Inside Slant  

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'Division Desperation' week a pivotal time for some teams

I shall dub this Week 6, "Divisional Desperation," because, well, everything needs a cutesy name to be branded these days, right? Isn't that how it works in sports?

Anywho, it's time for a few teams with Super Bowl aspirations -- the Bears and Eagles -- to put up or shut up. Chicago faces division-rival Minnesota knowing that a loss drops the Bears to 2-4 in a division with two unbeaten teams already. Lose and it's lights out.


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The Eagles face the Redskins; Philly loses and it falls to 1-5, while the 'Skins would be 4-1. That's likely too much ground to start making up, and now you're begging and hoping other teams collapse just to be a factor in your own division. And don't forget about the Falcons, who also had designs on Indy in February, but face a dangerous Panthers team Sunday. The Falcons are hoping not to fall to 2-4 and perhaps getting too far off the pace in a more competitive NFC this season.

So that's how I see it. Remember, the Cardinals, Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks and Titans are on byes this week. Also, games here are rated as either a footlong, a six-inch, a pita or a finger sandwich.

    • Philadelphia at Washington

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Philly's trainwreck start rolls on, in what is now a vital divisional game against first-place Washington. The Redskins are coming off a bye and need to see more of "good" Rex Grossman, because "bad" Rex has been creeping up far too often.
    • Inside slant:

      A year ago on a Monday night, the Eagles ran the Redskins outta FedEx Field, with Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson each unstoppable, on the day the 'Skins gave an ill-fated contract extension to then-QB Donovan McNabb. The fortunes of these two teams couldn't look much different exactly 11 months later.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • San Francisco at Detroit

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Could this be a divisional round playoff preview? What were the odds on that? These are two teams that have made huge strides this season and seem primed to be part of the playoff equation. There is just one combined loss between these teams, and that one loss could have easily been a San Francisco win.
    • Inside slant:

      Alex Smith has been a turnover magnet at times in the past, and facing the Detroit pass rush on the road in that dome could bring some old bugaboos back. He's been extremely efficient with the ball in 2011. Do the 49ers have anyone who can match up with Megatron?
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Carolina at Atlanta

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      With the Cam Newton-to-Steve Smith connection, the Panthers don't ever seem to be really out of a game. They just have to find ways, as a young rebuilding team, to seize the moment in the fourth quarter. Matt Ryan is renowned as "Matty Ice," but the late-game heroics have been missing in 2011.
    • Inside slant:

      For all of the explosive plays the Falcons were coveting with the drafting of Julio Jones, Ryan is tied for 22nd in NFL with 13 passes of 20 yards or more. Newton has 29, trailing only Tom Brady (30). Newton has a rating of 84.3. Ryan has a rating of 79.9.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Minnesota at Chicago

      Sun 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Dare I call it a must-win for the Bears? An 0-3 divisional start would be tough to overcome, especially with Detroit and Green Bay soaring. Adrian Peterson comes in off his first signature game of the season, with those three early TDs. Can Donovan McNabb hold off calls for rookie Christian Ponder to take over soon?
    • Inside slant:

      The Vikings can still get after the passer, and the Bears' offensive line remains a concern. Jared Allen loves the big stage and Sunday night could be right up his alley. It seems like Devin Hester takes one to the house whenever he is in primetime as well (five return touchdowns in six Monday night games).
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Cleveland at Oakland

      Sun 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      These are two more teams that have been involved in their fair share of crazy finishes, but are seemingly headed in opposite directions. The Raiders hope to have top receiver Louis Murphy back and the Browns, if nothing else, get to come in off the bye week. All of the drama swirling around Peyton Hillis will put the Cleveland running back under the microscope here.
    • Inside slant:

      The Raiders play their first home game without the ultimate Raider, Al Davis, with them, a week after he passed away. The atmosphere there will be amped, to say nothing of the chance for Oakland to go 4-2 and keep piling up AFC wins.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Miami at New York

      Mon 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      These two teams come in on streaks of seven collective consecutive losses, so something has to give, right? Miami, off a bye, turns to Matt Moore at quarterback, while the Jets look to restore some bite in that defense and might have found the perfect opponent to feast on.
    • Inside slant:

      Ex-Jet and current Dolphin, again, Jason Taylor said now-injured QB Chad Henne is better than Mark Sanchez. Rex Ryan loves bulletin board material and Sanchez gets some for a big game. New York's receivers, now minus Derrick Mason, are not getting involved or making a mark. Miami's secondary has been as bad as any in football, though.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Indianapolis at Cincinnati

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      So the Colts have thrown their hats firmly in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, eh? With that total collapse against the Chiefs last week, that wasn't much in doubt. The Bengals have been playing very physical football this season, and Colts quarterback Curtis Painter has to bring the show out of the dome and on the road.
    • Inside slant:

      Andy Dalton is having a very strong rookie campaign and is not turning the ball over. Cedric Benson gets to keep playing as long as his suspension appeal is still under review.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.

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