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Ravens-Patriots showdown one of many key Week 6 matchups

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I'm liking the look of this schedule after a few less interesting weeks. Having some flawed teams on the bye -- Carolina, Buffalo, Cincy and Arizona -- definitely helps. And some of the league's surprise upstarts face a stern test, as well. Plus we have some juicy QB subplots. Good stuff.

  • The storyline:

    Randy Moss is gone, so Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will try to mold his young pass-catchers on the fly against an elite defense.
  • Why you should watch:

    The Ravens ran all over New England in Foxboro in the playoffs without having to really throw at all, and Baltimore running back Ray Rice is coming off his first big game of 2010.
  • Did you know?

    Ravens RB Willis McGahee has three touchdowns in his last three games against the Patriots. ... Baltimore's Anquan Boldin needs 117 receiving yards to reach 8,000 for his career. ... The Patriots have won seven consecutive games after a bye. ... Since 2007, New England WR Wes Welker leads the NFL with 372 receptions.
  • The storyline:

    Ben Roethlisberger had his career and image in severe jeopardy all offseason, but now he returns from a four-game suspension after alleged sexual misconduct to a team already 3-1.
  • Why you should watch:

    The Steelers will finally rediscover a vertical passing element to go with their ground game and stingy defense. The Browns are fighting hard, but are running out of quarterbacks.
  • Did you know?

    Browns RB Peyton Hillis has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games. ... Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs has three career kickoff return touchdowns against the Steelers. ... The Steelers are 9-1 at home vs. the Browns this century. ... Pittsburgh is allowing a league-low 12.5 points per game.
  • The storyline:

    There is no doubt that Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will do everything in his power to get healthy enough to face his former team, who released him after his dogfighting incarceration.
  • Why you should watch:

    The Eagles have to yet to win at home (0-2), while young Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is finally starting to win on the road (albeit ugly).
  • Did you know?

    When Matt Ryan has at least a 100 passer rating, the Falcons are 11-0. ... Atlanta's John Abraham has 93.5 sacks since 2000 -- the second-highest total in the league over that span. ... Eagles RB LeSean McCoy is the only player in the NFL this year with 350 rushing yards and 200 receiving yards. ... Philadelphia's Juqua Parker has six sacks in his past seven games.
  • The storyline:

    Two playoff teams from a year ago meet in the Desperation Bowl. The loser here might be done.
  • Why you should watch:

    Randy Moss gets pumped up to play Dallas; everything Brett Favre does now is under a massive microscope on and off field. Will it impact his play?
  • Did you know?

    Tony Romo became only the third quarterback in Cowboys history to throw for over 400 yards last week. ... Dallas' Miles Austin has three 100-yard receiving games already this year. ... Brett Favre is 10-1 in his 11 starts at the Metrodome as a Viking. ... Moss is 7-0 in his career against the Cowboys.
  • The storyline:

    The Colts flirted with a perfect season in 2009, while the Redskins fell to 4-12, but both are 3-2 now.
  • Why you should watch:

    Indianapolis' offensive line is looking vulnerable and neither of these teams can run the ball. This could be a good 'ol fashioned battle between Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb.
  • Did you know?

    The Colts have won six consecutive games against NFC opponents. ... Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie are the only two teammates in the league with at least 35 receptions. ... Redskins QB Donovan McNabb has thrown for 300 yards or more in three straight outings vs. AFC teams. ... In his last two games against Indianapolis, Washington LB London Fletcher has recorded at least 14 tackles.
  • The storyline:

    The Bucs are quietly 3-1, and ahead of the Super Bowl champ Saints in the NFC South. New Orleans is not getting takeaways at anywhere close to last year's rate, while the Bucs are thriving on key ones.
  • Why you should watch:

    Is the Saints' offense really this mediocre? Could Drew Brees put together another poor performance? Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman looks like a born leader/winner.
  • Did you know?

    In nine career starts against the Bucs, Brees has a 100 passer rating. ... New Orleans' Lance Moore has seven receiving touchdowns in his last seven games against NFC South opponents. ... When Cadillac Williams has at least 22 carries in a game, the Bucs are 13-0. ... Tampa Bay's Aqib Talib has an interception in three consecutive games.
  • The storyline:

    The Chiefs are looking like the real deal in all aspects, except quarterback play. The Texans seemingly refuse to take that next step as a franchise.
  • Why you should watch:

    Houston is capable of producing -- or allowing -- 500 yards any given week. The Chiefs' explosive special teams could be a big factor.
  • Did you know?

    Chiefs WR Chris Chambers has four touchdowns in his last four games against the Texans. ... Kansas City's Tamba Hali has four sacks in his past two games. ... Texans RB Derrick Ward has scored a touchdown in each of the last two weeks. ... Kevin Walter leads Houston with three TD catches this year.
  • The storyline:

    Few teams are as bad as Seattle on the road, and a 5-1 Bears team would be sitting in a great spot.
  • Why you should watch:

    If Jay Cutler plays, as expected, then we're all spared the six completion/four interception misery of Todd Collins last week. The Seahawks could be due for some road success coming off the bye.
  • Did you know?

    Seahawks KR Leon Washington leads the NFL with a 40.4 yard kickoff return average. ... Seattle rookie Golden Tate leads the NFC with an 18-yard punt return average. ... Bears RB Matt Forte is one of just five players in NFL history with a 65-plus yard rushing touchdown and 85-plus yard receiving touchdown in the same season. ... Chicago's Israel Idonije had a career-high three sacks last week.
  • The storyline:

    The Broncos' high-flying offense gets a dose of a blue-collar, uber-physical defense for a second straight week. Not a good matchup for them.
  • Why you should watch:

    Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. Broncos WR Brandon Lloyd is a marquee matchup. Denver might abandon the run by the second possession (it is averaging only 2.3 yards per carry).
  • Did you know?

    Jets QB Mark Sanchez has yet to throw an interception this season. ... New York's LaDainian Tomlinson has 20 touchdowns in 18 career games against Denver. ... Broncos QB Kyle Orton has thrown for over 300 yards in four consecutive games. ... Denver has won four of its past five against New York at Invesco Field.
  • The storyline:

    Amazingly, all four teams in the AFC South are tied at 3-2. This is the best division in football, but can the Jaguars really keep pace?
  • Why you should watch:

    The Titans' defensive line is flat out dominating people and Chris Johnson is back on track. Only two teams have given up more points than the Jaguars.
  • Did you know?

    The Titans are 10-5 against AFC South opponents as a starter. ... Tennessee's Kenny Britt has a TD catch in three consecutive games. ... Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis has six interceptions against the Titans -- his most vs. any opponent. ... Jacksonville is 6-2 at home on Monday Night Football.
  • The storyline:

    Can the Packers -- seen as Super Bowl favorites by many (me included) -- find 45 healthy bodies to field a full roster? They have no time to feel sorry for their significant injury woes now.
  • Why you should watch:

    The Dolphins might have to continue the trend of opening up their offense and using less Wildcat; Green Bay could have to show more dedication to the ground game.
  • Did you know?

    Since 2008, Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall has the third-most catches in the NFL (232). ... Miami has won three straight against NFC opponents. ... Packers WR Greg Jennings averages 32.7 yards per touchdown reception (he has 31 in his career). ... Green Bay's Charles Woodson is the only player in NFL history with an interception returned for a touchdown in five consecutive seasons.
  • The storyline:

    The Battle for Bay Area supremacy is the backdrop for two teams that badly need to sustain something positive.
  • Why you should watch:

    Mike Singletary's coaching deathwatch continues at 0-5. If Tom Cable gets a win, the Raiders would be 3-3 and very much in the AFC West hunt. Will one of these 2005 first-round quarterbacks (Alex Smith and Jason Campbell) stake a claim to their jobs?
  • Did you know?

    Oakland TE Zach Miller has a TD catch in three consecutive games. ... The Raiders are 4-2 all-time at San Francisco. ... San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree had a career-high 105 receiving yards last week. ... When Frank Gore has at least 172 yards from scrimmage, the 49ers are 8-0.
  • The storyline:

    I feel sorry for Lions backup quarterback Shaun Hill. In what will likely be his last start before Matthew Stafford comes back, he gets to face a Giants defense that has racked up 13 sacks in two weeks.
  • Why you should watch:

    Nobody backs New York coach Tom Coughlin into a corner. The G-men take care of business in this one and they'll remain well positioned heading toward the halfway pole. There is a good chance they will flirt with six-plus sacks again, too.
  • Did you know?

    Detroit's Brandon Pettigrew leads all NFC tight ends with 26 receptions. ... Lions DT Ndamukong Suh leads all NFL rookies with three sacks. ... New York's Ahmad Bradshaw has a rushing touchdown in three consecutive home games. ... Giants WR Steve Smith has 135 receptions since 2009 -- the most in the NFC.
  • The storyline:

    The Chargers won 11 straight games to conclude 2009 and the Rams won one game all of 2009. Now both sit at 2-3 and are very much alive in their weak divisions.
  • Why you should watch:

    One week, the Chargers allow two kickoff return TDs on special teams, then two weeks they give up a safety and TD on blocked punts. How can they top that this week?
  • Did you know?

    Chargers QB Philip Rivers has thrown a TD in 18 consecutive games. ... Of San Diego WR Malcom Floyd's 22 receptions, 21 have gone for first downs. ... Steven Jackson averages 121.5 yards from scrimmage per game since 2006 -- the most over that span. ... St. Louis' James Hall has forced three fumbles in his last four games.
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