By: Barry Barnes, Founder/Senior Writer
As the NFL enters Week 6, there are 20 teams either in first place or within a game of the top spot in the division. And in seven of the eight divisions, there are either multiple teams tied for first or at least one team within a game of the lead.
“This team is hungry,” said Cleveland Browns’ head coach Rob Chudzinski, whose team is one of the squads tied for first place in their division as they are joined to the hip with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North at 3-2. “I don’t see them being satisfied with what they’re doing because I see improvement. This is a group of fighters and guys that want to get better and succeed.”
The Bengals should separate themselves from the pack as they prepare for the Buffalo Bills (2-3) while the Ravens will battle against the Green Bay Packers and the Browns will take on the Detroit Lions.
The Browns will reign on top of the AFC North after Week 6 as the Bengals and Ravens will receive L’s.
Browns 27, Lions 21
Bills 21, Bengals 17
Packers 37, Ravens 31
“I think the best way is taking the approach that we have of just treating every single week as a brand new week and just resetting after the game is over, knowing the challenges that are ahead,” said Chudzinski. “You look at a team like Detroit and the type of team they are, it’s a great challenge for us in every area, individually and as a team.”
Three teams remain unbeaten with 5-0 records in the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints. Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was introduced, 36 of the 40 teams (90 percent) that started 5-0 advanced to the postseason.
“We’re 5-0 but we also know that we’ve got a ton of room to improve,” said Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid. “It’s important that we continue to do that.”
Nothing should change for the Broncos, Chiefs and Saints after Week 6 as they should remain undefeated.
The Broncos will kick around the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) and the Chiefs will out work the Oakland Raiders (2-3), but it won’t be easy.
With that being said, the Saints will have their hands full against quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (4-1), but they will come through with their superstar tight end in Jimmy Graham, who is on a roll after having four consecutive 100-yard games – tying himself (2011) and Atlanta Falcon Tony Gonzalez (2000) for the longest streak by tight ends in NFL history.
“Obviously, Jimmy alone is a great player,” said Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees. “I think Jimmy would be the first to tell you that having Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles and all these other young wide receivers means teams have a lot of other guys to worry about too. There are a lot of guys who will make plays. So we can beat you a lot of ways.”
Saints 37, Patriots 20
Dating back to 1990, 229 of the 276 playoff teams (83 percent) had a winning record after five games.
But that’s not where the fun begins.
47 of the 276 playoff teams made up the other 17 percent that had losing records after five contests, including four squads from last season in the Broncos, Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins.
“We have to seize the day,” said Redskins’ defensive end Stephen Bowen, whose team is just a half-game behind the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) and Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) for first place in the NFC East at 1-3. “We’ve still got a chance to turn around this season and it starts on Sunday night.”
That would be great news for the New York Giants if the Redskins could pull off an upset over the Cowboys (don’t bet on it, though) because they would just be two games out of first place in the NFC East after their 0-6 start.
How freaky is that?
Speaking of freaky, that’s how the Giants have been this season. Quarterback Eli Manning has been a turnover magnet this campaign, due to poor offensive line play, miscommunication among his receivers and bad decision making. Manning and the Giants continued in their struggles Thursday night against the Chicago Bears as Manning threw three picks (15 interceptions for the season) in their defeat, 27-21.
The Bears are in the driver’s seat in the NFC North as they sit on top at 4-2. The Giants may still have a chance since their division is more watered down than baby juice and their past proven grit.
“You just keep working and you try to get better and that’s all we can do,” said Manning. “That’s all we can control is this next game and try to get a win. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the rest of the NFC East. We’ve still got to play five more games between the NFC East, but obviously we’ve got Minnesota next Monday night and it should be an opportunity for us to go out and get better.
“I thought we made some improvements this week offensively with running the ball and pass protection and making some plays. We’ve just got to eliminate the mistakes.”
On to the rest of Week 6:
St. Louis Rams (2-3) at Houston Texans (2-3)
Simply, the Texans need this win against the Rams, for themselves and their fans base before they storm Reliant Stadium. The Texans has struggled in all their games this season as they had to fight back to win their first two contests against the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans, got shutdown in the second half by the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4 towards a loss and got man-handled by the Ravens (Week 3) and San Francisco 49ers (Week 5).
If the Texans lose against the Rams, their losing streak will continue through to their bye week after an eventual defeat at the hands of the Chiefs in Week 7.
Texans 24, Rams 14
Arizona Cardinals (3-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-2)
The Cardinals and 49ers enter Week 6 tied for second place in the NFC West, one game behind the Seahawks. Both teams recorded victories in Week 5 and are on a two game winning streak.
The Cards leads the NFC in rushing defense (79 yards per game) and has not allowed a point in the second half in each of their last two games, outscoring opponents 32-0 in the second half of those contests. The Cardinals had seven sacks and three interceptions in last week’s win over the Carolina Panthers (22-6) as linebackers Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby each had two sacks and an interception.
“You can call them ugly wins or any kind of wins you want,” said Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians. “As long as they’re wins, I love them.”
The 49ers returned to their dominating way and they made that clearly known against the Texans last week in their win, 34-3.
“We’re the 49ers,” says Gore. “When we’re on, we can do whatever we want to do.”
Both teams can get at the quarterback and are solid defensively. In situational moments, both teams are at their best, but the 49ers are better in those circumstances – even against a good team like Arizona.
“Well, number one they’ve got a new quarterback in Carson Palmer. And he’s a very good player, always has been,” said 49ers’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “Excellent passer. Can make all the throws, deep, short and intermediate. They’ve got their really good receiving group, which is similar to what they had last year led by (wide receiver Larry) Fitzgerald. They’ve got two good tight ends in (Jim) Dray and (Rob) Housler. And they changed the running backs. They’ve got (running back Rashard) Mendenhall and 38 (running back Andre Ellington) in there. And these guys are good backs.
“And I think they’ve got a very talented offense in the skill positions,” he continued. “And they started off the season well, scoring a bunch of points, then they had some injuries, and they struggled for a week or two. But, these guys look good on tape offensively and they’re doing good things scheme wise.”
49ers 21, Cardinals 13
Carolina Panthers (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (1-3)
Throw the stats out the door because this contest will be emotionally driven. Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson suffered a heartbreaking loss Friday when his two-year old son died from injuries after allegedly being abuse by the boyfriend (Joseph Robert Patterson, 27) of the child’s mother.
Patterson was by his son’s bed side, which he learned about as recent as two months ago as the mother had paternity tests done to discover who the father was, Thursday after being hospitalized Wednesday. Patterson is now married.
Mall of America Field and the nation will be backing Peterson and he will be in a zone.
If convicted, Patterson will be sentenced up to 40 years in prison.
Vikings 31, Panthers 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) at New York Jets (3-2)
After coming off an impressive victory over the Falcons last Monday night, the Jets are gaining more confidence following each contest, win or lose. The Steelers have difficulties at stopping the run and teams are killing him with the play-action pass.
The Jets are getting better at running and with the excellent tight end play from Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland, Gang-Green’s play-action has improved.
Nevertheless, the Steelers will have issues against the Jets’ defense as they are playing off the charts.
“I feel more control because I’m calling it (the defense),” said Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan. “I feel that’s the deal. That’s not taking anything away from Mike Pettine or anything else. I feel better about it. And again, I was involved in it always, but was I calling every play? No. (Whereas) here, I am. Do I lean on Dennis Thurman?
“Absolutely. There is no doubt and Dennis is right there with me,” he continued. “Even as were going, ‘I’m thinking about this, this and this.’ “How do you feel? Give me a coverage. What do you like?” We’ve done that for 10 years.”
Jets 24, Steelers 13
Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4)
The Eagles sit tied at the top of the NFC East, while the Bucs find themselves at the bottom of the NFC South. Both teams are better than what their records display, but their self-inflicting mistakes late in games caused them to be where they are.
The Bucs’ experiment with quarterback Mike Glennon continues to be in effect, permanently now that Josh Freeman is in Minnesota, and the Eagles switch over to the Nick Foles’ project until Michael Vick recovers from his hamstring injury.
Having two good quarterbacks can be a luxury.
“I think Nick has the ability to be a starter in this league, and we’re excited about him,” said Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly. “If the opportunity presents itself on Sunday then I am excited to see Nick out there. I thought he did a great job in the second half, getting us down the field, especially the first drive at the end of the first half against the Giants, putting us into field goal range.
“I’m excited about Nick, and I think he can be a starter in this league,” he continued. “I said that when we made the decision that it felt like you need to have two quarterbacks and I feel like we do have two quarterbacks.”
The Eagles need this win in order to keep pace with the Cowboys for the division.
Eagles 23, Bucs 17
Indianapolis Colts (4-1) at San Diego Chargers (2-3)
Well, the secret will be out after Monday night about the Colts being for real. They are balanced defensively, sharp in their passing game and they running game is improving by the contest.
The Chargers has decent offensive numbers ranking 5th in total yards (402.4 per game) and passing yards (311.2 per outing), but their inconsistencies on both sides of the ball has been their down fall.
“Obviously we’ve got to be buttoned up in what we’re trying to get done,” said Chargers’ offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. “It’s a good defense. They play hard. They’re well disciplined. There are a lot of similarities in what we face from our guys through the summer and training camp, but it really comes down to not making mistakes. That’s what hurt us last week. We made some mistakes early. It put us behind in down and distance, so we’ve got to be better this week.”
Colts 33, Chargers 27
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