Thursday night saw the first game on the week six schedule, and if the remaining games this week are as exciting then we’re in for a great weekend of football. Rob Bironas nailed a last second field goal to give Tennessee a 26-23 win over Pittsburgh in Nashville, moving their record to 2-4 whilst Mike Tomlins’ Steelers slip to 2-3 having won last week at home to Philadelphia. I’ll over a few thoughts on the contest before I move on to my predictions for this weeks action.
-Shortly before Bironas won the game for the Titans Shaun Suisham saw his 54 yard field goal try drop just short for the Steelers with under a minute to go. Not only did the miss cost his team three points, it also gave Matt Hasselbeck a short field with which to work and the veteran QB showed once again why he still has a job in this league by marching his offense down the field and well inside Bironas’ comfort zone as far as distance goes.
-Kenny Britt has had a poor season so far, missing games through injury and suspension. He wasn’t brilliant on Thursday and did drop one sure fire touchdown pass, but Britt made up for it on the very next play when he hauled in a Hasselbeck throw to give the Titans six desperately needed and ultimately vital points. Britt nearly dropped that pass as well but managed to cling on at the second attempt, so the outcome of the game may well have been altogether different if Britt wasn’t able to snag the ball on the rebound.
-Going forward the Steelers look in a ton of trouble thanks to another night where they sustained injuries to key players. Centre Maurkice Pouncey left the game after being crushed at the bottom of a lineman bundle, the likes of which I haven’t seen since I left school. Rashard Mendenhall left the game, as did his backup Isaac Redman later on. With Troy Polomalu already banged up the Steelers are in a position now where injuries could well ruin their season, if they haven’t already.
-Lastly, a word on ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers QB passed Terry Bradshaw for the all time passing yardage record last night, and at the age of 30 Big Ben could well put that record out of reach by the time he hangs up his cleats. Bradshaw won four Superbowl rings whilst Ben only has two thus far, so although Bradshaw currently has a more impressive resume it would not surprise me in the slightest if Roethlisberger were to join him in the Hall of Fame one day with one or even two more championships to his name. Big Bens’ ability to extend plays and make something out of nothing continues to be his best asset, yet it shouldn’t be overlooked how his accuracy and even arm strength have continued to improve as he’s aged to the point where he can now make most throws the position demands. It’s difficult to recollect his rookie season where he led the Steelers to the AFC championship game despite leading a run heavy offense and very rarely throwing anything other than simple five yard passes.
With last nights contest out of the way, let’s have a look at the remainder of week six’s scheduled match ups:
Oakland @ Atlanta
On paper this game looks like an easy win for Atlanta… and that’s exactly how I see this match up unfolding. The Falcons are 5-0 for a reason, and it’s difficult to imagine a porous Raiders defense being able to bottle up Julio Jones and Roddy White in the passing game. Matt Ryan looks like an MVP candidate, and another positive in recent weeks has been the revival of Michael Turner as a power running back. No longer the focal point of the offense, it’s taken a while for Turner to adapt but he’s now scored touchdowns in four straight games and has even been used as a cog in the passing game. Raiders 14, Falcons 31
Dallas @ Baltimore
The Cowboys enter this game fresh off their bye week, whilst the Ravens are currently riding a three game winning streak after their week two defeat in Philly. As far as the Cowboys are concerned you have to imagine that this is a must win game with plenty of divisional games to come, unfortunately for the ‘boys a road trip to Baltimore should prove a step too far even in their desperate state. Ray Rice will fancy his chances of racking up some steady yardage, whilst the Ravens pass rush will force Tony Romo in to plenty of mistakes after his last performance yielded five (!) interceptions.
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
Although the Browns are 0-5, they’ve actually impressed me in recent weeks. Trent Richardson is a legit top level NFL running back and Brandon Weeden has been surprisingly effective after a terrible season debut. Last week they threatened the Giants in New York but their defense let them down, something I see happening again this week. However, Joe Haden makes his return from suspension and he’ll help the Browns cover Bengals star A.J Green, and if Haden and the rest of his defensive team mates can contain the Bengals offense to some extent then the offense might just have enough to get the Browns off the mark against their main rivals. Bengals 23, Browns 24
St. Louis @ Miami
Both of these teams remain a mystery to me. Both have provided fairly good performances on a consistent basis, but neither has been able to convert these performances into an impressive amount of wins. The Rams have certainly been rejuvenated under Jeff Fisher and it’s misfortunatefor them that of all the years this is the one where the NFC west is actually playing at a high level. Two or three years ago they would be running away with a play off birth – this year they’re tied at the bottom of the division with Seattle whilst San Francisco and Arizona lie atop them. Ryan Tannehill has impressed as a rookie, and I’m backing him and Reggie Bush to generate enough offense to outscore a Danny Amendola-less Rams team. Rams 19, Dolphins 21
Indianapolis @ New York Jets
When you have to choose between Mark Sanchez and Andrew Luck, it’s really a pretty easy choice to make. I’ve never been a fan of Sanchez and this year he has been awful nearly every game. It baffles me that he was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft a few years back, and the fact that someone as unnatural throwing the football as Tim Tebow is heaping pressure on him says it all. Luck has been solid, and if he throws for 300 yards on Sunday then he’ll become the first ever rookie quarterback to throw for 300+ yards in three straight games. Having edged out the Packers last week I think the Colts will roll the Jets in New York, ushering in the Tebow era as a result. Colts 30, Jets 17
Detroit @ Philadelphia
The Lions have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season having generated just a 1-3 record, and in a division where the Packers, Bears and surprise package Vikings reside that just won’t cut it. Matt Stafford is regressing following his excellent 2011 season and Calvin Johnson has just one touchdown reception to date. Johnson has faced double and sometimes even triple coverage because the Lions lack other weapons, and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to roam free against an Eagles secondary that contains Nnamdi Asamougha and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie. On the other side of the ball Michael Vick needs to correct his fumble issues if the Eagles want to join the NFL’s elite and the offense line must do a better job of protecting the inconsistent Vick and creating running lanes for the dynamic LeSean McCoy. The Eagles have won four in a row at home and this Sunday they should make it five, but stranger things have happened. Lions 24, Eagles 27
Kansas City @ Tampa Bay
Is it too early in the season to label this game a battle for the number one pick in next years draft? Maybe, but no one can deny that both these teams have been terrible up to this point and there is nothing to suggest that anything will change in that regard over the coming weeks. Matt Cassell is out for the Chiefs after he was concussed last week, so Brady Quinn (remember him?) gets the start at QB. Josh Freeman continues to struggle to live up to his impressive 2010 showing and although he’s shown some improvement on last year the Buccaneers really need more from the offense if they are to make an improbable run at a wild card. Both teams are bad, but the Chiefs are worse and the Tampa Bay defense is good enough to make Chiefs fans regret cheering Cassells’ injury last week. Chiefs 10, Buccaneers 14
Buffalo @ Arizona
Over the past couple of weeks the Cardinals offensive line has probably run up quite a bar bill, as they likely have been buying quarterback Kevin Kolb a drink for each time he’s been sacked due to their terrible play. Usually you’d look at the Bills defensive line with names such as Mario Williams lining it and say that’s a recipe for disaster as far as Arizona is concerned, but Williams has been a none factor thus far and the Bills pass defense is so atrocious that I can see Kolb having his best game of the season so far. I hope he does, anyway, because I added him to my fantasy roster this week. Bills 21, Cardinals 31
New England @ Seattle
Pete Carroll comes up against his former team in an intriguing game which will go a long way to shaping both teams seasons. Both teams are 3-2 and at a sort of cross roads, although because the Patriots are fortunate to be in a weak division they are leading the AFC east whilst the Seahawks are bringing up the rear in the NFC west. Tom Brady has hit his straps recently and Wes Welker has become a pivotal part of the Patriots offense once more, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see New England put up some heavy points in this contest. Seattle is a misleading 3-2 thanks to their stolen win against the Packers, and even though they’re at home in this one I just can’t see Russell Wilson being able to take advantage of a suspect Pats secondary. Patriots 30, Seahawks 18
New York Giants @ San Francisco
If you’re going to watch any game this weekend, make sure it’s this one. It’s the rematch of last January’s NFC championship game and if that contest was anything to go by then this game should be an absolute thriller. Eli Manning has orchestrated a sky high passing game over recent weeks, most notably against Cleveland when Eli and Victor Cruz combined for three touchdown tosses. The 49ers have the leagues best defense however, and Alex Smith has shown recently that he can carry this team when needs be. One wild-card to consider is the wildcat that San Fran has unveiled this season with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, and whether that can help slow down the Giants vaunted (though slightly unproductive of late) pass rush. San Francisco are the class of the NFC in my opinion, and with revenge on their minds I see them giving the Giants a bit of a lesson this Sunday afternoon. Even though it’s never wise to bet against Eli in a high stakes game (just covering myself in that eventuality!) Giants 17, 49ers 20
Minnesota @ Washington
I have to say I was quite shocked when I realised that the Vikings actually are 4-1 this season. No one saw this coming, least of all me, and their ascension has a scent of opportunism about it as the Packers have struggled so far this year and the Lions are playing well below last seasons standard. Washington has somehow managed to clear Robert Griffin III to play in this game after he was concussed last week, and it’s difficult to imagine that he’s 100 percent after he had his bell rung in Atlanta. Kirk Cousins came in after RG III left and lost the game by throwing two picks and Mike Shannahan will be mighty relieved to have his star player back in the huddle. Percy Harvin is the man the Redskins must stop if they want to win this one, and with Adrian Petersen nearly all the way back from his knee injury the ‘skins D will have its hands full as they attempt to get back to .500. I fancy the Vikings fairy tale season to continue, whilst Shannahans’ seat could be heating up if Washington find themselves at the bottom of the NFC east – again. Vikings 28, Redskins 20
Well that’s that for now on this weekends action, although I hope to be back with a brief recap of the action on Sunday night along with predictions for Sunday and Monday night football. Thanks for reading!