This isn’t the greatest week for NFL games. Between the bye weeks and some bad luck, there are just not a lot of juicy matchups. The main Fox game in the 4:15 PM ET window is Green Bay-Minnesota, a matchup only a Packer fan could love. Even worse is NBC’s prime-time affair with Indianapolis-New Orleans, a game that’s gone from a Peyton-Brees showdown on the Bayou to a complete and utter mismatch. If you don’t opt for Game 4 of the World Series over this game on Sunday night, you either have a bet on the game or you really hate baseball. (And if you’re waiting for Monday Night to salvage Week 7, don’t hold your breath. Baltimore-Jacksonville is on tap).
So the Notebook will eschew its normal Friday morning of focusing in on the main TV games, and instead offer up some quick snippets on each game going Sunday.
San Diego-NY Jets: This is the best game of the day and if flex scheduling were in effect this early, I’m sure it would have been moved to prime-time. It’s a great matchup on the corners with Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis having to match up with Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd. The Chargers can also run the ball with Ryan Matthews against a Jet defense that’s been vulnerable in this area. But I also think the New York offense has to get settled in eventually and a West Coast team traveling east for an early kickoff is always in a tough spot. The Jets in a tough one, scoring another win for Rex Ryan in his latest little war of words with Norv Turner.
Houston-Tennessee: Another game that would be worthy of greater prominence in the TV schedule, this one will establish an early frontrunner in the AFC South. Both teams have lost top receivers, in Andre Johnson and Kenny Britt, and the Texans are also down defensive end Mario Williams. Both can run the ball very well, with Arian Foster for Houston and Tennessee with Chris Johnson. Both are a little soft defensively. I lean the Titans here as the home crowd pushes them over the top, but that is not an endorsement for them to win the division.
Chicago-Tampa Bay: This one’s in London, and I would expect the Tampa Bay defensive line to administer the same sort of dominance to Chicago’s woeful offensive front that they gave to Atlanta earlier in the year. Defense and Josh Freeman is enough to win a game against a mediocre team.
Atlanta-Detroit: Will the Lions keep their focus after the Handshake Saga? If they do, they have the better team, as the Falcons can’t stop their receivers, led by Calvin Johnson Atlanta can move the ball themselves, but the Detroit front four should create enough problems to win at home and get back on track.
Washington-Carolina: The Redskins have quarterback problems again, as John Beck has gotten the call. Carolina doesn’t have quarterback problems, as Cam Newton keeps putting up big numbers. As a ‘Skins fan, I’m looking for a stronger effort this week, but I have my doubts that the offense can keep pace with Newton.
Seattle-Cleveland: Ugh. I guess we have to give the Seahawks their respect now that they’ve won on the road against the Giants, while Cleveland’s done nothing to earn respect. But the whole West Coast team going East theory works here too, and I see the Browns getting a needed victory.
Denver-Miami: Only the starting debut of Tim Tebow this year keeps this from joining the Seahawks-Browns on the Ugly Game chart, but once that interest wears off, there’s not much here either. How much longer before Miami coach Tony Sparano gets the axe? After that great debut in 2008 when he won the AFC East, the Fish have declined each year and are a train wreck this season.
St. Louis-Dallas: The Rams have been up there with the Eagles on the list of disappointing teams and this 4:15 PM start can just be time for the good people of St. Louis to finish Sunday activities in time for the World Series. Even the Cowboys can’t possibly shoot themselves in the foot badly enough to lose this one, can they?
Kansas City-Oakland: I don’t agree with Oakland’s deal for Carson Palmer, at least as a short-term fix, and believe the disruption of a developing team chemistry costs them this game at home to improving Kansas City and may cost them the afc wES
Pittsburgh-Arizona: I see an upset out in the desert here. Pittsburgh’s corners are awful and the combo of Kevin Kolb to Larry Fitzgerald should have a field day. Now the Cardinal secondary is similarly challenged, so Ben Roethlisberger is in for a big day of his own, but I don’t have confidence the Steelers are good enough to play two good games in a row.
Green Bay-Minnesota: I have plenty of confidence that Green Bay can play seven good games in a row. The areas the Packers have been vulnerable this year are on pass defense, but as was shown last week in the 24-3 win over St. Louis, they aren’t going to give up big numbers to just anybody. Donovan McNabb has become “just anybody” at this point in his career, and the Vikes have no shot to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and his dazzling corps of receivers.
Indianapolis-New Orleans: As I said at the top, if you watch this game, you either have money on it, or you hate baseball.