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Peek at the Week: Chargers chase big win, Rex aches for rewind

by | Senior NFL Columnist

Game of the Week

San Diego at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Preview

The line: Chargers by 2½

The story: Once this looked like a good game. Now it looks like a better debate. It's Norv Turner vs. Rex Ryan, and may the better coach win a Super Bowl ... some day.

Ryan said he would've won two had the Chargers hired him in 2007. Instead, they hired Turner, and while Norv might not have Super Bowl rings he did land the better jab this week -- saying that Ryan could've added those rings to the others he guaranteed.


Anyway, believe it or not -- and it's getting increasingly hard in today's NFL -- this game transcends the head coaches. It's about San Diego beating someone of consequence and the Jets awaking from a season-long nap. The Chargers are 4-1, but their four wins are over opponents with a combined record of 4-17.

I know, a win is a win is a win, and I buy that. But there are legions of disgruntled San Diego fans who don't. OK, so see what happens if the Bolts win here. My guess is Turner bashers will tell you that the Jets aren't all that good, anyway.

Maybe not, but they were good enough to go to the conference championship game the past two years. Now they're a mess, with Santonio Holmes and Brandon Moore sparring with each other in the media, and critics wondering when Mark Sanchez and the passing game comes around. If you believe Plaxico Burress, it's soon ... very, very soon ... but this is coming from a guy who had one catch against Miami.

The Jets just don't seem like themselves this year, and neither does their head coach. Until this week he was subdued, and that might be because he knows this team isn't what he thought. Or maybe it's because it's October. All I know is that these are two teams we expected in the playoffs, but if San Diego's Philip Rivers cuts down on his mistakes, and the Chargers do anything in the red zone, they should win.

Peek at the Week VII
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The next time Rex Ryan wants to talk up an opponent, he might want to check with a player. L.T.'s a good choice. Read More >>

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Something to consider: Former Chargers All-Pro LaDainian Tomlinson has never scored a touchdown at Met Life Stadium. All his scores with the Jets have been on the road.

Three games I'd like to see

Denver at Miami, 1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Preview

The line: Miami by 2½

The story: I know, this should be this week's nominee for Crummy Game of the Week. But it's not, and it's because of Tim Tebow. Love him. Hate him. You can't ignore him. People tell me he's overrated, he's not going to make it at this level and that he's a desperate team's desperate response to a sinking season. Maybe. All I know is that people can't wait to see him, and I just joined the back of the line.

Look, I saw what Miami had last week, and it's just enough to make them my frontrunner for Andrew Luck. The Dolphins stink, and I don't see how they produce points with Matt Moore at quarterback or wins with Tony Sparano as head coach.

And Denver? Yes, the Broncos stink too, but they're moving the arrow in the right direction. They're making changes, and Tebow is one of them. People tell me he looked good against San Diego only because the Chargers were worn out in the thin air of Denver, but so what? I just know he looked good. So let's see what happens with him returning to his home state.

Already, the game is sold out, and, yes, you can thank the Dolphins and their corporate sponsors for avoiding a blackout. But you can also thank Tebow. My guess is that there's already a caravan of campers driving down from Jacksonville to fill the empty seats that have become the norm for a Dolphins team that has lost 11 of its past 12 at home.

Miami will honor the 2008 national championship University of Florida team, which is odd because ... well, because Tebow was its quarterback. That means honoring the visiting quarterback and infuriating the University of Miami, which shares Sun Life Stadium with the Dolphins. Yet it seems perfectly in sync with the disintegration of the Dolphins' season.

Something to consider: The Dolphins are 7-0 at home vs. Denver.

Atlanta at Detroit, 1 p.m. ET | Preview

The line: Lions by 3½

The story: No matter what the results, I guarantee we don't have a postgame Jerry Springer moment. Mike Smith is not that kind of guy. Of course, maybe he should do something to energize a club that looks downright drab. The Falcons need a pulse, and maybe a victory here provides it.

All I know is that they're catching Detroit on a good week. The Lions lost Jahvid Best to a concussion and really don't have a suitable replacement. That's trouble for an offense that struggled last weekend when San Francisco double-covered Calvin Johnson and dared the Lions to beat them with someone else.

They could not.

Of course, Atlanta is without Julio Jones, too, and that's a bonus for a Detroit secondary that is little more than ordinary. Look for the Falcons to feature Michael Turner again, especially after Frank Gore and the 49ers shredded Detroit with an effective and explosive running game.

A couple of things working against Atlanta: First, the Falcons commit turnovers, and the Lions don't; second, the Falcons are at a steep disadvantage in Ford Field. There have been 14 false-start penalties the past two weeks, including nine by Chicago in the Week 5 Monday night game. Detroit is vulnerable, but I'm not sure the Falcons have what it takes. They're 1-2 on the road, with the lone victory in Seattle ... barely.

Something to consider: Under Mike Smith, the Falcons are 27-1 when leading after three quarters.

Houston at Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET (CBS) | Preview

The line: Titans by 3½

The story: Six games into the season it's clear the AFC South will be a two-team race, and these are your two entries. The Texans should win the division, but they're on a two-game slide where they haven't done much of anything right on offense. They'll almost surely be without Andre Johnson again, and quarterback Matt Schaub still is bothered by a sore hip and sore ribs.

That means Arian Foster should carry the load, only he hasn't done diddly-poo the past two weeks when the Texans turned to him. Foster and Tennessee's Chris Johnson were two of the league's top four rushers last season, but together they have 555 yards and two touchdowns this year.

With their running game No. 32 in the NFL, the Titans would be in serious trouble without Matt Hasselbeck. (Getty Images)  
With their running game No. 32 in the NFL, the Titans would be in serious trouble without Matt Hasselbeck. (Getty Images)  
That should tell you why both of these teams are stuck in neutral. The Titans' defense has been decent, but so has Houston's. The problem with both clubs is offense -- there's just not enough of it. Houston stinks in the red zone, and Tennessee is dead last in rushing.

You heard me. The team that paid a gazillion bucks to Johnson is getting almost no return on its dollars. It's hanging tough because quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is playing tough. With nine touchdown passes and a passer rating of 95.9, he's off to one of the best starts of his career.

Something to consider: In the "Titans" era (1999-present), Tennessee is 8-4 following the bye.

Monday night lights

Baltimore at Jacksonville, 8:30 p.m. ET | Preview

The line: Ravens by 7½

The story: I was on a Baltimore radio station the other day when I was asked if there were any way the Ravens lose here. Normally, I hedge my predictions, but not this time. The Ravens win, and it shouldn't be close.

The reason is simple: They're better in every phase of the game. Some Ravens fans grumble that quarterback Joe Flacco is not credible, but they're mistaken. The guy will take the Ravens into the playoffs for the fourth straight season, only this time I see him doing it by winning the division.

Flacco's best weapon is running back Ray Rice, but rookie Torrey Smith is beginning to stretch the field at wide receiver. Of course, Baltimore's best weapons -- as usual -- are on defense, and look for most of them to be in the grill of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The Ravens should blitz and blitz a lot, forcing Gabbert into quick and often inaccurate passes.

Normally, Jacksonville's best option is running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but not against these guys. Baltimore ranks third in run defense, with opponents averaging 3.3 yards a carry. Read the tea leaves, Jacksonville: You can't run on the Ravens, which means ... Blaine Gabbert, get ready to duck.

Something to consider: During the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens are 19-2 vs. opponents with sub-.500 records.

Crummy game of the week

Seattle at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET | Preview

The line: Browns by 3½

The story: The Seahawks travel about as well as Aunt Edna in National Lampoon's Vacation. It's not just that they lose; it's that they usually lose by wide margins. Of course, explain that to the New York Giants, who somehow caved to these guys two weeks ago.

Anyway, the Seahawks aren't sure who they're starting at quarterback, which makes sense because it really doesn't make a difference. I mean … Charlie Whitehurst of Tarvaris Jackson? Give me Door No. 2. Pete Carroll just did. He said Friday that Whitehurst would start.

Of course, the news isn't much better in the other locker room, where the Browns' Peyton Hillis is iffy with a hamstring injury. Hillis was Cleveland's only playmaker a year ago; now he's bogged down with injuries and contract talks going nowhere. But that's not all. Defensive starters Scott Fujita and Joe Haden are hurt, though Haden returned to practice Friday. Fujita and Hillis, however, are likely out.

Nevertheless, I like Cleveland here because I'll take Colt McCoy over Whitehurst or whoever plays quarterback for Seattle. Plus, I don't trust the Seahawks east of the Cascades.

Something to consider: The Browns aim for their third straight win over an NFC opponent.

Upset of the week

Arizona over Pittsburgh, 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS) | Preview

The line: Steelers by 3½

The story: Let's get to the point. There's a history with Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt and the Steelers. He was an assistant coach there and might have been in line to succeed Bill Cowher. Only he left for Arizona first and was joined by other former Steelers assistants, all of whom came this close to beating Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII.

But they didn't. Now they meet the Steelers for the first time since that February 2009 loss, and don't tell me there aren't hard feelings ... because I know how tough that defeat was for Arizona to swallow.

The Cards aren't playing well now, but my guess is that they ramp up their performance here not just because they're on the verge of dropping out of the division race but because it's Pittsburgh. Let's just say Arizona wants one back.

Apparently, the club spent its bye work working on its passing game, and that's a good idea. Kevin Kolb has looked dreadful the past three games, completing 57 percent of his passes, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions and missing open targets.

The Pittsburgh defense isn't what it was in the 2008 season, but even then Kurt Warner shredded it in the fourth quarter. I know, the Steelers have the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL, but if Kolb can be the quarterback he was in the first two games the Cards have more than a chance ... they have a victory.

Something to consider: Ben Roethlisberger is 20-6 vs. NFC opponents, with 34 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Five guys I'd like to be

1. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub: In his past five games vs. Tennessee, he has 11 touchdown passes and only one interception.

2. Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald: In his past 11 starts vs. the AFC he has 10 TD catches.

3. Oakland safety Michael Huff: He has four career interceptions vs. Kansas City, most against any opponent.

4. Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen: Six of his 9½ sacks are at hhome, and now he faces second-year pro Marshall Newhouse -- in at left tackle for the injured Chad Clifton.

Fan Poll

What will be Week 7's best game?

Chargers at Jets
Broncos at Dolphins
Falcons at Lions
Texans at Titans
Ravens at Jaguars
Steelers at Cardinals

Total Votes: 47,741

5. N.Y. Jets tight end Dustin Keller: He aims for his third straight game vs. San Diego with a touchdown.

Five best faceoffs

1. San Diego coach Norv Turner vs. the New York Jets' Rex Ryan: I don't think we need to rehash this one. Rex stepped over the line this week and apologized. Let's see how Turner and the Bolts respond.

2. New Orleans coach Sean Payton vs. altitude: Fresh off reconstructive leg surgery, Payton will call plays from the coaches' box instead of the sidelines Sunday night. "There is a huge void," assistant head coach Joe Vitt admitted this week.

3. N.Y. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson vs. San Diego: L.T. insists this game is no different for him, but who is he kidding? Tomlinson will start, a nice gesture by Ryan and the Jets, but the question is: Can he find the end zone in his home stadium?

4. Cleveland president Mike Holmgren vs. Seattle: It's Holmgren's first game vs. his ex-team since joining the Browns, and he would like nothing better to remind them who's numero uno. "Heck, it hasn't been that long," Holmgren said of his days in Seattle (he last coached there in 2008), "so I'm encouraging Pat [head coach Pat Shurmur] to do his very best in this game."

5. Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall vs. Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith: These two have a history that goes back years, and both like to talk. Expect the trash to be taken out starting, oh, roughly about 1 p.m. ET. "He's a talker. I'm a talker," Hall said this week. "You get two talkers on the same field, something's bound to go down."

Five things that may interest only me

1. The Packers are the seventh defending Super Bowl champion to start 6-0. The others each won at least 10 games and advanced to the playoffs, with two of them (the 1998 Denver Broncos and 2004 New England Patriots) repeating.

2. There have been an NFL-record 19 teams this season to overcome 10-point deficits and win.

3. The Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not been separated by more than three points in each of their past three games, the last two of which went to overtimes.

4. The Lions are outscoring opponents 118-36 after halftime.

5. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers has passer ratings of 100 or better in nine of his past 10 starts and this season became the first NFL quarterback to start the season with six straight games where he scored 110 or higher.

Numbers on the wall

4: Catches needed by Tony Gonzalez to move into second place for career receptions
4: Steve Smith catches of 50 or more yards, an NFL best
7-2: Tennessee's record at home vs. Houston
8: Straight wins for Oakland vs. AFC West opponents
12: Consecutive Green Bay wins
16-6: Denver after a bye
35:17: Average time of possession for San Diego, an NFL best

Sunday's weather

 Charlotte, N.C.: Mostly sunny, high of 68
 Cleveland: Partly cloudy, high of 61
 Detroit: Dome
 Miami: Isolated thunderstorms, high of 81
 East Rutherford, N.J.: Partly cloudy, high of 64
 London (Chicago-Tampa Bay): Mostly sunny, high of 63
 Nashville, Tenn.: Partly cloudy, high of 69
 Glendale, Ariz.: Sunny, high of 95 (retractable roof)
 Oakland, Calif.: Mostly sunny, high of 81
 Arlington, Texas: Partly cloudy, high of 79 (retractable roof)
 Minneapolis: Dome
 New Orleans: Dome

Where we will be

 I'll be at Met Life Stadium to score the Turner-Ryan Throwdown.
 Pete Prisco will be in Miami to drive the Welcome Wagon for Tim Tebow.
 Mike Freeman will be in Detroit to keep Jim Schwartz in his corner.


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