Welcome to Week 6 of the NFL season, or as it’s known in the world of the Alphabet Preview:
Week 6 of the NFL season.
ALL-TIME GREATS: Regardless of what happens on Sunday at Gillette, the Patriots/Saints game is a match-up between two of the best quarterbacks of this and any era: Future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
The only question is: Once the game starts, will Brady be able to live up to that Hall of Fame standard?
That’s not all on Brady. We all know that he’s been put in a tough place this year, and that if you gave him the weapons that Peyton Manning has, or Brees has, that Brady would be right up there among the league leaders in every statistical category. With guys like Brees, who’s currently second in the NFL in passing yards, third in touchdown passes and fourth in QB rating. At the very least Brady would be better than his current numbers: 17th in passing yards, 13th in touchdown passes and 22nd in passer rating.
But this week, regardless of who’s to blame, the Pats offense is going to have to keep up with the Saints. For all the strides the defense has made, they still don’t have an answer for Jimmy Graham. Darren Sproles might be the most dynamic player in the league. And when Marques Colston is your third option on offense, life is pretty good. Bottom line: The Saints will score.
And under Rob Ryan, the Saints defense has been much better.
It’ll take an all-time great performance from Brady to save the Pats from a two game losing streak.
BIG MONEY BLOWOUT: While Brees and Brady get down in Foxborough, Peyton Manning will be OK. He and the undefeated Broncos host the winless Jaguars in what is very likely the most one-sided game in NFL history.
The line opened with the Broncos favored by 28 points, which tied the record for the largest spread in professional football history* and the largest since the 1970 merger. Right now, most sportsbooks have it down to somewhere between 26 and 27.5 points, so the game may ultimately fall short of the record, but that does nothing to change the calamity in store for the Jags.
Even crazier than the spread on this one? The money line.
The Broncos are -6000, which means that if you want to bet on the Broncos to win, you have to bet $6000 to win $100. The Jags are +2352, which means that a $100 bet on Jacksonville to win, pay $2352.
Who’s taking either of those bets? I mean, if you’ve got enough money to bet $6000 on a single game, what’s $100? And I’m sorry, I don’t care how much money do or don’t have, you’re far better off buying $100 worth of scratch tickets than you are betting it on a Jags victory.
One legit storyline to watch is the return of Champ Bailey, who’s missed Denver’s first five games with a foot injury. Champ might be old, but he can still lock it down, and after getting him back this week, the Broncos will get Von Miller back next week.
In related news, the Broncos are a good.
(*The 1966 Baltimore Colts were 28-favorites against the expansion Falcons. Final score: Baltimore 19, Atlanta 7.)
CLASSICS RIVALRIES: There are two big ones on the schedule:
First, there’s Washington at Dallas: This is your Sunday Night Football game, and it’s the 105th all-time regular season meeting between the pair. Dallas leads the all-time series 62-40-2, and they’re 5.5-point favorites to extend that lead on Sunday.
The Cowboys (2-3) don’t claim to have taken any moral victory from last week’s shootout with the Broncos, but it had to have helped their confidence. Well, not their confidence in Tony Romo’s ability to win a close game, but just in general.
They’ll host a ‘Skins team that’s fresh off a bye, and about to start a three-game stretch that will define their regular season. After Dallas on Sunday, Washington hosts the Bears next week and then travels to Denver in Week 8. Those are three really tough games, and it’s unreasonable to expect Washington to win all three. But it might take two to save their season, even in the NFC East, which has official claimed the “Joke Division” title formerly held by the NFC West.
The other rivalry is Oakland at Kansas City, and while I understand that the Chiefs have sucked the last few years, this blew my mind:
The Raiders have won six straight games at Arrowhead. The Chiefs haven’t won at home in this rivalry since a 2006 game started by Trent Green and Aaron Brooks.
Smart money’s on the streak ending on Sunday, because the Chiefs are undefeated and favored by 8.5 points. Meanwhile, the Raiders, even with last week’s win over San Diego, are still the Raiders. And they haven’t won a road game since Week 8 of last season. Naturally, at KC.
The one wild card here is Terrelle Pryor. Obviously, the consistency hasn’t been there for him, and it didn’t help having to miss a game with a concussion, but when Pryor’s on he has the ability to affect and completely change a game in a way that few other QBs can. He can blow a game plan out of the water. And if he can do that, on the road, against one of the best defenses in the league, the Raiders may have finally found their replacement for Rich Gannon. So what if it took nine years.
DISRUPTED DROPBACKS: Keeping with Pryor’s match-up with the Chiefs D . . .
I wasn’t familiar with a defensive metric known as “disrupted dropbacks” until I read about it this week on ESPN’s AFC West blog, but it does a pretty good job putting the Chiefs early defensive dominance into perspective.
Basically, “disrupted dropbacks” calculates the percentage of opponent pass plays that result in a sack, a defended pass, an interception or a batted ball, and right now, the Chiefs are first in the NFL at 24.9 percent. That’s more than three percentage points higher than second place Buffalo.
Just another challenge that lies ahead for Pryor, although it should help that he’s expected to have Darren McFadden back in the mix.
ELEVEN: The Seahawks were upset last week in Indianapolis, and in the process, said goodbye to both a nine-game regular season win streak and their early two-game cushion on San Francisco.
But as you know, when we’re talking about Seattle, there’s Seattle . . . and then there’s Seattle in Seattle. They don’t lose at home. In fact, one season, it might be worth letting them play every game — regular season and playoffs — at CenturyLink Field so that Mercury Morris can finally shut the hell up. This week, Seattle looks for their 11th consecutive win at home, as they host the 3-2 Tennessee Titans. Guess which team is the 13-point favorite?
As for the Titans, with Seattle on the schedule this week, a date with the Niners set for next week and Jake Locker still out for at least the next few games, their surprising 3-1 start is on the fast track to evaporation, and I doubt that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s presence leaves anyone feeling better about anything.
FOUR: Since rising from the NFL ashes in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have registered exactly one four-game winning streak. And even that one — a four-game run at the end of ’09 season that bumped them down six spots in the draft — came back to bite the Browns in the ass.
But if they can extend this current streak to four games on Sunday against the Detroit, then . . . well, I don’t know. I’m still not sure what to make of this run that the Browns are on. I don’t believe it. I think it’s far more likely that they lose to the Lions, then lose next week in Green Bay, and the next week in Kansas City, and the next week against Baltimore and go into the bye week at 3-6, without even a memory of all the optimism that exists right now. But I’ve also picked against them every week since the Richardson trade, so maybe I’m wrong.
In the end, I just think Cleveland’s success will come down to how much they can get from Brandon Weeden, and that’s the problem.
GAMETIME DECISION: As far as this week, the Browns fate may also come down to the status of Calvin Johnson, who missed last week’s loss to Green Bay with a knee injury and is questionable for Sunday. His replacement, Kevin Ogletreeatron will probably take it a little easier on the Cleveland secondary.
But Sunday’s biggest gametime decision is obviously Rob Gronkowski, although it’s looking less and less likely that he’ll play against New Orleans.
Gronk still hasn’t been cleared, and not only that, but yesterday’s WEEI report on the growing concerns surrounding his arm leave you feeling like this story is going to get worse before it gets better.
On that note, can we please get #TradeForTonyGonzalez trending in New England? I’m pretty sure that would help convince Belichick to pull trigger.
HOMECOMING: Pats/Saints might be the biggest interconference game on the schedule — and Rams/Texans is undoubtedly the worst — but there’s also a pretty good one going on in Baltimore, where the 3-2 Ravens host the 2-2 Packers.
Green Bay’s favored by three, and that doesn’t feel entirely right. First, because they still haven’t won on the road this year. Second, because they just lost Clay Matthews. And third, because of the Ravens.
Baltimore’s back home (where they’ve yet to allow a touchdown this year) for the first time in three weeks, and it’s been at least that long since Ray Rice was healthy as he is right now. Sure, the Packers may ultimately have the better team, but I’d like to see them prove it before taking them on the road against what’s left of the Super Bowl champs.
INTERCEPTION KING: No one’s touching Eli Manning this year for the interception title, but Matt Schaub will NOT be ignored. As I type, Eli leads the NFL with 15 picks, while Schaub is tied for second with nine. But more impressive than that, last week in San Francisco, Schaub became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw a pick six in four straight games. And at this point, the once-secure starter is one probably one bad game away from losing his job.
Lucky for Schaub, his next game comes this Sunday at home against the 1-3 Rams. A win might save him, but a loss will leave Gary Kubiak with a pretty easy decision.
JULIO JORROR: You always hate to see a player go down for the season, but it always stings a little more when it’s a guy as talented and fun to watch as Julio Jones. Even if the Falcons are bound to suck this season either way, Jones was going to give us something awesome every time he took the field, and the NFL experience is a little worse now without him.
KIDS STUFF: What a weird week for Falcons wide receiver coach Terry Robiskie. One day, he loses his best player for the season. The next day, the team replaces its best player by signing Robiskie’s son Brian.
I can’t wait until the Robiskies get into their first argument at practice, and Brian pulls out the: “Oh, sorry I’m not JULIO, dad. Honestly, why don’t you just adopt him. Will THAT make you happy?”
LAST CHANCE: The Steelers might not have a win, but because of the early bye week, they’re only 0-4, and if they have any interest in turning this season around, the difference between 1-4 and 0-5 is everything.
Pittsburgh will be at MetLife on Sunday to take on the surprising Jets.
MONDAY DEBUT: Colts at Chargers isn’t the most exciting Monday night match-up. The fans in San Diego don’t even like it enough to watch. Well, they might want to watch, but no one wants to go. As a result, we might be looking at a local black out. It would mark the first time that a Monday Night Football game’s been blacked out in the home team’s market since 2000.
Either way, it will mark the Monday Night Football debut of Andrew Luck.
Luck hasn’t been dominant so far this season, but he’s been steady as hell, throwing only two interceptions, and has the Colts back in first place.
The biggest challenge for the Colts here has nothing to do with San Diego, but is more a matter of staying focused on San Diego, when the rest of the league’s attention will already be focused on next — and Peyton Manning’s return Indianapolis.
NOT QUITE CLASSIC: I already mentioned a pair of historic division rivalries, and this one isn’t in the same category as those. So I gave it its own category.
While Sunday will be the 105th meeting between the Cowboys and ‘Skins, it will be only be the 44th meeting between the Cardinals and the 49ers. That’s because the Cardinals were in the NFC East until 2002, but either way, here’s what matters: San Francisco has won seven of the last eight games in this series, and despite Arizona’s 3-2 start, this a game they have to win before anyone is ready to take them seriously.
ON THE HOT SEAT: We haven’t seen a head coach fired yet this season, but a few guys must be getting close, including Mike Smith in Atlanta and Carolina’s Ron Rivera. But right now, Greg Schiano’s seat has to be the closest to burning up in flames.
Schiano’s in a tough spot this week. His Bucs are hosting the Eagles, who have been OK, but who are also a beatable opponent. At the same time, Chip Kelly’s offense obviously and always has the potential to go bonkers. If Philly gets in a rhythm and puts up a big, embarrassing number on the Bucs homefield . . . I don’t know. Maybe they’ll give Mike Glennon a little more time to prove Schiano right on the Freeman decision, but not too much more.
POWDER BLUE: One positive thing about the otherwise ugly Monday Night Football game is that the Chargers are wearing their throwback powder blue jerseys. Love those things.
By the way, the Chargers have played 48 games in the powdered blues since adding them to the mix in 1994. They’re a 28-20 record in those games.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: When will the Broncos lose?
Denver, Kansas City and New Orleans are the league's last three undefeated teams, but the Broncos are the only team guaranteed to survive this week. And let’s be honest, they’ll be the last remaining undefeated team.
So, when will they finally lose? Here’s my guess.
It won’t be next week in Indianapolis. Luck might be composed beyond his years, but I think he’ll make one mistake that puts Denver over the top. It won’t be Week 8 vs. Washington or Week 9, because they have a bye. They’ll beat the Chargers on the road in Week 10 and the Chiefs at home in Week 11 and the Pats in New England in Week 12. I just don’t see how the Pats offense can keep up with regular season Peyton. BUT —
That next week, coming off the huge win at Gillette and heading to crazy Arrowhead Stadium for a huge division battle with the Chiefs?
There it is.
ROAD WARRIORS: Big win for the Bengals last week at home against the New England. They also had an impressive home win two weeks earlier against the Packers. But these Bengals still haven’t won a game on the road, having lost in Chicago and Cleveland, and while there are bigger statement to be made than beating Jeff Tuel and the Bills in Buffalo, it would be a start.
SPREAD SHIFT: In the moments after the Jets pulled off their ridiculous Monday night comeback over the Falcons, the lines for Week 7 came out and the Rex’s crew found themselves in a weird spot. That is, 2.5 point underdogs at home, against the winless Steelers.
Say what? Not that anyone’s ready to throw the Jets into the playoff mix yet, but they’ve been a lot better than anyone thought, and with Geno Smith improving every game, who knows? At the very least, you figure they’ve done enough to be favored against a team that’s done absolutely nothing.
And now, they are. The spread righted itself later in the week and the Jets will take the field on Sunday as a 1.5-point favorite. But more than anything, I think the shift is indicative of this little fact: No one has a clue what to make of either of these teams right now. Could the Steelers possibly be this bad? Are they in the same boat as the Giants? And the Jets, didn’t most of us question whether they’d win three games all season? But of all of sudden, they’re 3-2, and with a win this week against the winless Steelers, combined with a Pats loss this week against the undefeated Saints, both the Jets and Patriots will head into next week’s rematch at 4-2, with first place on the line.
TAKEAWAY TROUBLE: One obvious problem for the Steelers leaves them on the verge of making NFL history:
According to Elias Sports Bureau, no team in NFL history has played five games without causing at least one turnover on defense.
Guess how many takeaways the Steelers have through four games?
UPSET OF THE WEEK: Jacksonville over Denver.
Nah, I already told you what it is: Ravens over Packers. Mark it down.
VICK?: Michael Vick is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers because of a sore hamstring. His future in Philly is questionable because coach Chip Kelly says so:
“There's always open competition," Kelly said when asked about Vick’s job security. "So if Nick goes out there and throws 100 for 100 and throws 27 touchdown passes, then, yeah (he's the No. 1)."
Kelly’s talking about Nick Foles, who performed well as Vick’s replacement last week against the Giants, and will start on Sunday if Vick can’t go.
And you get the sense that it won’t really take 100 touchdowns for Foles to win the job. Maybe 50, but still, it’s the Bucs so anything’s possible.
WOW: While we’re talking about the NFC East, it’s still absolutely insane that the Giants are 0-6. Everything about this whole Giants season is insane. The fact that Eli is as bad as he is. The fact that it’s 2013 and Brandon Jacobs is their best offensive player. Who knows? At this point maybe the past IS the future for the Giants. Give Mark Bavarro and Stephen Baker the Touchdown Maker a call. Every little bit helps.
X-X-X: There are three exes in Minnesota right now.
1. Matt Cassel, the ex-starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs.
2. Josh Freeman, the ex-starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
3. Christian Ponder: The ex-starting quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings.
Cassel will get the start this week at home against the Panthers, but it looks like this will be Freeman’s job sooner than later.
YOLO: Come on, throw that $100 bet on the Jackonsville.
Think about all the cool Jaguars gear you could buy with $2352?
Z-less: No Z section this week. Only sympathy and condolences for Adrian Peterson and family on the tragic loss of his son, as well as anger and confusion over how someone could ever do what the piece of trash in custody allegedly did. Just horrible, horrible news.
And that’s it for this week.
Enjoy the games.
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Welcome to Week 6 of the NFL season, or as it’s known in the world of the Alphabet Preview: