Week 6 Power Ten + Game Balls + Storylines
Week 6 Synopsis
Week 6 Power Ten
1. Atlanta Falcons, 6-0 (2) - The Falcons have not been overly impressive the last couple weeks, but they have done a great job of finding ways to win on days where things weren’t going their way. Most importantly, the Falcons have made it through six weeks without losing a game or getting hit hard by injuries.
2. Chicago Bears, 4-1 (6) - The Bears went into their bye week in dominant form. Let’s see if they can maintain that form as they square off against a Detroit team eager to get back in the hunt. The Bears are in great position in the NFC North, and if Jay Cutler keeps playing at a high level, it will be hard for anyone to catch them
3. New York Giants, 4-2 (7) - The Giants looked like they were back in Super Bowl form this week, traveling across the country to deliver a spanking to the 49ers. The 49ers were unable to get their run game going, and the Giants defense forced a QB who only threw 5 interceptions all of last year to throw 3 in one game.
4. Green Bay Packers, 3-3 (8) - Things have clearly not been going smoothly this year for the Packers, but it just doesn’t seem like this team is going to go away. They have had some head-scratching losses, but emphatic wins over the Bears and Texans show just how good the Packers still are.
5. San Francisco 49ers, 4-2 (1) - This year’s team has been on and off, failing to show the consistent tough play they displayed in 2011. Six games into the year, the 49ers have yet to play in a close contest. They either dominate with their strong run game, efficient passing game and smash mouth defense, or they fall apart. In their losses to the Vikings and Giants, the 49ers weren’t able to get going early and then inexplicably let the game get completely out of hand. Down 7 at halftime, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have stuck with their run game and tried to grind out a win. This team won close games consistently last year, but for some reason have shown no composure when trailing in games this year.
6. Houston Texans, 5-1 (4) - At some point, there was bound to be a bump in the road for the Texans. There’s still no need for the team to freak out just because Brian Cushing is out for the year and they got blown out by the Packers. The defense is still much better than it showed against the Packers, and their recent misfortune doesn’t invalidate their 5-0 start. This week’s game against the Ravens could have major implications on playoff seeding.
7. Baltimore Ravens, 5-1 (3) - The Ravens managed to hold on for a win against the Cowboys, but it didn’t come without a price. Ladarius Webb, the team’s best corner, is presumably out for the year with an ACL tear. Ray Lewis, the team‘s unquestioned emotional leader, will miss the rest of the year with a tricep tear. DT Haloti Ngata suffered a torn MCL, but is not expected to miss time. Safety Ed Reed has admitted that a torn labrum is affecting his play. Suffice to say, this injury news is a huge blow to the Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes.
8. New England Patriots, 3-3 (5) - Seattle is always tough place to go get a win, but this is a game the Patriots should have won. They did a great job shutting down Marshawn Lynch and were up 23-10 with 9 minutes to go, but their defense fell apart as Russell Wilson directed the Seahawks to two touchdown drives late.
9. Seattle Seahawks, 4-2 (UR) - The Seahawks’ defense had a great performance against the Packers, but it was overshadowed by the poor officiating that won them the game. This week against the Patriots was a statement game for the unit, as they held the Patriots to 6 points in the second half. Most importantly, rookie QB Russell Wilson had a career day and led the team on a game-winning touchdown drive without help from the officials.
10. Denver Broncos, 3-3 (UR) - The Broncos have had an absolutely brutal schedule thus far, so sitting at 3-3 at this point is an accomplishment. Their comeback win over the Chargers was huge, as it tied them up for the division league, instead of falling 2 games back. The Broncos get their bye now, and will have a favorable schedule moving forward. They are currently 2-0 in the AFC West, a division that is theirs to lose.
Week 6 Storylines
1. 4-way tie for AFC East
It may have seemed this was the Patriots division to run away with. Maybe it still is. But for now, the division is all knotted up thanks to a week where the Pats were the only AFC East team to lose. The Patriots will have their chance to re-establish dominance in their division as they host the Jets. If they should lose, they could easily find themselves in last place, as the Bills are hosting the Titans, and the Dolphins are on a bye.
2. Don’t count em out yet
We’re still at a point in the season where no one is out of the race yet. Even the worst teams are only a couple wins away from being back in the thick of things, but if they don’t pick up their play soon, they’ll be playing for their pride in the second half of the season. This week, we saw 10 teams with losing records win. The Broncos and Packers reassured everyone they are top teams as they took down the Chargers and Texans, respectively. The Jets, Bills and Redskins all seemed to be on the brink of collapse, but scored impressive victories to get themselves to 3-3. The Dolphins bounced back from consecutive overtime losses with consecutive wins, and now sit at 3-3. The Lions, Buccaneers, and Titans were all 1-win teams that got a win when they needed it bad, and the Browns finally got a notch in the win column. Even the Raiders showed a spark of life, as they nearly pulled off the upset of the year by going to Atlanta and taking the Falcons to the wire.
3. RGIII rebounds strong from concussion
It seems like every week, Robert Griffin is the talk of the league. Last week, it was the nasty hit that knocked him out of the game. This week, his heroics helped the Redskins upset the Vikings. He was efficient through the air and effective with his legs all day, helping the Redskins build up a 24-9 lead. When the Vikings closed the deficit to 5 points with 3 minutes to play, Griffin iced the game with a 76 yard scamper to pay dirt.
4. Cowboys can’t get it right
The Cowboys can draw a lot of positives from their loss in Baltimore, but mostly have to be disappointed with their inability to execute when they needed to. They rushed for 227 yards and passed for 254, giving them 165 more yards of offense than Baltimore. Down by 8 in the final minutes of the game, Romo directed the team on an excellent drive down the field, with Dez Bryant catching a touchdown to set up a game-tying two point conversion attempt. Romo went back to Bryant, who dropped the ball. The Cowboys got a second shot at winning the game after their special teams group recovered the onsides kick and a questionable pass interference call gave them the ball at the Baltimore 34 with 30 second to go. Dallas went back to Bryant, who was tackled in the open field after gaining only 1 yard. The Cowboys inexplicably let the clock wind all the way down without spiking the ball, and their kicker missed wide left.
5. Rams’ offensive explosion not enough for a win
The Rams’ dominated the Dolphins 462-192 in total yardage, yet found a way to lose the game. The Rams only turned the ball over once, but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone and settled for field goals all day. Their kicker missed 3 field goals on the day, including a 66-yarder as time expired that had the distance but sailed wide left.
6. Injuries Piling Up
It’s almost the halfway point of the season, and injuries are starting to take their toll. Some teams, like the Giants, Bills, and Steelers are getting some key players who missed time early back in their lineups. Other teams that seemed to be staying healthy are suddenly getting hit hard. The most notable injury has to be Ray Lewis, one of the league’s iron men, going out for the year with a torn triceps. CB Ladarius Webb tearing his ACL is also a huge blow for the Ravens. Other players, like LB DJ Smith of the Packers and HB DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys, also will miss time with injuries. Every team is susceptible to the injury bug, but whichever teams can fight it off best have a huge advantage. Those teams that do get hit by it need to stay strong and put their replacements in a position to succeed.
7. Defensive Swagger in Seattle
There’s a memo going around the league right now that Seattle is a tough place for an opposing quarterback to come play. Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have all made the trip this year, and none have come away victorious. The Seahawks picked off Brady twice, and crowed about if after the game. Richard Sherman said the Patriots ran a “gimmick offense” and that it wouldn’t work against a real defense like theirs. When you hold Brady to six points in the second half, I guess you can say whatever you want.
8. Giants continue to be road warriors
For some reason, the Giants seem to play their best football on the road. In both their Super Bowl runs, they were seeded low and forced to play on the road to get to the championship game. This year, they have outscored opponents 79-37 on the road. The 49ers had to be highly motivated to exact revenge on the Giants, but had no answers on the field. The Giants were big underdogs in this game, but ended up turning the game into a 26-3 laugher.
9. Rodgers back on top
For all the talk about Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ struggles, it’s surprising to see he is leading the NFL in passer rating through six weeks. Any QB going through adversity should take notes on how Rodgers has handled his this year. He never pointed fingers (except at the NFL for the officiating fiasco) or blamed his teammates, and kept working hard and adjusting. Rodgers torched an elite Texan defense this week and got the Packers back into the thick of the playoff race.
10. Sack Artists
If things were to keep going at their current pace, 10 players would get 16 or more sacks this season. JJ Watt is on pace to shatter the record with 25 sacks, while Clay Matthews is on pace for 21 sacks. Quite a few teams are dealing with injuries at the OT position and other protection issues, and the league’s pass-rushers are taking full advantage.
Week 6 Game Balls
1. S Antrell Rolle, Giants
The Giant defense completely shut down the 49er defense, holding them to a mere 3 points. While the final score was 26-3, the Giants were only up 10-3 at halftime, and the most decisive moments of the game came early in the third quarter. After David Wilson opened up the half with a 66-yard return, the Giants extended their lead to 17-3, putting pressure on the Niners to put some points on the board. Rolle proceeded to pick Alex Smith off twice in the next 4 minutes, allowing the Giants to extend their lead to 23-7. The 49ers never recovered. Rolle also led the team with six tackles, including one for a loss.
2. HB Shonn Greene, Jets
The Jets are trying to regroup after losing two of their best players for the year. Seeing a spark of life out of Shonn Greene, who had rushed for a grand total of 123 yards in weeks 2-5, was huge for the Jets. He paced his team to a blowout win over the Colts with 161 yards and 3 TDs on 32 carries, as the team gave reason to believe the season may not be lost. Mark Sanchez cannot carry this offense, and the Jets don’t have a deep backfield, so they are going to need more games like this from Greene if they want to stay in the playoff race.
3. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers
Jordy Nelson, who caught 15 touchdowns last season, had been having quite a letdown this year. With the Packers going to Houston to face the undefeated Texans in a game they needed badly, he didn’t let down Aaron Rodgers. His 9 catches included some impressive grabs downfield, and his three touchdowns helped the Packers establish 28-10 lead early in the third quarter.
4. CB Joe Haden, Browns
People weren’t talking a whole lot about Joe Haden’s suspension while he was out, but it should come as no surprise that the Browns got their first win the week he came back. Haden defended 3 passes, recorded 7 tackles and helped get the Browns’ dominant second half started with a big interception.
5. QB Josh Freeman, Bucs
The Buccaneers finally got the explosion they had been looking for on offense. Freeman hit Mike Williams deep for a 62-yard touchdown late in the first quarter, and the Bucs never looked back. The team invested heavily in getting a better supporting cast for Freeman, and he came through with a big game in a spot where they badly needed a win.
6. DE Cliff Avril, Lions
The Lions’ offense didn’t do much most of the game, failing to find the end zone for the first 3 quarters. Because the Lions’ defense did a good job bottling up HB LeSean McCoy and pressuring QB Michael Vick, the Lions were still in the game when QB Mathew Stafford found his mojo. After a furious rally sent the game to overtime, Avril sacked Vick for a seven yard loss in the first play of the period. The Eagles went 3 and out and gave the ball back to the Lions in great field position, leading to a game-winning field goal by Jason Hanson.
7. S Madieu Williams, Redskins
The Redskins’ defense has been beat up by injuries, with one of the key guys out of the lineup being FS Brandon Merriweather. Nobody was missing him this Sunday as their veteran backup safety played a huge role in their win over the 4-1 Vikings. Williams was constantly around the ball, collecting 12 tackles, and his pick six at the start of the fourth quarter turned a reasonably close game into a blowout.
8. S Jairus Byrd, Bills
Byrd is definitely a player the Bills wish they had during their recent skid. Byrd intercepted 2 passes in his return to the lineup, including one in overtime that set up their game-winning score.
9. QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson hadn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard this season, but he validated Pete Carrol’s belief in him this week. Down 13 points in the fourth quarter, Wilson engineered two great touchdown drives. His 46 yard TD pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 remaining was the game-winner.
10. CBs Chris Harris & Tony Carter, Broncos
With Tracy Porter out, the Broncos knew they would need their backup corners to step up this week. When they fell down 24-0 at halftime, they knew they would need an extraordinary defensive effort to have any chance of getting back in it. Carter’s 65-yard fumble return TD early in the third quarter swung momentum in Denver’s favor. Harris’ 46-yard interception return TD put the Broncos ahead 35-24 with just 2 minutes to go. The two backups collected 4 tackles apiece, and combined to intercept Rivers 3 times in the 4th quarter.
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