The buzz of Week 6 was not the package of tight games, but rather what transpired after them. There was Shake-gate in Detroit, Oakland learning that Jason Campbell is for all intents and purposes gone for the year and what that led the Raiders to do, and the Rams finally getting their young quarterback a weapon.
Meanwhile, this week's power rankings see incremental movement from 1-20, with a humongous exception: Those feisty Redskins.
Down 11 spots.
You read that right. That's the largest movement we've had, and the case can be made the drop could have been more precipitous. For starters, the quarterback situation is completely up in the air, as were most of Rex Grossman's passes Sunday. Mike Shanahan can't decide on a starter at tailback or an offensive identity. Lastly, so many of the clubs behind the Redskins won this weekend.
It was a massive game of leapfrog. The only true steadiness is among the bottom 11 teams. Otherwise, let the dissension commence ... again.
Story of Green Bay's season: Backed up at their own seven yard-line in a 10-point game ... if the Rams get a stop, they'll have nice field position. Instead, Jordy Nelson caught a sideline pass and made two Rams defenders -- including Al Harris of all people -- look as athletic as Tommy Maddox. Ninety-three yards later, Nelson had a touchdown. I have a VHS tape of the Monday night game against the Bears where Robert Brooks caught a 99-yard touchdown pass from Brett Favre. It's the same game where a Bears fan with a raging mullet jumps out of the stands (and into the tunnel) to catch an extra point. Pure greatness.
Fox Sports announcer Thom Brennaman said "and the beat goes on for Tom Brady" after a touchdown pass during the broadcast of the Cowboys- Patriots game. Really? The offense hadn't been thwarted like it was by Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan all season. The Patriots resorted to going no-huddle for much of the game just to get things going. But give them, and specifically Brady, a heckuva lot of credit, for turning it on in the fourth quarter and winning a tough game that certainly wasn't the shootout we all expected it to be.
If you're a follower of the Ravens, you have to be pleased with a couple of things you saw Sunday: 1. Joe Flacco taking vertical shots downfield, even without Lee Evans; and 2. Closing the door in the fourth quarter, something the Steelers had trouble doing vs. the Jaguars and the Cowboys haven't been able to do two games in a row.
Niners fans, that was a huge win, any way you slice it. The strength, again, was the defense and the running game. The latter provided 203 yards of real estate, with Frank Gore leading the way. Don't look now, but Gore, who had such a rough start to the season, has 393 yards rushing in the past three games. Wow.
That wasn't a dead fish Jim Harbaugh handed Jim Schwartz on Sunday. The Tom Cruise/alpha male slap on the back didn't go too well with the firm handshake. Still, the loss to the 49ers was good for Detroit. This team, if it's to have any hope in the playoffs, has to learn to make due offensively when teams scheme to take Calvin Johnson out of the game. I say that, and Megatron still had seven catches for 113 yards. What a quiet 100-yard game. Brandon Pettigrew could help matters by fighting for the ball occasionally.
Bye week in SoCal. The Chargers have scored 120 points and allowed 109. This club hasn't looked commanding at any point this season, but 4-1 is 4-1. Many Chargers fans probably kept a close eye on Cleveland-Oakland, knowing that the Raiders are the only thing standing in the way of another postseason berth. In case you're wondering, those two clubs face off Nov. 10 on NFL Network. Until then, the Bolts play at the Jets, at the resurgent Chiefs, and host the Packers. The AFC West might come down to Week 17, when the Chargers travel to -- you guessed it -- Oakland.
In many ways pro football is different in 2010 than it was 20 years ago, and in many ways it's the same. Interceptions can deep-six any decent team in any era, and the biggest numbers from Sunday's Bills- Giants matchup were the two interceptions for Ryan Fitzpatrick and none for Eli Manning. One led to the winning field goal in a game that was pretty evenly played.
Kyle Boller, it's your baby for now. Expect newly acquired Carson Palmer to start after the Raiders' Week 8 bye. The bounty Oakland paid was a lot of risk for an elusive reward. Unless Palmer gets this team to at least the AFC title game in the next couple of seasons, it's tough to justify the price tag. Keep in mind, that while the former Heisman Trophy winner was part of the solution in Cincinnati, his play was also part of the problem.
Closer shave than you expected Steelers fans? The run defense continues to be up and down. Jacksonville put up 130 yards, despite not having any threats outside to force Pittsburgh into playing coverage. Bruce Arians' offense couldn't get it going in the second half, either. There's no question this team is not as consistent as it was last season and will struggle to catch Baltimore in the division race.
Big Blue made the NFC East more interesting, and monitoring the NFL more maddening, with the win over the red-hot Bills. This just in: When Eli Manning doesn't give the ball to the other team, he's a pretty good quarterback. The Giants have a bye, then host the Dolphins before the schedule gets very tough. Their 2011 season will be made or lost on how they fare facing the Patriots, 49ers, Eagles, Saints, Packers, and Cowboys in successive weeks.
Film study is for the birds. Raheem Morris threw out "The Massacre at the 'Stick, Part I," in hopes his players would have some confidence after the 48-3 loss in San Francisco. Boy, did it work. Not only that, but Morris had his goons Tonya Harding Saints coach Sean Payton. Just kidding. Actually, forcing four New Orleans turnovers wrote this script. Big win.
The opportunities were there for the Texans in Baltimore. In a game where they played without Andre Johnson, without Mario Williams, and Arian Foster bottled up, the team hung tough. This game was a lot closer than the 29-14 score would indicate. Houston and Tennessee will be fighting for the division title in Week 17 when they hook up in Texas on New Year's Day.
Bye week in Nashville. I won't say anything about Elvis like everybody else does, as he lived in Memphis. Even though I just did. The biggest concern for a Kenny Britt-less team right now is how to get Chris Johnson back to 2009, or even 2008, form. CJ2K is CJ250, as in 250 rushing yards in five games. The 3.0 per carry average doesn't make it any better.
Are they back? It's difficult to tell after they handled the inept Dolphins. On another note, there's no way that was pass interference on the Darrelle Revis 100-yard interception return, Jon Gruden. Yes there was contact, but Brandon Marshall plowed into Revis, who has a right to his space. With all the rules geared to offensive players, it was nice to see a no-call on one of the key plays in the game.
Where would George Halas' boys be without Matt Forte? The question has been so prevalent that I posed it on Baltimore radio this week in regards to the value of Ray Rice. There are few guys who offer the versatility that Forte does. Rice is one. Perhaps Darren McFadden as well. But it's hard to think of many players who are as valuable to their team as No. 22.
If you picked up the Bengals defense on the fantasy waiver wire (like I did), you were pretty pleased this weekend. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has his guys playing like a group. Throw in the best performance of Red Dalton's six-game career, and -- amazingly -- the Bengals are 4-2. Carson who?
If you're going to blame the loss in New England on Tony Romo, and call the guy a choker, then you probably should stop reading. Romo played just as well as Brady, who threw two picks in the win. In fact, both quarterbacks went 27 of 41. Jason Garrett went with the play-to-not-lose card by going conservative offensively with five minutes left, and paid for it. Dallas hasn't lost a game by more than four points since November of last year.
Mike Shanahan hates your fantasy team. In other news, indecision about who the go-to guy on offense was overshadowed by Rex Grossman's worst performance of the season: 9 of 22 for 143 yards and four picks. The ground game helped immensely. Except not at all.
This team is worrying me. Two words: Michael Turner. Keep giving him the ball. Atlanta's lead back produced 139 on 27 important carries. This team's blueprint to win over the past few years has never been Matt Ryan attempting 40 passes. Sunday he went 14 of 22, and Atlanta won. On the other side of the ball, while picking off Cam Newton was great, the Falcons were outgained and couldn't stop Carolina on third down. For all the inconsistency, coach Mike Smith woke up Monday morning and knew he was only a game back of the Saints. Before getting upset at this spot in the rankings, realize that Atlanta is 20th in offense and 22nd in defense.
No one, other than maybe Romo, has been ripped as much as Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. The biggest issue, his unit's inability to stop the run, finally rectified itself Sunday in D.C. Offensively, what's gotten into Andy Reid these days -- the Eagles actually rushed the ball over 50 percent of the time.
All those Browns fans who were nervous about Peyton Hillis' lack of production weren't exactly calmed by his six-carry, 14-yard performance. The hamstring injury just muddies the waters in the backfield more, as Montario Hardesty was already in line to cannibalize Hillis' workload. None of that means a hill of beans if they can't even average three yards a crack like in Oakland. At least Colt McCoy managed four yards on his scrambles ... but he also threw the ball 45 times, after having 60 attempts vs. the Titans. That's not exactly the Browns' recipe for success. That's not a recipe for mediocrity, either.
No touchdown passes and three interceptions doesn't lend itself to cockiness. One pick meant nothing, but the other two cost Carolina a nice Week 6 upset. Cam Newton might be a viable fantasy option, but the reality is, sometimes an incomplete pass is a good football play. As responsible as the rookie is for the Panthers being in games, he bears some -- some, not the majority -- of the responsibility for the loss in Atlanta. Thus, the growing pains of playing a very talented first-year quarterback.
Is the Passion of the 'Hurst going to get a shot in Week 7? It's not looking that way. Tarvaris Jackson figures to remain the starter, which means there will be no Birkenstock giveaway day at Qwest Field later this month.
Something tells me Todd Haley and Matt Cassel didn't hit Mexico together on their bye week. Kansas City plays at Oakland, site of one of the most exciting games of 2010. Suddenly, the contest is imminently more winnable with -- speculation alert! -- Boller likely starting under center until Palmer is ready to go.
With Tebowmania, and the Brandon Lloyd trade dominating local news, much of Denver's success depends on what Willis McGahee and Eric Decker -- two afterthoughts coming into the season -- can bring to the table. The Broncos travel to Miami, a place where pass defense is mostly played in meeting rooms only. Tim Tebow should have an opportunity to make plays without always using his legs or miraculous catches by Lloyd.
Another bye week team, and another club struggling offensively. Ironically, that was supposed to be the strength of the 2011 Cardinals, but averaging only 19.2 points per game puts Arizona 24th in scoring. With a defense that allows lots of big plays, putting up less than 20 points per game won't get the Cardinals out of third place in the NFC West.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has to find a way to get more from the passing game and hasten Blaine Gabbert's development. The rookie showed some flashes again, but is far behind Newton thus far in their young careers ... at least when it comes to making things develop on the field. Because of Newton, and the success of rookie quarterbacks in recent seasons ( Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford), it's hard to remember Gabbert just turned 22. When I was 22, I was still playing "Twisted Metal Black" on a PlayStation 1 and driving a teal Ford Probe with a maroon stripe. So Gabbert's doing pretty well.
It's time to roll with the kid. Donovan McNabb was statistically efficient again (19 of 24), but ultimately that efficiency is just good enough to get you beat. This club couldn't dream of catching Green Bay. The Vikes don't have much shot at getting to second or third place, either. Play Christian Ponder, and let the chips fall where they may.
Sitting next to NFL.com producer Matt Lathrop on Sunday at NFL West, the complete resignation of a frustrated Colts fan could be heard far and wide. Lathrop: "Our defense can give 'em up. Keep it up boys!" And then there was more positive Colts talk, like "we need to just blow the whole thing up." Curtis Painter might or might not have played a Skynyrd tribute band show Saturday, then definitely had his struggles Sunday. Still, Indy needs a larger catalogue of work before blowing the thing up, Painter included.
It's starting to look like 2007 all over again. The Dolphins just can't get out of their own way. The turnovers are bad enough. But going two for 13 on third down? Come on. They are 32nd in third-down offense, and the record reflects that.
If you want the story of the Rams' season, read the Packers' blurb in the one-hole. In other news, it was nice to see rookie Greg Salas be productive with eight catches for 77 yards. Fellow wideout Mike Sims-Walker was inactive with a rare injury called "general sucking." He was then cut with Brandon Lloyd in the mix. Considering the other options, this can't be considered anything but a great addition for Sam Bradford and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.