Friday, October 20, 2006

5 Questions About Week 7 of the NFL

1. Should We Crown The Bears?
Thanks for the suggestion Dennis Green, but I don’t think we’re ready to do that quite yet. I’m also not ready to write them off though. Personally, I didn’t learn anything new about the Bears from Monday’s game, but I did have a few existing beliefs reinforced, mainly that:

• Rex Grossman is a shaky quarterback.
• The Bears have a monster defense.
• Devin Hester is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

A lot of people will probably use this game to justify their pre-existing opinions about the team. Bears doubters will say that this exposes them as a mediocre team that has beat up on vastly inferior competition; supporters will say that it proves that their defense can compensate for an average at best offense. I say that we can’t properly evaluate them yet. Every quarterback and every team has off days; we have to wait and see how they hold up against a tough stretch of opponents before we decide if they’re for real or not.

2. Can Cincinnati Get Back on Track?
After a 3-0 start, the Bengals got waxed by the Patriots three weeks ago. Coming off a bye, they lost on Sunday to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now, they have to regroup and try and hold off the streaking Carolina Panthers at home.

Carolina’s a simple team to break down – when Steve Smith is out of the lineup, they’re 0-2, but when he’s in the lineup, they’re 4-0. He’ll play on Sunday, so the numbers favor the Panthers, even on the road.

Rudi Johnson was shut down by the Bucs D last week, and if that happens again, the Bengals will drop their third straight. If they can get him back on track (over 80 yards), they'll win.

3. How Will The Unbeaten and the Winless Do This Week?
Two unbeatens remain - Indianapolis and Chicago – while Oakland is the lone winless team left. Da Bears get a bye, while Indianapolis hosts Washington and Oakland hosts Arizona.

I’m giving the Redskins a decent chance at upsetting the Colts since Indy’s run defense ranks near the bottom of the league. Clinton Portis could shred them for 150+ yards, keeping his team in the game. However, the ‘Skins’ secondary will have to step up if they’re going to have a chance to pull off the upset in the dome.

As for Oakland, they could win for the simple fact that Arizona is probably still reeling after their Monday night collapse. Throw in a new guy calling the plays, and it could be a rocky game for the Cardinals.

4. Bruce Gradkowski?
I say he’s for real. For one, he’s from a MAC school (Toledo), so he has a great pedigree. Since the 1999 draft, that conference has produced three solid starting quarterbacks (Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich, Ben Roethlisberger), which is more than any other conference has in this period of time. In his first two starts, he’s lifted a previously dormant offense to one upset, and nearly pulled off another one, both over playoff-caliber teams. So I’m willing to say that this kid will be around for a while, even though he’ll get roughed up by Philly’s defense this weekend.

5. What’s the Biggest Game of the Week?
I’m going with the Monday nighter between the Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams come in at 3-2, so a win to keep up with the division-leading Eagles is imperative. If the Giants win, they’ll be in excellent shape, sitting at 3-0 in division play with road wins over the Eagles and the Cowboys and a home win over Washington. The Cowboys are 1-1 in the division, with a win over Washington and a loss in Philly to their name. They need this win at home more than the Giants do, or else they’ll be looking up in the division the rest of the way. Fortunately for them, they stumbled upon a recipe for success in the second half of their game last week – throw to T.O. He caught three touchdowns, and will certainly be demanding the ball again. The key to this game for me comes down to the star player on each offense. Will T.O. shred the Giants secondary for a few big plays and a score or two, or will it be Tiki Barber running over the Dallas front seven like he did to the Falcons last week?

My money’s on Tiki giving us one more signature game before he follows in the footsteps of another Giants running back, Frank Gifford, by becoming an omnipresent media personality in retirement.


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