officials
- 8 External links
This is the fourth year that the NFL regular season began with a Thursday night "kickoff" game (the Pittsburgh Steelers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to win 28-17 over the Miami Dolphins).
The regular season week one continues on Sunday, September 10, will conclude with the Indianapolis Colts at the New York Giants in what would be the first NFL game with two brothers starting at quarterback: Peyton Manning of the Colts and his brother Eli of the Giants. Then on Monday Night, September 11, there will be a doubleheader: the Minnesota Vikings at the Washington Redskins at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the San Diego Chargers at the Oakland Raiders at 10:15 p.m. ET.
There will only be 7 bye weeks in 2006 (weeks 3-9). There will be six teams with open dates in weeks 6 and 7, with four teams with open days the remaining bye weeks. Previously, there were 8 bye weeks (weeks 3-10), with 4 teams having an open date each week.
Three games will be played on Thanksgiving Day. In addition to the traditional annual Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys home games during that day (who will host the Miami Dolphins at 12:30 p.m. ET and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4:15 p.m. ET, respectively), the Denver Broncos will travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs at 8 p.m. ET.
Based on the NFL's scheduling formula, the intraconference and interconference matchups for 2006 will be:
2006 will be the first year that the NFL will use a "flexible-scheduling" system for the last seven weeks of the regular season. The system is designed so that the league has the flexibility in selecting games to air on Sunday night that will feature the current hottest, streaking teams. The system's primary purpose is to prevent games featuring losing teams from airing during primetime late in the season, while at the same time allowing surprise, playoff-potential teams a chance to play at night. During the previous 2005 season, a December 19 Monday Night game featured the 4-9 Baltimore Ravens versus the 3-10 Green Bay Packers, while hot, streaking teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars had few or no primetime games.
Because Christmas Eve (December 24) falls on a Sunday during the 2006 season, the flexible-scheduling will actually occur in seven of the last eight weeks. Instead of a Sunday night game on Christmas Eve, two games will be held on Monday, Christmas Day (December 25): The Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys at 5 p.m. ET, and the New York Jets at Miami Dolphins at 8:30 p.m. ET. Therefore, the first real test of the new flexible scheduling will come with the 2007 season, with the final seven weeks scheduled to begin on November 18 of that year.
Under the flexible-scheduling system, all Sunday games in the affected weeks will tentatively have the start time of 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, except those played in the Pacific or Mountain time zones who will have a tentative start time of 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT (or 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT if it is a doubleheader weekend). On the Tuesday 12 days before the games, the league will move one game to the primetime slot, and possibly move one or more 1 p.m. slotted games to the 4 p.m. slots. During the last week of the season, the league could re-schedule games as late as six days before the contests so that all of the television networks will be able to broadcast a game that has playoff implications.
The Regular Season
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5|
|Week 6||Week 7||Week 8||Week 9||Week 10|
|Week 11||Week 12||Week 13||Week 14||Week 15|
|Week 16||Week 17||Playoffs||SB XLI||2007|
Final regular season standings
|Qualified for playoffs|
W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, PCT = Winning Percentage, PF= Points For, PA = Points Against
|4 New England Patriots||12||4||0||.750||385||237||Details|
|5 New York Jets||10||6||0||.625||316||295||Details|
|2 Baltimore Ravens||13||3||0||.813||353||201||Details|
|3 Indianapolis Colts||12||4||0||.750||427||360||Details|
|1 San Diego Chargers||14||2||0||.875||492||303||Details|
|6 Kansas City Chiefs||9||7||0||.562||331||315||Details|
|3 Philadelphia Eagles||10||6||0||.625||398||328||Details|
|5 Dallas Cowboys||9||7||0||.562||425||350||Details|
|6 New York Giants||8||8||0||.500||355||362||Details|
|1 Chicago Bears||13||3||0||.812||427||255||Details|
|Green Bay Packers||8||8||0||.500||301||366||Details|
|2 New Orleans Saints||10||6||0||.625||413||322||Details|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4||12||0||.250||211||353||Details|
|4 Seattle Seahawks||9||7||0||.562||335||341||Details|
|St. Louis Rams||8||8||0||.500||367||381||Details|
|San Francisco 49ers||7||9||0||.438||298||412||Details|
- Cincinnati Bengals finished ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North based on division record (4-2 to 3-3).
- Tennessee Titans finished ahead of Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South based on division record (4-2 to 2-4).
- Kansas City Chiefs finished ahead of Denver Broncos in the AFC West based on division record (4-2 to 3-3).
- Indianapolis Colts finished ahead of New England Patriots based on head-to-head victory (Week 9).
- New Orleans Saints finished ahead of Philadelphia Eagles based on head-to-head victory (Week 6).
- New York Giants and Green Bay Packers finished ahead of Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams based on conference record (7-5 to 6-6).
- New York Giants finished ahead of Green Bay Packers based on strength of victory (.422 to .383).
New NFL Commissioner
On March 20, 2006 (one month and five days after the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL), Paul Tagliabue announced his plans to retire as NFL Commissioner. During an NFL meeting in Northbrook, Illinois, on August 8 2006, league team owners selected Roger Goodell, the NFL's then-current Chief Operating Officer, as the new commissioner. Tagliabue continued to serve as NFL Commissioner until Goodell officially replaced him on Friday September 1.
Tagliabue became NFL Commisioner on October 26th. 1989. During his tenure, the league has added four new teams; saw four franchises move (including two franchises — the Rams and Raiders — from Los Angeles, the second-largest television market in the USA); the construction of seventeen new stadiums; began its' own in-house television specialty cable network, the NFL Network; has greatly increased television rights fees with its broadcasters, including the addition of the Fox network; and has maintained labor peace with the players' union.
More on the NFL on Television...
The 2006 season marks the first year of the league's new television contracts. CBS and FOX will continue to televise Sunday afternoon games with six-year agreements, as well as their respective conference playoffs. However, there are changes for the prime time games.
ESPN takes over Monday Night Football from ABC. The cable network's coverage (except for the first week doubleheader) will begin at 3 p.m. ET with a new SportsCenter Monday Night Kickoff Edition, followed by Around the Horn and Pardon The Interruption, all on location. A new version of NFL PrimeTime, hosted by Stuart Scott with Ron Jaworski and Mike Golic will follow from ESPN world headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. Scott will also host the halftime show as well. Afterwards, the Monday Night Countdown 90-minute pre-game show, hosted by Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Michael Irvin, and Steve Young on site. The game will then begin at 8:30 p.m.. Mike Tirico will call the play-by-play, and Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser will serve as the color commentators. Michele Tafoya came over from ABC's version of MNF while Suzy Kolber arrived from ESPN Sunday Night Football to serve as sideline reporters.
Meanwhile, NBC has returned to the NFL for the first time since televising Super Bowl XXXII at the end of the 1997 season, will broadcast Sunday night games. The series has been rebranded as NBC Sunday Night Football and it also broadcasted the annual Thursday opening "kickoff" game. As the broadcaster of Sunday night games, NBC will be the network that takes full advantage of the flexible-scheduling system. The network will also televise the Christmas Day contest between Philadelphia and Dallas in lieu of a Christmas Eve night game.
Bob Costas will be the host of the pregame show called Football Night in America, with Cris Collinsworth as his co-host. Currently, they serve as co-hosts of HBO's Inside the NFL, and would likely continue in their present posts. In addition, NBC announced on February 19 that the recently retired Jerome "The Bus" Bettis will join Costas and Collinsworth in the studio.  Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentator John Madden have been signed to call the games from ABC Monday Night Football, while Andrea Kremer comes from ESPN to serve as the sideline reporter, and will also contribute to the studio show.  The pregame program will air at 7 p.m. ET and the game coverage will follow at 8:15 p.m.. Pink will sing the show's theme, a remake of the Joan Jet song "I Hate Myself For Loving You" retitled "Waiting All Day for Sunday Night."
The NFL Network specialty channel will also broadcast eight primetime games from Thanksgiving to the end of the regular season on Thursday and Saturday nights.  Bryant Gumbel is scheduled to be the play-by-play and Cris Collinsworth will serve as the color commentator. The NFL Network's first regular season game will be Denver at Kansas City on November 23, 2006. The game will cap off a new "Thanksgiving Tripleheader" tradition.
Major rule changes and other items of interest
- End zone celebrations are more restricted. Players cannot celebrate by using any type of prop, or do any act in which they are on the ground. Players may still spike, spin the ball, or dunk it over the goal posts. Dancing in the end zone is also permitted as long as it is not a prolonged or group celebration. Also, the Lambeau Leap is still legal. 
- Defenders are prohibited from hitting a passer in the knee or below unless they are blocked into him. This rule was enacted in response to the previous season's injuries to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Brian Griese.
- Down-by-contact calls can now be reviewed by instant replay to determine if a player fumbled the ball before he was down, and who recovered it. Previously, these plays could not be reversed once officials blew the whistle.
- The "horse-collar tackle" rule enacted during the previous 2005 season is expanded. Players are now prohibited from tackling a ball carrier from the rear by tugging inside his jersey. Previously, it was only illegal if the tackler's hand got inside the player's shoulder pads.
- To reduce injuries, defensive players cannot line up directly over the long snapper during field goal and extra point attempts.
Officials' uniform makeover
The 2006 season marks the debut of new officiating uniforms which are supposed to be more comfortable for officials to wear in extreme weather over the old polyester uniforms. On the shirt, the position and number are removed from the front pocket and the lettering and numbers on the back side are black-on-white and are smaller print. Officials will also wear full length black pants during the winter months to stay warm. This was the first major design overhaul since 1979, when the position name was added to the shirt.
Return of "The Duke" football
For the first time since Super Bowl IV at the conclusion of the 1969 season, the official NFL game ball will be known as "The Duke" in honor of the late Wellington Mara, owner of the New York Giants. The NFL first used "The Duke" ball in honor of Mara in 1941 after then-Chicago Bears owner George Halas and then-Giants owner Tim Mara (Wellington's father) made a deal with Wilson Sporting Goods to become the league's official supplier of game balls, a relationship that will continue into its' sixty-fifth year in 2006.  "The Duke" ball was discontinued after the 1970 AFL-NFL Merger, and the merged league began using a different standardized ball made by Wilson. The only other time that "The Duke" ball name was used was during two Thanksgiving games in 2004.
One side of the new 2006 "Duke" football features the NFL shield logo in gold, the words "The Duke", and the NFL commissioner's signature. The obverse side has a small NFL logo above the needle bladder hole, the conference names between the hole, and the words "National Football League" in gold. As per the custom, specially branded balls will be used for the first week of the 2006 season ("Opening Kickoff"), playoff, Super Bowl XLI and Pro Bowl games.
Game highlights on iTunes
Starting September 18, fans will be able to download highlights of their teams' games through Apple Computer's iTunes Store online service. Each video costs US$1.99 each but fans have the chance of buying a "Follow Your Team season ticket" which brings every game of that team to the fan for $24.99. 
Also available will be NFL GameDay, the NFL Network's comprehensive Sunday night review which features post-game reactions and game analysis, all for $1.99 a show or $19.99 for the full season.
- 2006 NFL officiating crews
Early Era (1920-1969)
|1920 • 1921 • 1922 • 1923 • 1924 • 1925 • 1926 • 1927 • 1928 • 1929|
|Modern Era (1970-present)|
|1970 • 1971 • 1972 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1977 • 1978 • 1979|
- 2006 NFL Schedule (Last accessed April 6, 2006)
- NFL curtails end-zone celebrations from NFL.com, March 29, 2006 (Last accessed March 29, 2006)
- Process of game-time decisions will eliminate TV duds, create chaos by Michael Hiestand, USA Today, April 5, 2006 (Last accessed April 5, 2006)