2006 NFL season

The 2006 NFL season was the 87th regular season of the National Football League. Regular season play was held from September 7 to December 31, 2006.

2006 National Football League season
Regular season
DurationSeptember 7 – December 31, 2006
Start dateJanuary 6, 2007
AFC ChampionsIndianapolis Colts
NFC ChampionsChicago Bears
Super Bowl XLI
DateFebruary 4, 2007
SiteDolphin Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
ChampionsIndianapolis Colts
Pro Bowl
DateFebruary 10, 2007 (2007-02-10)
SiteAloha Stadium

The NFL title was eventually won by the Indianapolis Colts, when they defeated the Chicago Bears 29–17 in Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium at Miami Gardens, Florida on February 4.

Major rule changes

  • End zone celebrations became 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 (until 2014), 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. The Lambeau Leap, though, is still legal.[1]
  • Defenders were 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 could 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 was 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 marked 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. The uniforms were designed by Reebok using a proprietary material technology to keep officials both warm and dry during the winter months of the season. On the shirt, the position and number are removed from the front pocket and the lettering and numbers on the back side were black-on-white and are smaller print and the sleeve shows the uniform number. Officials also wore full-length black pants with white stripe during the winter months to stay warm, which was criticized by media. This was the first major design overhaul since 1979, when the position name was added to the shirt, but later abbreviated in 1982.

New referees

Bernie Kukar and Tom White retired. Jerome Boger and Gene Steratore were promoted to referee.

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 was known as "The Duke" in honor of Wellington Mara, whose family owns the New York Giants. Son John is the current CEO of the team. 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 continued into its sixty-fifth year in 2006.[2]

“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 the two "Thanksgiving Classic" games in 2004.

One side of the new 2006 "Duke" football featured 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 were used for the first week of the 2006 season (the "Opening Kickoff") as well as for the Thanksgiving Day, conference championships, Super Bowl XLI and Pro Bowl games.

Broadcasting and ticket sales


Through week 11 of the season, all NFL games had been sold out, and for the 24th time, all blackout restrictions had been lifted.[3] The streak was ended by the Jacksonville at Buffalo game in Week 12.[4]


This was the first season that NBC held the rights to televise Sunday Night Football, becoming the beneficiaries by negotiating the new flexible-scheduling system (it also marked the network's return to carrying NFL games since the end of the 1997 season).[5] ESPN became the new home of Monday Night Football, replacing sister network American Broadcasting Company, who chose to opt out of broadcasting league games.[5] Meanwhile, CBS and Fox renewed their television contracts to the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference packages, respectively.[6]

Flexible scheduling

This was the first season that the NFL used a “flexible-scheduling” for the last few weeks of the season, allowing the league flexibility in selecting games to air on Sunday night, in order to feature the current hottest, streaking teams. This was implemented to prevent games featuring losing teams from airing during primetime late in the season, while at the same time allowing NBC to rake in more money off of the higher ratings from surprise, playoff-potential teams that more fans would enjoy watching.

Under the flexible-scheduling system, all Sunday games in the affected weeks tentatively had the start times of 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, except those played in the Pacific or Mountain time zones, which 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 moved one game to the primetime slot, and possibly one or more 1 p.m. slotted games to the 4 p.m. slots. During the last week of the season, the league could reschedule 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.

Game highlights on iTunes

Starting September 18, fans were able to download highlights of their teams' games through Apple's iTunes Store. 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.[7]

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.

Stadium changes

The New Orleans Saints go back home

The New Orleans Saints returned to their home at the Louisiana Superdome in Week Three. The Saints played home games during the 2005 NFL Season in San Antonio, TX, Baton Rouge, LA, and East Rutherford, NJ, due to the damage to the Superdome caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Saints finished the 2006 regular season 10–6, clinched a 1st Round Bye, and beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chicago Bears defeated the Saints in the NFC Championship, 39–14.

Coaching changes

Final regular season standings


Source: 2007 NFL Record and Fact Book (ISBN 978-1-933821-85-6)
  • Cincinnati finished ahead of Pittsburgh in the AFC North based on division record (4–2 to 3–3).
  • Tennessee finished ahead of Jacksonville in the AFC South based on division record (4–2 to 2–4).
  • Kansas City finished ahead of Denver in the AFC West based on division record (4–2 to 3–3).
  • Indianapolis clinched the AFC #3 seed based on their head-to-head victory over New England (Week 9).
  • New Orleans clinched the NFC #2 seed based on their head-to-head victory over Philadelphia (Week 6).
  • N.Y. Giants clinched the NFC #6 seed based on better strength of victory than Green Bay (.422 to .383), while Carolina and St. Louis both were eliminated from playoff contention because the N.Y. Giants and Green Bay had better conference records (7–5 to 6–6).


Within each conference, the four division winners and the two wild card teams (the top two non-division winners with the best overall regular season records) qualified for the playoffs. The four division winners are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall won-lost-tied record, and the wild card teams are seeded 5 and 6. The NFL does not use a fixed bracket playoff system, and there are no restrictions regarding teams from the same division matching up in any round. In the first round, dubbed the wild-card playoffs or wild-card weekend, the third-seeded division winner hosts the sixth seed wild card, and the fourth seed hosts the fifth. The 1 and 2 seeds from each conference then receive a bye in the first round. In the second round, the divisional playoffs, the number 1 seed hosts the worst surviving seed from the first round (seed 4, 5 or 6), while the number 2 seed will play the other team (seed 3, 4 or 5). The two surviving teams from each conference's divisional playoff games then meet in the respective AFC and NFC Conference Championship games, hosted by the higher seed. Although the Super Bowl, the fourth and final round of the playoffs, is played at a neutral site, the designated home team is based on an annual rotation by conference.

Playoff seeds
1San Diego Chargers (West winner)Chicago Bears (North winner)
2Baltimore Ravens (North winner)New Orleans Saints (South winner)
3Indianapolis Colts (South winner)Philadelphia Eagles (East winner)
4New England Patriots (East winner)Seattle Seahawks (West winner)
5New York Jets (wild card)Dallas Cowboys (wild card)
6Kansas City Chiefs (wild card)New York Giants (wild card)


    Jan. 7 – Gillette Stadium Jan. 14 – Qualcomm Stadium
    5 NY Jets 16
    4 New England 24
    4 New England 37 Jan. 21 – RCA Dome
    1 San Diego 21
    Jan. 6 – RCA Dome 4 New England 34
    Jan. 13 – M&T Bank Stadium
    3 Indianapolis 38
    6 Kansas City 8 AFC Championship
    3 Indianapolis 15
    3 Indianapolis 23 Feb. 4 – Dolphin Stadium
    2 Baltimore 6
    Wild card playoffs
    Divisional playoffs
    Jan. 7 – Lincoln Financial Field A3 Indianapolis 29
    Jan. 13 – Louisiana Superdome
    N1 Chicago 17
    6 NY Giants 20 Super Bowl XLI
    3 Philadelphia 24
    3 Philadelphia 23 Jan. 21 – Soldier Field
    2 New Orleans 27
    Jan. 6 – Qwest Field 2 New Orleans 14
    Jan. 14 – Soldier Field
    1 Chicago 39
    5 Dallas 20 NFC Championship
    4 Seattle 24
    4 Seattle 21
    1 Chicago 27*

    * Indicates overtime victory

    Pro Bowl


    The following teams and players set all-time NFL records during the regular season:

    Record Player/Team Date/Opponent Previous Record Holder[8]
    Most Points, Career Morten Andersen, Atlanta December 16 vs. Dallas Gary Anderson, 1982–2004 (2,434)
    Most Field Goals, Career Morten Andersen, Atlanta December 24 vs. Carolina Gary Anderson, 1982–2004 (538)
    Most Passes Completed, Career Brett Favre, Green Bay December 17 vs. Detroit Dan Marino, 1983–1999 (4,967)
    Most Touchdowns, Season LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (31) December 10 vs. Denver Shaun Alexander, Seattle, 2005 (28)
    Most Rushing Touchdowns, Season LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (28) December 10 vs. Denver Shaun Alexander, 2005
    Priest Holmes, 2003 (27)
    Most Points, Season LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (186) December 17 vs. Kansas City Paul Hornung, 1960 (176)
    Most Rushing Attempts, Season Larry Johnson, Kansas City (416) December 31 vs. Jacksonville Jamal Anderson, Atlanta, 1998 (410)
    Most Kick Returns for a Touchdown, Season Devin Hester, Chicago (5; 3 punts and 2 kickoffs) December 11 at St. Louis Tied by 9 players (4)

    Regular season statistical leaders


    Points scoredSan Diego Chargers (492)
    Total yards gainedNew Orleans Saints (6,264)
    Yards rushingAtlanta Falcons (2,939)
    Yards passingNew Orleans Saints (4,503)
    Fewest points allowedBaltimore Ravens (201)
    Fewest total yards allowedBaltimore Ravens (4,225)
    Fewest rushing yards allowedMinnesota Vikings (985)
    Fewest passing yards allowedOakland Raiders (2,413)


    ScoringLaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (186 points)
    TouchdownsLaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (31 TDs)
    Most field goals madeRobbie Gould, Chicago and Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis (32 FGs)
    RushingLaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (1,815 yards)
    Passer ratingPeyton Manning, Indianapolis (101.0 rating)
    Passing touchdownsPeyton Manning, Indianapolis (31 TDs)
    Passing yardsDrew Brees, New Orleans (4,418 yards)
    Pass receptionsAndre Johnson, Houston (103 catches)
    Pass receiving yardsChad Johnson, Cincinnati (1,369 yards)
    Punt returnsAdam "Pacman" Jones, Tennessee (12.9 average yards)
    Kickoff returnsJustin Miller, New York Jets (28.3 average yards)
    InterceptionsAsante Samuel, New England and Champ Bailey, Denver (10)
    PuntingMat McBriar, Dallas (48.2 average yards)
    SacksShawne Merriman, San Diego (17)


    Most Valuable PlayerLaDainian Tomlinson, Running Back, San Diego Chargers
    Coach of the YearSean Payton, New Orleans Saints
    Offensive Player of the YearLaDainian Tomlinson, Running Back, San Diego Chargers
    Defensive Player of the YearJason Taylor, Defensive End, Miami Dolphins
    Offensive Rookie of the YearVince Young, Quarterback, Tennessee Titans
    Defensive Rookie of the YearDeMeco Ryans, Linebacker, Houston Texans
    NFL Comeback Player of the YearChad Pennington, Quarterback, New York Jets
    Walter Payton NFL Man of the YearLaDainian Tomlinson, Running Back, San Diego Chargers and Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
    Super Bowl Most Valuable PlayerPeyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts

    All-Pro Team
    Special teams
    KickerRobbie Gould, Chicago
    PunterBrian Moorman, Buffalo
    Kick returnerDevin Hester, Chicago

    Team Superlatives


    • Most points scored: San Diego, 492
    • Fewest points scored: Oakland, 168
    • Most total offensive yards: New Orleans, 6,264
    • Fewest total offensive yards: Oakland, 3,939
    • Most total passing yards: New Orleans, 4,503
    • Fewest total passing yards: Atlanta, 2,371
    • Most rushing yards: Atlanta, 2,939
    • Fewest rushing yards: Detroit, 1,129



    • Fewest points allowed: Baltimore, 201
    • Most points allowed: San Francisco, 412
    • Fewest total yards allowed: Baltimore, 4,225
    • Most total yards allowed: Tennessee, 5,915
    • Fewest passing yards allowed: Oakland, 2,413
    • Most passing yards allowed: Cincinnati / Minnesota (tie), 3,818
    • Fewest rushing yards allowed: Minnesota, 985
    • Most rushing yards allowed: Indianapolis, 2,768


    News and notes

    New NFL commissioner

    On March 20, 2006, Paul Tagliabue announced his plans to retire as NFL commissioner. During an NFL meeting in Northbrook, Illinois, on August 8, league team owners selected Roger Goodell, the NFL's then-current chief operating officer, as the new commissioner. Tagliabue continued to serve as commissioner until Goodell officially replaced him on Friday September 1.

    Tagliabue became NFL commissioner on October 26, 1989. During his tenure, the league 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 U.S.); the construction of seventeen new stadiums; began its own in-house television specialty cable network, the NFL Network; greatly increased television rights fees with its broadcasters, including the addition of the Fox network and its NFL programming; and maintained labor peace with the players' union.

    Death of Lamar Hunt

    Lamar Hunt died in Dallas, Texas on December 13 from complications from prostate cancer at the age of 74. He is credited with challenging the NFL with the formation of the American Football League, which led to the subsequent merger of the two leagues.

    Death of two Broncos

    At 3 a.m. on January 1, 2007, Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed in Denver, within hours after the last regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers. Less than two months after, on February 24, 2007, Broncos running back Damien Nash collapsed and died after a charity basketball game at a high school. Both players died at the age of 24.


    The 2006 NFL Draft was held from April 29 to 30, 2006 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. With the first pick, the Houston Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams from North Carolina State University.


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    4. "In depth: Frustration in Buffalo shows how NFL's television policies irking fan base". USA Today. November 26, 2006. Retrieved November 27, 2006.
    5. "NFL announces new prime-time TV packages". NFL.com. Archived from the original on November 30, 2005. Retrieved December 13, 2005.
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    10. Pro-Football-Reference.com: 2006 NFL Opposition & Defensive Statistics
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