DE Osi Umenyiora will lead the Giants Defense against the Saints high-powered offense in Week 6’s featured game
Week 6 of the 2009 NFL Season is upon us and hopefully this week will bring some much-needed better match-ups than Week 5. Last week, the NFL needed some more spicing up as there were six games where the winning team won by 19 or more points.
Even though the laughers last week did not hurt the NFL’s TV ratings, everyone, including yours truly, is looking forward to action on the field that equals the inordinate amount of weekly hype surrounding the NFL. However I am not holding my breath just yet for more competitive games this week as six of the 10 games being played feature favorites of nine or more points.
The good news is that as bad as some pitiful teams are in the NFL (St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, KC Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and others), there are also five undefeated teams (Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and the New York Giants) entering Week 6. Vikings QB Brett Favre said about undefeated, “This is the first time in my career to be 5-0, I’m very proud of this team. It’s important to start fast. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. It only gets tougher from here on out.”
The five unblemished teams are the most undefeated clubs through the first five weeks of a season in NFL history. We will see how long each of these teams can continue chasing the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, but despite the red-hot Colts being on a bye, there will be at least one less undefeated after Sunday. The reason being, the undefeated NY Giants and New Orleans Saints will do battle in the Bayou to see who is the NFC’s top team. The Giants-Saints match-up is one of the most intriguing games thus far (See Featured Game).
Despite the entertaining Colts, Cowboys, Niners, and Dolphins being on a bye, the Giants-Saints and a few other games are the ones fans are counting on to carry this week’s action.
The Seahawks hosting the Cardinals and Broncos-Chargers are two good West Coast battles, but most fans are high on a key inter-conference battle. The Minnesota Vikings (5-0) host the angry Baltimore Ravens (3-2) in a game that will pit two former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid disciples in Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Vikings head coach Brad Childress. This Sunday’s game at the Metrodome will be all about the running game as both the Vikings and Ravens love to run the ball and stop the run, which are always big keys to winning in my book.
Since the start of the 2007 season, the Vikings, led by All-World RB Adrian Peterson, have been the league’s best in rushing offense (150.1 yards per game) and run defense (78.2). Meanwhile, the Ravens’ ground game ranks fourth (130.8) over that span and their rushing defense is second (79.7). There is also the interesting subplot of two surefire hall of famers on opposite sides of the ball in this match-up as Vikings QB Brett Favre (103-149, 1069 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs, and 104.1 rating) and Ravens ILB Ray Lewis go at each other.
There is also a great showdown of two of the NFL’s best passers as strong arm Bears QB Jay Cutler and his team travel to Atlanta face Matt Ryan’s Falcons.
And NFL fans cannot forget that there are six division rivalry games (Detroit at Green Bay, Carolina at Tampa Bay, Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Arizona at Seattle, Buffalo at NY Jets, and undefeated at San Diego on Monday Night Football) as the teams start taking on familiar foes that will hopefully lead to more competitive games.
There are also several reunion games as former players and coaches renew “acquaintances” and some may not be so friendly.
Seattle Seahawks RB Edgerrin James will go against the Arizona Cardinals, who benched him for most of last season and then put him on the 30-year old running back scrap heap this past offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Tory Holt goes against the St. Louis Rams—played for 10 seasons and won a Super Bowl title—but the Rams new regime thought his knees were shot. Holt totaled 12,670 receiving yards with the Rams and he will become just the sixth player in NFL history to face a team for which he had 10,000+ receiving yards. Holt is also 34 receiving yards from 13,000 in his career.
Lastly, New Orleans Saints TE Jeremy Shockey goes against the NY Giants, who didn’t even want him on the sidelines when they won Super Bowl XLII and soon after sent him packing to Bourbon Street.
The factor that everyone hopes will lead to more competitive games is “adjustments." The NFL is a copycat league where teams can catch-up quickly and adjustments are the only way to stay ahead of the pack and combat falling behind. With the third round of bye weeks, it is time for the “good” coaches to make the adjustments necessary to get their teams back on track or keep them at the top. Remember, early season results are important (don’t want to get too far behind), but good coaches realize that they want their team peaking in the championship months of November and December when it is playoff push time.
But all is not lost for most NFL teams going into Week 6—well at least those with one or more wins...yes even the in-fighting Washington Redskins (2-3). Since the current 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990, 11 teams have rebounded from being at least three games under .500 after the season’s first five weeks or later to qualify for the postseason. Of those 11, six won the division, including last year’s San Diego Chargers, who won the AFC West after a 4-8 start. Remember last year the Indianapolis Colts record stood at 3-4 going into a crucial game against the AFC champion New England Patriots, Peyton Manning and the Colts answered the bell winning 18-15 then rattled off eight straight wins to make the playoffs with a 12-4 record.
Some Lloyd’s Leftovers for Week 6 include:
2009 NFL season has been one of turnarounds —Everyone knows about the woes of former 2008 playoff teams, the former AFC South champion, Tennessee Titans (from 13-3 to 0-5 this season) and former NFC South champion Carolina Panthers (from 12-4 to 1-3.) But there is the unique case of Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre. Last season for the New York Jets, the graybeard quarterback go off to a slow start throwing only two TDs and having nine interceptions on the way to an NFL leading 22 INTs for the season. This season Favre is 5-0 for the first time in his career and his passing numbers are the exact inverse from last year at this time—nine TDs and two INTs.
Dome Sweet Dome —With two touchdown passes against the Ravens on Sunday, Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre will record his 11th consecutive two-plus passing touchdown game at the Metrodome (eight with Green Bay, three with Minnesota). Favre already holds the NFL record with at least two touchdowns in 12 consecutive games at Lambeau Field from 1994-96, which was equaled by Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner at the Trans World Dome (now Edward Jones Dome) from 1999-2000.
Injuries will be a factor in Week 6 —As is the case with every NFL week, injuries are going to play a huge part in many games. Returning are Bills LB Paul Posluszny (forearm), Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart (achilles), Steelers RB Willie Parker (toe), and Steelers S Troy Polamalu (knee). Some bigger names listed as either “Out” or “Questionable” are Cardinals WR Steve Breaston (knee), Seahawks OT Walter Jones (knee), Seahawks OT Sean Locklear (ankle), Seahawks OG Rob Sims (ankle), Ravens OT Jared Gaither (neck), Ravens DT Haloti Ngata (back), Vikings DE Ray Edwards (hamstring), Vikings OG Steve Hutchinson (back), Vikings WR Percy Harvin (shoulder), Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring), Jets OT Damien Woody (foot), Bears LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (rib), Lions QB Matthew Stafford (knee), Texans LB Brian Cushing (foot), Chiefs OT Branden Albert (ankle), Redskins DE Phillip Daniels (biceps), Redskins OT Chris Samuels (neck), Titans CB Cortland Finnegan (hamstring), Patriots OT Matt Light (ankle), and Patriots RB Fred Taylor (ankle)
NFL Trade Deadline is approaching – Tuesday October 20th is the NFL Trade Deadline and for the first time in a while, there is some “buzz” around the date. Already the NFL saw the trades involving former Browns receiver Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets for picks and former Bucs D-lineman Gaines Adams to the Chicago Bears for a 2010 2nd round pick. Watch for the names like Bills WR Terrell Owens, Eagles WR Kevin Curtis, Titans QB Vince Young, Chiefs DT Glenn Dorsey, Browns QB Brady Quinn, Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs, and Chargers LB Shawn Merriman to possibly be changing teams around the deadline. Of course I never hold my breath around the trade deadline, as trades like 2005 deal where former Niners QB Tim Rattay went to the Tampa Bay Bucs for a future 6th round pick at the trade deadline are usually the norm.
NFL Week 6 – Featured Game
New York Giants (5-0) at New Orleans Saints (4-0), 1:00 PM ET (FOX)
Broadcast Team: Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver (Field reporter)
“The Battle of the Unbeatens” will take center stage this week. “This is certainly the game of the week,” said NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. The former NFL head coach added, “It’s a battle of undefeated teams and it could be a preview of what’s to come in the playoffs. These two clubs will probably meet at some point in the postseason.”
The Giants have feasted on a rather light early season schedule, including a 44-7 blowout of the hapless Raiders last week and are 5-0 for the third time in team history. The G-Men are also 3-0 on the road this season and boast the NFL’s top-ranked defense (210.6 yards allowed per game) and second-ranked offense (417.4 yards per game). The Saints, who are coming off a bye in Week 5, are no slouch either—third 4-0 start in franchise history. The NFC South leaders have combined a high-scoring offense—a league-high 36 points per game, with an aggressive defense (NFL-best 13 takeaways this season.) We always knew the Saints, with Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees (87-129, 1031 yards, 9 TDs, and 2 INTs), RB Pierre Thomas, scatback Reggie Bush, and WR Marques Colston, could score points. But the story of the Saints’ 2009 season has been a defense led by new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and free agent pickup S Darren Sharper (NFL leading 5 INTs).
The Giants despite a weak schedule are clearly a complete team (offense, defense, and special teams) and have maintained the number No. 1 spot in my Power Ranking for a couple weeks. “This game is going to be a real test for us,” said Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce. The Giants defensive leader added, “The Saints are going to be prepared. They’re a well-coached team. They’re playing well on both offense and defense. It’s one of our biggest challenges so far.” On offense, the Giants have balance led by QB Eli Manning (87-135, 1212 yards, 10 TDs, and 2 INTs) and Thunder-and-Lightning RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Plus WRs Mario Manningham and Steve Smith (NFL leading 37 receptions, 481 yards, and 4 TDs) have made everyone forget Plaxico Burress. On defense, the Giants game is pressure, pressure, and more pressure from a D-line led by Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck (3.5 sacks) that usually leads to turnovers.
Injuries are also a big part of this game as the Giants injury list includes LB Michael Boley (knee), DT Chris Canty (calf), and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring)—all are probably out. Conversely the Saints maybe missing CB Malcolm Jenkins (ankle), CB Leigh Torrence (hamstring), T Jermon Bushrod (knee, ankle), G Jahri Evans (toe), and RB Mike Bell (knee)
LV’s Pick: Everyone will talk about all of the offensive weapons in this game including QBs Eli Manning and Drew Brees. But to me this battle comes down to each team’s offensive line. The Giants O-line has been together for 30+ consecutive starts and the veteran group will need to protect Manning (heel) and get Bradshaw and Jacobs going. The Saints defensive line has been getting pressure from ends Charles Grant (4 sacks) and Will Smith, so the G-Men’s line led by center Chris Snee will have their hands full.
The Saints group has some injuries, but after a week off they will need to be ready because the Giants have the best D-line rotation in the league. Many are predicting a high-scoring affair, but I believe both teams will look to establish the run and look for turnovers on defense. Despite maybe a big play or two from the Saints, I still believe that the Giants’ NFC East bred physicality will be the difference. Expect a big day from Bradshaw and Jacobs on offense and their attacking D-line. Giants 24, Saints 20
NFL Week 6
SUN, OCT 18
Houston at Cincinnati 1:00 PM (CBS)
Detroit at Green Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)
Baltimore at Minnesota 1:00 PM (CBS)
NY Giants at New Orleans 1:00 PM (FOX)
Carolina at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM (FOX)
Kansas City at Washington 1:00 PM (CBS)
St. Louis at Jacksonville 1:00 PM (FOX)
Cleveland at Pittsburgh 1:00 PM (CBS)
Arizona at Seattle 4:05 PM (FOX)
Philadelphia at Oakland 4:05 PM (FOX)
Buffalo at NY Jets 4:15 PM (CBS)
Tennessee at New England 4:15 PM (CBS)
Chicago at Atlanta 8:20 PM (NBC)
MON, OCT 19
Denver at San Diego 8:30 PM (ESPN)
Bye: Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, San Francisco
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)