Week 6 Preview: Winter is Coming
This week’s weather in NYC, with the shortening days and colder nights, has finally made me feel like winter is coming. Besides the literal interpretation, Game of Thrones has used this phrase to mean that it’s time to bunker down and be ready for the future’s challenges and hardships (if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, start doing so). There are teams in this league for which the worst of winter may have come already, seems to be on its way, or feels like they are in Antarctica and the winter just won’t leave, ever. This preview is written not just to talk about the same top teams and their match-ups, but also to give some of the plebian ones a shot in the limelight. What they do with that remains to be seen.
Players to Watch
Percy Harvin (WR, Minnesota Vikings) @ Washington Redskins
Percy is quickly becoming my favorite player to watch in the NFL. He is not your standard, 6’ ft., 5’’ in. receiver that can go up and get the ball over anyone. He is Wes Welker on speed. This guy is one of the most agile and illusive receivers, who can find space in any defense, has blazing speed, and great hands. Oh, he also returns kick-offs for touchdowns. This week he goes up against the Redskins, who have the worst passing defense (1643 Yds, 329 Yds/game) in the league. Hey Washington, winter is definitely coming, and its name is Percy Harvin.
Mewelde Moore, Vick Ballard, and Delone Carter (RB, Indianapolis Colts) @ New York Jets
For some reason I have to always remind myself that the Jets defense isn’t what it was two or even one year ago. This match-up between the leagues second worst run defense (860 Yds, 172.0 Yds/game) and a Colts offensive line that has had such trouble in run blocking is seriously intriguing. At the heart of it all was Donald Brown, but he’s out 2-3 weeks after having Surgery. While Brown had shown that he was the unquestioned starter for Indy, they are now left searching for a replacement. I’m curious to see if against a flappable Jets’ run defense Indy can get the blocks they needs to spring a few long runs. I like Moore’s experience to get the bulk of the carries, but we’ve seen new RBs get a chance and run with it (pun intended). Andrew Luck must be praying for this, because they are too reliant on the pass right now.
Brian Hartline (WR, Miami Dolphins) vs. St. Louis Rams
Who? Yeah, if you had told me Week 1 that Hartline would be leading the league in receiving yards going into Week 6, I would have assumed you had gone insane and had the men in white coats put you in a straight jacket and take you to your “happy place”. Alas, he actually is leading this statistical category. Two weeks ago, Hartline had a season-making day catching 12 passes for 253 yards and a TD. Against the Bengals he had only 5 targets, catching 4 for 59 yards. This week he matches up with a similarly capable St. Louis secondary. I want to see if Hartline can find some daylight, or if the reason he was so productive was because defenses hadn’t heard of him.
Games to Watch
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers (4:25 PM EST)
O.K., so I couldn’t completely stay away from the top ten, whatever. With all the teams in the NFC East hovering around .500, it’s becoming more evident that no team is like to run away with this division. That means every game is becoming increasingly more important. As for San Fran, they have just been crushing teams since losing to the Vikings. This game will be a better barometer to see where they’re at. This Giants defense has looked so susceptible through the air (23rd ranked pass defense) and on the ground (16th ranked run defense). What is so appalling (especially after what we saw from them in the playoffs last year) about this team: they have just 8 sacks this season (T-24th in league). Without pressure on Alex Smith, this game could be a landslide. The obviously enticing match-up is this 9ers defense against the Giants offense. Eli will have to hope the Giants can run the ball to open up the play action playbook. No matter what, every score will be a grind against the league’s best defense. Spoiler Alert: Ahmad Bradshaw will not rush for 200 yards.
Indianapolis Colts @ New York Jets (1:00 PM EST)
The Colts Week 5 win over the Packers was an emotional one for this franchise. Now, they have to travel to the Meadowlands to face a Jets team that desperately needs to find an identity. The Jets most people remember in recent years were a defensive-minded, smash-mouth running team that won games 10-3 or 14-6. This is no longer the case, as the defense has hit rock bottom and the running game is a mess (season-long run is 22 yards, only 1 rushing TD this year). The talk of putting Tebow in at QB has hit a new level with how Mark Sanchez has played this year. I don’t think Tebow is the solution. You could put a solid QB on the Jets sideline, and this offensive system and personnel would not allow them to succeed. However, Sanchez has a QBR through 5 weeks that only one other five-week starter has managed, JaMarcus Russell (2002). I’m afraid that a bad performance on Sunday from Mark in a losing effort, and he’ll be holding a clipboard come Week 7. The Colts do not have any QB controversy. Luck has proven that he can lead a game winning drive, has the confidence to make downfield throws, and can carry a team with his arm. How will the emotional roller coaster of last week affect this team?
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns (1:00 PM EST)
I’m not even sure people in Ohio are writing about this game, but here goes. The Bengals had a brutal Week 5 at home, when
the Dolphins came in and held them to 13 points. They have to like their chances against an 0-5 Browns team who gave up 41 points to the Giants last week. However, when these two teams met earlier this year, the Bengals only pulled it off by a TD. The Browns, who squandered a great start against the Giants last week, have looked capable of point production. They’re currently struggling with the tale of two first round picks. Trent Richardson has been everything they hoped he would be when they took him 3rd overall. He is the Browns offensive focal point as a rookie, and is also the second best receiver on the team. The other first round pick, 29-year-old Brandon Weeden, has not made a seamless transition. I admit it’s exceptionally hard to come in as a rookie and not make some poor decisions, but it’s unclear if Weeden is catching on to the game at this speed. He seems to be suffering from Sanchezitious: some great decisions, and some really bad ones. Unfortunately, there seems to be no cure for this disease. Pro Bowl CB Joe Haden is returning this week for the Browns, which will bolster their failing secondary substantially. I think Cincy pulls it together and rights their ship, but don’t be surprised if the Browns make it closer than predicted.