Five things to watch for this week:
1. Minnesota at Chicago: The Bears changed their approach coming out of the bye on offense; they ran the ball more and became a more balanced team. Will they stay that way? Can Jay Cutler avoid the mistakes that haunted him in the first half of the season? As for the Vikings, this is a critical division game as they try to get back in the playoff hunt. I want to see if their pass rush, which came alive last week against Arizona, can duplicate that production against a Bears offensive line that has struggled at times this year. For that matter, the Vikings offensive line has let Brett Favre get hit a lot more this year, too. How will it hold up against Julius Peppers and company?
2. Tennessee at Miami: Chad Pennington in, Chad Henne out at QB for the Dolphins. Pennington is a smart, accurate passer who relies on timing and anticipation to be successful. The Dolphins made the move because of Henne's mistakes, especially fumbles and interceptions over the past few games. What will Pennington's timing be with his receivers? Because he does not have a strong arm, he must rely on throwing the ball before the receivers break. How will this work out? On the other side of the ball all eyes will be on Randy Moss. How much will he play? How will he be used and how will Miami defend him? Remember Miami already played Randy Moss earlier this year when he was with New England and he had zero catches.
3. New York Jets at Cleveland: The Browns continue their tough stretch with the Jets. They have upset the Saints and Patriots in the past two games. Can the Jets run the ball on the Browns? Will Mark Sanchez be able to figure out the Browns' various schemes, especially on third down? The Browns offense against New England relied on the run. Will the Jets stack the line to stop the run and force Colt McCoy to beat them? Will the Jets press and play tight coverage on the Browns' receivers? I would expect a pressure game and tight coverage from the Jets, challenging McCoy to make tight, accurate throws.
4. New England at Pittsburgh: The Steelers' defense is the best in the NFL. How will the Patriots move the ball on the Steelers? Wes Welker was doubled often last week as the Browns knocked him around some to disrupt his routes. How will Pittsburgh defend him? Also Cleveland put a corner on Aaron Hernandez to limit him. Will Pittsburgh do the same? Pittsburgh is injured in the offensive line. Can the Patriots get pressure on the Steelers in the passing game, something they have not been good at this year? Will the Steelers try to maintain some balance on offense, something that they seem to be trying to do, but have not necessarily attained yet?
5. Dallas at New York Giants: The Giants, I believe, are the best team in the NFL right now and nobody played worse than the Cowboys last week. What will their effort be? The bigger questions to me will be how do they stop the passing attack of the Giants, which they could not do in their first meeting? On offense, how do they protect Jon Kitna, and will Jason Garrett change his offensive philosophy now that he is the head coach?