After Monday Night Football, we'll be completely done with the NFL Week 6, and we still know very little about this NFL season.
Here's what we learned from Week 6 in the NFL in this week's Debrief:
Harbaugh vs. Schwartz is the top story from Sunday. And that's too bad. Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz are the coaches of arguably the two most surprising teams in the NFL -- the 49ers and Lions, who share a 5-1 record. Instead of talking about the insanity of a 49ers-Lions game being the game of the week, and the step forward each of these two teams has taken this season, we're talking about a silly verbal sparring match at midfield. Harbaugh came in and, as he said, shook Schwartz's hand too jubilantly, and then slapped him on the back. Schwartz understandably took offense to that and had something to say. But he took it a step too far when he went chasing after Harbaugh, causing a ruckus on the field and fodder for every NFL highlight show out there.
And then there was one. The Packers remain as the last undefeated team. Last year, the last undefeated team was just 3-0 but this year the Packers stand at 6-0 and they may be 11-0 entering the Thanksgiving game against the Lions. Their next five come against the Rams, at Vikings, at Chargers, Vikings and then the Bucs. Considering they've had few problems in their first six games, it's reasonable to think they run the table up to Thanksgiving. They're clearly the best team in the NFL and there's really no one on their level at the moment.
Three winless teams remain. The team the Packers beat on Sunday, the Rams, are one of three winless team. St. Louis, Miami and Indianapolis have yet to notch a win with Miami visiting the Jets on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins and Colts have injuries to the quarterback position so their struggles are explainable. But what about the Rams? A young quarterback, solid running back and a team on the rise has looked miserable this season. With a visit to Dallas and then hosting the Saints, the Rams appear on their way to 0-7.
The NFL trade deadline comes on Tuesday. The NFL trade deadline isn't like other sports -- there's not much action in the last 24 hours before the deadline. It's an unpopular deadline for two reasons, I think. First, football isn't like basketball or baseball where you can fairly easily incorporate a new player into the lineup midseason. It's the ultimate team sport so there are very few positions that can step right in and assimilate themselves into the offense or defense. Second, it comes very early in the season. Trading away top talent basically means you're conceding defeat just one-third of the way into the season and teams still have games to play and tickets to sell. So the rumors will be flying but don't expect much real action.
The most intriguing trade deadline rumor involves Carson Palmer. The Raiders supposedly called him after Jason Campbell's injury, according to Yahoo! Sports. Bengals owner Mike Brown has publicly indicated he's not trading Palmer, who has threatened to retire if he's not traded. Many people believe Brown won't back down from that stance. In other words, this trade isn't likely to happen (but it sures makes sense).
Lots of quarterback changes are coming. Throughout the first six weeks of the season, collectively teams haven't shuffled their quarterbacks very much. In fact, through five weeks, 30 of 32 teams had started the same quarterback every game, which was a new NFL record (previous best was 27 in 2003). There's been an odd amount of consistency at that position for the league's 32 teams but that's going to change for several teams. First, the Vikings may be moving on from Donovan McNabb and looking to Christian Ponder, who looked solid in relief of McNabb on Sunday night. Second, the Raiders lost Jason Campbell for a while, possibly the season, and they're reportedly hoping for Carson Palmer. Third, Rex Grossman was benched on Sunday, being replaced by John Beck, making some wonder if the John Beck era is starting. Add in Matt Moore replacing an injured Chad Henne in Miami, and Tim Tebow time in Denver, and that's quite a bit of change for one week at the quarterback position.
Eagles start the climb back from 1-4. They beat the Redskins on Sunday, 20-13, in the first step in what they hope is an incredible comeback. Teams that start 1-4 rarely make the playoffs but the Eagles hope to change that and they'll do it on a very difficult road. They still have to play the Cowboys twice, the Giants again (who they already lost to), as well as the Patriots and Jets. Michael Vick will need to continue playing well -- completing passes at a high percentage and making teams pay with his legs -- while avoiding those critical mistakes (eight interceptions in the last five games).
The Bengals are a good reminder that we really know little about the NFL. We have all these experts spending hours watching film and analyzing teams....and then the Bengals come out of the gate 4-2 showing how little we really know. They're working with a rookie QB-WR combo, Carson Palmer won't play for the team and their fans won't fill the stadium. Apparently, that's a recipe for success in Cincy as the Bengals improve to a 4-2 record on the season beating the Colts on Sunday. The schedule has been favorable early on so the real tests (Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice) have yet to come.
Six weeks in and we have several candidates for surprise team of the year. Those teams are the Bills, Lions and 49ers. Entering the season, I figured the best any of those teams would do is 8-8 but all three are en route to pass that win total. The Bills are 4-2 and playing with an offense good enough to win nine games, the Lions are 5-1 and, despite Sunday's loss, look like one of the best teams in the league and the 49ers can probably start making division title plans with a 2.5 game lead six weeks into the season.
Reason No. 1 the NFL is great. We're six weeks into the season and, by my count, there are 25 teams that can claim they still have a shot to make the playoffs. Those seven teams that, in my mind, are already out of it include the Dolphins, Jaguars, Colts, Broncos, Panthers, Rams and Vikings. Everyone else? They're not out of it yet.