Week 6 Game Previews
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: October 11, 2012
This week will feature the usual quarterback showdowns and defensive battles, highlighted by a hotly anticipated 2011 NFC Championship rematch.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans, 8:30pm Thursday
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 300 yards from surpassing Terry Bradshaw for most passing yards in Steelers franchise history. He’s posted just one 300+ game this season, so it’s far from certain that he’ll eclipse Bradshaw Thursday night, but there are few better defenses than Tennessee for Roethlisberger to face in his quest for 300. The Titans are allowing a 25th-ranked 279.6 yards each game. With Rashard Mendenhall returning to the lineup and establishing a run game, Roethlisberger could find the freedom to hit record-breaking yardage. Whether Bradshaw will call to offer congratulations, however, is yet to be seen.
Oakland Raiders at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00pm
NBC analyst and former NFL head coach Tony Dungy wants to see running back Michael Turner with the ball more after Matt Ryan’s 52 pass attempts in Week 5. A more balanced offense would undoubtedly help Atlanta in its quest for a division crown. Four first-place teams (49ers, Patriots, Giants and Bears) posted 200+ rushing yards last week; the Falcons didn’t break 100. Any increase in rushing attempts may be put off beyond this week, though: the Raiders’ 283 passing yards allowed per game almost begs Ryan to throw the ball.
Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00pm
All eyes will be on Tony Romo to see how he rebounds after a disheartening five-interception performance against the Bears. He was humiliated by an aggressive Chicago defense that leads the league in takeaways. He should have an easier day by comparison; the Ravens’ defense has been underperforming this season, especially compared to its perennial top ten standards. Perhaps Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco facing off against the top-rated Dallas passing defense will be the most interesting draw. Flacco has passed for at least 299 yards in three home games this season, while the Cowboys defense is allowing 277.5 total yards per game.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns, 1:00pm
Could this finally be the week Cleveland posts its first win? It might. Starting cornerback Joe Haden will return from his four-week suspension Sunday. Don’t be surprised to see him post career numbers after helplessly watching his team’s secondary struggle in his absence. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton looked downright human last week, throwing two interceptions in a home loss to Miami, and Cincinnati’s floundering rushing attack was issued a significant blow after running back Bernard Scott tore his ACL. Cleveland has shown glimpses of efficiency and effectiveness in portions of each of its first five games, especially when it almost beat Cincinnati at home in Week 2. Sixth game could be the charm for the Browns.
St. Louis Rams at Miami Dolphins, 1:00pm
Who here guessed that Miami would be allowing the fewest rushing yards through Week 5? After two weeks of surprises (an overtime loss to then-undefeated Arizona followed by a win at Cincinnati), the Dolphins appear to be the second-best team in the AFC East. St. Louis has been unexpectedly successful as well, posting its first record above .500 since November 2006. Unfortunately for the Rams, last week’s loss of receiver Danny Amendola could prove disastrous for an already shaky passing game. Watch to see if Rams stud Steven Jackson makes up for St. Louis’ depleted receiving corps against Miami’s brutal run defense.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets, 1:00pm
In spite of every worst case scenario tossed out by pundits and fans alike, the New York Jets acquitted themselves surprisingly well in a six-point Monday night loss to Houston. With the return of quarterback Mark Sanchez’s most reliable target, tight end Dustin Keller, as well as rookie receiver Stephen Hill, the Jets’ passing game could continue to improve. Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie had an excellent game covering Houston’s Andre Johnson, allowing the star receiver just one catch for 15 yards and picking off another pass intended for Johnson. Cromartie will most likely be tasked with covering Andrew Luck’s favorite target Reggie Wayne. Wayne is coming off a spectacular 212-yard game and may prove harder to cover than Johnson. And, yeah. There’s a backup quarterback many are clamoring for. That’ll probably come up.
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00pm
This looked like a marquee game when schedules were first announced, projected to be a matchup between two teams with equally blistering offenses and defenses. What it has become is a game between two teams desperate to establish an offensive identity. Both overall defenses are ranked in the top ten, despite Detroit allowing nearly thirty points per game with zero interceptions to date, but previously dominant offenses have gone stagnant in both the City of Brotherly Love and Motor City. Quarterback play in particular has negatively impacted offensive progress, with Detroit’s Matthew Stafford committing four interceptions in as many games and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick losing five fumbles and six interceptions through five games. Both teams have found themselves in frequent come-from-behind situations, due in large part to turnovers. Will we find much of the same this week in Philly? If so, which team will be behind?
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00pm
They wanted him. And now, Kansas City fans are getting him. With struggling starter Matt Cassel sidelined with a head injury (for which some KC fans infamously cheered), Brady Quinn will start Sunday’s game under center. It’s far from likely that Quinn will turn anything around with his heretofore unremarkable play, but heck. It should be good for Cassel to get a break from fan scrutiny. Tampa Bay is coming off its bye with the goal of improving its fourth quarter performance. In all three losses, the Buccaneers held a lead at some point in the last quarter only to let it slip a way. Poor red zone performance (just two touchdowns and three field goals) combined with lapses in defense can be blamed. Watch to see if head coach Greg Schiano made any progress in adjusting his team’s approach to the final quarter.
Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05pm
Poor, poor Buffalo. The Bills have allowed a mind-boggling 176 points this season (second only to Tennessee for league-worst), while scoring 117 of their own. In spite of Buffalo’s two victories, its average game score through five weeks is 35.2-23.4. Arizona is coming off an embarrassing primetime loss to division rival St. Louis; in less than a week, Arizona went from media darling to problem-plagued pretender. Quarterback Kevin Kolb should feel optimistic about his chances this week: Buffalo has posted just ten sacks on the season. Kolb has been sacked thirteen times in his last two games alone. The loss of running back Ryan Williams will sting, and the Cardinals should think about bringing in a replacement back before the trade deadline.
New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05pm
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a shoo-in Hall of Famer. A modern day legend at his position. But Tom Brady doesn’t like to be bothered. He doesn’t respond well to pressure. He hates when his receivers are knocked off their routes. He gets frustrated in a hostile environment. He could be in trouble this week in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL against the League’s number one-ranked defense that hasn’t allowed an offensive TD since Week 3. Seattle’s outcomes have been difficult to predict this season, and it hasn’t traveled particularly well, but the Seahawks are a tough out when they’re at home. Brady’s surrounded by a plethora of offensive options, and an improved Patriots rushing attack with youngsters like second year running back Stevan Ridley and rookie Brandon Bolden could provide him with room to maneuver. Look for this to be a close one.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25pm
Just as the Ravens-Patriots AFC Championship rematch was a massive ratings grab, this rematch of an overtime heartwrencher has all the makings for the week’s best game. San Francisco’s incredible 2011 season came to a screeching halt against the streaking New York Giants last January, and it’s safe to assume they’ll be out for revenge this weekend. This will be the third time in less than a year these two teams take the field, so expect close competition on both sides of the ball. Many will be watching for if and when cornerback Carlos Rogers executes a Victor Cruz-inspired salsa number, but my eyes will be trained on the defenses. The Giants have been a bit of a sleeping, um.. giant.. on the defensive side this season, with its only patented bruising performance coming against a weak Carolina offense. Save for a surprise loss at Minnesota, the Niners have hosted a master class in defensive prowess, particularly in the last two weeks, allowing just one field goal in eight quarters. He hasn’t had much play time all season, but I’ll be curious to see if Kyle Williams, he of the two costly fumbles and the recipient of disproportionate death threats, will be granted the opportunity to take the field and impact the game in a more positive manner.
Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins, 4:25pm
Percy Harvin is officially fun to watch. As running back Adrian Peterson has dealt with full recovery from offseason ACL surgery before rolling his ankle in last Sunday’s win against Tennessee, Harvin has electrified as a kick returner (345 yards and a touchdown on nine returns), receiver and rusher. The Vikings offense will undoubtedly always be better when Peterson is on the field, but Harvin’s performance to this point in 2012 has helped earn Minnesota first place of the NFC North. If Peterson isn’t 100% in the week after his minor ankle sprain, look to see Harvin elevate the Vikings’ play. Let’s just hope he manages to keep the migraines at bay; would be a pity for him to miss play time.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans, 8:20pm
The Packers were sent home reeling from Indy in the wake of an improbable, albeit emotional win for the Colts, and now must face the AFC’s best team. Something is failing to click so far in Green Bay; its defense isn’t improved enough from last year to make up for the fact that Aaron Rodgers simply isn’t playing like Aaron Rodgers. The loss of running back Cedric Benson, who had reliably moved the ball on the ground, could further damage Green Bay’s offensive prospects. Houston, on the other hand, continues to get things done in every phase of the game. Matt Schaub executes play-action passes better than anyone in the League, and it’s thanks to the constant threat running back Arian Foster poses. Defenses are more likely to bite, hard, on play action when it’s an elite back like Foster who appears to have been given the ball. It’s difficult to imagine Green Bay at 2-4 through six weeks, but it needs to field a team we have yet to see this season to contend with the Texans on Sunday night.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers, 8:30pm Monday
After a 3-1 start wherein the Chargers lost only to still-undefeated Atlanta while vanquishing opponents with a collective 3-11 record, San Diego became the first to fall to New Orleans this season. It seemed that San Diego was poised to transcend previous early season stumbles that have become the hallmark of a Norv Turner-coached, A.J. Smith-managed franchise, but once again Turner and Smith’s seats will get warmer by the week. On the plus side, San Diego has a history of success against Peyton Manning. As a Colt, Manning went 4-5 against San Diego (including two playoff losses) highlighted by a decidedly un-Manning-like 16-18 touchdown to interception ratio. To put this stat in perspective, Manning is 410-201 in his career. Despite disappointments from both teams to date, this is the class of the AFC West and the two teams most likely to contend for the division crown.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @arahomik
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