The live action this week kicks off with Cam Newton leading his Panthers to Atlanta to face matt Ryan and The Falcons.
Newton was the undisputed star of college football over the past few years but many experts felt he did not have the mechanics to make a superstar NFL quarterback. What he patently does have is a winning mentality and unshakable self belief, two qualities sorely missing in Carolina of late. While their 1-4 record would lead you to believe it is business as usual (losing!) for Carolina this doesn’t reflect how well the team have played in those defeats which was illustrated last weekend when they ran New Orleans all the way and just missed out late on to a Drew Brees inspired touchdown drive that saved the game for the Saints. The NFL is so strong these days with teams so evenly balanced things won’t get any easier this weekend when they travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. The Falcons were blown away last weekend by the irresistible Superbowl champs but that is hardly a disgrace. I still think this team has playoff potential but a win this week is a must as they cannot afford to drop further behind in their division. I think the Falcons should edge the Panthers with home advantage proving decisive in a close one.
The second game on sky gives us the opportunity to take a long overdue look at New Orleans as they host the 3-2 Buccs. The Saints are 4-1 and have had a few close ones this season already. So far I am not sure if this shows us that they are struggling to put away average sides or conversely that they are finding ways to win even when not playing at their best. I certainly do not think they are as potent on either side of the ball as they were two years ago when they won the Superbowl and I fell they have struggled to replace that extra dimension that Reggie Bush gave them, particularly that season. Tampa Bay simply have to produce more than they have so far this season on offence to stand any chance in this game especially considering the Saints average more than 30 points a game. They have a chance to do this as the Saints defence has been porous of late and doesn’t have the same takeaway threat that it used to but I still think they will have too much for Tampa and should confirm their position at the head of the division.
In an unexpected bonus this week ESPN America are showing the Patriots v Cowboys match up which could be a classic. Dallas QB Tony Romo is under huge pressure to deliver and has so far shown that he is wilting under the pressure. Deion Sanders came out during the week and called it as it is….”Romo might be statistically a very fine QB but he is not the man to lead you to a Superbowl”. I must admit that I agree with “primetime” because Romo has allowed the red mist to descend too many times this season resulting in an unacceptable number of interceptions for so early in the season. Dallas seem to be guilty of to some extent believing their own hype and Romo again put his foot in it this week by suggesting he is certain that this group of players have a Superbowl in them. He seems to be the only person to think so apart from long suffering owner Jerry Jones who is determined that they will return to the big time. It’s all getting a little desperate in Dallas and the last place you want to be going when a win is essential is New England. Tom Brady has been nothing short of miraculous this year and thus far has been totally unplayable. I think we are in for another shoot out as I think Dallas will be able to put up significant yards against the New England defence but The Patriots should have too much for them and should emerge victorious.
The late game of Channel 4 sees the Vikings travel to Chicago to take on the Bears. Both of these teams have struggled this year and neither appear to be realistic contenders this year. Donovan McNabb has been unconvincing for the Vikings but they have thrown away big leads with crazy defence in the second half and look a side short on confidence and ideas. Chicago too have failed to come alive this season and were turned over by the excellent Detroit last week without much of a struggle. I still think Chicago are a better side and Julius Peppers and co should heap more misery on McNabb while I expect Jay Cutler to have a productive evening against a defence that seems to tie up after two quarters every week.
Monday night football gives us the chance to see if the Jets are the real deal under Rex Ryan or are they simply all talk? Miami haven’t won a game this year and if they beat the Jets then any fancy ideas Ryan had about a return to the playoffs and a Superbowl charge will be out the window. The Jets simply have to deliver after the Patriots confirmed their superiority again last week. The Jets can take heart from the fact that they put up some serious yardage on New England but their much lauded defence struggled to do a lot against Brady & Co. They should have far too much for Miami who look devoid of ideas on the coaching roster and talent on the playing roster. Even their wildcat variation on offence that shook up a few opponents seems to have been consigned to the dust bin and they have not developed over the last number of years which is a pity given that they are one of the glamour franchises in the NFL. Interesting times in the NFL with the old guard coming under ever increasing pressure. The Jets to win easy putting more pressure on Tony Sparano unless the bye week helped him uncover some magic formula to stop the rot.