NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS
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NFL: Week 3 Recap and Week 4 Picks

Seven teams remain undefeated while four remain winless.  We’ve come to the first of the bye weeks, with the Patriots and Titans both off this week.

Most Impressive Teams From Week 3

  1. Arizona Cardinals (3-0): I still think the Patriots are the best team in football right now simply because they’re the defending champs, but it’s close.  The offense is flourishing as Larry Fitzgerald continued his resurgence with another two TD night. Carson Palmer continues to not skip a beat after missing the second half/playoffs last season.  But the real story was the defense this week. The secondary took advantage of every 49er mistake and helped put the game out of reach before most people were comfortable in their seats.
  2. New England Patriots (3-0): I mean what is left to say about this team that hasn’t been said this season? Tom Brady looks about as good as he ever has, thanks in part to a number of offensive weapons flourishing in big ways.  But to get the running game going in week 3 takes this team to another level.  New England’s offense under Belichick and Brady has always been pass first, run later.  But if LeGarrett Blount can build off his week 3 performance, it adds another level of doubt against opposing defenses, making this team even more formidable.
  3. Seattle Seahawks (1-2): I know, I know, it was just their 1st win and I could’ve chosen any of the 5 other 3-0 teams.  But coming off a Superbowl appearance, we all expected this team to start off better than 0-2.  So when they bounce back and take care of business in such a dominating fashion for win number 1, I had to take notice and give credit. The return of Kam Chancellor sparked the Legion of Boom to the first shutout of the NFL season.  Even more impressive than forcing the Bears to lay a goose egg, is that Chicago never even got close to field goal range. The offense wasn’t as sharp early as this team would want, but another boost on special teams from Tyler Lockett, as well as a big day on the ground for Thomas Rawls helped give them cushion in the 2nd half.

Most Disappointing Teams From Week 3

  1. New York Jets (2-1): After having a lights out defense in their first two games, the Jets at home allowed a desperate Eagles team to run all over them… literally.  Without DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews went off for 108 rushing yards, while Darren Sproles made the Jets special teams look silly with an 89-yard punt return TD.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had an up-and-down performance, throwing for three scores, but also throwing three interceptions.  And don’t get me started on the attempted lateral that became a turnover by Brandon Marshall.  It was an ugly loss for a team that has the potential to make the playoffs in the AFC this season.
  2. Detroit Lions (0-3): It’s hard enough to win in this league when you do everything well.  But through three weeks, Detroit isn’t really doing anything to make them feel better about themselves going forward.  Their running game managed just 28 yards while Matthew Stafford turned the ball over three times, including two in the fourth quarter to help Denver pull away.  And with the Seahawks up next, things don’t get any easier from here.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (1-2): Colin Kaepernick is a run first type QB and that’s fine, if you use that to your advantage.  But when you forget that, and he throws four interceptions, including two pick sixes, that’s a problem. Kapernick was just 9-19 for 67 yards, though he did make his line a bit better with a rushing TD, San Fran’s only score of the day. Sure, they ran into a far superior Cardinals team, but this was one of the ugliest, most lopsided games you’ll see, especially between division rivals.

Most Surprising Performances from Week 3

  1. Indianapolis Colts (1-2): The Colts got their first win of the season, but it wasn’t pretty.  It took vintage Andrew Luck in the fourth quarter to overcome a 27-14 deficit to win by two.  Both of his TD passes came in the final frame, after two more turnovers helped put them in the hole early.  The running game showed up in the form of two rushing scores from off-season acquisition Frank Gore. Indy’s defense had its moments, but almost bent enough to allow Marcus Mariota to get his second career win.  The Colts got a win, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
  2. St Louis Rams (1-2): Their week 1 win over the Seahawks is starting to look more like a fluke than a jumping off point.  34 points scored in their one win, 16 in their two losses. The defense did its job holding a combination of Ben Rothelisberger and Mike Vick to just 12 points, but the offense couldn’t sustain anything.
  3. Miami Dolphins (1-2): For a team that made a conscious effort to improve their defense in the off-season, they looked awful allowing the Bills to rack up 429 yards after a down week 2.  But the most concerning part of the Dolphins so far this season is the offense. Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and the running game hasn’t been utilized/effective enough.

Now it’s time for my picks. I rebounded from a bad week 2 to go 13-3 last week, bringing my season total to 28-20.

Thursday Night Football

  • Ravens @ Steelers: One team needs this more than the other.  One team is in a better position to win this game than the other.  And I think they’re the same team.  Baltimore enters at 0-3 but they have gotten better every week.  And with Pittsburgh needing to rely heavily on the running game without Ben Rothelisberger, the Ravens know who they have to stop.  Of course that doesn’t mean it will work, as most have had trouble stopping Le’Veon Bell.  Joe Flacco over Mike Vick will be the difference in this one. BALTIMORE WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Jets @ Dolphins: Both teams are coming off home losses.  A win keeps the Jets very much in playoff contention and with a chance to catch the Patriots.  A loss means another week in the cellar for the Dolphins.  Ryan Tannehill was abused by one AFC East defense last week, and coming off a bad week of their own, look for the Jets to come out firing on D.  Also, I expect to see more from the run game for New York, with Chris Ivory another week removed from injury. NEW YORK WINS
  • Jaguars @ Colts: Both of these teams enter action at 1-2, but with very different ideas on how this season was supposed to start.  Jacksonville is a young team that showed signs late last season, but we all knew they’d be a work in progress all year. As for the Colts, many, myself included, had them going far into the playoffs.  Instead Andrew Luck continues to be a turnover machine, while Jacksonville continues to be very, very inconsistent.  So who moves to .500 on the young season?  Give me the Colts to look more like the 4th quarter of week 3 than the first 11 quarters of football.  INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Giants @ Bills:New York picked up their first win of the season last week, finally putting everything together, without shooting themselves in the foot.  Buffalo took out their week 2 frustrations out on the Dolphins.  The Giants need to generate some pass rush against the Bills this week, but if they build off a great day in the secondary they will overcome the lack of one again.  Meanwhile the Bills need to figure out how to slow down Odell Beckham Jr.  The Giants might get Victor Cruz back, which would only help the offense.  So can the Giants move to .500, or will Buffalo move to 3-1? While I think Eli Manning’s first interception of the season could come in this game, give me the G-Men to get their first road win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Panthers @ Buccaneers: The Panthers have been great to start the season. Tampa has been very up and down, but their defense wasn’t the problem in week 3.  I still don’t know how I feel about the Panthers long term, but I never thought they’d be in a position to open the season 4-0.  I’m taking a leap here, but I think the offense for the Bucs picks up this week and they find a way to eek one out at home. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Eagles @ Redskins: The Eagles woke up in week 3 while the Redskins looked outmatched.  Division games are always interesting and in the NFC East, they’re usually competitive.  But give me the road team to even up their recordon the stretch of their ground game.  PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Raiders @ Bears: Oakland has been pretty impressive through three weeks, having nearly equaled their win total from 2014. Derek Carr has shown great improvement, as has the defense.  As for Chicago, tough times continue.  Jay Cutler is out, and they’ve already started trading off pieces at 0-3.  And I don’t see things getting better for the Bears this week. OAKLAND WINS
  • Texans @ Falcons: After a rough 2014, the Falcons have come out of the gate with their offense running on all cylinders.  They’re 3-0, dominating the NFC East with a combination of a healthy Julio Jones, some luck and a revamped running game.  Houston has struggled early, but got the defensive help they needed to get their first win a week ago.  Give me the home team to continue their hot start. ATLANTA WINS
  • Chiefs @ Bengals: Kansas City had its worst game of the season on Monday Night, and should be 2-1, but sit at 1-2.  Cincinnati has been on point in all three of their games to start the season.  If both teams play up to their abilities this will come down to the wire.  Even if that does happen, I still like the Bengals at home to stay undefeated.CINCINNATI WINS 

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Browns @ Chargers: On paper, San Diego is confusing, because they’re in the top 5 of total offense and top 10 in total defense, but sit at 1-2.  But turnovers and a middle of the pack running game have doomed that.  Cleveland has looked ok, but it baffles me the best they’ve looked was with Johnny Manziel at the helm, yet he is not starting.  That being said, I like the Browns to get the road victory. CLEVELAND WINS
  • Packers @ Niners: This is probably the most lopsided game of the week.  Aaron Rodgers can do no wrong.  The Packers defense has looked championship caliber at times.  And with Eddie Lacy despite injury concerns was able to play, the run game did its job in week 3. As for the 49ers, their week 1 win looks like it will be more of an anomaly than anything to build on as they turn the ball over too much and can’t stop any phase of the opponent’s game.GREEN BAY WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I had higher hopes for the Rams defense.  I questioned bringing Nick Foles over as their offensive line isn’t as strong as the Eagles was last season.  And now they face the red hot Cardinals.  It’s another possible trap game for Arizona, and while I don’t think they’ll dominate quite the same way they did San Fran a week ago, I don’t see this being much of a game either. ARIZONA WINS
  • Vikings @ Broncos:Minnesota has  their star running back and just as good as ever. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t having a stellar start to his sophomore season, throwing for under 200 yards a game, with just one TD. But he is at least limiting turnovers and giving Adrian Peterson a chance.  The defense has been great at limiting damage and that’s why they sit at 2-0.  Denver has gotten better in every game, but still don’t look like your normal Peyton Manning led team. So what gives?  I’m going to go with the road team because eventually, that mistake the Broncos have been getting away with will cost them, and this will be the week it does. MINNESOTA WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Cowboys @ Saints: I almost made Dallas one of my surprising teams from week 3 as Brandon Weedon got off to a crazy good start in his first start for Dallas.  But the team broke down in the second half against the Falcons and dropped their first game of the year.  New Orleans continues to struggle in every phase, but they at least gave themselves a chance against Carolina a week ago. Luke McCown turned the ball over late to seal the 0-3 start, but played well before hand.  Dallas showed an inability to stop the run last week, so if the Saints can get the ground game going, they can pick up their first win.  And I think they do just that. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Lions @ Seahawks: If the Packers-Niners match-up is the most lopsided this week, this is probably the second.  With no running game to speak of, they can’t overcome turnovers and a defense that is having trouble stopping anyone.  Seattle feels good coming off a shutout and they looked good in every phase last week.  Not to mention Stafford’s struggles on the road coupled with the 12th man. SEATTLE WINS

NFL: Halfway to the Finish Line… Who are the pretenders, and who are the contenders?

I cannot believe we are here already. 9 weeks down. The playoff picture is starting to take shape.

So who has themselves in prime position, who has work to do and who is on the clock?  Here is a breakdown by division of how all 32 teams look midway through the season.

AFC EAST (Remember when we all thought Tom Brady was done?)

  1. New England Patriots (7-2): Since being blown out in week 4, the Pats have won 5 straight, 4 of those by double digits.  They made easy work of the of 3 teams that could be in the playoffs, including a 22-point victory over the Broncos last week.  Tom Brady is top 5 in passing yards in a season where Rob Gronkowski came in off injury and Julian Edelman was leading the team in receiving yards early.   It took a couple weeks for them to figure things out, and now here they are, atop the AFC once again.  It’s almost like in the NBA when everyone calls out the Spurs for being too old, and they go and win the championship.  Maybe we should stop underestimating Brady and Belichick?
  2. Buffalo Bills (5-3): They’ve lost their top running back, their 2nd back is banged up and yet here they are, fighting for a wild card spot.  A big reason why is their defense.  They’re 6th in points per game in the league and are a +7 in turnover differential.  Add to that a steady progression from rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins to a big play threat, the ability to close out games and decent production from QBs EJ Manuel and Kyle Orton (yes that Kyle Orton).  If this team wants to stay in the conversation, they have to continue their strong defensive presence and get Fred Jackson back.
  3. Miami Dolphins (5-3): Ryan Tannehill has taken a step.  It’s in the right direction, but I’m not ready to say it’s a step that puts him in the next tier of quarterbacks step yet.  His decision making has gotten much better, as has his accuracy, all things you want to see as your franchise starter gets older.  Losing Knowshon Moreno was big, but Lamar Miller has done a good job picking up the slack.  They find ways to win, and just demolished the once high flying Chargers to the tune of 37-0.  Like the Bills, their defense is where they make money, and of the two teams, I think they have a better shot at a wild card spot coming off an 8-8 record a year ago.  They’re no worse than a season ago.
  4. New York Jets (1-8): 8 straight losses with no hope on the horizon.  Geno Smith is on the bench. Eric Decker hasn’t been the addition they hoped for.  Their defense has been awful and the run game has been abandoned.  Things are so bad for the Jets that fan put their money together to buy a “Fire Idzik” billboard (their GM).  Could Rex Ryan be out at the end of the season?  Time will tell, but they’re fighting hard for a very high draft pick, and not the playoffs like I thought they would be this season.

AFC NORTH (Who would’ve thought all these teams would be above .500?)

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2-1): They’ve been inconsistent since coming out of their week 4 by with a record of 3-0.  Inconsistency is bad in any sport, but it’s very bad for Cincy this year, as they can’t afford a slip in the only top-to-bottom over .500 division in football.  Andy Dalton has shown flashes of deserving the big 6-year $115 million contract he got in the off-season.  But again, inconsistency is an issue.  Hopefully AJ Green is over his injury issues, because everyone knows how lethal he is in the passing game, and putting a confident Mohammad Sanu, who stepped up for Green in his absence, next to him is huge.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3): 12 TDs in two games. Historic numbers.  That’s what Ben Roethlisberger and company have put up of late to get back into the division champion conversation.  Pittsburgh is still very inconsistent.  They started out 3-3, and despite their 3 game win streak, the Steelers defense is nowhere near the “steal curtain” of old. It’s more like a bead curtain.  It’s easy to outscore your opponents, until it’s not.  Can they keep it up?  Yes.  Will they?  Who knows.
  3. Cleveland Browns (5-3): So… we all saw this coming right?  The Browns are 2 games over .500 despite not getting much from Ben Tate on the ground, an oft injured Jordan Cameron and a QB controversy heading into the season.  They’ve been impressive, finding ways to win games late that they would’ve lost in years past.  Brian Hoyer has gotten better at late game decision making and has his team looking at winning it’s most games in a while.
  4. Baltimore Ravens (5-4): After looking like they’d turned a corner, Baltimore has lost two straight in the division, finding themselves momentarily in the basement.  The positive for this team?  They have games left in the division and it’s close, so it won’t take long to jump back into the top.  But they can’t be so inconsistent on defense.  The offense without Ray Rice hasn’t really skipped a beat, so if they can get some more stops, they will be in it til the end.

AFC SOUTH (Indianapolis is starting to pull away)

  1. Indianapolis Colts (6-3): After an 0-2 start, the Colts have righted the ship in a huge way.  Andrew Luck leads the league in passing yards, with a healthy 3,000 plus already! So you wouldn’t be surprised to know they have the best total offense because of it,which has helped cover up their middle of the pack total team defense.  Those numbers are a bit skewed at 18 after allowing over 600 total yards to Pittsburgh in week 8, but it is what it is.  They already beat Houston once, so in affect have a 3 game lead, and with how they’re playing, I think they’re easily on their way to another division crown.
  2. Houston Texans (4-5):  The good news?  JJ Watt is a beast and they’ve already doubled their win total from a year ago.  The bad news. they are in the same division as the Colts, and Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the greatest replacement for Matt Schaub, which has led to him being benched in favor of Ryan Mallett.  But they are still in the conversation without any real production out of number 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, so there is room for improvement.  Add better days from offensive weapons Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, and I see them hovering around .500 the rest of the way.
  3. Tennessee Titans (2-6): They’re in the bottom third of the league on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football. So frankly, I don’t know how they have two wins (one of which came against Jacksonville).  Two of their losses were by a combined 3 points, which shows a lack of late game execution, which reeks of bad coaching and bad personnel.  Delanie Walker might be the lone guy that’s having a representative season for Tennessee.  And after a 7-9 season a year ago, there was a place for improvement, and they haven’t and look like they won’t even get back to a similar record this year.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8): They’re not good, but I have to give the Jags some credit.  They aren’t rolling over on a weekly basis.  They took down the Browns for their first win in wee 7. Things weren’t made easy for the Bengals and Dolphins following that win.  Denard Robinson has proven to be a very good starting running back and Blake Bortles has shown some glimpses as the 4th pick in the 2014 draft.  So while the record will again put them in the running for a top pick, there are at least signs of talent at skill positions in Jacksonville.

AFC WEST (Denver might start to run away with this one)

  1. Denver Broncos (6-2): Peyton Manning is still really good, but even he couldn’t lead his team past the red hot Patriots.  But at 6-2, they’re still in prime position to make a deep playoff run despite a very difficult schedule.  The difference between last year’s Broncos and this year’s… the defense.  A bad showing against New England not withstanding, off-season acquisitions are doing big things for this team on both sides of the football.  This offense is so good, Wes Welker is now the 4th option. Think about that.  I’m not worried about this team, and even though they haven’t run away with the division, the Chargers have dropped and they can do no worse than tying the season series with both them and the Chiefs.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-3): The defense hasn’t allowed more than 26 points in a game, and that came week 1.  Jamal Charles continues to have the ability to break out on any day.  Alex Smith isn’t lighting up the stat sheet, but he’s done enough to keep them in the conversation in the division.  This team was never going to repeat the 9-0 start from a year ago, but they’ve responded from a slow start, and can still make a play at a wild card spot, if not the division.
  3. San Diego Chargers (5-4): This team was 5-1 and looked like a top 2, top 3 team in the league.  Now they’re on a 3-game slid that’s seen them score 3 TDs in the past 8 quarters of football.  The defense can’t live up to that, but it’s hard to outscore 35-plus point efforts as well.  So if this team wants to get back in the conversation, both sides of the football need to improve and fast.
  4. Oakland Raiders (0-8): They may never win again.  This team has yet to show me any reason to ever pick them.  Charles Woodson called it early, and it never sparked a fire.  They’re the worst team in the league, but could always fall into a win, and could lose that title to a Jets or Jaguars team.  But I doubt that happens.

NFC EAST (Is this division really as “strong” as the records suggest?)

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2): They’re well on their way to a possible 2nd straight division crown.  But a couple of big injuries in week 9 could derail their Superbowl aspirations.  Nick Foles is set to be out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone, while DeMeco Ryans is out for the season with a torn Achilles.  The latter could prove more costly, as Philly at least has a backup QB in Mark Sanchez who has proven he can help lead a team deep into the playoffs.  But if they want to survive the injuries, the run game has to pick up the slack.  So this team will only go as far as LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles can run, in conjunction with Sanchez limiting the mistakes.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (6-3):  Just when you thought this might be their season, Tony Romo goes down.  DeMarco Murray is on a record pace on the round, but with his injury history, how much more can you ask from him?  Brandon Weedon wasn’t horrible with Cleveland, but you’re not going far with him either.  You’ve got to hope you can get Romo back after the bye week in week 12, while hoping teams like the Packers, Panthers, Seahawks or 49ers don’t get hot and steal a wildcard spot.
  3. New York Giants (3-5): The G-men were feeling good about themselves after a 3-game win streak that saw them score 30-plus to get them above the .500 mark at 3-2.  But it’s been downhill from there.  Eli Manning hasn’t thrown an interception since week 4, and has just 5 all season. But the injuries are piling up and Manning has no real deep threat.  They’ve put themselves behind the 8-ball, but with games left with both the Eagles and Cowboys at home, to go with some softer games in the 2nd half, it’ll be tough, but they don’t have any wiggle room if they want to make a real run for the playoffs.
  4. Washington Redskins (3-6): RGIII came back, for better or worse and it didn’t make them better.  The former Rookie of the Year looked slow and out of it in his return, and I didn’t understand bringing him back when they did.  Colt McCoy (yes he still exists) looked pretty good and got them a win against Dallas. I would’ve run him out there again.  They’re the worst team in the division, even with how banged up the Giants are.

NFC NORTH (This was always going to be a fight between Detroit and Green Bay)

  1. Detroit Lions (6-2): They boast the best team defense in football.  You’ve been looking for this team to put all their talent together for a while now, and this seems to be the year, led by the D.  But that being said, their offense has been off lately. Calvin Johnson has missed time, the run game isn’t what you want and they’ve played games using their 4th string tight-end.  But when your defense is top 5 in rushing and passing defense, it tends to hide offensive question marks.  If they can get Megatron healthy, this team is going to be very dangerous in the playoffs.
  2. Green Bay Packers (5-3): They might be in 2nd place, but they’re the best team in this division.  Green Bay got off to a slow start, but while defense has carried the current leader, the Pack is a much more balanced team.  Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate again.  And if Eddie Lacy could ever be the consistent threat they need on the ground, I don’t know how you beat this team.
  3. Chicago Bears (3-5): You boast probably the best wide-receiver combination in football to go with a top 5 running back, and yet they find themselves under .500.  The defense, aside from allowing a 51 spot to New England in their last game has been pretty good.  The issue is on offense, where there is questions of a lack of trust between Jay Cutler and his targets of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.  And when there is questioning of each other in the media, it’s hard to recover from.
  4. Minnesota Vikings (3-5): considering they lost their starting QB and their All-pro running back early on, Mike Zimmer has his team competing.  Even with Matt Cassell and Adrian Peterson, I don’t think this team would be much better than 3-5, but they’ve learned that Teddy Bridgewater is a capable starter.  In a tough division like the North, at least they’ve shown they can play with teams outside.  Now they just have to figure out how to make games in the division close.  And with how bad Chicago looks, finishing 3rd is in the realm of possibility, especially with two left against the Bears.

NFC SOUTH (The most disappointing division in football?)

  1. New Orleans Saints (4-4): It’s been a long trek back to .500 for the Saints after an 1-3 start.  Drew Brees’ low is 17 points scored… that on the road against the Cowboys.  So the offense has been pretty good.  But this team is only going to go as far as the defense.  They are very lucky to be in a division having a down year top-to-bottom.  Having a game up on Carolina already for me gives them a clear path to the division crown.
  2. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1): So I think their defense forgot how to play… well defense.  Carolina finds itself top 3 in points allowed and the bottom 3rd of the league in total yards allowed.  Add to that, a banged up Cam Newton, and an offense that finds themselves in similar spots in offense as defense.  All ingredients for a below .500 record.  And nothing I’ve seen of late has me thinking they can rebound in the second half of the season here.
  3. Atlanta Falcons (2-6): Remember when this was a good team?  Yeah, neither do I. A 2-0 start, the Falcons look like the 2013-14 Texans that finished the season on a 14-game skid. You know, minus the loss of a quarterback.  Matt Ryan has been healthy, and has had enough weapons to get some wins here.  The issue is on defense.  Their secondary is basically swiss cheese, and the front 7 isn’t any better.  I do think they’ll find a way to win again this season, but it might not be more than once or twice.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7): Ugliness. I thought they’d be a playoff team.  Nope.  A rotating door at quarterback has shifted back to Josh McCown.  Doug Martin looks like he’s never ran a football.  The defense is atrocious.  Vincent Jackson seems to forget that he’s a load and can out muscle any secondary player.  It’s just bad for the Bucs.

NFC WEST (Arizona far atop the hill, just like we all thought… right?)

  1. Arizona Cardinals (7-1): I give you the best team in the NFC, and it’s not really even close.  They swept the NFC East that currently holds 2 of the 4 best records in the conference.  They survived a couple weeks without their starting quarterback.  Not to mention they’re getting healthy and are consistent on both sides of the ball.  Arizona’s only real issue is that they still have two match-ups with the defending champs, but with how they’ve played, there’s no reason they shouldn’t at least split with them and maintain their led in the division.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (5-3): For a team that entered the year as defending champs, they look nothing like a team capable of a repeat.  Russell Wilson is leading one of the worst passing offenses in football.  Marshawn Lynch is a shell of himself. Percy Harvin, a dynamic offensive weapon, was so distracting they traded him for nothing to the Jets.  And the Legion of Boom has been disappointing to say the least.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (4-5): This team is a mess.  Between off-the-field issues and a lack of a run game to help take pressure of Colin Kaepernick who has his team in the bottom half in passing offense, they find themselves on the outside looking in.  Rumors that Jim Harbaugh is leaving don’t help.  Their only bright spot is their team defense, ranked 2nd in total yards allowed.  What they need is to take advantage of 3 games left with the teams ahead of them, and for Kaepernick to figure some things out offensively, particularly in the red zone.
  4. St. Louis Rams (3-5): I have to give them credit, they don’t quit.  They’ve shown glimpses with getting big leads early over the Cowboys and Seahawks, but then they regress to a 3-5 team by losing both of those leads.  Now they look to play spoiler (as they did against San Fran this week).  Losing your starter just before the season starts is tough.  If they could’ve executed better down the stretch of games, they could be in the conversation for 2nd in this division with a down year from the champs and niners.

So if things continue on the track they are, here are my 12 playoff teams as of now:

NFC

– Arizona, Green Bay, Saints, Philadelphia, Dallas (if Romo comes back quickly) and Detroit

AFC

– New England, Denver, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Miami and Baltimore

NFL: Week 9 Thoughts

We’ve passed the half-way point, and there are still a couple team looking for a their first win, and the Chiefs remain unbeaten, despite teams best efforts.

6 more teams were off this week: New York, Detroit, Jacksonville, Denver, Arizona and San Francisco.

NFC EAST (A Strange Thing Happened- Everyone Not on a Bye Won)

  • Cowboys: They never make it easy, almost losing to a one win Minnesota team at home.  But Tony Romo shook off a late interception to drive his team to a late second game winning touchdown to Dwayne Harris.  Jason Witten had a good day, catching 8 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.  Their rush defense couldn’t slow down Adrian Peterson, but they did a good job on Christian Ponder in the pass game.  (5-4)
  • Eagles: Nick Foles really doesn’t want to give up his starting job.  He only threw for 7 touchdowns, tying an NFL record with 6 other QBs (Peyton Manning did this in the season opener).   Wide-receiver Riley Cooper was the beneficiary of 3 of those touchdowns, finishing with 139 yards receiving.  Not to be outdone, Desean Jackson finished with 150 yards and a touchdown on the day.  This after a few weeks of struggles on offense, and against a previously top 10 ranked defense in Oakland. (4-5)
  • Redskins: It took overtime, but Washington was able to pick up a win and stay on pace with the rest of their division mates.  As if they needed more weapons on the ground, with RGIII and Alfred Morris on the roster, full-back Darrell Young emerged and found the end-zone 3 times, including the game winner.  Entering action, Young had only carried the ball twice this season.  Add 121 more yards from Morris, and you have why this team survived the Chargers comeback attempt.  (3-5)
  • Giants: Bye Week. (2-6)

NFC NORTH (These Teams Can Score With Anyone)

  • Packers:  A division loss bigger than most.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a what turned out to be a fractured collarbone on Green Bay’s opening drive, and is expected to miss at least 3 weeks.  Seneca Wallace didn’t do much in his absence, completing just 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception.  Rookie runner Eddie Lacy did all he could to make up for the Rodgers injury, picking up 150 yards and a touchdown on the ground.  The loss snaps a 6-game win streak over NFC North opponents. (5-3)
  • Lions: Bye Week. (5-3)
  • Bears: No Jay Cutler. No problem.  Back-up Josh McCown had a good day, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns, and no turnovers.  Brandon Marshall had a big day receiving, catching 7 passes for 107 yards and a score.  The wide-out was only outdone by back Matt Forte, who ran for 125 and a score.  Defensive end Shea McClellin had 3 of Chicago’s 4 sacks on the night.  (5-4)
  • Vikings: They had a chance to pick up their 2nd win of the year, but they left too much time on the clock for the Dallas offense.  Adrian Peterson woke up, rushing for a 140 yards and a score.  Ponder added another score on the ground, and threw one to tight-end Kyle Rudolph, who left late with a foot injury.  3 sacks on the day, including two by Brian Robison.  Make it 4 straight in the loss column. (1-7)

NFC SOUTH (New Orleans Has Company)

  • Saints: If you’ve got a good front 7, you can beat this team.  Losing Darren Sproles in the 1st quarter, and being without franchise TD leader Marques Colston didn’t help, but there are too many weapons on this team to lose to an inconsistent Jets team.  But it happened, thanks in large part to two Drew Brees interceptions and a lack of a run game following the Sproles injury.  (6-2)
  • Panthers: Cam Newton wasn’t as mistake free as he’s been, but it didn’t stop Carolina from picking up their fourth straight win.  Newton threw two interceptions, and just one touchdown, but he did run one in.  The defense is a big reason for the win, pitching a shutout in the 2nd half, and picking off Matt Ryan 3 times.  Cornerback Drayton Florence returned one of those interceptions for a 38-yard touchdown.  Fullback Mike Tolbert scored his 5th TD during the win streak. (5-3)
  • Falcons:  So much for this team making a run.  Another 3 Matt Ryan picks meant another loss for a team with superbowl aspirations.  Steven Jackson had his first rushing touchdown as falcon, but littleness can be found in the bright spot category for Atlanta.  Much like Houston in the AFC, this team is a big disappointment.  (2-6)
  • Buccaneers: They managed to carry a 21-3 lead into the halfe time break against a very good Seahawks team on the road.  but then the Seattle defense picked up and their bid for win number 1 came to an end in overtime. (0-8)

NFC WEST (Seattle Hasn’t Looked Great Lately, But Keeps On Winning)

  • Seahawks: For the 2nd week in a row, this didn’t look like the best team in the NFC, but luckily for them, they weren’t playing high caliber teams.  They put themselves in a big hole early against the winless Bucs, and needed an extra frame to finish them off.  A big reason for the win was the contributions of Golden Tate on punt returns and Marshawn Lynch in the run game.  (8-1)
  • 49ers: Bye Week. (6-2)
  • Cardinals: Bye Week(4-4)
  • Rams: It took til week nine, but this team finally picked up their first rushing touchdown of the season.  It was apart of a second consecutive 100-yard game from rookie Zac Stacy, who finished with 127 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.  Too bad for St. Louis, it wasn’t enough.  Kellen Clemens was mediocre, throwing for 210 and a score, but he did lose a fumble.   Their defense did get to interceptions, and record 3 sacks. (3-6)

AFC EAST (Looking Like A Two Team Race)

  • Patriots: They tied an NFL season high with 55 points, and had a big day on the ground and in the air.  Tom Brady had 252 passing yards in the 1st half alone, more than 5 of his first 8 games this season.  He finished with 432 and four touchdowns, including a 2 to Aaron Dobson and 1 to Rob Gronkowski, both who finished with over 100 yards receiving   Danny Amendola also tallied a 100+ yard game, as did Stevan Ridley, though his work was on the ground.  The defense wasn’t spectacular, but you don’t need to be if the offense clicks like it did this time out. (7-2)
  • Jets: This team continues to play to the level of their opponents, and has still yet to lose or win 2 in a row.  They absolutely shut down the Saints on defense, and did a lot of good on offense.  Chris Ivory bounced back from a poor week 8 to deliver nearly 140 rushing yards and a touchdown.  Geno Smith wasn’t great, but he didn’t turn the ball over either.  Nick Foles continues to have a great year kicking the football, making all 4 of his field-goal attempts; he’s now 23 for his last 23, the longest streak in the league.  The defense did a good job stopping the run, and limiting the Saints high-powered offense.  (5-4)
  • Dolphins: It wasn’t pretty, but when you snap a 4-game losing streak, all you want is the win.  For only the 3rd time in NFL history, Miami won on a safety, thanks to a Cameron Wake sack.  It was a strange way to end their skid, but there were a lot of good things Thursday night.  The defense was good all night, forcing 3 Bengals turnovers and limiting too many big passing plays, and of course the game winning safety.  Ryan Tannehill also had a nice game, especially on the drive late in the 4th to help force overtime. (4-4)
  • Bills: They managed a season best 470 yards of total offense against a stout defense. But two turnovers in the 2nd half were returned for scores, killing any chance of handing KC their first loss of the year.  Jeff Tuel’s pass at the goal line in the opening minutes of the 2nd half was picked off and returned a 100 yards to tie the score at 10.  CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground, but no scores.  Their defense did a good job, but it wasn’t enough.  (3-6)

AFC NORTH (Cincy Isn’t All Defense These Days, But They Are All Alone at the Top)

  • Bengals: They didn’t play like a team that entered action on a 4-game win streak.  To be fair, not many teams fair well on a short week, but after the way this team has been playing on offense, they were almost as bad for much of the game.  Two Mike Nuggent field-goals and running back Giovani Bernard wee the scoring offense for Cincy on Thursday.  Bernard found the end-zone twice, while fellow back BenJarvis Green-Ellis helped out on the ground in a nice way.  Andy Dalton had been so great in the past four, but three picks and taking a game losing safety in OT was a big step backward.  This while the defense did an uncharacteristically bad job stopping the Dolphins run game. (6-3) 
  • Browns: Snapping an 11-game losing streak to anyone is nice, but to a division rival, which helps you leap frog them in the standings, is a beautiful thing. Cleveland did a lot of good things against Baltimore, and it all started with Jason Campbell under center. The 31-year-old QB threw 3 touchdowns, 2 to Davone Bess, for 262 yards, while not turning the ball over. Greg Little had a big day, with 122 yards receiving. Cleveland won while getting nothing out of star tight-end Jordan Cameron and very little out the run game.  (4-5)
  • Ravens: The reigning Super Bowl champs countinure to sputter, losing to Cleveland for the first time in the Joe Flacco era. Flacco didn’t have a bad day, throwing for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns to Marlon Brown, but he was picked off once. And you know you have a problem when Flacco leads the team in rushing with 25. Ray Rice continues to struggle mightily on the ground, and this team isn’t the same without him going well. (3-5)
  • Steelers: You’re not going to win many games when you allow a franchise high in points, especially when it’s to the Patriots.  And that’s exactly what happened Sunday at Foxborough.  They got down early, and managed to come back to tie the score at 24 in the 3rd quarter, but were outscored 31-7 the rest of the way.  Jericho Cotchery benefited from a big day by Ben Roethlisberger, catching 3 touchdown passes, but big Ben also threw 2 picks in the loss.  They allowed New England to gain 630 yards of offense. (2-6)

AFC South  (The Luck Still Hasn’t Run Out)

  • Colts: For the 10th time in his young career, Andrew Luck led his team on a fourth quarter comeback. He had some help from breakout receiver TY Hilton, who caught 3 touchdowns. Hilton had really stepped up in the absence of Reggie Wayne. Indy continues to get nothing in the run game, as Trent Richardson continues to struggle since coming over in a trade earlier this year. A couple of two-point conversions on late TDs and a couple of missed Houston field goals helped secure the come from behind win. (6-2)
  • Titans: Jake Locker was not good, but luckily Chris Johnson picked up the slack on the ground.  Locker had only thrown 1 pick all season, but threw two Sunday, though he did score with his legs. The run game was the offense, with Johnson scoring twice, and Shone Green adding another. The defense did enough in the end, and this team is in the hunt, just two games back and two left with Indy, (4-4)
  • Texans:  Case Keenum looked like really good in the 1st half, thanks in large part to Andre Johnson  who had nearly 200 yards receiving before the break.  The young starter had his team up 21-3 over a good Indianapolis squad heading into the break, then things took a turn for the worse.  In a scary moment, head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed as the teams headed to the locker room.  He was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons and was treated at the hospital with medicine that’s “designed to break up clots consistent with people who suffer strokes.”  Wade Phillips took over head coaching duties, and the team didn’t respond.  Randy Bullock missed two field goals and the team was held to just 3 points in the half as the Colts came back yet again  They’re now losers of 6 straight. (2-6)
  • Jaguars: Bye week. (0-8)

AFC WEST (KC Likes Winning So Much They Just Keep Doing It)

  • Chiefs: Another case of making it hard on themselves, but finding a way to get it done for the leagues remaining unbeaten.  Down 10-3 at the half, the defense picked up in the 2nd half to help get them another win.  Linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Sean Smith both returned turnovers for touchdowns.  The offense was non-existent, managing just 210 yards of total offense.  (9-0)
  • Broncos: Bye Week – It wasn’t a quiet week off for Denver, as the learned they’ll be without head coach John Fox for an extended amount of time.  The 58-year-old Fox felt light-headed while golfing, went to the hospital, and will have heart surgery.  Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will take over in his absence. (7-1)
  • Chargers: With a chance to win in regulation, what they thought was a Danny Woodhead touchdown was ruled down inside the 1.  And somehow they couldn’t punch it in.  Resulting in a game-tying field goal, and ending in an overtime loss to Washington.  Rookie wide-out Keenan Allen continues to impress, catching 8 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.  Philip Rivers had a bad 1st half, but picked it up in the 2nd half.  In the end, the Skins ability to run it in from inside the 10 proved too much.  This team continues to be very up and down.  (4-4)
  • Raiders: The defense had been on a role, but they had no answer for the Eagles passing game on Sunday.  Their run game led by Terrelle Pryor was good again, with Rashad Jennings getting over 100 yards following an injury to Darren McFadden.  But it’s pretty hard to come back from a 28-13 1st half deficit if you yourself cannot throw the ball too well.  Sure Pryor finished with 288 yards passing, but couldn’t find the end-zone while throwing two picks. (3-5)

That’s it.  Week 10 approaches.

NFL: Week 6 Thoughts

6 down. 11 to go.  And we still have 3 win-less teams, as well as 2 undefeated squads.

Atlanta and Miami were both on their bye weeks.

NFC EAST (At Least a Couple Teams Are at .500 Now)

  • Cowboys: A big win on Sunday night, but it came with some costly injuries.  Both defensive end Demarcus Ware and running back DeMarco Murray left with injuries.  Ware with a pulled quad muscle, and could miss 3-4 weeks; he’s never missed a start since entering the league in 2005. Meanwhile, Murray, who scored the games first touchdown, left with a knee sprain; he’s expected to miss about a week. Dwayne Harris returned a punt for an 86-yard touchdown and set up another Dallas score with a 90-yard kickoff return.  Tony Romo had just 170 passing yards a week after his 506 in a loss to Denver.  I think he’ll take that trade every time.  (3-3)
  • Eagles:  The offense had a huge day, with LeSean McCoy running for 116 yard, while Nick Foles threw for nearly 300 yards and 3 TDs, while running for a 4th, in place of the injured Michael Vick. Desean Jackson caught 2 touchdowns, while Riley Cooper found paydirt once, while racking up 120 receiving yards.  It was close early, but the defense held Tampa to just a field goal in the in the 2nd half. (3-3)
  • Redskins: Robert Griffin III completed less than 50% of his throws, threw no touchdowns and one pick in their loss to Dallas.  RGIII did rush for 77 yards, but fumbled twice, losing one.  Alfred Morris score their lone offensive touchdown as a part of his 81 yard rushing day.   The defense managed just one sack of Romo, but Rob Jackson did take a pick to the house.  Their special teams play was a killer, unable to stop Dwayne Harris from putting up big return numbers. (1-4)
  • Giants: They played their best game of the season, and still managed to lose.  Eli Manning threw 2 picks in his first 5 pass attempts, but it was the interception thrown on a possible game winning drive in the 4th quarter that sealed their win-less fate.  It was a game that saw Brandon Jacobs run like it was 2008, scoring 2TDs and bringing a much-needed run game back to New York.  When a guy like Jacobs turns back the clock like that, you’ve got to find a way to win.  But no pass rush to go with turnovers hurt Big Blue once again.  It’s the teams first 0-6 start since 1976.  (0-6)

NFC NORTH (It’s Crowded At the Top)

  • Lions: Calvin Johnson made his return after a week off with an injury, but didn’t have a big stat day, as he was used as more of a decoy.  Tight-end Joseph Fauria was the beneficiary, catching a career high 3 touchdowns, including the one to seal the victory with 2:01 left to go in regulation.  Matthew Stafford threw 3 of his 4 TD passes in the 2nd half to rally his team to victory and keep a share of 1st place. (4-2)
  • Bears: Brandon Marshall had a huge game in Chicago’s first win since week 3.  The team did everything they could to give New York the game in the 4th except turn the ball over, but in the end they held tough and picked off Manning 3 times in the final frame.  Tim Jennings got Manning twice, including a 48-yard return for a touchdown on the Giants opening drive.  QB  Jay Cutler had a good day, with no turnovers and throwing for two scores.    (4-2)
  • Packers: Outside of a 64-yard touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson, Aaron Rodgers didn’t bring his A game on Sunday.  But Green Bay held on despite a big fourth quarter comeback attempt by Baltimore.  4 Mason Crosby field goals and 120 yards on the ground by rookie rusher Eddie Lacy helped give the Pack just enough cushion.  Despite being without Clay Matthews, their defense held Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense in check, sacking last years Superbowl MVP five times, and holding Baltimore backs to 47 combined yards on the ground.  It was their first road win of the year.  AJ Hawk was a monster, picking up 3 sacks in the win. (3-2)
  • Vikings: it was a trying week for Minnesota as they came off their bye.  Adrian Peterson played days after the death of his son, while Matt Cassel got the start despite the addition of Josh Freeman at quarterback.  Cassel couldn’t make it two wins in a row for his Vikes, throwing 2 interceptions, both of which led to Carolina touchdowns.  (1-4)

NFC SOUTH (The Saints Are Still Running Away With It) 

  • Saints: In a dog fight with New England, they left   Drew Brees had brought them back from an early 10-point deficit to take a 27-23 lead late in the 4th.   But they left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady, losing their first of the year on a last second touchdown.  Tight-end Jimmy Graham had entered action averaging over 118 yards receiving a game this season, but was held catch-less, and pulled up lame late in the game. (5-1)
  • Panthers: They used their bye week well.  Cam Newton was spectacular, throwing for 3 scores, and running for a 4th in a 25-point rout of Minnesota.  Carolina took advantage of turnovers, and carried an 11-point lead into halftime.  (2-3)
  • Falcons:  Bye Week. (1-4)
  • Buccaneers: Vincent Jackson had a huge day, but they still couldn’t pick up win number 1.   The wide-out caught 9 passes for 114 yards and Tampa’s two touchdowns. Mike Glennon didn’t have a bad day either, throwing for two scores and one pick.  They just couldn’t stop the Eagles offense, which combined for 412 yards in the air and on the ground. (0-5)

NFC WEST (The Most Improved Division?)

  • Seahawks: It wasn’t their best performance, but a win is a win.  They won this one on the ground, with Marshawn Lynch running for two scores, and racking up 155 all-purpose yards in the process.  Richard Sherman did what he does, picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the 4th quarter.  Russell Wilson showed once again why he’s one of the top young QB’s in the league, throwing for over 250 yards, no picks and adding 77-yards on the ground.  Seattle has now won 11 straight home games, proving they have one of the best home-field advantages in football.  (5-1)
  • 49ers: Vernon Davis had an absolute monster of a 1st half, 177 yards and 2 touchdowns, finishing with a career high 180 yards receiving.  It was also another banner day for the defense, forcing 4 turnovers for the second straight week.  Add another 100 yard rushing game for Frank Gore and a strong day by Colin Kaepernick, and you have another big win for San Francisco. (4-2)
  • Rams: Talk about a big win.  They played well in all facets of the game, scoring on defense and special teams to go along with 3 TD passes from Sam Bradford.  Alec Ogletree returned a TJ Yates interception 98 yards to push their lead to 38-6.   The defense racked up 5 sacks including 2 by Michael Brockers. (3-3)
  • Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald gave Arizona a 1st quarter 7-6 lead on a 75-yard catch and run from Carlson Palmer.  But then the 49ers took over and the Cardinals couldn’t recover, even getting shut out in the 4th quarter.  They turned the ball over 4 times, and also lost star defensive end Calais Campbell to an apparent right leg injury late in the game. (3-3)

AFC EAST (Brady’s Comeback Puts Some Distance Atop the Division)

  • Patriots: They survived a Tom Brady pick with just over 2 minutes to go.  They got the ball back with just over a minute to go thanks to a good stop by Chandler Jones on 3rd down.  And with 5 seconds left, Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins in the end zone to cap off a 70-yard game winning drive.  It was a big win a week after Brady was shutout in the touchdown department.  Stevan Ridley helped out big time on the ground, finding the end zone twice, and racking up over a 100 yards from scrimmage. (5-1)
  • Dolphins: Bye Week. (3-2)
  • Jets: A step back for Rookie Geno Smith and the Jets in their home game against the once win-less Steelers.  Smith threw two interceptions, barely got over the 200 yard mark and fumbled once.  The offense mustered just two Nick Folk field goals in the first half.  (3-3)
  • Bills: The running game was very balanced on Sunday, with 5 players getting touches, including new starting QB Thad Lewis.  Lewis threw for 2 touchdowns, and ran for another in his second career start.  14 points in the 4th quarter forced overtime against Cincinnati, but they fell by a field goal none-the-less. (2-4)

AFC NORTH (Where Almost Everyone is 3-2)

  • Bengals: it wasn’t pretty, but Cincy got it done in overtime against Buffalo. Up 27-10 heading into the 4th, it looked like it would be an easy win for the Bengals.  But 14 unanswered by the Bills sent the game to OT.  BenJarvius Green-Ellis and not Giovanni Bernard was the featured back, and he delivered 86 rushing yards.  Andy Dalton threw for over 300 yards and broke a two game touchdown-less drought in a big way, finding the end-zone three times.  AJ Green did his thing, going over 100 yards again.  (4-2) 
  • Ravens: The defense wasn’t the problem Sunday in Green Bay.  The offense was shutdown in the first half, and was forced to mount a furious comeback in the 4th, one that came just 2 points shy of being completed.  Ray Rice and the run game was not a factor in this one at all, and though Flacco threw for almost 350 and 2 touchdowns, he also fumbled twice, losing one(3-3)
  • Browns: Brandon Weedon was not good Sunday in Detroit, and with no help on the ground, Cleveland didn’t have enough to get past the Lions. The newly reinstated starting QB was picked off late on a strange shovel pass when the game was not yet out of reach.  Guys like Buster Skrine and TJ Ward had very nice games on defense, while receiver Josh Gordon caught 7 balls for 126 yards.  They let a 10-point half-time lead slip away thanks to a goose egg in the second half. (3-3)
  • Pittsburgh: Steelers fans travel well, and on this day their team played well, picking up their first win of 2013.  The defense was outstanding, holding the Jets to a pair of field goals, and finally turning over an opponent.   They were the only league to not force a turnover through week 5.  With no production on the ground, Ben Roethlisberger had a good game, completing 23 of 30 passes for 264 yards and a score.  (1-4)

AFC South (Houston We Have a Problem) 

  • Colts: A rare bad game for Indy, who managed just 3 Adam Vinatieri field-goals on Monday Night.  Andrew Luck wasn’t so lucky on this night, with many big drops by his receivers.  And yet he still had a chance in the 4th quarter, to drive his team on yet another comeback.  But it wasn’t meant to be, throwing his only interception of the game with less than two to play.  Reggie Wayne with a nice milestone in the loss, hitting the 1,000 reception mark and passing Steeler great Hines Ward on the all-time receptions list for 8th place. (4-2)
  • Titans:  Tennessee made things tough on the Seahawks, something that’s hard to do in that home-field advantage Seattle boasts.  They had plenty of chances to steal one, but when Ryan Fitzpatrick ties Chris Johnson for the team lead in rushing yards, you know things aren’t going well.  Their lone touchdown came thanks to their special teams, who recovered a bad snap on a field goal to end the 1st half.  (3-3)
  • Texans: Things went from bad to worse in Houston.  Matt Schaub didn’t throw a pick 6 for what would’ve been the 7th straight game, but he did leave late in the 3rd with a right ankle injuries.  The beleaguered starting QB left to cheers from the Houston crowd, and was replaced by TJ Yates, who did throw a pick 6 of his own.  (2-4)
  • Jaguars: It was probably their best game of the year, but in the end the Broncos were just too much for them.  It was just a 2-point game mid-way through the 3rd, despite the crazy 28-point spread put on the game in Denver’s favor.  Justin Blackmon had another good game, 190 receiving yards, thanks to a big day from Chad Henne, who threw for 2TDs and 303 yards.  But the defense couldn’t stop the run game in the redzone, which was the difference(0-6) 

(AFC WEST) Where All the Undefeated Teams Reside

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning with his worth performance of the year, losing two fumbles and throwing his 2nd pick of the year.  And still they won by 16.  The big story was the performance of Knowshon Moreno, who rand for just 42 yards, but scored 3 rushing touchdowns. Talk about taking advantage in the red-zone.  (6-0)
  • Chiefs: This team just can’t lose right now and it’s all thanks to their stellar defense.  10 sacks in one game is a lot no matter who you’re playing, but against a rival Oakland team that boasts a mobile quarterback, that’s just downright impressive.  Tamba Ali racked up 3.5 of those.  Alex Smith wasn’t good, but he didn’t need to be thanks to his defense and two touchdown runs by Jamaal Charles.  Smith completed just 14 of 31 pass attempts for 128 yards, but didn’t turn the ball over, which is exactly what head coach Andy Reid wants.  (6-0)
  • Chargers: Nick Novak kicked 3 big field goals to help bounce back from a tough loss to Oakland last week.  The offense didn’t turn the ball over, and the lone touchdown of the day was thrown to rookie Keenan Allen, who had another big day.  Their lone forced turnover sealed the win late in the 4th quarter.  Ryan Matthews broke a string of 23 straight games without a 100-yard rusher for San Diego. (3-3)
  • Raiders: Terrelle Pryor got little help from his offensive line.  He was sacked 10 times.  Their lone touchdown, a 39-yard strike to Denarius Moore, actually gave them a 2nd quarter lead.  Pryor threw three picks, one for a Kansas City score, and saw his offense shutout in the 2nd half. (2-4)

So that’s a wrap on week 6.  Week 7 kicks off on Thursday Night Football with an NFC West Showdown.  The Seahawks are in Arizona for a date with the Cardinals.