Game of the Week
Tennessee Titans (4-2) at Carolina Panthers (5-0): If people didn't believe in the Panthers as a legitimate contender before last week, they do now. Carolina showed grit by coming back to erase a first half 10-point deficit on the road, against a high-powered Colts team.
By beating the Colts and
the Buccaneers, the Panthers have notched two wins against two of the top five
teams in the league.
This smash-mouth Panthers
team will get another litmus test this Sunday against the Titans. Unlike the
Colts, Tennessee is a physical team on defense that can stop the run and
put pressure on the quarterback. On offense, Steve McNair has played at an MVP
level so far this season. His quarterback rating of 107.8 leads the league and
he has only thrown two interceptions.
The Panthers defense is solid, but it
seems like nobody can stop McNair, who has devoured defenses in the passing game
all season long. Carolina will have trouble containing McNair both outside and
inside of the pocket. The Titans' defense may not be able to stop Stephan Davis
and DeShaun Foster, but they can contain them. If the Panthers can't run the
ball tremendously well, they may not be able to score enough points to keep up
with the Titans.
Denver Broncos (5-1)
at Minnesota Vikings
(5-0): The undefeated Vikings will get
their first true test this week against the Broncos.
Minnesota is the No.1 ranked offense in the NFL despite having a
bye week. The Vikings are a balanced club, ranking fourth in rushing and ninth
in passing offense. Randy Moss has been on a tear since the start of the season,
which is bad news for a Broncos secondary which has been the weak link on
defense all season long.
The key matchup in this
game, though, will be between Denver's offense and Minnesota's defense. Minnesota's early success is due in large part to the improvement
of its defense, which has given up 17 points per game. Like the Chiefs and the
Colts, the Vikings have such a prolific offense that the defense only needs to
play at an average level, which has been the case so far.
Denver is among the top rushing attacks in the league and with
Plummer back in the lineup, the passing game should be back to normal.
This will easily be the Vikings'
toughest test. The Broncos offense is capable of scoring in bunches, and the
defense may be up for the task of stopping Minnesota's strong rush offense. However, no one will be able to
slow down Moss. The Minnesota crowd will be deafening. Coming off a bye-week, Tice's
group will want to make a statement that they are for real.
New England Patriots
(4-2) at Miami Dolphins
(4-1): With the Jets and Bills fading,
this game becomes a pivotal matchup in the AFC East. With a win, the Dolphins
can gain a two-game lead in the division, which is why the Patriots need to
steal this game on the road.
After getting shocked by
the Texans in the opening week, Miami has rebounded and is playing as well as people thought
they would. Specifically, the Dolphins' defense seems to be back on track after
shutting down the Jets, Bills, Giants and Jaguars in successive weeks. The only
lingering issue with this team has been the ground attack led by Ricky Williams,
which has struggled in back-to-back weeks.
Without a number of
starters on both sides of the ball due to injuries, the Patriots have won home
games against the Titans and Giants in impressive fashion.
England has played tough on
defense and the offense has provided enough big plays in the passing game to get
The Patriots have been able to survive
without key players in the lineup the past two weeks, but it seems like their
time will be up against the surging Dolphins. Although the Patriots' run defense
ranks seventh in the league, it hasn't faced many top notch rushing attacks all
season long. Enter Ricky Williams, who has pounded New England's defense in their last two matchups. On the other side
of the ball, the Miami front seven should be able to get after Tom Brady and
stuff the run.
Bay Packers (3-3)
at St. Louis Rams (3-2):
Sure, the Rams looked like the Rams of
1999 against the hapless Falcons on Monday Night. But there are still issues
with this offense and the football team in general. For one, the running game is
still mediocre at best, ranking 22 in the league. The offensive line
seems to be gelling, but the interior is susceptible to stunts and blitzes up
the middle. Is the defense as good as its ranking of eight in the NFL? The Rams
will have to deal with these issues at some point, starting this week against
Bay is back to
playing smash-mouth football. Ahman Green has rushed for 100-yards for three
straight weeks and the Packers as a team rank fifth in rush offense. Favre
played his best game last week against the Chiefs. When he rolls out of the
pocket, he's as good at throwing on the run as any quarterback in football.
Still, even with the offense's success, this Packer team will go nowhere unless
the defense starts playing better.
The Packers have played well the past
three weeks and let a win slip away against the Chiefs. That game may haunt them
the rest of the season, especially if the Vikings win their matchup against the
Broncos, setting up a home-field showdown against the Pack next Sunday night.
Favre routinely struggles in dome stadiums and although the Packers offensive
line has played well, they will have a tough time containing Leonard Little and
Grant Winstrom off the edges. When they're on a carpet, the Rams' offense is
nearly impossible to handle.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)
at N.Y. Giants (2-3): You might as well
call this the desperation bowl. Whoever loses this game will need to play at a
near perfect level the rest of the season in order to make the playoffs.
Even with their struggles,
the Giants and the Eagles are capable of capturing the division lead away from
Dallas. The rest of the Cowboys' schedule is going to
extremely tough, so either New York or Philly needs to get on a roll to keep pace.
Out of the two, the Eagles
seem to be in bigger disarray. Although the defense has been fairly solid, the
offense has been abysmal, ranking 30 in total offense, averaging just
16 points per game. The Giants' defense has picked up its play the last two
weeks, but the offense hasn't been able to produce inside of the red-zone.
The Giants offense is too talented to
not be able to score consistently. Look for Tiki Barber to start getting the
ball more, either as a runner or receiver inside of the 20-yard like. The Eagles
will pressure Collins early and often, but he'll be able to make enough big
plays in the passing game to win the game.