Week 6 NFL Preview

Giants Seek 5-0 Start Monday Night; Pats Take On Chargers Sunday Night In AFC Championship Rematch

Two spotless streaks. One unbreakable — at least for this week.

That’s the story for the NFL’s last two unbeaten teams – the 5-0 Tennessee Titans and 4-0 New York Giants.

The Titans have a bye this week. The Giants conclude the week on Monday night aiming to become the seventh defending Super Bowl champion to open the season with a 5-0 record.

Things indeed seem grand for these two teams, but a good three-quarters of the season remains — with surprises to come for sure.

“You can get humbled quickly in the NFL,” says Titans safety MICHAEL GRIFFIN. “You can start 5-0 and still go 5-11.”

Things definitely can turn quickly in the NFL, and past seasons prove it. Since 2000, for instance, 43 teams had winning records entering Week 6 with at least a quarter of their games played — and still missed the playoffs. On the other hand, 12 clubs had losing records at this point in the season and advanced to the playoffs, including the 2001 New England Patriots (2-3) who would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVI, and last season’s San Diego Chargers (2-3), who played in the AFC Championship Game.

“We’re going to continue to fight,” says running back BRIAN WESTBROOK of the 2-3 Philadelphia Eagles. “We’re not going to quit.”

That NFL fighting continues without letup this week. Only some of the highlight games of Week 6:




STORYLINE: Romo vs. Warnerget out the calculators!


The third (Arizona) and fourth (Dallas) most productive pass offenses in the NFL square off in the desert. QBs KURT WARNER (102.5) of the Cardinals and TONY ROMO (100.5) of the Cowboys rank Nos. 3-4, respectively, in both NFL passer rating and yards. They combine for five 300-yard passing games in ’08 (Romo, 3; Warner, 2, including a league-high 472 yards) – the most of any QB duo in a game this weekend.


The Cowboys are coming into a tough venue. The Cardinals – leading the NFC West — are 8-2 at home since KEN WHISENHUNT became their head coach last year and have outscored two opponents 72-17 at home this season.


Each team balances its air game with a 300-yard rusher — Dallas’ MARION BARBER (395) and Arizona’s EDGERRIN JAMES (334) – and promising rookie RBs in the Cowboys’ FELIX JONES (103 yards last week) and Cards’ TIM HIGHTOWER (five TDs).


In spite of all that offense, the key to the game could be the front seven of each squad, which have two players each in the top 10 in NFL sacks – Dallas LB DE MARCUS WARE (5.0 sacks) and NT JAY RATLIFF (3.0) and Arizona DE TRAVIS LA BOY (4.0) and DE BERTRAND BERRY (3.0).




STORYLINE: A hundred carries? No problem!


Only four RBs in the league have 100 carries this season – Washington’s CLINTON PORTIS (115), Minnesota’s ADRIAN





SCORING UP!: NFL games are averaging 45.0 points through Week 5, which is the second-highest average at this point since the 16-game schedule was instituted in 1978 to the 45.7 mark through five weeks in 2002. The record for the season is 43.7 in 1983.


PETERSON (104) and the two pounders in this game, Atlanta’s MICHAEL TURNER (league-leading 543 yards on 103 rushes) and Chicago’s MATT FORTÉ (top rookie rusher with 383 yards on 107 carries).


The teams’ running games are perfect support for the clubs’ young quarterbacks, enabling them to keep defenses honest while they develop. Bears QB KYLE ORTON, starting again in his fourth year after two years of basic inactivity, is directing things at the line of scrimmage with more authority, says Bears offensive coordinator RON TURNER. “He’s a very bright player, and he’s handling it well,” Turner says. Orton set career highs in yards, completions and passer rating against Detroit last week. But watch out, Kyle! Falcons DE JOHN ABRAHAM leads the league with 7.0 sacks.


Falcons rookie QB MATT RYAN, coming off his first road win, has formed a productive relationship with WR RODDY WHITE, with the four-year veteran ranked No. 3 in the league in receiving yards (454). “I’ve never seen anything like it,” says Falcons C TODD MC CLURE. “Matt’s composure in the huddle is amazing.”




STORYLINE: These two are BIG-time rivals, especially since they joined the NFC South!


They have met 15 times since the Panthers came into existence in 1995, with 12 of the games being decided by no more than two touchdowns and eight of those by no more than eight points.


So here they are this Sunday sitting first (Carolina) and tied for second in the division with each having the exact same point total – 114.


And each has a possible defensive neutralizer to the other’s passing game. Carolina QB JAKE DELHOMME confronts a pass defense that has limited opposing quarterbacks to a 71.4 passer rating since 1996, the lowest in the league in that time. Meanwhile, Bucs QBs BRIAN GRIESE or JEFF GARCIA face the third-toughest pass defense in the NFL (156.0).


The RBs? Things match up evenly here too. Only two teams in the NFL have two rushers apiece in the top 20 — the Bucs and Panthers, in Tampa Bay’s EARNEST GRAHAM and WARRICK DUNN and Carolina’s DE ANGELO WILLIAMS and rookie JONATHAN STEWART.


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (3-1) at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (2-3) (Sunday night, 8:15 PM ET)


STORYLINE: For clubs on opposite coasts, these two have one hot rivalry!


The Patriots and Chargers have played each other four times in the past three years, including twice last season, with New England winning the last three. In 2006, it was a 24-21 Patriots victory in the Divisional Playoffs. Last season, it was a 38-14 Pats’ regular-season win followed by another in the AFC Championship (21-12).


In the championship, QB PHILIP RIVERS drove the Chargers to within New England’s 10-yard line three times but had to settle for field goals each time. San Diego – which will wear its 1960s-style powder-blue jerseys Sunday night — aims to make such penetrations pay off more fruitfully Sunday night with an offense that averages almost 30 points a game (29.6), the fourth-best mark in the league.


The Patriots’ QB-WR combo of MATT CASSEL and RANDY MOSS looks like it is developing into a good relationship. They connected on a 66-yard TD against San Francisco last Sunday with five completions overall for 111 yards.


NEW YORK GIANTS (4-0) at CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-3) (Monday night, 8:30 PM ET)


STORYLINE: Giants’ top-10s vs. due-to-break-out Browns.


New York is the only club in the league with top-10 rankings in total, rushing and passing yards on both offense and defense. The Browns are basically at the other end of the scale – except for pass defense (No. 10) — but feel they have too many potent weapons not to turn things around.


Cleveland takes on a New York team that is off to its best start since 1990 (10-0) and is fresh from a league 2008-best 523-yard offensive explosion last Sunday. QB ELI MANNING spreads his throws around, connecting with nine different receivers against Seattle in Week 5 while posting a career-high 136.6 passer rating.


Strong-armed Browns QB DEREK ANDERSON — sacked only eight times this season – faces a pass rush with 14 take-downs in the past three games. But the Browns will be ready. They want revenge for their Monday night preseason loss to the Giants (37-34) on national television this past August 18. “This is a good opportunity to show the world that we’re definitely better than what we put out there in preseason,” says Browns LB ANDRA DAVIS. “We’ll be ready.”


The Giants – 14-2 under head coach TOM COUGHLIN in the month of October – can join six other defending Super Bowl champions in starting 5-0: 1986 Chicago, 1990 San Francisco, 1998 Denver, 2000 St. Louis, 2004 New England and 2007 Indianapolis.


(Home team in CAPS)

Byes: Cleveland, N.Y. Jets, Oakland, St. Louis


Sunday, October 5

Sunday, October 5, Cont.’d.

Tennessee 13, BALTIMORE 10

DENVER 16, Tampa Bay 13

CAROLINA 34, Kansas City 0

ARIZONA 41, Buffalo 17

Chicago 34, DETROIT 7

DALLAS 31, Cincinnati 22

Atlanta 27, GREEN BAY 24

New England 30, SAN FRANCISCO 21

Indianapolis 31, HOUSTON 27

Pittsburgh 26, JACKSONVILLE 21

MIAMI 17, San Diego 10


N.Y. GIANTS 44, Seattle 6

Monday, October 6

Washington 23, PHILADELPHIA 17

Minnesota 30, NEW ORLEANS 27



(All times local)

Byes: Buffalo, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Tennessee


Sunday, October 12

Sunday, October 12, Cont.’d.

Chicago at Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Jacksonville at Denver, 2:05 PM

Miami at Houston, 12:00 PM

Dallas at Arizona, 1:15 PM

Baltimore at Indianapolis, 1:00 PM

Philadelphia at San Francisco, 1:15 PM

Detroit at Minnesota, 12:00 PM

Green Bay at Seattle, 1:15 PM

Oakland at New Orleans, 12:00 PM

New England at San Diego, 5:15 PM (NBC)

Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets, 1:00 PM


Carolina at Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Monday, October 13

St. Louis at Washington, 1:00 PM

N.Y. Giants at Cleveland, 8:30 PM (ESPN)