Sports 101

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Now that NFL's preseason has ended, it's time to get down to serious business. For football fans, that means the start of football season. This Sunday, the boys of the gridiron will kick off the season. The game to watch, however, is on Monday when the New England Patriots take on last year's Super Bowl champ, the Denver Broncos.

Q: How long is the season?

A: The regular season is 17-weeks long. Each team has one week off. The final game is on Dec. 28 when the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then there is wild card weekend (Jan. 9-10), divisional playoffs (Jan. 17), conference championships (Jan. 31), and the Super Bowl. So it's a total of 21 weeks.

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Q: Which networks will air the games?

A: The NFL signed an eight-year $17.6 billion contract with Fox, CBS, ABC, ESPN. The new 5 p.m. (Pacific) start time for ABC's "Monday Night Football" will have the greatest impact on viewers. It works for the East Coast, but is it too early for the West Coast? Maybe.

Q: Who are the players to watch?

A: Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. These two rookies are considered the quarterbacks of the future. They were the first quarterbacks picked 1-2 in the draft this year. Manning, from Tennessee, will play for Indianapolis; Leaf, from Washington State, for San Diego.

Q: What teams will play on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 26)?

A: Minnesota Vikings vs. the Dallas Cowboys; Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions.

Q: When and where will the Super Bowl be this year?

A: Super Bowl XXXIII will be played on Jan. 31, 1999 in Miami.

* For a complete NFL schedule and more information, visit www.nfl.com

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