Last week, we talked about quarterbacks having a tough time with 39 interceptions for the weekend. Well, Week 6 proved tough on running backs. Despite some outstanding individual efforts, 14 of the 24 teams that played on Sunday failed to gain 100 yards rushing. And there were only two games in which both teams rushed for 100 or more yards.
For one running back, however, the weekend was a bonanza. Vikings rookie Adrian Peterson -- despite having two fewer carries than teammate Chester Taylor -- ran for a team-record 224 yards and combined for a team-record 361 total yards (rushing, receiving, kickoff returns). The rushing total was fifth-best ever by a rookie (the record is 251, set by Mike Anderson in 2000 when he was with Denver).
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|Will the 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde remain the Panthers' starter when David Carr is healthy?|
Vinny to the rescue
We learned that some quarterbacks don't need much time to get ready for NFL action. Ironically, it was the Arizona Cardinals who first contacted 43-year-old Vinny Testaverde after losing Matt Leinart for the season. Testaverde agreed to consider the offer, but he was contacted hours later by Carolina -- and signed with the Panthers mainly to stay closer to his family in New York.
He became the third-oldest quarterback to start an NFL game, the oldest quarterback to start and win a game, and the oldest to pass for a TD as a starter since 1966.
Carolina's decision to go with Testaverde led some in the media to suggest it represents a lack of quality depth at the quarterback position. But what the Panthers get in Testaverde is a quarterback who has amazing arm strength and great knowledge of the game.
Testaverde wasn't very mobile when he was 33, let alone 43, but he does know how to slide away from pressure. The Panthers signed him because he could help them win right away, and that's exactly what he did.
Incredibly, those numbers only raised his season passer rating two-tenths of a point -- from 128.7 to 128.9. Peyton Manning holds the NFL season record with a rating of 121.1, set in 2004. That was the year Manning passed for an NFL-record 49 TDs and just 10 INTs. Brady is on pace for 56 TDs and six INTs. His previous best rating was 92.6 in 2004.
Who'll stop the reign?
At 6-0, the Patriots have tied their best start in team history; they started 6-0 in 2004 en route to winning Super Bowl XXXIX. Meanwhile, they play at Miami this weekend, against a Dolphins team that is riding a franchise-record nine-game losing streak.
New England is on pace to score 614 points, which would be a new NFL record. One thing to remember about scoring records, though: late-season opponents and weather have a habit of slowing down the pace. Starting Nov. 18, New England's last seven games this season are outdoors in the Northeast, including December games against the Ravens, Steelers and Giants.
The Patriots have obviously impressed everyone watching football this season. Some of the things that have impressed me the most are the team's overall depth (they seem to have a pair and a spare at every position), their ability to make big plays and an outstanding coaching staff that's able to make adjustments during the game.
Most of all, it seems as if the sideline personnel is always aware of what's going on. I think the first time it made a mistake Sunday was when Junior Seau was supposed to go in at fullback in the last series and didn't get onto the field.
When the Cowboys attempted to take Randy Moss out of the game early, New England didn't waste any time making the adjustment to throw underneath to Wes Welker and make Donte Stallworth the first option. Welker and Stallworth immediately made big plays.
Fight to the finish
When the NFL schedule was released in April and everyone saw the Dec. 30 game between the Saints and Bears in Chicago, the thought was that this rematch of the 2006 NFC title game would possibly decide homefield advantage throughout the 2007 postseason. Now it shapes up to be a simple battle for playoff survival.
Considering that New Orleans is 1-4 and Chicago 2-3, it seems odd to think one of these teams could still be contending for a playoff spot in Week 17, but the weakened state of the NFC makes it possible. Chicago's loss to Minnesota on Sunday coupled with the Saints' big win at Seattle makes the regular-season finale look like it could be more meaningful than anyone imagined when the date was set.
The Saints' finest win of the season was obviously a long time coming. One positive sign was that they appear to have made the adjustment to get along without Deuce McAllister. Reggie Bush will be relied on more as a complete player, and if he continues to have success, that will only open the door for Drew Brees and the passing game to return to form.
At this point, given the schedule and the divisions they play in, I'd say New Orleans has a better chance to make the playoffs than Chicago.
» In Week 1, Jacksonville gave up 282 rushing yards, worst in franchise history, against Tennessee. Since then, the Jaguars have allowed a total of 200 yards in four games and won all four.
» Ten of the 12 teams that won Sunday had fewer turnovers in the game than their opponents. In the other two games, both teams had the same number of turnovers.
» San Diego's Michael Turner was the leading rusher in Week 5; he gained 8 yards in Week 6.
» Jacksonville ran the ball 26 times against Houston for 244 yards, an average of 9.3 yards per attempt.
» The Carolina Panthers are the first team in NFL history to have two QBs drafted first overall on their roster. In 1948, the Bears had three first-rounders on their team -- Bobby Layne, Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack. Those three combined for 14 TDs and 22 INTs, yet the team finished 10-2, the second-best record in the NFL that season.
» After six weeks, the AFC South has the best record of any division in football -- 15-6. Second-best belongs to the NFC East with a 13-8 record.