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Packers-Texans, Giants-49ers, Cowboys-Ravens headline Week 6

If you glanced at the schedule before the season, Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans was an obvious game to circle. A presumptive Super Bowl favorite with a balanced attack vs. a team with plenty of potential trying to find its way.

Bet you never would've thought Houston would be the complete team and Green Bay would be collecting itself, trying to figure out how to retain its juggernaut status.

The well-rounded Texans might be reeling from the loss of linebacker Brian Cushing, but that's just one key cog in a defensive machine. Meanwhile, the Packers have taken some hits on the offensive side of the ball: Greg Jennings is dealing with a nagging groin issue, while Cedric Benson will be on the shelf for quite some time with a Lisfranc injury. And never mind the fact that quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn't been himself.

By saying to 540 ESPN in Wisconsin, "I haven't played as well as the expectations are, obviously," Rodgers made the necessary concession. Beating the Texans at home, snapping their undefeated streak, and doing so in front of an entire nation? That'd be a bigger step. Can't wait for this one.

Here is your Week 6 primer, with games ranked in order of intrigue, from 1 to 14:

    • Green Bay at Houston

      Sun 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 1:

      There are only two undefeated teams left. Who guessed they would be the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons before the season? Not this guy. Houston has emerged as a force, with its latest salvo being a physical road beatdown of the New York Jets that featured little else besides Arian Foster and hard-nosed football. Yet some cracks have begun to emerge, with Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie shutting down star receiver Andre Johnson on Monday night. The Texans didn't have a passing-game response to this development. That might be the ticket for Green Bay to hold them down with defense, but what about the Packers' offense? Whether or not Jennings is back, Rodgers has been inaccurate, and the unit is ranked a staggering 21st overall. Can Rodgers and Co. pull it together to stun one of the NFL's best and get back on track?
    • What to watch:

      With Cushing done for the season, the Texans are forced to play without one of their best defenders and leaders. That stings. How well can Tim Dobbins fill those shoes? What other adjustments will the Texans make? Great defenses shrug off the loss of one mainstay and keep going -- like the Texans did last year when Mario Williams went down. It helps to have a Packers team coming in that won't pound the ball at them. In fact, how the Pack adapt without Benson is worth watching. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements said running is essential to this offense, and that carries lead to wins. But will handing Alex Green and/or James Starks the ball 20 times be enough? And if Jennings can't go, will the other receivers force Rodgers to hold the ball like last week? #GBvsHOU
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • New York at San Francisco

      Sun 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 2:

      Does this take us back or what? Back to the late 1980s, when New York Giants defensive lineman Jim Burt was nearly decapitating San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, with Leonard Marshall doing the same a few years later. Maybe, for the youngins, it takes you back to the Trey Junkin failed snap that ruined the Giants' 2002 season. These old foes have waged so many battles it seems like they are division rivals. Oh, did we forget to mention last year's NFC title game circus, featuring key special teams gaffes and numerous heart-stopping moments? It's always must-see TV when the 49ers and Giants get together.
    • What to watch:

      Ex-Giants Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham squaring off against their old team. Jacobs claimed this summer he hadn't thought about it. Clearly, he was lying. This game has been highlighted and circled since the G-Men decided both players weren't worth the money. But this game also has some football intrigue. Can the Giants' vaunted pass rush get to Alex Smith or are the sackless days of late here to stay? Can this San Francisco secondary cover Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks (maybe) and company? Are the Giants tough enough to stop an in-your-face running attack that gains yards by the gobs? #NYGvsSF
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Dallas at Baltimore

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 3:

      The NFL's most mercurial offense faces off against one of its most curious defenses. The Dallas Cowboys, coming off a bye, have a real opportunity to quiet the doubters by pulling off another impressive road win. Or, they can slink back to Dallas at 2-3, with everyone continuing to wonder when -- if ever -- they'll put it together. Did the time off help their offensive line learn to block? As for the Baltimore Ravens, they've quietly regained their status as one of the true teams to beat in the AFC, even with their last three wins coming by a combined 11 points. If they are for real, if they are ready to be a Super Bowl contender again, they should beat the 'Boys at home.
    • What to watch:

      Those old, nasty Ravens defenses never allowed anyone to rush for more than 100 yards. (Or, so it seemed.) Well, this season, it's happened three times in five games. As for the Cowboys, they are a run-first team at their core. But they're currently ranked 29th in run offense, averaging a meager 3.4 yards per rush. If the Cowboys can run it on the Ravens, we've got a ballgame. It's also going to be fun to watch the Ravens' fast-break, no-huddle look against a Cowboys secondary that can really cover. Can Dallas shut down Joe Flacco's high-energy attack? #DALvsBAL
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • New England at Seattle

      Sun 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 4:

      Even if the Seahawks weren't good -- which they are -- this would be an interesting one to check out. Tom Brady and the Patriots are running a communication-based, quick-strike offense. Sunday afternoon, everyone must be on the same page in the unfriendliest of confines, CenturyLink Field. That's tough enough, considering how those fans threw off the Packers earlier in the year. But Seattle's also got game, with a tough and aggressive front that can disrupt Brady and a physical, ball-hawking secondary. The Patriots already lost to another NFC West team (Arizona), and this game will be more challenging. If they come out of here with a win, look out for a Patriots run.
    • What to watch:

      A Seattle defense that sacked the Packers eight times in a half is always dangerous, and the swarming Seahawks will have opportunities against a Patriots offensive line that has taken some time to coalesce. If the Pats can't keep Brady clean, it'll be a long day. And for the Patriots' defense, this is a gut-check against rough-and-tumble runner Marshawn Lynch. A sound scheme can stop him, theoretically, but it's mostly want-to that really does it. This Patriots team has flashed some toughness, mostly when Brandon Spikes is making footballs explode. He and captain Jerod Mayo will have to be on their game. #NEvsSEA
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Denver at San Diego

      Mon 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 5:

      Maddening inconsistency and several tough losses have dotted this division, with the Denver Broncos' losses to the Patriots and Texans serving as prime examples. Same with the San Diego Chargers' defeats to the Saints and Falcons. That means two things: 1) We don't know how good this division is; and 2) it'll be fun to find out. So, this should be a shootout of epic proportions on Monday night. That's assuming the right Chargers team shows up. Same goes for Peyton Manning, who has been thriving in the second half.
    • What to watch:

      No two elite quarterbacks are scrutinized for their arm strength as much as Manning and Philip Rivers, and that might get mentioned a time or two on this telecast. The reality is, both are smart and savvy enough to deal with any limitations, whether it's unloading quickly or developing new timing. Manning and Rivers won't be the only stars facing questions. Chargers running back Ryan Mathews and Broncos running back Willis McGahee both might be walking around San Diego with a football tucked tightly away, harping on ball security. #DENvsSD
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Detroit at Philadelphia

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 6:

      It would be difficult to argue that the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions don't possess two of the most talented rosters when it comes to star power. Both have dynamic offensive potential, yet neither has quite hit its stride. The Eagles' ball-security issues have contributed largely to their two losses, while the Lions have battled defensive and special-teams woes. In reality, both teams should be in the playoff hunt, but a loss here will severely hurt that cause for one of them. Figure the Lions need it just a little more desperately.
    • What to watch:

      Coming off a bye, can Detroit emerge with a better purpose? The feeling internally was that they aren't as bad as their 1-3 record, but if they keep losing, none of those feelings will matter. Running back Mikel Leshoure likely used the bye to work his way back into sync, but if his offensive line can't block the Eagles' filthy front, it won't matter. As for Philly, the scariest trait they carry is that, at some point, they'll put it together. But will this be the week? #DETvsPHI
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Minnesota at Washington

      Sun 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 8:

      This comes with a caveat. If it's Kirk Cousins vs. Christian Ponder, it won't be a very exciting game. Robert Griffin III is battling a concussion, and his status is not yet certain. But if it's RG3 vs. Ponder, then we got something to talk about. The upstart Vikings are still trying to show us they are for real. That young defense that wasn't supposed to be this good will have its hands full, discipline-wise, trying to contain RG3. Good luck.
    • What to watch:

      Coming off an ACL tear, star runner Adrian Peterson is beginning to look like his old self -- a big-time development for a team that has pulled out all the stops to get to 4-1. But in an odd twist, it seems do-it-all Percy Harvin might be the player who receives the spotlight, and the most attention from the Redskins' defense. He can score from anywhere these days, morphing into the dynamic player he always thought he was. With a front line depleted by injuries, the Redskins might have to pick their poison about who to defend. Then we'll see Minnesota respond. #MINvsWAS
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • St. Louis at Miami

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, FOX Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 9:

      This isn't shaping up to be a pretty game. While the Rams' defense should be a nightmare for the Miami Dolphins up front, St. Louis' offense is still trying like crazy to find some semblance of production. A 10-7 rumble could be in the works. That's OK, because whoever wins will take a giant step forward in their rebuilding, especially if it's the Rams. A victory here would be their third straight, making them a player in the NFC West.
    • What to watch:

      Much to our surprise, quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn't had many rookie moments. With just six interceptions and completing 57.4 percent of his passes, he has appeared solid. That's enough to make me believe the Miami Dolphins are doing the right thing by playing him. It would be nice if he led them to wins, but that's not essential at this point. This likely isn't a playoff team anyway. All you want to see are positive developments, and he'll be challenged against a suffocating defensive backfield featuring Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. #STLvsMIA
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Kansas City at Tampa Bay

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 10:

      At least the Kansas City Chiefs get away from home, where their frothy fans won't have the chance to cheer an injury to their starting quarterback. The scariest part is Matt Cassel (head) is out, so Brady Quinn will get the start. You wanted it, Kansas City fans, you got it. By the time these 60 minutes are up, you might learn why Cassel was the starter for so many weeks. However, if Quinn can simply not turn the ball over, this team has a chance -- and quite possibly, a real quarterback controversy.
    • What to watch:

      The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a bye that followed three straight near-miss losses. The record is poor at 1-3, but there is plenty of time to show those losses weren't indicative of this franchise's progress under Greg Schiano. It's just their margin for error is thin. With an extra week to prepare, facing a quarterback who hasn't started in a long time, don't be shocked to see Tampa Bay load up on the run, forcing -- daring -- Quinn to try and beat them. Of course, plenty of teams do that, and it hasn't slowed down Jamaal Charles yet. #MIAvsCIN
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Cincinnati at Cleveland

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 13:

      Facing the NFL's only 0-5 team, this should be a prime chance for the Cincinnati Bengals to rebound from a strange loss to the Dolphins. They'll need to run the ball a little better and take care of the football. The Cleveland Browns can be difficult to block up front, so it won't be as easy as it seems. On the other side, don't think Cincinnati isn't annoyed about allowing Trent Richardson to gain more than 100 yards in Week 2. Mike Zimmer's defense will be motivated to make sure that doesn't happen again.
    • What to watch:

      Joe Haden makes his return from a four-game suspension just in time to cover star receiver A.J. Green one-on-one. That'll be worth the price of admission, as Haden is on his way to being one of the game's elite cover corners. This is another one that isn't shaping up to be pretty, but there are some good individual battles to check out. #CINvsCLE
    • Watch: Game Preview
    • Oakland at Atlanta

      Sun 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS Get Tickets
    • Why this game is No. 14:

      One of the NFL's two undefeated teams down at the bottom of this list? It's not personal. With the Oakland Raiders traveling across the country to face an offense that showed some uncharacteristic stumbles last week, expect the Atlanta Falcons to rebound in a big way. Oakland will get all the firepower Atlanta has to offer, and that figures to be too much. It's setting up to be a blowout.
    • What to watch:

      The Raiders are definitely struggling, but they do have some talent on the defensive line. If the Falcons struggle to block Richard Seymour and Co., it changes things. But with the way Atlanta's offense has fired downfield, the big plays could come in a hurry. It would take a monumental effort for Oakland to stop the Falcons from being 6-0. #OAKvsATL
    • Watch: Game Preview

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