NEW YORK (Sept. 5, 2006) -- Quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Charlie Batch will drop back to throw the 2006 NFL season into motion Thursday night when Batch and the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers host Culpepper and the Miami Dolphins in Pittsburgh (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET). Batch, a nine-year NFL veteran and Pittsburgh-area native, starts in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who underwent an emergency appendectomy.
Batch aims to lead the Steelers to their fourth consecutive Kickoff Weekend victory in the club's first game following its Super Bowl XL championship. Culpepper, making his first start as a member of the Dolphins, can make history in 2006 by being the first player to lead both the AFC and NFC in touchdown passes for a season.
Below is a team-by-team look at the men who will play quarterback in the AFC in 2006:
BALTIMORE: Acquired in a June trade with Tennessee, Steve McNair leads the Ravens' offense. In the past 10 seasons, McNair (153) stands second among active AFC starting quarterbacks in touchdown passes (Peyton Manning, 244). The three-time All-Star needs 2,859 passing yards and 61 rushing yards to become only the third player in history to throw for 30,000 yards and rush for 3,500, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young.
BUFFALO: Three-year veteran J.P. Losman enters his second season as the Bills' opening-day starter. The strong-armed 25-year-old has thrown only one interception in 79 career September attempts. Losman passed for the third-most yards among AFC quarterbacks during the preseason with 514, completing an impressive 67.7 percent of his attempts. He has thrown for six touchdowns against only two interceptions in the first halves of his 13 career games.
CINCINNATI: Carson Palmer enters his third season as the Bengals' starter. In leading the club to its first division title since 1990 a year ago, Palmer passed for a team record and NFL-best 32 TDs. He is the first Bengals quarterback to lead the league in TD passes for a season. The former Heisman Trophy winner has 29 career starts. In his first 14, he passed for 20 touchdowns against 19 interceptions ( 1). In his last 15, he has thrown for 30 TDs versus 11 INTs ( 19).
CLEVELAND: After starting the Browns' final five games of 2005, second-year pro Charlie Frye has earned the team's No. 1 QB post. Inside his opponents' 20-yard line, Frye compiled a 103.5 passer rating in 2005, highlighted by three TD passes without an interception. In the last five weeks of 2005, Frye completed eight passes for 25 yards or more. Only four AFC quarterbacks posted more 25 yard completions in that time frame.
DENVER: Since 2003, Jake Plummer is 32-11 (.744) as the Broncos' starter, good for the third-best winning percentage among NFL QBs in that span. With 4,000 yards in 2006, Plummer would become the first quarterback in Broncos history to record two 4,000-yard seasons. Plummer passed for a club-record 4,089 yards in 2004. Last season, the 10-year veteran threw 229 times without an interception for the NFL's longest such streak since 1996.
HOUSTON: In each of the past two seasons, quarterback David Carr has completed more than 60.0 percent of his passes. Entering his fifth season, Carr has started 16 games in three of the past four years. His 11 interceptions in 2005 accounted for the lowest total of his career. With 6,019 yards in the past two seasons, Carr is one of eight AFC quarterbacks to surpass 6,000 yards since 2004.
INDIANAPOLIS: With 4,000 yards in '06, Peyton Manning would become the NFL's first QB to record seven 4,000-yard seasons in a career (currently tied with HOFer Dan Marino at six). Manning makes the 129th consecutive start to begin his career Sunday night -- the longest such streak by a QB in history. No QB ever has passed for more yards in his first eight seasons than Manning (33,189). He has thrown a TD pass in 112 of 128 career games. Last season, Manning became the first QB in history to pass for 25 or more TDs in eight consecutive years.
JACKSONVILLE: The team was 8-3 last season in games Byron Leftwich started. Entering his fourth year as the Jaguars' starter, Leftwich's record is 21-17 (.553). In the three seasons prior to Leftwich's arrival, Jacksonville's record was 19-29 (.396). Among quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts last season, Leftwich ranked No. 2 in interception percentage (1.7). He was one of seven NFL QBs in 2005 to throw at least 10 more TDs (15) than INTs (5).
KANSAS CITY: Since 2002, Trent Green (16,334) has passed for the second-most yards in the NFL, trailing only Indianapolis' Manning (16,771). Green's 4,014 passing yards in 2005 made him the fourth quarterback in NFL history to post three consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, and the Colts' Manning. Green's 20,117 passing yards account for the second highest career total in Chiefs history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Len dawson (28,507).
MIAMI: Coming off a knee injury that limited him to seven games last year at Minnesota, Culpepper brings a brilliant resume along with his 6-4, 260-pound frame to the Dolphins. In his most recent complete season (2004), Culpepper led the NFL with 4,717 passing yards -- the fifth-greatest single-season total in NFL history. Culpepper twice led the NFC in TD passes (in 2000 and 2004). He can become the first QB to lead both the NFC and AFC in that category for a season.
NEW ENGLAND: Since the advent of the Super Bowl (1966), Tom Brady (58-20, .744) owns the second-best winning percentage among QBs with 40 or more starts, trailing only Hall of Famer Roger Staubach (85-29, .746). Brady owns a 10-1 (.909) playoff record and is 7-0 in career overtime games, including his 1-0 overtime playoff record. In 2006, Brady can help the Patriots become the second team to win four Super Bowl titles in a six-year span (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-79).
NEW YORK: Practically flawless in the red zone, Chad Pennington has passed for 41 TDs vs. 0 INTs inside Jets opponents' 20-yard line. Entering his seventh season, Pennington owns the franchise's career marks in passer rating (92.1) and completion percentage (65.3). The Knoxville, Tenn., native (8,621) needs 1,379 passing yards to become the fifth Jets quarterback to reach 10,000 in a career.
OAKLAND: Acquired as a free agent, former New Orleans QB Aaron Brooks arrives as the Raiders' starter. In the past five seasons, Brooks (111) is tied for the fourth greatest TD pass total in the NFL, trailing only Indianapolis' Manning (159), Green Bay's Brett Favre (141), and New England's Brady (123). Brooks has registered at least 3,500 passing yards in four of the past five seasons and has missed only three starts since 2001.
PITTSBURGH: Kickoff Weekend starter Batch is 2-0 as the Steelers' starter (2005). He has passed for three TDs six times in his career ... Regular starter Roethlisberger became the youngest starting quarterback in history to win the Super Bowl last February at 23 years and 11 months and is the first QB since 1970 to win a playoff start in each of his first two NFL seasons. The 11th overall selection of the 2005 draft owns a 22-3 (.880) record as the Steelers' starter.
SAN DIEGO: Making his first NFL start on Monday night, Philip Rivers will face the Chargers' longtime AFC West rival Oakland. Rivers played in five bowl games during his North Carolina State career, earning MVP honors in each, including the 2004 Senior Bowl. Rivers, who wears No. 17 for the Chargers as he did in college, had his jersey number retired at N.C. State prior to his final home game with the Wolfpack.
TENNESSEE: Seven-year veteran Billy Volek owns the greatest passing-yard total in the first 10 starts of an NFL player's career (2,789). In 2004, Volek became the fourth player in NFL history to post 400 passing yards in consecutive games (426 and 492) ... Eleven-year veteran Kerry Collins, a late preseason acquisition, has passed for 33,637 yards in his career to account for the third most yards among active quarterbacks (Brett Favre, Green Bay, 53,615; Drew Bledsoe, Dallas, 43,447).