1. There isn’t a game on the schedule in which the two teams both need to win more than the Washington – Atlanta game. The Redskins need to stop the bleeding and get the focus off of what a circus their team has become. The Falcons need to stop the bleeding after their tremendous early promise was derailed bytwo losses in a row. 5-3 isn’t a bad place to be, but 4-4 would be a disaster.
2. Arizona should be able to win the NFC West with their eyes closed at this point, but they stand a good chance at Chicago of dropping to 4-4 and letting San Francisco back into the race. If Arizona doesn’t make the playoffs they have no one to blame but themselves.
3. I have been wrong about both Baltimore and Cincinnati a lot this year. My gut tells me that last week was a wake up for Baltimore and that they should be ready to roar this week. My gut also tells me that Cincinnati isn’t up to sustaining their start. My gut is going to be right one of these days.
4. How much of a factor is it going to be that basically every defensive player the Colts have is injured and out for the season? This will require a big adjustment, but it remains to be seen if it will really matter. My guess is that it will, but not as much as the public imagines.
5. I have been trapped by Jacksonville a lot this year. They show enough flashes of brilliance that they suck me in, but then they revert to terribleness again. Everyone has a few teams that unfortunately seduce you, and Jacksonville is one of mine. They should be able to beat up on Kansas City at home, but at this point who knows?
6. I think that the Bucs are bad, but I don’t think that they are as bad as most people seem to think. I will be curious to see if they are able to capitalize on their bye week to get some positive progress made. They play Green Bay, so I hope they spent a whole lot of time working on their pass rush.
7. Miami’s season will be all but over with a loss on today, and unfortunately they have drawn the Pats in Foxboro. I hope the fans of the Dolphins have the sense not to give up on this team again because this year has been a step backwards. There are still a whole lot of good things going on there. The good thing there is that management isn’t going to do anything stupid.
8. The buzz is building about looking at 16-0 for the Saints – I’ve seen two different articles about it this week. They have a reasonably favorable schedule and lots of talent, but I still expect them to stumble. Carolina is a team that can make opponents hurt – not consistently, but from time to time they can really surprise.
9. Detroit at Seattle is the worst game of the week, and it’s not even close. I was going to be contrary and try to say something nice about each team, but I frankly just can’t think of anything at all. Both teams have nice stadiums – there’s something.
10. The Giants desperately need to stop the bleeding, and that raises an interesting situation in their home game against the Chargers. If the Giants play like they can and should then they can probably win this one, and that would put the Chargers at 4-4. That’s a disgrace, and, more significantly, it would put them in a massive, probably insurmountable hole behind Denver if the Broncos can win on Monday. If the Giants continue to falter and the Steelers win on Monday, though, then the Chargers are just one game out of first in the division and would have to be viewed as the favorite. Big game.
11. Both Tennessee and San Francisco badly need their game, too. The Titans need to right the ship, and Vince Young needs to establish themselves. The Niners need to win to keep pace with the Cardinals, and to maintain the momentum of a solid start. This team is too good to be 3-5.
12. I don’t want to jump on public bandwagons recklessly, but I am transfixed by the Miles Austin story in Dallas. The guy has been ridiculously good, and he has come from nowhere. I am fascinated by guys that emerge suddenly and unexpectedly like this – it shows you how hard scouting players is. I will be curious to watch him in a crucial and potentially explosive NFC East contest against the Eagles.