Parity is paramount in the NFL 2010 season. It’s Week 6 and no team is undefeated. A team vying for the division championship traded its top wide receiver and still intends to contend. Every team in the AFC South is tied for first with a record of 3-2.
Anything can happen, and that allows both the disappointing Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, both with only one win and facing each other this week, to still hold out hope for the playoffs.
Things in the AFC South will be interesting this week as the Jaguars and Titans square off in a big divisional Monday Night matchup. Top running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson will provide the excitement. With such a tight race, every division win will provide much-needed separation in the standings.
Who do you think will win?
Bye week: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, Carolina
Last week: 4-10
Seattle has struggled mightily on the road this year. In two road games, they've lost by 17 points each time, and are coming off a three-point performance at St. Louis two weeks ago.
Somehow, Chicago won last week. Todd Collins, playing in place of the injured Jay Cutler, threw four picks, yet they still won by 17 points.
Matt Forte was the difference-maker on the ground, with 166 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns.
With Jay Cutler returning under center this week at Soldier Field, they should be able to handle Seattle.
Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion last week, but is probable to go. Still, the Packers are severely banged up: Already without Ryan Grant for the season, tight end Jermichael Finley will be out for a significant amount of time due to a hamstring injury, and linebacker Clay Matthews is doubtful.
Wide receiver Donald Driver also found himself on the injury report.
Miami was embarrassed at home two weeks ago, enough to fire their Special Teams coordinator. The bye week could come in handy against the Packers, though.
While the Dolphins had a week of rest, the Packers, as mentioned, are really banged up. Miami had extra time to prepare for this one, and even though Rodgers is projected to start right now, it's tough to tell how effective he will be.
The pass rush will be key for Miami, headed by the athletic Cameron Wake coming in off the edge.
Turnovers, namely fumbles, cost the Chargers the game last week. They put the ball on the ground three times; the last one ended a potential game-winning drive and was returned for a touchdown.
Still, San Diego's firepower on both offense and defense should dominate St. Louis.
Malcolm Floyd had a phenomenal game last week, catching eight touchdowns for 213 yards and a touchdown. And tight end Antonio Gates leads all receivers with seven touchdowns.
Rookie running back Ryan Matthews is also working his way back to health.
Defensively, they rank third in passing yards allowed per game and seventh in rushing yards per game.
It’ll all be too much for the Rams.
San Diego wins.
It’s the first game in the post-Randy Moss era for the Patriots, and it will be interesting to see how the offense reacts.
They’ll go back to a spread-the-ball, dink-and-dunk type offense. But will they gel quickly enough against a tough Ravens defense, one that ranks second against the pass and 10th against the rush?
How productive will Brandon Tate be as a receiver?
And will the Patriots defense, struggling but with a good showing two weeks ago against the Dolphins, be able to contain the multitude of weapons the Ravens have on offense, like Ray Rice—who tore the Patriots apart in their playoff matchup last year—Anquan Boldin and Todd Heap?
Since throwing four interceptions in a Week 2 game, Joe Flacco has thrown only one in his last three games.
Baltimore is the only team to beat the Patriots at home since 2008, and they have all the tools to do it again.
The Buccaneers have been a pleasant surprise this season, sitting only half a game behind Atlanta in the NFC South standings.
The competition has been a little down, but that isn't Tampa's fault, and the Bucs have taken advantage of it. They may be catching the Saints, losers of two in a row and not enjoying a productive season, at just the right time as well.
Playing against a team with an undrafted free agent quarterbacking them in his NFL debut, the Saints had more penalties for more yardage, had a lower red-zone success rate and had more turnovers, including Drew Brees throwing three interceptions.
The Bucs were able to win by having a better third down completion percentage, winning the turnover battle (although they will need to have fewer fumbles this week), winning the penalty battle—they were penalized only three times—and they had clutch end-of-the-game kicking, something the Saints have been missing.
Tampa's biggest weakness is their run defense, but the Saints don't have even an average rushing game, so it shouldn't matter.
Tampa Bay wins.
At first, Detroit's ability to make their opposition turn the ball over, combined with Eli Manning effortlessly making the silliest of mistakes, makes the Lions a tantalizing pick.
But the Giants defense has been too good to let the Lions beat them.
Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill has thrown only one less interception than Manning, and the running game isn't nearly as good.
The Giants defense has done an incredible job lately of getting to the quarterback, and on offense Hakeem Nicks has been phenomenal this season. He's ninth in the league in receiving yards with 209 and second in touchdowns with six, behind only Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
New York wins.
These are two teams that are doing extremely well in the turnover game, both sitting atop the NFC with a plus-seven turnover differential.
However, Atlanta is more disciplined, committing 14 fewer penalties for 90 fewer yards. They have the second-best rushing attack in the league, while Philadelphia's rush defense is ranked 24th in the league.
If Michael Turner can grind out the clock and Atlanta can force a turnover (third in the league in takeaways) they should be able to come out with a victory.
Colt McCoy will make his NFL debut Sunday and he couldn't have a tougher task ahead of him.
The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league, including the top-ranked defense against the run. That means it'll be a tough day for McCoy to rely on Peyton Hillis.
The Steelers also have one of the best running games in the league, spearheaded by Rashard Mendenhall. And they finally get Ben Roethlisberger back at quarterback.
His four-game suspension is up and he is licking his chops to face the Browns.
The Steelers are home, only adding to the difficulties facing the Browns.
Both teams here have rushing offenses ranked in the top five in the league, and run-stopping defenses ranked in the top six. So the battle will go to the air, where Houston has a clear edge.
Matt Cassel has been far from productive this season. Even in their 31-10 romp over San Francisco, where Cassel had an impressive three touchdowns, he couldn’t complete 60 percent of his passes.
He wasn’t the reason Kansas City lost last week, but in a tight rushing matchup he won’t be able to win them the game, either.
Matt Schaub hasn’t been as good as in years past, and has struggled the past couple weeks, but the potential for huge plays is always there. And his best target, Andre Johnson, seems to be fine after his ankle injury.
Big-play potential in a balanced offense should push Houston over the edge here.
Jason Campbell was very mistake-prone early in the season. Now starting for the first time since Week 2, he could press a bit to try and play his way back to being the starter.
The Niners need to capitalize on those mistakes and they really need to let Frank Gore loose.
Oakland allows just under 150 yards rushing per game. Gore has only rushed for over 100 yards once this season, but if San Francisco is going to win they need to ride this workhorse, taking the ball out of Alex Smith's hands.
The home fans will be rowdy in the Bay Area rivalry.
San Francisco wins.
Kyle Orton and the Denver passing game have been phenomenal this season, yet with no rushing game and a defense that continually allows over 20 points a game (the only exception being the 31-14 win over the Seahawks), the Broncos sit at a subpar 2-3.
The Jets, on the other hand, have averaged 31.5 points per game since their opening week loss to the Ravens, while the defense has been stellar all season, allowing only 16.2 points per game.
They are more balanced on offense than Denver. LaDanian Tomlinson is proving to all the doubters that he still has a lot of football left in him, and Mark Sanchez still has not thrown an interception.
If the Jets can continue to work Santonio Holmes back into the offense smoothly, their well-balanced attack should trump the one-trick pony Broncos.
New York wins.
A matchup of two very desperate teams. Expectations for both were high coming into the season, yet failure has run rampant.
Dallas continues to find ways to lose at the end of games. Their passing game has been strong, and the defense has more than held up, but penalties have been absolutely brutal for the Cowboys.
Also, their running game has been pretty invisible.
Minnesota hasn’t been able to sync up in the passing game, and Favre has been battered, bruised and frazzled.
The addition of Randy Moss, however, and one more week to work together with Favre should help. Favre is known for chucking it, and Moss is known for going up and getting it. Sidney Rice in the slot should make him more effective as well.
Most importantly, Adrian Peterson is still one of the best runners in the league. His ability to break free and control the clock better than Dallas will be pivotal.
Washington allows just fewer than 300 passing yards a game on defense, third worst in the NFL.
Peyton Manning, enjoying one of his finest seasons, should be able to find whatever receiver he wants—Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark—with ease.
The Colts are struggling mightily against the run, but the Redskins haven’t really generated much success on the run.
Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew are both dynamic runners and the spotlight will be shining on them in this game. Which means Vince Young will be the difference maker.
He hasn’t hit 200 yards passing yet but other than the two interception game in the loss against the Steelers, Young hasn’t been making mistakes. The Jaguars defense has been very forgiving, both in the passing and running game.
Meanwhile, David Garrard has thrown six interceptions this season, four of which were in Week 2 against the Chargers. He followed that up with a game where he couldn’t hit anybody.
His other games have been very good and productive, but his mistakes have been bigger and more evident because of the defensive deficiencies of the Jaguars.