Colt McCoy, Josh Freeman, and the Philadelphia Eagles (to name a few) have struggled early in the 2011 NFL season. A turnaround in week 6 is crucial to preserving hopes of a successful season.
Programming Note: My cousin is getting married this weekend, so I won’t be perched on my couch from 1PM Sunday afternoon to 12AM ET Monday morning as normal. Thus, there will be no Week 6 recap. My apologies. Blame the groom.
Last Week: 9 – 4 – 0
Season: 48 – 29 – 0
Already Decided Not to Pitch to Nelson Cruz in Games 6 and 7 (Bye Weeks)
Welcome to the Tim Tebow era, where jerseys fly off the shelf and the team’s national presence increases exponentially despite downgrading the most important position in all of sports. I’ve supported Tebow starting for some time because it’s best for the fans and as we witnessed last week, best for the Broncos. Still, it’s impossible to argue Tebow is a better quarterback than Kyle Orton, at least right now. Let’s just hope Tebow plays well enough to spare us the 24/7 backlash coverage if he were to flop completely.
The Titans will probably find themselves alone in first place after their bye week. Maintaining that position will prove more difficult.
I was considering getting behind the Chiefs as AFC West competitors. While the defense still seems a little lost, the offense has finally found its niche. Unfortunately, Kansas City travels to Oakland right out of the bye before hosting San Diego. I can’t see the Chiefs winning either game, let alone both. And losing both would all but sink their playoff chances.
Kevin Kolb is catching a lot of flack in Arizona. Did the Cardinals overpay for Kolb? Sure. Is it his fault the Cardinals are losing? Not entirely. Kolb hasn’t played enough to step into a new situation and excel right away. He’s not Drew Brees. You’d think Cardinal fans would understand the situation a little more. Kolb was a long-term investment, not a short-term solution. He’s going to struggle this year. Give him a year to gel and learn the offense, THEN judge him as a franchise quarterback.
San Diego has played mediocre football thus far and still sits atop the AFC West at 4-1. They must be thrilled. The notoriously slow-starting Chargers normally find themselves in a 1-4 or 2-3 hole at this time of year. Considering the Chargers will likely come out of their bye fully healthy, it’s safe to assume we haven’t seen the best from the Chargers yet.
Did anyone else think the Seahawks looked better with Charlie Whitehurst under center last week? Maybe this injury to Tarvaris Jackson is one of those blessings in disguise situations. Seattle head coach, Pete Carroll, has used his off week to court LeBron James. Not a bad idea. The Seahawks could use a red zone threat. By the way, if the NBA lockout continues, and it appears it will, why shouldn’t LeBron join an NFL team? Who wouldn’t love him for it? His public image would be significantly repaired and he’d certainly regain lost fans. Yes, injuries would be a concern, but how many defensive backs are really capable of laying the wood on a monster like LeBron? Personally, I’d forgive all past transgressions for one NFL appearance.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
49ers at Lions
A surprisingly important contest for both teams. When was the last time these two long-suffering franchises faced off in a game with playoff implications? San Francisco has traveled east for early starts twice already this season. They’re 2-0. Defeating a feisty Lions team seems like a stretch, though. If the 49ers have any hope, they’ll need an effective ground attack to slow the pressure from Detroit’s defensive line. I’m sure San Francisco coaches spent a lot of time comforting Alex Smith as he watched film of Jay Cutler under siege last week. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -4.5
Rams at Packers
It’s never ideal to travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers with a depleted secondary. Bad things usually happen. The Packers are the best team in the NFL. The Rams are one of the worst, if not the worst. Vegas has the line at 15, up from 14 earlier in the week. Isn’t this where the heavily favored home team almost always lays an egg and squeaks out a win in ugly fashion? I’m not bold enough to predict such an outcome, but I wouldn’t be shocked by it either. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -15
Panthers at Falcons
C’mon people, when are you going to learn? Don’t mess with Steve Smith. He doesn’t joke around. Saints safety, Malcom Jenkins, thought it’d be a good idea to approach Smith AFTER Smith was already “cheap-shotted” by the Saints other safety, Roman Harper. Bad idea. Smith promptly took Jenkins and threw him on the ground within five seconds. Jenkins looked like a five year-old tossed around by his high school brother. It was funny. It was also classic Steve Smith. There are some guys you just leave alone. Steve Smith is one of those guys. Just trust me. Or, give Ken Lucas a call. This is a must-win for the Falcons. And in a way, a must-win for the Panthers if they hope to sneak into Wildcard contention. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -4
Colts at Bengals
Remember a few years ago when the Bengals’ young, up-and-coming offense was compared to the unstoppable, established offense of the Colts? Remember all those reports of Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson using their bye week to travel to see Indianapolis play? I do. Times have changed, though. Carson Palmer is watching from home. Peyton Manning is watching from a luxury box. Chad Johnson no longer exists, his alter ego now residing in New England. The NFL does that. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts +7
Bills at Giants
The battle for the hearts and minds of New York. (We’re not including the Jets because blue is so much cooler than whatever green the Jets wear.) It’s hard to imagine the Giants losing again after an embarrassing loss last week to the lowly Seahawks. However, the Giants aren’t any good and the Bills, while not great, are a solid team capable of beating good teams on the road. Considering the Bills protect their quarterback better than any team in the NFL, and the Giants get after the opposing quarterback better than any team in the NFL, it’s safe to assume whoever wins that battle ultimately wins the game. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +3
Jaguars at Steelers
I don’t get it. Jack Del Rio has been the head coach in Jacksonville since 2003. He had a decent stretch from 2004 through 2007 where the Jaguars reached the playoffs twice and never finished below .500. Since then, however, Jacksonville hasn’t finished above .500, and is heading nowhere again this season. Remind me again why Andy Reid is such a disaster? STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -12
Eagles at Redskins
Peter King of SI.com called the Eagles “sloppy and dumb,” fans and media alike in Philadelphia want Andy Reid gone. And yet, the Eagles have held it together. I’m hardly unbiased, but this seems like one of those galvanizing experiences a team that’s only been together a few months desperately needs. How many times have we seen championship teams rise up out of controversy and struggle? It happens all the time. Four things are certain: 1. The Eagles haven’t quit on Andy Reid. 2. Michael Vick is a tremendous leader who doesn’t know what “quit” means. 3. The Eagles are uniting and circling the wagons. 4. Peter King, though his assessment was right, is, and always has been, a great fan of the NFL, and an even bigger fan of his own fame. I hope the Eagles blacklist him when they go on a heroic run. By the way, Washington’s defense is still angry about last season’s Monday night thrashing, so Vick and the Eagle offense must play their best game yet. You know, as if there wasn’t enough pressure. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -1.5
Game to Watch: Eagles at Redskins
Game on Call: 49ers at Lions
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Texans at Ravens
The loss of Mario Williams is devastating, Arian Foster is still banged up, and Andre Johnson won’t return for weeks. The Ravens are off a bye, Joe Flacco’s roller coaster performance meter forecasts a strong week, and Matt Schaub looks lost. I can’t imagine any outcome that includes “Texans” and “winning.” Houston’s goal this week should be to get out of Baltimore alive and in one piece without any significant injuries. Their remaining schedule is relatively smooth, so they can afford a loss here. Next week’s showdown with the Titans is what really matters. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -8
Browns at Raiders
Colt McCoy better show the Browns something over the next few weeks or Mike Holmgren may throw his hat in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes. I thought the Browns were closer to competing with Eric Mangini. At 2-2, it’s hard to argue I was right. But, at 2-2 with wins over the Dolphins and Colts, it’s hard to argue I was wrong, either. Oakland, on the other hand, is the real deal. I wrote them off after firing Tom Cable. Whoops. The Raiders have looked like the best team in the AFC West and the most intimidating AFC team outside the Patriots, Steelers, and Ravens. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -7
Cowboys at Patriots
Like I mentioned before, my cousin is getting married this Sunday. His two brothers are Cowboy fans. Nothing would make me happier than to continually update them on the Dallas score throughout the reception. Dallas down 10 after 1st quarter. Romo pick six, 24-3. It’s now 38-10, Kitna is in. Oh what fun. Of course, if the Eagles blow it against the ‘Skins earlier in the afternoon, the outcome of this game won’t matter because I’ll leave the wedding to attend the funeral of my beloved Eagles. Let’s be honest, the Cowboy offense is good enough to torch New England’s defense. Considering DeMarcus Ware could be draped all over Tom Brady like a tweed jacket, it’s possible the Cowboys win. I’m certain they’ll keep it close. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +7
Saints at Buccaneers
It’s only week six, but this feels like a make-or-break game for the Buccaneers. They’ve looked miserable over the past two weeks, and really, they haven’t played a complete game yet. A loss at home could squash the confidence of this young team for good. Josh Freeman has regressed so far this season. The Bucs aren’t good enough to win without him at his best. If he doesn’t regain his 2010 form, Tampa will struggle to win eight games. By the way, this is one of those games Eagle fans want the Saints to win. Just keep pushing the rest of the pack back to us, New Orleans. Thanks. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -4.5
Game to Watch: Cowboys at Patriots
Game on Call: Texans at Ravens
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Vikings at Bears
Just the matchup NBC was hoping for. On one side, a quarterback no longer able to accurately hit open receivers. On the other side, a quarterback lacking the proper time to even find open receivers. If Jay Cutler were under 18, Child Services would have snatched him from the NFL a long time ago. Last season Cutler was mauled by the New York Giants and sacked 10 times. In the NFC Championship game in January, he was knocked out before halftime. This past week, the Lions tee’d off on Cutler as if the Chicago offensive line could only take two steps before NFL rules dictated they stopped blocking. It’s cruel and unusual punishment for Cutler, and the fans, too. Nobody wants to see that. Cutler is probably the least likeable quarterback in the NFL, but I’m pretty sure everyone watching that game outside of Michigan felt bad for him. Donovan McNabb has a chance to outplay the opposing quarterback for the first time since the 2009 season. Go get ‘em, Don. I’m picking the Vikings entirely because of Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson. Allen should have a field day. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +3
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Dolphins at Jets
ESPN must be so proud of its Monday night schedule this season. The Chiefs, Jaguars, Rams, and Dolphins all make two appearances. Who plans this stuff? I mean really, who? I would love to speak with him and learn why each game was selected. In fact, let’s do this next week. Wednesday sounds good. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -7
If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 8 – 5 – 0
Season: 37 – 37 – 3