What do we know?
Vail, CO Colorado
When Week 5 of the NFL passed, it seemed fans were finally starting to get a clear picture of which teams would still be in the mix, come December.
Washington had secured its fourth-consecutive victory to move to 4-1, beating an NFC East rival on the road for the second consecutive week. Dallas, Denver, and Carolina had all also moved to impressive 4-1 records with convincing victories, while New York (Giants) had gone to 4-0 with a 44-6 stomping of Seattle.
It appeared that these teams had set the stage for successful seasons. So much for what we thought…
Carolina got dropped 27-3 by Tampa Bay, Denver fell at home to Jacksonville, Dallas lost to mediocre Arizona in overtime, Washington lost at home to previously-winless St. Louis, and to cap off the wild week of upsets, New York was dominated, 35-14, on Monday night by lowly Cleveland, whose only victory had come against winless Cincinnati.
There were still more bizarre occurrences; Indianapolis, which was lucky to enter the week 2-2 and not 0-4, rolled, 31-3, over Baltimore, who was unlucky to enter 2-2 instead of 4-0. Miami, coming off back-to-back wins over last year’s AFC Championship Game teams, managed to lose to previously-winless Houston, leaving the Dolphins with victories over New England and San Diego (a combined 31-7 in 2007), and losses to New York (Jets), Arizona, and Houston (20-28).
And Detroit, who was yet to win a game and was missing starting quarterback Jon Kitna to injury, almost managed an upset over Minnesota, leading 10-9 in the final minute of the game.
In addition to these peculiar results, Week 6 was filled with fantastic finishes. Five games were decided with fewer than 10 seconds remaining in regulation, or in overtime. Atlanta’s Jason Elam kicked the Falcons to a stunning victory after Chicago had taken a one-point lead with just 11 seconds remaining.
Houston managed a one-point victory after Matt Schaub scored on a fourth-down quarterback draw from the 3-yard-line. Ryan Longwell booted Minnesota past Detroit with just nine seconds remaining.
Josh Brown made a 49-yarder to push St. Louis past Washington after an unsportsmanlike penalty moved the ball back 15 yards. And after having an apparent game-winning blocked-field goal wiped away by an “icing-the-kicker” timeout, Arizona stunned Dallas in overtime by blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown just a minute into the extra period.
With Week 6’s results only adding to the madness, this NFL season is shaping up to be one of the strangest and most exciting in recent memory.
Most Impressive Team: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts put up 31 points and 334 yards on the league-best Baltimore defense and forced five turnovers en route to their first victory in their new stadium.
Best Offensive Performance: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans rebounded from a frustrating Week 5 defeat and held the ball for 36 minutes, putting up 441 total yards and 34 points while committing no turnovers.
Best Defensive Performance: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs stole the show from the hyped-opposing Panthers defense, picking off Jake Delhomme three times, returning a blocked punt for a touchdown, and allowing just 40 yards rushing to one of the league’s best rushing tandems.
Fantasy Stud of the Week: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees threw just four incompletions on the day, as he put up 320 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Rookie of the Week: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan looked very sharp against a strong Chicago defense, throwing for 301 yards and a touchdown while also managing a 26-yard completion to Michael Jenkins with one second remaining to set up the game-winning field goal.
San Diego (3-3) at Buffalo (4-1)
Buffalo comes in off a bye week that allowed starting quarterback Trent Edwards to recover from a concussion he suffered in the first quarter of Week 5. It will be interesting to see how Edwards comes off this injury, as the Bills were torn apart in his absence against Arizona. Meanwhile, San Diego enters fresh off a dominating victory over New England, but sits at just 3-3 after a few heartbreaking defeats in the season’s opening weeks. I expect the Chargers to recover from their slow start, as they did last season, and to earn their way back towards a label as an AFC powerhouse.
Winner: San Diego
New Orleans (3-3) at Carolina (4-2)
In an NFC South battle, the Panthers look to rebound from an embarrassing defeat to Tampa Bay, while the Saints will try to build on a 34-3 trouncing of lowly Oakland. The Panthers’ defense looked drastically different last week, allowing 33-year-old Warrick Dunn to rush for 115 yards after holding the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, and Larry Johnson each under the century mark to start the season. They will have their hands full again with Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister. I expect a close battle, but New Orleans’ offense will prove too great for the Panthers’ ferocious defense to contain.
Winner: New Orleans
Indianapolis (3-2) at Green Bay (3-3)
The Colts have turned a very awkward first few games into a manageable record at 3-2, while Green Bay finds itself in a tight division race with three teams tied at 3-3. Indy’s offense finally looked in sync last week, which should spell trouble for a Packers secondary that gambles quite frequently. Green Bay will count on Aaron Kampman to take advantage of the Colts’ injury riddled offensive line and keep Peyton Manning from getting comfortable. Ultimately, I see Manning getting sufficient time on many occasions to lift the Colts in a game that could very quickly become a shootout.
Game of the Week: Denver (4-2) at New England (3-2)
Monday night’s matchup represents a clash of two of football’s greatest minds in New England’s Bill Belichick and Denver’s Mike Shanahan. Both teams enter after disappointing losses, and neither has looked very consistent yet this year, winning and losing to a variety of opponents. The Broncos have had the Patriots number of late, winning four of the last five in the series, and nine of the 12 games played during Shanahan’s tenure as coach. I expect New England’s porous pass defense to allow some big plays to Jay Cutler and company and for Denver to move to 5-2.
Last week’s predictions: 2-2
Season predictions record: 12-8
A senior at Battle Mountain, Davey DeChant breaks down the NFL for the Vail Daily every week.
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