Giants at Bears - This week’s NFL Network Thursday nighter could prove to be a show of epic proportions, and not of the good kind for the road team.
Chicago has a defense that continues to gobble up turnovers and turn them into points. Everyone assumed the loss of Brian Urlacher from the middle would have a deleterious effect in that regard, but so far they’ve picked right up where they left off.
What’s really changed is that New York suffers from what’s probably the poorest offensive line play in the conference and no running game. Their defense has allowed more points for the first five games in a season since the Cardinals did as poorly 59 years ago (when their home field was in Chicago, and how’s that for a coincidence!).
All this has turned a veteran and heretofore clutch quarterback into a turnover factory. Poor Eli is playing the kind of season that reminds Giants fans of Joe Pisarcik. Again, not a good thing.
It’s hard to believe how a two-time champion can morph into the second coming of Vinny Testaverde’s rookie year, but because he’s apparently trying to do it all by himself - which, since at least the days of Red Grange, is just what football can never allow - the Giants have turned into one of the leading performance disasters of the NFL season so far.
Actually, I think it’s also because the Super Bowl is scheduled for New York this year and you just know how that turns out for anyone daring to wish a home date for that occasion. Just ask the good folks at Dallas about how much fun there was in that karmic episode.
Packers at Ravens - Baltimore is such a different team at home and their defense is every bit up to the task of shutting Aaron Rodgers down just enough to make Joe Flacco’s limited offensive skill set sufficient. It may be no more than a field goal difference, but that’s what home field advantage is often about in this league.
Bengals at Bills - Due to injury, Buffalo is going with a starting QB who was mere practice squad material only a week ago. Cincinnati’s offense is still much too inconsistent, but any defense that can shut Tom Brady out for three and a three-fourths quarters (and then benefit from an exquisitely-timed five minute monsoon) deserves more than the benefit of the doubt this week against a handicapped unit.
Lions at Browns - Cleveland was dealt a crushing blow to the body, mind and spirit last week following the report of Brian Hoyer’s torn ACL. With Baltimore likely strong at home and Cincinnati facing a depleted Buffalo attack, Cleveland really need this win at home to stay in the early divisional race and lift the hearts of teammates and Browns fans everywhere. Re-enter Brandon Weeden to the starting lineup, who probably won’t get booed this week (but nobody’s promising).
It actually comes down to Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. If he’s in, Cleveland’s probably out because the Detroit offense is much too productive for the Browns to stay in it long enough. I’m guessing he’s on the field and taking Detroit, but my heart’s in Cleveland this week.
Rams at Texans - When (or if) Matt Schaub blows this one, the wheels are finally off because those sparks you will see flying are the tiny deaths of all those championship dreams Houston fans once had dancing in their little horned heads.
It’s even gotten nasty, with fans confronting Schaub at his home. That can’t help his already fragile psyche. Add to that his tight end is now out a couple of months with a broken leg and no wonder he’d think his corner of the world is coming to an end.
Fortunately, St. Louis comes to town this week with one the league’s least productive offenses, no running game and little ability to score. While the Rams’ defense is decent, suddenly the pressure to throw and keep up is going to be off and Schaub can take better advantage of a really good running game.
After having to constantly push his team against upper division squads lately, and coming out more than a little battered by the experience, it’s time for Schaub to ride the road to recovery, hand it off and let his backs handle things one step at a time.
Raiders at Chiefs - Good to see Oakland play a well-rounded game, but it’s really hard to tell since San Diego doesn’t really play defense and throws one of the most uni-dimensional offenses known to exist across whichever field it happens to be standing on.
Unlike the Chargers, Kansas City will stop Oakland. The Chiefs will make special teams plays that are actually special. And the guys at Arrowhead will play a patient, productive, and occasionally provocative style of offense. This one’s as close to a lock as we are likely to find this week.
Panthers at Vikings - The heat is on in Minnesota and it’s not even winter yet. A new quarterback is in town and will be looking to start soon, so Matt Cassel gets probably his last chance to show anybody anything positive in his game. That still leaves a defense sturdy as the St. Francis Dam; but one problem at a time, please.
Carolina only plays well at home, and then only seldom. It’s just so hard to see them doing anything other than their usual fail job on the road.