This week in: The NFL – Week 7 2012

Last season’s league MVP threw 6 touchdown passes in the Packers 42-24 win over the Texans

In week 6 of the NFL season, much of what the experts had thought they had known this year was proven to be wrong, particularly in the Sunday Night game between the Houston Texans game and the Green Bay Packers.  It had been assumed that the Texans – who were 5-0 heading into the matchup – would have little difficulty at home against a Packers team who had lost three of their first five games, including a second-half collapse the week before against the Colts.  So poor had the early season performances been for Green Bay, in Bill Simmons’ weekly Grantland column a reader questioned if Aaron Rodgers was actually good, or if his Super Bowl win followed by MVP honours had been the result of good fortune.  In fact, Rodgers may not have been firing on all cylinders to start the year, but he had still completed nearly 70% of his passes and the Packers main problem was an inability to establish a rushing game that would open the field up for their quarterback.  Against the Texans, Alex Green was started ahead of Cedric Benson and on the first drive, the second-year running back appeared to have the explosiveness and ability to move the ball on the ground that Green Bay had been missing in the opening weeks.  Alongside this, Houston gave up crucial penalties, most notably when the Packers were punting the ball away on their first possession, but got the ball back after rookie DeVier Posey lined up offside and gave Green Bay a new set of downs.  Rodgers only needed one, completing a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson on the next play and the quarterback connected with Nelson twice more, James Jones two times, and Tom Crabtree once – equalling a franchise record with six TD’s and becoming only the fourth QB in history to throw that many, and for more than 330 yards, without giving up an interception.  While this game should not establish the Packers as Super Bowl favourites, it should stop people writing off a team that won it all two years ago – after a regular season in which they went 10-6 and only just sneaked into the playoffs – just because they started 2-3.

The New England Patriots had been expected to win the AFC East without any problems this season, being the only team considered elite in a division of flawed teams, yet after six weeks, all four sides in the division have 3-3 records.  Against the Seahawks last Sunday, the Patriots were 13 points up half-way through the fourth quarter, but ended up losing 24-23 after rookie QB, Russell Wilson threw two touchdowns and improved the Seahawks home record to 3-0 this year, having beaten Dallas, Green Bay and now New England.  The Jets and Bills were both coming off consecutive losses, but New York defeated the Colts, while Buffalo won in overtime in Arizona, against the previously 4-1 Cardinals.  Miami – who had been expected to struggle with rookie Ryan Tannehill starting at Quarterback – moved back to an even record with a 17-14 win over St. Louis – all three victories for the Dolphins have come when their defense has held the opposition to 14 points or fewer.

Along with the Texans, the 49ers and Falcons were considered to be the elite teams in the NFL this season but, like Houston, neither put in convincing performances in week 6.  As happened in the NFC Championship game in January, San Francisco lost at home to the New York Giants, but on this occasion the visitors did not have to rely on two botched punt returns or overtime, as they triumphed 26-3.  Atlanta did manage to maintain their 100% start to the season, but their 23-20 victory over the Raiders was less than impressive, only securing the win with a 55 yard field goal from Matt Bryant in the final seconds.

Another thing that the NFL experts have agreed upon is that Philadelphia and Dallas will reach the standards their talented rosters suggest they should and will cause their supporters to suffer heartbreaking losses – so they were not wrong about everything.  The Eagles had a 10 point lead at home against the Lions, but Detroit came back to force the game into overtime and then secured just their second win of the season with a 45-yard field goal.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys found a new way to antagonise their fans, on this occasion missing two opportunities to make a comeback against the Ravens.  Trailing by eight late in the fourth quarter, Dallas quarterback, Tony Romo, led an 80-yard touchdown drive, but then narrowly missed Dez Bryant on the two point conversion attempt to leave his team down by two with thirty seconds to play.  However, the Cowboys managed to recover the onside kick that everybody knew was coming, then moved into field goal range thanks to a pass interference call on the next play, but Bailey’s 51 yard attempt was wide and Baltimore held on for their fifth win of the season.

San Diego’s Ronnie Brown (#30) and Phil Rivers (right) look dejected after their side gave up a 24-0 half-time lead against the Broncos

English football has the cliché that it is a game of two halves – with teams often performing completely differently either side of the break – in Monday Night’s matchup between the Chargers and Broncos, its American namesake proved that contests can also follow that pattern in the NFL.  San Diego took a 24-0 lead into half-time, but Denver came all the way back – and more – after the interval, with Peyton Manning throwing for three touchdowns and the Broncos also taking advantage of four interceptions and two fumbles in the game by the Chargers’ QB, Phil Rivers, to win 35-24.

Elsewhere in week 6, the Redskins beat the Vikings in Washington thanks to Robert Griffin III, who threw one touchdown pass and rushed for two more, including a 76-yard run late on to secure the victory for his team.  Tampa Bay’s punter, Michael Koenen, had a kick blocked, chased the ball down and then attempted to throw it to a teammate, only to deliver it straight to Kansas City’s Edgar Jones, who returned it for a Chiefs touchdown.  Nevertheless, that was not enough for Kansas City the Buccaneers who won 38-10, with Josh Freeman finding the End Zone three times.  The weeks other two contests saw Cincinnati lose the second battle of Ohio this year against the Browns in Cleveland, 34-24; and the Titans kicked a field goal as time expired to edge Pittsburgh, 23-20, in Tennessee.  Those losses for the Bengals and Steelers, combined with the other results, mean that after six weeks, only two teams in the AFC have winning records – the Texans and the Ravens (both 5-1).

This week’s fixtures sees divisional rivals the Jets and Patriots square off in New England; the Packers travel to St. Louis; San Francisco hosts Seattle on Thursday night; the Redskins are headed to MetLife Stadium to play the Giants; the Vikings are up against the Cardinals in Minnesota; and the Browns face the Colts in Indianapolis.  The headline matchup of the weekend is in Houston, as the Texans face a Baltimore team who have lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb for the year through injuries, sustained in their win over Dallas.  The Cowboys are at the Panthers; Buffalo hosts Tennessee; New Orleans, coming off their bye week, are in Tampa Bay to play their divisional rivals, the Buccaneers; Oakland are at home against the Jaguars; the Steelers travel to Cincinnati; and Monday night’s fixture is an NFC North matchup between the Lions and Bears in Detroit.

Predictions

Last week, 8-6; Season 48-43

Home teams in bold

49ers -7.5 over Seahawks

Titans +3.5 over Bills

Browns +3.5 over Colts

Rams +5.5 over Packers

Vikings -5.5 over Cardinals

Redskins +6.5 over Giants

Buccaneers +2.5 over Saints

Cowboys -2.5 over Panthers

Ravens +6.5 over Texans

Jaguars +4.5 over Raiders

Patriots -10.5 over Jets

Bengals +2.5 over Steelers

Bears -5.5 over Lions

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