Already, Week 6 of the NFL season has seen the hopeless Tennessee Titans upset the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football. What other teams should be on upset alert this week?
While some teams have certainly made statements in the first five weeks of the season, it would be premature to regard them as the sure “favorite” in their matchups.
Anything can happen in the NFL, and it’s more likely to happen early while teams are still defining themselves and getting into midseason form.
That leaves Week 6 as one of the remaining weeks for letdowns.
Here are three of those possible letdowns.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Last week, it looked as if the Cleveland Browns were going to pull off the upset against the New York Giants. They jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead but were absolutely manhandled from that point on.
This week, the team will get its rematch against in-state rival Cincinnati. It also marks the return of Joe Haden following a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Haden will greatly enhance a Browns secondary that has been shredded to the tune of 280 yards per game through the air.
Cincinnati narrowly defeated the Browns in Week 2 at home and will not come out of Cleveland with a season sweep as the young Browns’ rookies will shine to give the team their first win of the season.
New England Patriots at Seattle Seahawks
New England is hot right now and playing as well as anyone in the NFL. However, the Seahawks are undefeated with the help of their deafening home crowd at CenturyLink Field.
They call it the “12th man” because it directly affects the game by causing extra penalties against the visiting team. CenturyLink is widely regarded as one of the loudest stadiums in the game.
It isn’t just the home-field advantage that the Seahawks have going for them this year. Their defense ranks in the top five in all categories and is giving the team the ability to play with anyone so far in 2012.
Despite the struggles of the offense under rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks are 3-2 with wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers.
If they can continue to stuff the run, especially against the third-ranked Patriots rushing game, they can keep things close, and Wilson may be able to take some shots against the shaky Patriots’ secondary.
If that happens, it will be yet another close, upset home victory for the Seahawks in Week 6.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
Green Bay is limping through the season and has found itself with an unfavorable 2-3 record through the first five weeks of the season. That’s partially due to the replacement-referee blown call that gave the Seahawks the win on Monday Night Football two weeks ago.
Regardless, the Packers have been slowed by injury and do not look like the powerhouse that ran through the competition in 2011. They’ve also lost starting running back Cedric Benson for the foreseeable future and will be forced to rely on James Starks and Alex Green to carry the load in their backfield.
Everything is working against the Packers in this one, and the undefeated Texans appear to be the heavy favorite as a result.
However, it’s never smart to discount Aaron Rodgers, no matter what the odds stacked against him are. This is a pivotal game that may end up defining the Packers’ season. It’s the time when All-Pro caliber players rise to the next level and take care of business.
Mike Hoag Jr. is a Breaking News Team writer with Bleacher Report and also covers the NFL and the Cleveland Browns for the site.