It's Week 6 and there are no undefeated teams left. There were five teams at 5-0 last year and the picture was a lot clearer as to which ones were playoff bound. At this point, everything is up for grabs and special teams, injuries, bad calls and coaches' decisions are more magnified than ever. There is no margin for error and a team can go from the penthouse to the outhouse in a weekend.
Here are the 10 things I have my eye on this week:
1. A big coaching decision
Brett Favre will keep his streak of consecutive starts alive this Sunday against Dallas, but what's going to happen if his injuries lead him to inaccurate throws or, even worse, interceptions?
2. Another Reid flip-flop?
What happens in Philadelphia, should Kevin Kolb throw for 300 yards, several touchdowns and lead his team to a second straight victory? Does Andy Reid apply the same logic he used when he changed his mind about giving Kolb his job back when Michael Vick led the team to a few wins in Kolb's absence? Reid said its Vick's job when he's healthy, but he said the same thing about Kolb earlier this year. I will be watching this game with great interest. As for Vick campaigning to play, it makes more sense to start Kolb, who has taken the practice reps, and insert Vick if Kolb struggles.
3. Belichick disciples stop the run
Bill Belichick and his two former defensive coordinators, Romeo Crennel (now the Chiefs' defensive coordinator) and Eric Mangini (now the Browns' coach) are incredible at teaching run defense. Between the three, they have given up just three rushing touchdowns in 348 carries. That is one touchdown every 116 runs.
This week, Belichick faces the Ravens' Ray Rice, Crennel sees the Texans' Arian Foster and Eric Mangini faces the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall. Those are three of the best backs in the league, and they have combined for 10 touchdowns already. I'll be watching to see if they keep up their stout defense against such talented rushers.
Also, in case you thought Mangini was the weak link among the three, his Browns have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
4. Backups in bad spots
5. What happened to winning streaks?
There are 10 teams playing this week, led by Tennessee and San Diego, that haven't put back-to-back wins together yet.
6. Nothing special about San Diego
The Chargers would probably be 5-0 if they could play special teams. Giving left tackle Marcus McNeill a big-money deal this week is good for the team and the reported return of wide receiver Vincent Jackson also sounds promising, but if the special teams guys don't clean up their act, it won't mean a thing. Firing the special teams coach will not solve the problem, but using more starters just might.
I bet the coaches miss former special teams ace Kassim Osgood, who signed with Jacksonville in the offseason, right about now.
7. Life after Moss
Every team that plays New England will be watching.
8. Time for Cassel to step up
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9. Think long-term success
Even with the pressure to win so great every week, and every team having a chance in this year of parity, I'm not so sure that's a good enough reason to put guys out on the field that might need another week of rest.
I will be very interested to see if Vick, Rodgers, Mathias Kiwanuka and Peyton Hillis step on the field. There is still a lot of football left to play, and getting them healthy for the rest of the season is most important.
10. Can Hasselbeck or Smith hang on?
Starting quarterbacks used to have job security in this league. Not anymore. Two starters that need a big game this Sunday to keep their jobs appear to be Matt Hasselbeck and Alex Smith. Hasselbeck, who has thrown 16 interceptions over his last eight games, really needs to take care of the ball. That won't be easy on the road with Julius Peppers and Chicago's defense playing so well.
Smith had a well-documented confrontation with coach Mike Singletary last Sunday night and responded with two quick touchdowns, but ended with an interception. Cross-town rival Oakland is his next opponent and the pressure is on once again. I hope, for the Niners' sake, he responds and gets San Francisco its first win.