Sunday Morning Under the Helmet: What To Watch for in NFL Week Ten
Rivalry, [rahy-vuh l-ree]: the action, position, or relation of a rival or rivals; competition.
Sports are all about competition and between that competition you can always find rivalries. When the word rivalry is mentioned in the sports world we think of Red Sox vs. Yankees, Celtics vs. Lakers and over the past decade, Patriots vs. Colts.
That last one, Patriots vs. Colts will be renewed in a prime time showdown tonight.
Matchup of the Week: New England Patriots (6-2) at Indianapolis Colts (8-0)
Patriots vs. Colts has become the NFL's premiere rivalry over the past decade. It's not just because these two teams have been the most dominant and most consistent over the years or because they've been coached by two of the best in the game or even because their organizations are tops in sports, the real reason is because of two guys named Brady and Manning. You heard of them?
Of course you have.
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have clearly been the best two quarterbacks over the past 10 seasons. They will both be first ballot Hall of Famers and will likely go down in history as the best two quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Nobody really knows which one is the better quarterback but it seems like everyone has their opinion. Some argue it's Manning because of stats. He does have 48,173 yards and 349 touchdown passes.
Brady has numbers too, but not quite like Manning's. Those who argue in favor of "Tom Terrific" speak of Super Bowls and winning percentages. Brady has a career record of 107-29 (a .787 winning percentage) as a starting quarterback, including playoffs. He's the only quarterback to lead his team to a 16-0 regular season record. He's got a 3-1 Super Bowl record with an MVP in two of them.
The arguments continue but there's never any clear conclusion to who's better.
Surprisingly, though, there is more to this game than Brady vs. Manning.
These two teams have been extremely competitive throughout the decade. Indianapolis has won 109 games, New England has 108. They've each taken home Lombardi trophies, three for the Pats, one for Indy.
Head-to-head they've played 10 times with the Patriots winning six of the 10.
As for tonight's game, the Pats come in at 6-2 and are on a three-game win streak. Indianapolis is sitting at 8-0 and are threatening New England's all-time record 21 game win streak.
These two teams always play close games and you can bet on another tight one tonight.
Indy and New England rank first and second, respectively, in points allowed per game and on offense the Pats are averaging just one more point than the Colts. Perhaps we'll even see an overtime game with such similar numbers like that.
For New England to end Indy's quest for an undefeated season, they'll have to start with protecting their quarterback.
With left tackle Matt Light still injured, the Pats will continue to count on rookie Sebastian Vollmer to protect Brady's blindside. Vollmer will face his toughest task tonight as he goes against Dwight Freeney who already has 9.5 sacks this season.
Brady will likely look to dump a lot of short and quick passes to Wes Welker while also stretching the field early with deep balls to Randy Moss against the Colts' banged up secondary. Indy's D will likely focus on shutting those two down.
For Indy's offense, they'll also be trying to get the ball to their star receivers. Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark will likely see a multitude of balls thrown in their direction as well as dump-offs to running back Joseph Addai.
If the Pats focus on trying to stop those guys, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon could find themselves making some plays as well.
The rest of the offensive numbers include these teams ranking first and second in pass yards with Indy holding the top spot, they're 16th and 28th rushing and both are in the top 10 in total yards per game.
Despite the offensive firepower on each side, this Sunday night matchup will likely come down to which defense plays better.
As mentioned above, these teams rank No.1 and No.2 in points allowed. They both rank in the top 10 against the pass and New England ranks 20th against the run while the Colts D is 14th.
With defensive starters Bob Sanders, Kelvin Hayden, Tyjuan Hagler and Marlin Jackson all out for Indianapolis, New England could be slightly favored on this addition of Sunday Night Football.
Keys to the game
-Brady vs. Manning
-Which defense plays better?
-Randy Moss and Wes Welker vs. Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark
-Vollmer vs. Freeney, Kaczur vs. Mathis
Prediction: Patriots win 26-24
Small Names, Big Games
Here we will take a look at three non-superstars who will post big numbers in Week 10.
Brandon Pettigrew (TE, Detroit)
The Detroit Lions selected tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the 20th pick in the 2009 NFL Draft to be a redzone threat for rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford.
After last week it looks like the pick will pay off. In Week Nine in Seattle, Stafford and Pettigrew hooked up seven times for 70 yards and the tight end's first career touchdown.
This afternoon against the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings, Pettigrew could have even more success. The Vikings are the worst team in the league against tight ends so this Oklahoma State product could find the endzone yet again.
Mike Wallace (WR, Pittsburgh)
No he's not the guy from 60 Minutes , but this Mike Wallace is sure having his fair share of success.
Wallace, a rookie out of Mississippi, has 25 receptions for 437 yards and three touchdowns thus far in '09. He has become the No. 3 receiver and a big play threat for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Today Pittsburgh goes against Cincinnati who surrendered seven catches and 102 yards to Wallace in their Week Three matchup.
Wallace could see similar success again this week.
Robert Meachem (WR, New Orleans)
With Lance Moore still sidelined due to injury, Saints receiver Robert Meachem will continue to see a greater role in the New Orleans offense.
Last week in a 30-20 comeback victory over Carolina, Meachem hauled in five Drew Brees passes for 98 yards and a key touchdown.
Meachem will go head-to-head with the Rams 28th ranked pass defense today so he could continue to make big plays and put up big numbers this week.
Others To Watch: Ladell Betts (RB, Washington), Josh Freeman (QB, Tampa Bay), Jamaal Lewis (RB, Cleveland)
Upset Alert!: Green Bay (4-4) over Dallas (6-2)???
The Dallas Cowboys are on fire right now, winning their past four games. The Packers on the other hand, are on a two game losing streak including last week's upset loss to give Tampa Bay its first win of the season.
Green Bay is desperate, they know they can't afford to lose if they want to get into the playoffs. They're already three games behind Brett Favre's Vikings and still have tough opponents on the schedule. Mike McCarthy's Packers know that their season is on the line this afternoon.
To get back into the NFC playoff talks they'll need to put a halt to Tony Romo's recent hot streak.
During Dallas' current four-game win streak, Romo has topped 300 yards three times and has combined for nine touchdowns.
Receiver Miles Austin has caught six of those touchdowns.
It will be up to Green Bay's secondary to slow down the passing attack and it's not far-fetched to think they can do it.
Led by coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers defense ranks eighth against the pass as well as ninth against the run and 17th in points allowed.
On offense it will be all up to the offensive line. The Packers line has given up a league-high 37 sacks, including six in each of the past two games and 61 hits on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers and the passing game cannot have consistent success without better protection.
Despite the bad numbers, the Packers do have a chance to win today.
As long as Rodgers can get some time in the pocket, he'll be able to have quite a bit of success throwing the ball. The 'Boys defense ranks 20th against the pass and have seemed somewhat vulnerable at times this season.
The Packers' other favorable numbers include their 9th ranked pass attack, 10th ranked ground game, and the fact that they're the seventh best scoring team in the league gives them a shot at taking down Big D today.
Keys for GB
-Protect Aaron Rodgers
-Shut down Romo-to-Austin
-Protect the ball
Prediction: Packers win 24-13
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