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Examine Those NFL Schedules

   by Al McMordie - 10/19/2005

During the course of the pro football season, it's always important to check schedules. Some teams might be looking ahead to next week's opponent, while others might be in the middle of a grueling schedule against strong teams or even several road games. We've played six weeks of the NFL season and here's a look at some potential "sleeper" teams that catch a scheduling break over the next month and those with some challenging schedules.

Jaguars: Jacksonville has a bye this weekend and comes in on a high note. The Jaguars have been a high wire act, like last year, playing many close games. They nearly won at Indy, topped the Jets and Steelers in overtime, and won a 23-20 thriller last week over Cincinnati. Sunday's huge OT win at Pittsburghas an underdog gives them two weeks to rest and reflect on their strong 4-2 start. November begins a nice stretch, with home games against the Texans and Ravens, then games against the Titans, Cardinals and Browns. Certainly, the Jaguars can win all of those games. The only thing to note is that the games against Tennessee, Arizona and Cleveland are all on the road, and it's difficult for teams to win 3 straight road games.

Patriots: New England has been wracked by injuries and a brutal schedule and also gets a much-needed bye this weekend. While the champs are 3-3 and have plenty of defensive deficiencies in the secondary, the schedule finally gets easier, with games against the Dolphins, Saints, Jets and Bills (twice). In all those games, the Pats enjoy a significant edge in run defense and QB play. In addition, the rumor is that the leader of the defense, LB Tedy Bruschi, is ready to practice for the first time since suffering a mild stroke in February. He may be back for their next game, at home against Buffalo. The bye allows them time to heal, which they badly need, and the return of Bruschi would fire up the crowd October 30 and give the appearance of a "new" season.

Chiefs: This has been a strange season for Kansas City, and frankly we still don't know much about this team. Is the defense improved? Well, they were much better in the season-opening wins over the Raiders and Jets. But then they flopped in losses at Denver and at home to the Eagles. Is the offense too old? Notice that Kansas City plays four of its next five games on the road. That stretch could tell us whether this is a legitimate playoff team, or an aging group on the decline.

Chargers: When this team wins, they look like the best team in the NFL. Of course, they also started 2-3, with a collapse at Denver and a Monday Night loss at home to Pittsburgh as a favorite. At 3-3, it's still not clear how good this group is. The AFC West is very competitive, and the remaining Chargers' schedule is not easy, with road games at Washington, Indy, KC and this Sunday at Philadelphia. The Eagles are rested, too, having just had their bye -- and Philly's off an embarrassing loss at Dallas to boot.

Panthers: Very quietly, Carolina has won 3 in a row and has its bye this week. Take a look at its schedule and you'll see that the Panthers face a whole bunch of teams that don't have much offense: the Jets, Bears, Bills, and Saints. They will be focused on making a late season run like in 2003, which carried them to the Super Bowl.

Cowboys: Dallas hasn't always looked pretty, with close games against the Chargers, 49ers and Giants. But they also WON all those games and stand at 4-2. The schedule is a challenge, however, with road games at Seattle, Philly, Redskins, Panthers, and the Giants. If Bill Parcells is going to get this team to the playoffs for the second time in his three years in Big 'D', he will have earned it. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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