This year might be the best NFL season ever. Granted, that's a heaping helping of hyperbole just six weeks into the season, but each week features fourth quarter wins and enough noteworthy play that not even the cliche network cliche machines can take away from the excitement. To what do we own this exciting new era of professional football?
In basement laboratories across American, where cheap hard drives have replaced test tubes, much smarter people than I toil endlessly for the answer. Those of us with state school seals on our diploma just enjoy the action...and sometimes write a little bit about it. The five games that ended up under the tip of my homemade game pickin' dart proved to be pretty solid contests, except for the Lions rolling over an embarrassing Bears team on Monday night.
I welcome our new passing overlords to the NFL. It's downright entertaining.
I now believe in the Detroit Lions, officially. There might not be a more entertaining team to watch right now. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson are one of the most exciting pairings in the NFL this year. Megatron is on pace for 28.8 touchdowns this season, which would shatter Randy Moss' record of 23 receiving touchdowns from 2007. I'm less of a believer in the 49ers, even after watching them trounce Tampa Bay last week. So far, the toughest game Jim Harbaugh's team has played was a week two loss to Dallas.
What gives this game the potential to be must-see TV this weekend is the matchup between San Francisco's front seven and Detroit's offense. Ultimately, Stafford and Johnson will win this game against San Francisco's mediocre pass defense, but this is a game that has all the ingredients to be yet another game decided in the fourth quarter.
Since 1990, only 12 teams that were three games below .500 as of week 5 have made it to the playoffs. Only five of those teams started off 1-4, including the 2002 Titans who finished with an 11-5 record. If the Eagles lose again this week, you can expect some moves ahead of Tuesday's NFL trade deadline. Rebuilding mode is not an option.
Mike Shanahan doubtlessly circled this game on his calendar, eager to payback an Eagles team that hung 59 points on him the last time they met in week 10 last year. Washington looks like a much better team than Philly at this point. However Shanahan plans to rotate his running backs, they have a great matchup this week against a defense that is proving to be the Dream Team's undoing.
The battle of New York, er, upstate New York versus New Jersey. Geography aside, the matchup of a couple codger coaches makes this a battle for the ages. Which Giants team will Tom Coughlin have on the field this week? The Bills lead the series between these two teams with a 6-4 record, including a 3-1 record in Jersey. Things have changed since these teams last met in 2007.
The Bills' defense leads the league with 12 interceptions. They have a +11 takeaway ratio, and they face Eli Manning, who led the league last year with 25 interceptions. Manning threw three picks last week in a disappointing loss at home to the Seahawks. Stats aside, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills own the comeback win this year, while the Giants seem to always be on the wrong side of those comebacks lately.
Sheesh. Two prime time games in a row...the networks have to be as disappointed in the Bears as the fans. And this week a game against the Vikings on Sunday Night Football? It sounds bad, but before you decide to watch another episode of Sunday night cartoons long past their expiration date, know that these two teams match up well enough to make for an entertaining game.
Jay Cutler is complaining publicly about his lack of protection in the passing game. Minnesota defensive end and mullet enthusiast Jared Allen leads the league with 8.5 sacks. Chicago hopes that changes on the offensive line will stave of Cutler's imminent doom for at least another week.
Many observers penciled in an NFC Championship game that featured the Atlanta Falcons, playing the Packers in most cases. Mike Smith's Falcons provided little more than a speed bump last week as the Packers scored 25 unanswered points on their way out of a 14-point deficit to win the game in Atlanta last week. Now, the Falcons are fighting for the NFC South, two games behind New Orleans. A Carolina win would bump Atlanta to the division cellar.
Atlanta won't lose this week, right? Not so fast. Every week the psychic connection between Cam Newton and Steve Smith comes close to a major upset. Newton had his team within seven points of the Packers, and lost by a mere three points to the Saints last week. The Panthers are going to come out on the right side of one of these upset opportunities. I think this is the week it happens.