Believe it or not, the NFL season is already 6 weeks old. So far, the 2011 season has been packed with some surprises (the 4-1 Buffalo Bills), feel good stories (the undefeated Detroit Lions), big letdowns (the 1-4 Philadelphia Eagles), and some things are just as we thought they’d be (the 5-0 Green Bay Packers). Week 6 is a pivotal point in the season for many teams, some are on the brink of trying to salvage their season and others are looking to cement their spots as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Here’s what to look for in Week 6 of the NFL season:
Carolina Panthers (1-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3)- The Panthers have the 5th best passing offense in the NFL and the Falcons have the 28th ranked passing defense. Translation- expect Cam Newton to LIGHT IT UP this Sunday. Do not be surprised if the Falcons get upset at home against the up-and-coming Panthers.
Indianapolis Colts (0-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2)- One of the more surprising stories from this season is that the Bengals currently have the number 1 overall defense in the league and rookie QB Andy Dalton is building a nice rapport with rookie WR A.J. Green. The Colts gave up a 17 pt. lead to the Kansas City Chiefs last week and things don’t look much better for them this week BUT the Bengals are one of the more inconsistent teams in the NFL (beating the Bills but losing to the Broncos). This could be the game where the Colts finally slip in a victory.
Buffalo Bills (4-1) at New York Giants (3-2)- The Bills defense has to be the most most interesting unit in the NFL this year. They are ranked 30th out of 32 teams in overall defense, however, they rank 1st in interceptions and touchdowns scored. They face a turnover-prone New York Giants team this week. I expect a lot of passing yards from both sides. The team with fewer turnovers walks away from this one with the W.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)- The Steelers put on a show last week against a good Tennessee Titans team. This is the game where the Steelers need to grab the NFL by the collar and say, “We’re still right here baby. Don’t let our slow start fool you. We are contenders!.” With a blowout of the Jaguars, the Steelers will be back in the conversation of teams to lookout for this year.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-4) at Washington Redskins (3-1)- Some believe the Eagles season may already be over, others believe there is still hope. The NFC East is a very inconsistent division this year, so I believe there is a shred of hope left for the Eagles. They go against the NFC East-leading Washington Redskins. The story of this game is the Eagles potent offense against the Redskins very good defense. If the Eagles want any hope for the rest of the 2011 season, they MUST WIN this game. It wouldn’t hurt if they protect Michael Vick and their overrated defense finally shows up.
San Francisco 49ers (4-1) at Detroit Lions (5-0)- This is a match up of two up-and-coming teams and could very well end up being the best game of the week. I knew the Lions would be good this year, but 5-0? The 49ers are much more of a surprise to me this year with their 4-1 record (5-0 if not for blowing a big lead late to the Cowboys). For those who haven’t noticed yet, the 49ers are for real and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrap up their division in record time. The Lions are slowly becoming a NFL powerhouse and the days of picking against the Lions every week in a suicide pool are long gone. I think this game will be decided by whichever team shuts down the other’s star player more effectively. The Niners have a weak pass defense and Calvin Johnson is on an absolute tear this year. He is currently chasing the receiving TD record and is showing no signs of slowing down. Frank Gore has been picking it up in recent weeks and the Lions run defense is nothing to write home about. I give the edge to the Lions and Calvin Johnson.
St. Louis Rams (0-5) at Green Bay Packers (5-0)- Oh man. That’s all I can say about this one. I feel bad for the Rams. They’ve had a BRUTAL schedule to start this season off and it doesn’t get any better this week. I expect to see Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings laughing on the sideline by the 4th quarter. The Rams have just not been effective in moving the ball and the Packers offense has been on fire. Packers win it in a big way.
Cleveland Browns (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (3-2)- This will be the Raiders’ first home game since the passing of owner Al Davis. The Browns are coming off of a bye week. Darren McFadden has been running wild this season and the Raiders have the #2 rushing offense in the league. Expect to see McFadden and Co. run the ball down the throats of the Cleveland Browns and their weak rushing D.
Houston Texans (3-2) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)- The Houston Texans were off to their best start when they lost superstar receiver Andre Johnson for a few weeks and a #1 overall pick in linebacker Mario Williams for the season. With those two big losses, the Texans were edged out by the Raiders last week in a game that came down to the last play. The Ravens are coming off a bye week so they will be well-rested. Their defense has been absolutely dominant this year, just ask the New York Jets. Look for the defense to shut down the normally high-powered Texans offense and Ray Rice to have a big game running and receiving.
New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)- This NFC South battle will have huge implications on the division race. If not for a goal-line stand in week 1, the Saints, and not the Packers, would be 5-0. Since then, the Saints have been on a roll. The Bucs on the other hand, have been good but shaky and shotty QB play from Josh Freeman, who was solid last year, is certainly not helping things. I expect the Siaints to come out on top behind the arm of QB Drew Brees and if the Falcons don’t turn things around soon, the Saints may take their division in a fairly easier fashion then what everybody once believed.
*Game of the Week*- Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at New England Patriots (4-1)- If it wasn’t for the Patriots’ terrible pass defense, this game would not be seen as such a close match up. Tony Romo and his play-making WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant should have a field day against the worst pass defense in the NFL. On the flip side, Tom Brady and Wes Welker have a field day against any team they play. Beyond the two potent pass offenses, there are two subplots that will decide this game: 1. Will Tony Romo and C Phil Costa get on the same page coming off their bye week? and 2. Will the Patriots have an answer for DeMarcus Ware? Romo and the Cowboys need to eliminate their habit of turning the ball over and the Patriots need to protect Brady or he will be off his game (see the AFC Divisional Playoff Game vs the New York Jets last year). In the end, the Patriots have a better reputation when it comes to winning close games and they will make less mistakes than the Cowboys.
Sunday Night Game- Minnesota Vikings (1-4) at Chicago Bears (2-3)- When I first thought of this match up, right away I thought Bears win. Then I looked at the numbers. Both the Bears and Vikings have less-than-mediocre to bad passing offenses and defenses. Let’s look at the rushing game- Bears rushing offense is 21st in the league. The Vikings rushing offense, powered by Adrian Peterson, is 3rd in the NFL. The Bears rushing defense is 28th, while the Vikings rushing D is 4th. The Vikings hold a BIG advantage in the rushing game and I expect them to upset the Bears on Sunday night.
Monday Night Game- Miami Dolphins (0-4) at New York Jets (2-3)- The last game of week 6 is a battle between two underachieving teams. One team is looking to remain respectable and the other is looking to get back to being a Super Bowl contender. The Jets should win this game and easily BUT for some reason, every time these two teams come together, the result is always much closer than it should be. The Jets NEED to a. win this game, b. have this game restore some order in the locker room, and c. have this game be the start of a winning streak. The Patriots are the Patriots and the Bills are looking like a real force and are no more the joke of the division and two free wins. If the Jets want to remain in the race for their division, they need to start now. There is no more next game for them. Rex Ryan is starting to lose his locker room as “Captain” Santonio Holmes keeps pointing fingers at the offensive line and veteran lineman Brandon Moore, usually quiet and reserved, took exception and questioned Holmes’ ability to be a true captain. Every knows winning is the best remedy and the Jets never needed a win so bad.
Byes: Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks, Titans