Inside Slant  

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Falcons-Lions a bright light as parity takes week off

I hate to say it, but I think parity might take a back seat here in Week 7. I'm smelling something in the wind, and it's blowouts (and trust me, that's never a good smell). I see plenty of potential mismatches this week and many games featuring teams that have yet to be adequately competitive.


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This could be an ugly week.

Maybe that has something to do with the rise of the neophyte quarterback as well. More and more of the youngsters are being thrown out there to see how they can handle the real deal. Or, in other cases, the quarterback might not be particularly young -- e.g. John Beck -- but certainly lacking in NFL starting experience.

As far as raw starting quarterbacks go, we've got Cam Netwon, Andy Dalton (both of whom have been very good), along with Christian Ponder, Tim Tebow, Curtis Painter, Matt Moore, Blaine Gabbert, Charlie Whitehurst (maybe) and Beck in line for starts. It could be a long week for a lot of teams on this 13-game docket.

For as good as the top end of quarterbacking is in the league, I fear what this week could bring. We're also without some of our best storylines of the season this week as well, with the Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Giants, Eagles and 49ers on the bye.

Don't forget, games here are rated as either a footlong, a six-inch, a pita or a finger sandwich.

    • Atlanta at Detroit

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

      Last year's NFC top seed, still looking vulnerable, faces a team in handshake's distance of the first overall seed in the NFC this season. The 49ers finally held Calvin Johnson in check, but can Atlanta's beleaguered secondary do the same? Let's hope the backslapping is kept to a minimum.
    • Inside slant:

      The Falcons have rushed the ball 31 times per game the past three weeks after averaging 19 carries a game the first three weeks. Detroit allows 5.21 yards per carry, second worst in the NFL. A heavy dose of Michael Turner, and keeping Matt Ryan out of that Lion's Den of a pass rush is in order.
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Houston at Tennessee

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

      The Life-Without-Manning, We-Can-Win-The-Division Bowl. One of these two teams is winning the AFC South, period. And these head-to-head games will be crucial.
    • Inside slant:

      Two powerful offensive lines will tell this tale. The Texans have allowed Matt Schaub to get too beat up on the road this year, though, and for the fourth straight week Houston faces one of the more physical teams in the NFL (Pittsburgh, Oakland, Baltimore and Tennessee).
    • Rating:

      Footlong
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • San Diego at New York

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

      Will the real Chargers and Jets please stand up? Have they already? Is this who you guys are? Is this as good as it gets? Maybe someone makes a statement here, because these two teams have had Super Bowl aspirations and have been mediocre at best for the most part.
    • Inside slant:

      Who would have thought that Mark Sanchez would be the guy with a 9-5 TD/INT ratio, while Philip Rivers is the guy with a 6-7 ratio? Who would have thought San Diego would be averaging almost .7 more yards per carry than the Jets? (the Jets are third-worst in NFL, at 3.32 per carry). And Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates are still kind of dinged up.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Chicago at Tampa Bay

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

      The annual trek to London -- soon to be more than just a one-off -- has not provided much aesthetic appeal in recent years, but this one has potential. The Bucs missed out on the playoffs due to tiebreakers a year ago and know how important an NFC game like this could be.
    • Inside slant:

      Do the Bears have the speed on D to keep up with some of the things the Bucs can pull off? Does Brian Urlacher spy Josh Freeman? Julius Peppers has a long history of great clashes with Bucs left tackle Donald Penn from his time in Carolina. Oh, and will Matt Forte ask to be paid in British pounds when he meets the media over there? The conversion rate would work in his favor.
    • Rating:

      Six-inch
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Washington at Carolina

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

      The John Beck era is finally here. Rejoice! He can't throw four picks, you'd figure. The Panthers are close every week, but have found ways to lose. The Redskins have looked gradually worse since Week 2. Something might have to give.
    • Inside slant:

      Steve Smith is tearing up secondaries, but has a massive size imbalance to Redskins safety LaRon Landry, a fearsome hitter. We could see him trying to make his presence felt early. The Redskins lost two-fifths of their offensive line last week, and the run game was already hit or miss.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • St. Louis at Dallas

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Dallas is making a habit out of winning, or losing, spectacularly. Say what you want about them, but the Cowboys have not been boring thus far. The Rams hope new receiver Brandon Lloyd will be the No. 1 passing option, but Sam Bradford might not play. Yikes.
    • Inside slant:

      A.J. Feeley last started an NFL game on Dec. 2, 2007. The last time he started and won a game was Dec. 26, 2004. The Rams might have a hard time ending that losing streak soon.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Kansas City at Oakland

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

      If nothing else, it's a great rivalry dating back to the AFL ... though the teams appear headed in opposite directions. Carson Palmer could be up to speed in time to play, and the Raiders have not lost a division game since Nov. 15, 2009, when Kansas City beat them 16-10.
    • Inside slant:

      If Palmer makes his debut, it could be a cozy opponent to do so against. The Chiefs, despite the presence of Tamba Hali, have just five sacks this season, second-worst in the NFL. And opponents have a 116.32 passer rating vs. the Kansas City blitz this season, also second-worst in the NFL.
    • Rating:

      Pita
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Seattle at Cleveland

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

      Don't look now, but one of these teams is going to be .500 come Sunday night. Seattle has been much improved the past few weeks and is coming off a bye. The Browns have been scrappy late in games if nothing else.
    • Inside slant:

      Mike Holmgren built the Seahawks back to prominence and faces his old team as president of the Browns now. He's going to find that almost none of his players remain from two years ago, with Seattle's roster overhauled.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Pittsburgh at Arizona

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

      The Steelers haven't really blown anyone out this season and the Cardinals have looked pretty awful most of the time. Maybe it gets lopsided here. The Cards better do something soon though, because the 49ers are threatening to run away with this division.
    • Inside slant:

      Cards coaches Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm were fixtures in Pittsburgh for years, then met their former team in the Super Bowl not that long ago. And then longtime Steelers coach Ray Horton became Cards defensive coordinator. Um, yeah, these teams know one another a little bit despite the geographical distance.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Green Bay at Minnesota

      Sun 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why to watch:

      Christian Ponder makes his NFL starting debut against the defending Super Bowl champions behind a depleted offensive line and on a team with one win. Welcome to the show, rook.
    • Inside slant:

      Only four teams in the NFL have more three-and-out drives than the Vikings this season, and if they can't sustain drives and move things on the ground, Green Bay might hang 50 points on them. The Vikings are hoping Ponder can keep the chains moving; the Packers can swallow up young QBs.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Baltimore at Jacksonville

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

      It's Monday night, nothing else is on television and it can't be as bad as the last few prime-time games, right? Actually, it could. Just remember, on any given Monday ...
    • Inside slant:

      The Ravens lead the NFL in average margin of victory (22.5). Only one team, Chicago, has more negative plays on offense than the Jags (43), and the Ravens have 15 sacks in five games and lots of QB pressures. This could be a long night for yet another young quarterback, Blaine Gabbert.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Denver at Miami

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

      Brandon Marshall, the self-proclaimed monster who vowed to get tossed from Monday night's game, meets the team he spent the bulk of his drama-filled career with. Perhaps this meeting with Champ Bailey will be as eventful as the Marshall-Darrelle Revis matchup a week ago. The possibility of fireworks exists.
    • Inside slant:

      This really is the Andrew Luck Bowl. John Elway is back at Stanford watching the kid all the time. Dolphins owner Steven Ross tried to hire Luck's college coach in the offseason. Neither team has a sure-fire quarterback of the future. Oh, and Tim Tebow is starting.
    • Rating:

      Finger sandwich
    • Watch: Game Preview

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @jasonlacanfora.

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