The NFL announced on Monday four key games of its 2005 Kickoff Weekend that begins with the debut of the Super Bowl XXXIX champion New England Patriots' on Thursday night, September 8 and concludes on Monday night with a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game.
In a tradition that was instituted last year, the Super Bowl champion now hosts the NFL Thursday night season kickoff the next year. This year on ABC at 9:00 PM ET, the Patriots will take on the Oakland Raiders. The game will feature the Raiders' debut of wide receiver RANDY MOSS, and will be Oakland's first visit to New England since the teams' memorable 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff "blizzard" game.
On Sunday, September 11, the FOX national doubleheader game at 4:15 PM ET will feature the Dallas Cowboys at the San Diego Chargers. For Dallas, it will be the debut of their new quarterback, 13-year veteran DREW BLEDSOE. For the Chargers, they will launch the defense of their AFC West title under quarterback DREW BREES, the 2004 NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
The Sunday night primetime game (8:30 PM ET) on ESPN will be a clash of offense vs. defense when the Indianapolis Colts visit the Baltimore Ravens. It will be the Colts' high-powered offensive trio of quarterback PEYTON MANNING, running back EDGERRIN JAMES and wide receiver MARVIN HARRISON against the Ravens' staunch defense led by linebacker RAY LEWIS and safety ED REED, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year who led the league in interceptions last season with nine.
The September 12 Monday night opener on ABC at 9:00 PM ET will be a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game featuring two of the NFL's most exciting quarterbacks – the visiting Philadelphia Eagles' DONOVAN MC NABB against the Atlanta Falcons' MICHAEL VICK. The Eagles defeated the Falcons in last January's championship game, 27-10.
Also on Sunday, September 11, CBS, which has U.S. Open tennis in the late time slot, will carry a lineup of early regional NFL games. CBS will televise the NFL national doubleheader late game in Week 2.
The announcement of the Kickoff Weekend games was made Monday afternoon by NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE at the NFL Annual Meeting in Maui, Hawaii.
The rest of the 2005 regular-season schedule will be announced at a later date.