Patriots among teams in primed to earn tough road wins

  • By Jason Feller NFL.com
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It takes a lot to win on the road in the NFL, but there are four teams that possess the ingredients necessary to pull off the difficult feat in Week 7. These four are in a unique position to get a difficult road win based on trends, past history and surrounding circumstances entering this weekend's action.

Game: New England at San Diego (4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: Qualcomm Stadium

Last time at site: Philip Rivers passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Chargers to a blowout 30-10 victory over Matt Cassel and the Patriots in Week 6 of the 2008 season.

Reason for road optimism: Tom Brady is once again having an MVP-type season, despite playing with a host of inexperienced receivers, running backs and tight ends. Brady has won three consecutive games against the Chargers, including two in the playoffs and one at San Diego. New England showed last week it is still capable of rolling offensivley without Randy Moss, and while San Diego's defense is ranked first in the NFL, those stats are skewed by dominant performances in their two wins. You can be sure they don't scare Brady.

San Diego has played infinitely better at home (2-0) than on the road. That would seem to bode well for this Sunday's game, until you factor in that the Chargers' two opponents have been Arizona and Jacksonville -- two teams notoriously poor on the road. The Patriots, on the other hand, have been one of the league's best road teams over the past five years. Finally, when you consider San Diego's woeful special teams matching up with New England's stellar kicking units, the Chargers could be ripe for a home loss.

Game: Pittsburgh at Miami (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Sun Life Stadium

Last time at site: In last year's season finale, the Dolphins came up short in a 30-24 loss to the Steelers.

Reason for road optimism: While Pittsburgh is known as one of the league's best home teams, it has quietly performed very well on the road since 2008. The Steelers are 11-7 in their last 18 road outings, including 2-0 this season. Then there is the Steelers' recent dominance over the Dolphins. They have beaten the Dolphins four consecutive times, including twice at Miami. With Ben Roethlisberger back (who has a career 99 passer rating vs. the Dolphins), the Steelers will enter this contest with plenty of confidence.

The Dolphins sport a solid 3-2 record this year, but unfortunately for them, both of those losses have come at home. They self-destructed in an embarrassing loss to the Patriots on a Monday night, and their rally against the Jets fell short. The Steelers are just as good as those two opponents, and unless Miami can figure out its struggles at Sun Life Stadium, it could be another tough day for the home crowd.

Game: Washington at Chicago (1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Soldier Field

Last time at site: In a defensive battle, the Redskins outlasted the Bears, 13-10, in Week 6 of the 2004 season.

Reason for road optimism: Washington has not been one of the league's premier teams over the past 15 years, but one thing it has been able to accomplish is beating Chicago. Despite the Redskins having made just three playoff appearances over that span, they have won six of eight against the Bears, including a pair of wins at Soldier Field. Donovan McNabb has also enjoyed great success in his hometown, winning four of five.

The Bears started the season strong in 2009 at 3-1, before falling apart and finishing a disappointing 7-9. Could a similar 2010 be in the offing? They were 4-1 entering a seemingly advantageous matchup against a Seahawks team that usually struggles mightily on the road last Sunday at Soldier Field. What ensued was a disheartining loss in which Jay Cutler took six sacks and the Bears were defeated. The Redskins are at a similar level to Seattle and could administer a similar beating, if the Bears don't figure out their pass protection.

Game: New York Giants at Dallas (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET)

Venue: Cowboys Stadium

Last time at site: Eli Manning passed for 330 yards and two touchdowns as the Giants won the first-ever regular-season game at the Cowboys' new stadium, 33-31.

Reason for road optimism: Since Manning took over at quarterback for the Giants in 2004, they have performed much better against the Cowboys, especially on the road. While New York trails the overall series 55-39 (including the playoffs), it owns a winning record during the Manning era. He has led the Giants to a 7-5 mark against the rival Cowboys, and has even won three times in Dallas. The Giants will have no fear against the reeling 'Boys.

Everything has gone wrong for Dallas this year. Despite dominating games statistically, they have been undone by untimely penalties, costly mistakes and an overall lack of discipline. Those issues are especially damaging against a Giants team that excels at capitalizing on mistakes and does not beat itself very often. A slow start could also turn the home crowd against the Cowboys, making it even tougher on the players to concentrate.

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