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Old 04-08-2006, 11:16 AM   #1
DIESELMAN
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Default The toughest and easiest 2006 schedules

Sporting News
April 6, 2006

It's early April and we haven't even drafted players, but will that stop me from looking at which NFL teams have the toughest -- and easiest -- 2006 schedules? Of course not.

Toughest

Steelers. Hey, you're supposed to have a pretty tough schedule after you win the Super Bowl. Before the team's Week 4 bye, they get the Dolphins, Jaguars and Bengals. The closing three weeks are just as difficult, with a trip to Carolina, a home game against the rival Ravens and the second game against Cincinnati. But, really, what will faze Bill Cowher's team after a championship run where it didn't even play at Pittsburgh once?

Panthers. Week 1 starts with another Michael Vick test before trips to Minny and Tampa. While that's not too bad, the final five is ready to -- at the least -- derail them from a good seed in the NFC playoffs: At Washington, at Philadelphia, vs. Giants, vs. Pittsburgh, at Atlanta, at New Orleans. I think just the NFC South itself will be a few notches more competitive than last season.

Giants. Being home underdogs in the Manning Bowl in Week 1 is only the beginning. In the following six weeks, with a home game vs. Washington and a bye in between, they've got to deal with four of the NFL's most daunting venues: Philadelphia, Seattle, the Georgia Dome, and Texas Stadium. Tampa Bay and Chicago are two more 2005 playoff teams headed to the Meadowlands. December brings -- yes indeed -- two more '05 playoff teams, the Panthers and those Redskins, both on the road. I don't think we will hear any other team complaining about that extra "home game" New York got vs. the Saints last year.

Easiest

Chargers. This team really deserves a break after last year's brutal slate where it seemed like it was playing a Super Bowl contender somewhere every week. Tennessee, San Francisco, St. Louis, Cleveland, Buffalo, Oakland twice -- that's seven very winnable games. Of course, without Drew Brees and with Philip Rivers, the season presents a whole different set of challenges, but LaDainian Tomlinson and that 3-4 defense have a potential feast in front of them.

Packers. Maybe this will make Brett Favre decide to come back. There are three home games (Chicago, New Orleans) and two not-too-bad road games (Detroit, Philadelphia) before the bye. Same thing goes for the closing five games with the Jets, Lions and Vikings good fodder for the then-to-be frozen Tundra in December, and sandwiched in between is that potential 49ers mulligan.

Seahawks. Ah, the perks of playing in the NFC West with every other team in the division trying to find its identity. Hey, let's also throw in the NFC North, which figures to be up for grabs again. They should at least go 3-1 with the Bay (San Francisco, Oakland, Green Bay, Tampa Bay) and also draw both Eli Manning and Rivers at Seatte. I can see the 'Hawks not being favored only twice: at Denver and at Kansas City.
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Old 04-08-2006, 06:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: The toughest and easiest 2006 schedules

At this point determining strength of schedule is all speculation, much will change from now until the start of the season and as always many teams will underachieve or overachieve.
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