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Game rankings: Chance to right the ship makes Week 6 huge for some teams

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DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys can prove they're still a threat with a win at Baltimore. (US Presswire)  
DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys can prove they're still a threat with a win at Baltimore. (US Presswire)  


I'm liking the way this shapes up. After a few weeks with less than sizzling matchups, and coming off a Week 5 in which almost every late game was a blowout and the Monday night game looked like it was going to be a blowout, we get to find out what some of these teams are made of in Week 6.

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Teams like Denver, Green Bay and Detroit, who were in the playoffs a year ago and harbored some lofty expectations this season, need to make a statement. The Cowboys find themselves in a critical spot, having to play in one of the toughest environments in the NFL. Can teams like the reeling Bills and Chiefs find a way to make a stand and maybe start to reverse their fortunes? going to be a blowout, we get to find out what some of these teams are made of in Week 6.

Besides all of that, we've got a championship game rematch, too. And, this week, we've got the Bears, Panthers, Saints and Jaguars on the bye, so that isn't exactly depriving us of a bevy of playmakers and spectacular teams. After all, only one of those teams has won more than one game thus far. going to be a blowout, we get to find out what some of these teams are made of in Week 6.

  
 

Green Bay Packers  at  Houston Texans

Green Bay at Houston
Sunday, Oct. 14, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Why To Watch: This is my preseason Super Bowl pick and I'm not backing off it merely because the Packers have been pretty darn ordinary. This is a great test for them hobbling in at 2-3, having recently blown a big lead to the Colts, of all teams. They need to bow up on the road, while the Texans, who haven't exactly played a brutal schedule, will have to perform better than they did Monday night in New York to remain unbeaten. Green Bay must get its pass rush revved back up, while Matt Schaub gets a shot at a secondary that has been giving up big passes with alarming regularity. Could be a shootout.

What To Watch For: The Texans were so adept at surviving injuries a year ago, but who steps up for Brian Cushing now that he's lost for the season? Can Tim Dobbins get it done? ... The Packers, already trying to find consistency in the run game with Cedric Benson rounding into form, now face their first game without him with a big-time backfield by committee. Can any standout emerge? ... JJ Watt against this slumping Green Bay offensive line looks like a mismatch ... Packers likely without Greg Jennings again, which is huge as Jonathan Joseph can play around with different matchups now. James Jones has become the go-to guy in his absence ... How do the Packers slow down Arian Foster?

New York Giants  at  San Francisco 49ers

N.Y. Giants at San Francisco
Sunday, Oct. 14, 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Rematch of the 2011 NFC Championship Game could be another classic, only this time you would think the home team would cling to the ball a bit better on special teams. Both appear to be playoff teams again, both quarterbacks seem to only get better, and there is no reason to believe this might not be the precursor to another meeting in the postseason. Ahmad Bradshaw comes in off one of his most powerful efforts ever and Frank Gore is tied for the rushing lead in the conference. Will this be another week where Eli Manning has to throw a lot of balls to depth receivers, or can Hakeem Nicks get healthy enough to play?

What To Watch For: Victor Cruz had three touchdowns last week and went for 142 yards against the 49ers last year in the playoffs ... Michael Boley's three interceptions are the most of any linebacker this season, but who is going to match up on 49ers monster TE Vernon Davis? ... 49ers are adding more big plays to their wildcat packages and trickery with Colin Kaepernick in for Alex Smith ... Mario Manningham should show up against his former team, which he was helping win a Super Bowl not that long ago ... Smith is the NFL's highest-rated passer, and faces a depleted secondary here.

New England Patriots  at  Seattle Seahawks

New England at Seattle
Sunday, Oct. 14, 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Tom Brady and his precision timing pass game comes up against what might be the game's best secondary, filled with big physical defensive backs. Seattle already shut down and battered Aaron Rodgers this season and few surroundings create more problems for even the most sage of quarterbacks. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gets a shot at the team he used to coach back in the day. Will the Pats, now dominant on the ground, try to beat Seattle at its own, physical game, which would help to keep Brady upright against this defense? Simply put, it's arguably the league's best offense against the only defense in the NFL in the top 10 in yards allowed, rush defense and pass defense.

What To Watch For: Aaron Hernandez just might be back for this one, which could change the entire look of New England's attack ... Chandler Jones and Bruce Irvin are two of the more intriguing rookie pass rushers in the game, and both could do some damage here ... Can Russell Wilson do enough on third down -- and from within the pocket -- to save his job and hold off Matt Flynn as Seattle's quarterback? ... Ho hum, the once written-off Wes Welker goes for his fourth straight 100-yard game, but he will get knocked around a lot in the slot in this one ... Seattle allowed fewer than 260 yards per game ... Wilson has protected the ball better at home, yet to throw an interception there.

Dallas Cowboys  at  Baltimore Ravens

Dallas at Baltimore
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Once upon a time Ravens fans were irate that the team didn't land Jason Garrett and hired John Harbaugh to replace fired Brian Billick. But, um, yeah, that was a long time ago. Now Garrett is seemingly coaching for his job, again, with Dallas failing to meet expectations, and Harbaugh is atop his division again.  The Ravens know they stole one in Kansas City last week and are almost impossible to beat at home, while this Cowboys team has often come up small in tough spots, and Tony Romo is coming off a five-pick game.

What To Watch For: If Garrett watches film of Jamaal Charles destroying the Ravens last week, and doesn't try to attack Baltimore at the edges, and puts the ball up in the air with abandon, well, would you be shocked? And similarly, if Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron remains committed to under-utilizing Ray Rice, despite Dallas being first in net passing yards allowed per game, well, you know he's going to hear about it, too ... Teams have had success picking on Ravens corner Cary Williams, and Jimmy Smith is not getting his hands on the ball enough, either ... Could be a big day for DeMarcus Ware -- Baltimore's receivers are having trouble gaining separation against physical corners, Joe Flacco still holds the ball too long at times, and Ravens' tackles are vulnerable.  

Denver Broncos  at  San Diego Chargers

Denver at San Diego
Monday, Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Why To Watch: Peyton Manning in a divisional game with his team reeling a bit at 2-3 and facing the AFC West's best team thus far. That's fairly big for early October in and of itself.  Teams have some nearly identical solid defensive stats, but Manning is finding ways again to make every part of his offense better, with him spreading the ball around. Philip Rivers knows that anything less than a division title could mean the end for his coach and mentor Norv Turner, and he tends to thrive in these shootouts. Simply put, this is a game that could end up deciding the AFC West.

What To Watch For: Von Miller is getting more effective each week ... Willis McGahee might end up seeing more of the bench if he can't hold on to the football ... Ryan Mathews could be on the brink of a breakout game as he is finally healthy and working his way out of the doghouse ... Have a feeling Eric Weddle gets his hands on a Manning pass or two ... Rivers has a career rating of 105 in 10 Monday night games, with a 7-3 record ... Champ Bailey has four career picks against the Chargers ... Denver must chip away at its minus-6 turnover ratio, or risk falling a bit off the pace in the division.

  
 

Detroit Lions  at  Philadelphia Eagles

Detroit at Philadelphia
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: Few teams needed an early bye more than the Lions, who had to find a way to fix their broken special teams and inept secondary. They also must find a way to restore the roar to a once-feared defensive line, as they rank only 19th in sacks, but as we all know, few quarterbacks absorb the kind of abuse that Mike Vick does on a weekly basis. A Detroit loss, and the season could be spiraling out of control. Also, they need to find a way to get Calvin Johnson back as that big-time threat in the red zone. Neither team has been able to hold on to the football, if you happen to have a turnover fetish.

What To Watch For: Shady McCoy went for 120 yards and three touchdowns in his only game against Detroit ... Good luck find a special-teams category the Lions aren't near the bottom of the league in, and DeSean Jackson could end up putting them away in the return game in this one ... The Lions haven't been able to get their explosive-play offense going yet, and having to do so against this defense, on the road, might be too much to ask ... Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew likely to get a lot of looks, especially if the pass rush forces Matt Stafford into his hot reads with regularity.

Indianapolis Colts  at  New York Jets

Indianapolis at N.Y. Jets
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: How many Jets fans show up, how quickly do they start chanting for Tim Tebow, and how many times in the broadcast will comparisons be drawn between Andrew Luck's immediate brilliance and Mark Sanchez's ongoing struggles? Talk about teams going in different directions, with the Colts coming in off the ultimate high, winning a miracle game over Green Bay with their coach battling cancer, while the Jets are mired in more losses and injuries. A Jets home loss here would be crushing.

What To Watch For: Can Antonio Cromartie match up on Reggie Wayne, who is coming off a 200-yard game? ... How long can the Colts sustain the emotional drain of all they have been through the past few weeks? ... The Jets' already sagging defensive line continues to suffer, and with few pass-rushing options to scare Luck, it could be a big day through the air for Indy ... The Colts are poor against the run and speedy Joe McKnight could see expanded role here ... Luck has been a powerful runner when he takes off, and the Jets' defense can be slow and bogged down ... Colts' Robert Mathis had to leave last game, but if he can go, will be aiming for his eighth straight game with a sack ... Will the Jets really keep rotating guards again?

St. Louis Rams  at  Miami Dolphins

St. Louis at Miami
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: It's the Jeff Fisher Bowl! Remember when these two franchises were in a battle royale to secure his services, except for how Miami was probably only really being used again, because Fisher was pretty much headed to St. Louis all along? Now both teams have been among the league's bigger surprises, playing highly competitive football despite some talent imbalances and the Rams now going for the first three-game winning streak since 2006. The Dolphins, meantime, have Reggie Bush averaging almost 5 yards per carry and Ryan Tannehill exceeding early expectations.

What To Watch For: Sam Bradford could be having nightmares of Cameron Wake. Rams will have to chip him religiously ... Can Steven Jackson get through a game for St. Louis? ... Who steps up for the Rams in the slot with Danny Amendola out long-term? Can Steve Smith, who shined in training camp, make it happen in that regard? ... Robert Quinn is showing signs of being an impact player for the Rams ... You have to like the Rams in a close game -- rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein is setting records while veteran Dan Carpenter is still mired in a slump for the Dolphins.

Minnesota Vikings  at  Washington Redskins

Minnesota at Washington
Sunday, Oct. 14, 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)

Why To Watch: The Vikings are one of the league's upstarts thus far, and are showing signs of being for real. The Redskins generally find a way to lose at home -- dropping eight straight and being abysmal at FedEx Field under Mike Shanahan -- and now must see how Robert Griffin III responds to returning from a concussion. It seems every effort will be made to get him on the field Sunday ... just in time for Jared Allen to menace him. Percy Harvin alone has been worth the price of admission, or investment of a few hours watching on the boob tube, and the Vikings are finding new ways to utilize him by the week.

What To Watch For: Can Christian Ponder keep this going, or will throwing a pick last week lead to more mistakes? ... Adrian Peterson is dealing with an ankle injury, and still not all that far removed from his knee surgery, so does that give the staff pause with his workload here? ... Alfred Morris continues to display that one-cut, downhill style Shanahan covets ... Since Ponder's first start, last October, Harvin is second in the NFL with 100 catches ... How physically will Vikings new defensive coordinator Alan Williams handle Griffin in the run game, and will he attack him liberally with the ends crashing down? ... Would expect Pierre Garcon to see his fair share of double teams.

  
 

Pittsburgh Steelers  at  Tennessee Titans

Pittsburgh at Tennessee
Thursday, Oct. 11, 8:20 p.m. ET (NFL Network)

Why To Watch: Well, it's Thursday night, so it's the only game in town, and the Steelers are finally getting a running game going. A balanced Pittsburgh offense could sway the balance of power some and get this team out of the doldrums. The Titans are trying to pull out of a death spiral, Matt Hasselbeck will be fired up after slumping on Sunday in his first start of the season, and Kenny Britt is more healthy than he's been all year. And, heck, there's probably only 11 games left in Chris Johnson's Titans career, so time to savor every carry!

What To Watch For: Titans allowing nearly 425 yards per game, and also have scored only 67 points on offense; quite a combination and could spell quick doom in this one ... Mike Wallace, post-holdout, averaging only 13.2 yards per catch, 5 yards off his career average. Steelers' vertical game not there yet. No plays of 40 yards to this point ... Rashard Mendenhall could be monitored with this on a short week, but he's going to be leaned on soon enough ... Titans have no ball-control game and badly need one here -- they rank last in time of possession. And, um, they also rank last in most five-minute or more drives allowed this season.

Oakland Raiders  at  Atlanta Falcons

Oakland at Atlanta
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: The Falcons are one of only two unbeaten teams, but they have endured some scares recently, against Carolina and Washington. As much as I believe the Raiders have some upset potential here, the fact is Atlanta pretty much finds a way to win at home in the regular season. Though for what it's worth, Oakland has won three of the last five meetings in Atlanta. Could be another day for Matt Ryan to pad his MVP stats -- Oakland is allowing a QB rating of 136 on attempts that travel 21 yards or more in the air, and Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez can all excel in that regard. So if you like bombs ...

What To Watch For: Can the Raiders' anemic pass rush get it going here? The Falcons' offensive line could still be an issue over time ... Carson Palmer has been quietly decent this season, finally cutting down on turnovers ... Michael Turner, no stranger to the AFC West, went for 139 yards last time these teams played ... White has a shocking 93 catches for 1,343 yards and 11 TDs in his last 12 games against the AFC ... Both kickers in this game are perfect so far this season -- is this the week one of them slips in the clutch?

Cincinnati Bengals  at  Cleveland Browns

Cincinnati at Cleveland
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: It's the battle of Ohio! Get fired up! In all seriousness, though, the Browns aren't as bad as their winless record, they finally get stud corner Joe Haden back in time to go against A.J. Green, they're sick of getting dominated by Cincy (Bengals have won 13 of the last 16 meetings), and Pat Shurmur just might be due for his first victory against the in-state rivals. Trent Richardson figures to figure big in this one, too, if you are into the rookie of the year race; he leads the Browns in rushing and receiving.

What To Watch For: Andy Dalton owns the Browns, as he is 3-0 completing over 70 percent of his passes with a 114 rating against them ... Browns stud LB D'Qwell Jackson had three sacks and a pick in the first meeting between these teams this season, but he got banged up last week ... Jermaine Gresham continues to emerge in the Bengals' attack -- only two AFC TEs have more catches this season ... Will BenJarvus Green-Ellis continue his inability to hold on to the football? ... Brandon Weeden went over 300 yards passing with two touchdowns in the first meeting with the Bengals.

Buffalo Bills  at  Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo at Arizona
Sunday, Oct. 14, 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Cardinals need to show that the 4-0 start was no joke, and that they can survive their lack of running backs or serviceable offensive lineman. And after allowing over 40 points, again, the Bills need to show they can actually stop somebody, anybody, even if it's just Kevin Kolb without anyone able to keep him upright and run the ball. It's the kind of home game the Cards must win if they're really going to factor into the postseason equation.

What To Watch For: How long can Kolb keep getting back up from this kind of punishment, and will Mario Williams finally get back in the business of dishing some of it out? ... Bills tight end Scott Chandler continued to show up around the end zone ... Do the Bills have any chance of stopping Larry Fitzgerald as they hemorrhage about 450 yards per game? The Bills could be road weary -- they were crushed by the 49ers last week and stayed on the West Coast for this meeting ... Buffalo's offensive line remains injury-rattled and the Cardinals have the NFL's best sack record over the past 14 games, with Darnell Dockett getting healthy again.

  
 

Kansas City Chiefs  at  Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kansas City at Tampa Bay
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Why To Watch: Are you a fan of atrocious quarterback play? Enjoy games with teams that by October seem to be already jostling for draft position? Do you believe in the redemptive power of Brady Quinn? Enjoy watching teams find new ways to undermine their ability to win games? Well, then, knock yourself out here. Pull this one up on the dish and have at it.

What To Watch For: The Bucs' defense has been a mess, and the Chiefs can run the ball like few teams in the NFL. A week after running the ball on 34 of their first 38 offensive snaps, the same could be in store Sunday ... Dwayne Bowe needs to bounce back after having several balls bounce off him for interceptions last week ... Assuming Quinn does start, with embattled Matt Cassel trying to come back from a concussion, can he do enough to keep the job for any period of time? The Chiefs are getting big seasons out of Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers on defense, and actually rank third in the AFC in yards allowed ... Any chance Kansas City maintains this breakneck pace for turnovers? They're a stunning minus-15 already.


Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.
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