Week 6 features entertaining heavyweight battles like Packers-Ravens and Saints-Patriots, and a Sunday night game that should feature an unholy amount of passing yards with no defensive resistance. Get ready for an entertaining weekend.
Here's the rundown:
It was awfully cruel of the football gods to take E.J. Manuel away from the Bills. The rookie quarterback had been playing well, and his week-to-week progress was fun to watch. The team resurfaced Thad Lewis from the practice squad to take Manuel's place. The second-year quarterback played reasonably well when forced into action for the Cleveland Browns for one game last season, but he'll be going up against one of the league's better pass defenses this week.
Lions at Browns (1 p.m. ET, Fox)
Just when you think the Lions are back, they lay a stinker. Getting Calvin Johnson back healthy could be pivotal to beating a surprisingly good Browns team. His absence against the Green Bay Packers proved he is the most important piece of the offense. As for the Browns, can Brandon Weeden play well? Who knows! At least the defense appears to be rock solid.
Is Terrelle Pryor the most improved player in the NFL? He certainly looked like a viable NFL quarterback last week, passing for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Beating the Chiefs will be a stiff challenge, however. Kansas City is giving up a league-low 62.3 rating to opposing quarterbacks this season, and leads the NFL with 21 sacks so far.
The Vikings' quarterback situation is about to get weird. Matt Cassel will start against the Panthers, but Josh Freeman is in waiting and Christian Ponder should return at some point. If Cassel lights up a good Panthers defense, he could ride out the season as the starter. In the more likely scenario that he looks mortal, the Vikings could be headed for an awkward quarterback platoon.
Steelers at Jets (1 p.m. ET, CBS)
The Jets just embarrassed one supposed (former) playoff shoe-in, why not make it for 2-for-2? The Pittsburgh Steelers are 0-4, and haven't looked particularly competitive in the process, especially on offense. The Jets, meanwhile, appear to be finding a stride. Geno Smith just threw three touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons, and will be itching to capitalize on his sudden momentum.
Eagles at Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Fox)
The Eagles will be Vick-less, but that ought to be enough to beat a moribund Bucs squad. Tampa Bay needs to start winning, immediately, or 2013 could truly be Greg Schiano's last year as an NFL head coach.
Packers at Ravens (1 p.m. ET, Fox)
The Packers and the Ravens may be two of the most confused teams in the NFL. Both would consider themselves Super Bowl contenders, and both have looked very mortal at times this season. Key for the Ravens will be keeping the running game on track. Hopefully for fans the addition of Eugene Monroe will pay off against a Packers front seven that has been solid this season.
And here we find two teams perhaps most in need of being hugged. The Texans are suddenly wondering who they offended to deserve the season they are having. Matt Schaub is practically cursed, having thrown a pick-six in four consecutive games. The Rams, meanwhile, are trying to understand why a reasonably talented team can't jell in any phase of the game.
Hoo boy. If there is a near-consensus best team in the NFL, it's the Broncos, and if there is a near-consensus worst team, it's probably the Jaguars (with all due respect to the Buccaneers and Giants). The result is a 28-point spread that is the largest in NFL history. This game will be a lot of fun to watch, just to see if Peyton Manning and Co. can cover.
The Titans have been sneaky good this season, which makes it all the more frustrating that Jake Locker is on the mend. The Seahawks will be angry after suffering their first loss of the season, and winning at CenturyLink Field is a tall task to ask of road teams. The Titans could keep the proceedings close if Russell Wilson is erratic again, however.
The 49ers are the favorites over the Cardinals for good reason, but even if they win as expected, how they win will be revealing. Colin Kaepernick has to prove that he can be productive passing to players other than Anquan Boldin, or the 49ers' title hopes may have to be put off for another season.
Saints-Patriots is probably has the top billing of the weekend, with Packers-Ravens providing a solid undercard. The Saints are moving the ball at will, and Rob Ryan's job turning around a historically bad defense should be considered one of the stories of the year. The Patriots are reeling after a loss, but they will likely be getting Rob Gronkowski back, providing the passing game with a desperately-needed spark.
Robert Griffin III v. Tony Romo would be a lot more exciting if the Redskins and Cowboys weren't a combined 3-6 on the season. Still, big passing numbers should be had against two secondaries that are among the worst in the NFL by just about every measure. Neither team may be good, but that doesn't mean they aren't capable of putting on a really entertaining football game.