By Doug Halberstadt
At the beginning of this year’s NFL season, had someone told you the Kansas City Chiefs would be 6-0 and the New York Giants would be 0-6 after six weeks into the season, you would have thought they were completely crazy. Perhaps, crazy like a fox, because that is precisely what’s happened.
The Chiefs’ new head coach, Andy Reid, has guided his team to a perfect record so far this year and will be looking to maintain that perfection this week when they host the failing Houston Texans. The Houston quarterbacks have a problem with throwing interceptions that get returned for touchdowns. That’s a fault that the Chiefs’ defense will surely be looking to exploit. Last week, the K.C. defense recorded 10-1/2 sacks against Oakland. Look for that same kind of pressure this week against whomever the Texans start at quarterback. The Chiefs will improve to 7-0, and I look for the Texans to drop their fifth straight.
The Giants have lost their first six and will welcome the Minnesota Vikings to the Big Apple for the Monday night game (Oct. 21). I think this is where the winless streak will come to an end. Look for Eli Manning and Victor Cruz to take advantage of holes in the Vikings’ secondary and snap their losing streak.
The other team in the league looking for its first win of the year is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They’re off to a 0-5 start. This week, they visit the Falcons in Atlanta. Even though the 1-4 Falcons have fallen short of expectations, they’re coming off a bye week and shouldn’t have any problems making sure the Buccaneers don’t get their first win of the year against them.
The Thursday night (Oct. 17) game features the Seattle Seahawks traveling to the desert to take on their division foe, the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are 2-0 at home this season, but haven’t won a game against a divisional opponent yet. I think Seattle will hand the Cardinals their first home loss of the year.
In the NFC North, the Detroit Lions will host the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams have identical 4-2 records and are looking to stay on top of their respective divisions. I think the difference-maker in this game will be the experience of Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford. He threw four touchdowns in last week’s game against the other team from Ohio, and I expect him to have the hot hand again this week.
Green Bay will be back in Lambeau Field when they face that other Ohio team, the Cleveland Browns. The Packers suffered some key injuries to their wide-receiving corps during last week’s game and still managed to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions. Despite them missing some key players, I’m still picking Green Bay to beat the Browns.
Chicago will be focused on keeping pace with the Lions. To do so, they’ll have to beat the Washington Redskins on their home turf. That shouldn’t be a problem, Washington hasn’t won a home game this season. Chicago will improve to 5-2.
Miami has a couple of things in their favor this week. First, they are coming off a bye and they’re at home against the 2-4 Buffalo Bills. When I add those two things up, I get a win for the Dolphins.
After squeaking out a win in the last seconds against the New Orleans Saints last week, the Patriots should have a much easier time this week when they face the Jets in New York. Tom Brady is still one of the best players in the league, and after the big win last week, he’s got his mojo back and will shred the Jets.
In the NFC East, the Cowboys visit the Eagles in Philadelphia. Despite having the home-field advantage, I think the Cowboys have the better players at all of the skill positions and will come away with a double-digit win for the second week in a row.
Each week, there’s always a “Who Cares?” game. For me this week, it’s the St. Louis Rams at the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton showed the Vikings he can still play at a very high level in last week’s match-up. I’m not sure he’s consistent enough to put together two good weeks in a row, but I’ll take the Panthers anyway.
Despite playing the Broncos tougher than many fans expected last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars still lost their sixth game of the year. This week, they face the San Diego Chargers in Jacksonville. I think we saw the best the Jaguars had to offer last week. I don’t see them having that intensity against the Chargers, and they will fall to 0-7.
Tight end Vernon Davis had a huge first half last week to help the San Francisco 49ers win their third straight. This week, San Francisco is on the road to take on the Titans in Tennessee. I look for the 49ers to make it four in a row, even if they don’t get the same type of production out of Davis.
Baltimore is at Pittsburgh in an AFC North battle. The Steelers picked up their first win of the season over the Jets last week. I’m saying they have very little hope of making it two in a row. If not for some questionable coaching, the Ravens could have beaten the Packers. I don’t see John Harbaugh making those types of mistakes again. The Ravens will be well prepared and ready for all the Steelers throw their way. I’m looking for a big rebound game from Baltimore.
In the style of saving the best for last, Peyton Manning returns to Indianapolis for the first time since being let go by the Colts. Manning is the hottest quarterback in the league. His Broncos are 6-0. The Colts are 4-1 under the leadership of Manning’s replacement, Andrew Luck. This is the nationally televised game on Sunday night. That’s the stage where Manning seems to excel. I’m also guessing he might be looking to show the Colts’ management they made a mistake when they cut him loose. It should be a good game, but I’m pretty confident Manning will be up for the challenge. The Broncos will stay even with the Chiefs and improve to 7-0.
Oakland and New Orleans have the week off.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Oct. 16-22, 2013, issue