Six from Sunday: Sacks killing Giants, Steelers; both 0-4, in need of miracle

The Steelers -- at 0-4 for the first time since 1968 -- have struggled protecting Ben Roethlisberger. (USATSI)
The Steelers -- at 0-4 for the first time since 1968 -- have struggled protecting Ben Roethlisberger. (USATSI)

After four weeks, we start making judgments around the NFL. For instance, the winless Steelers and Giants can blame shaky offensive lines; while Bryan Hoyer is a revelation in Cleveland, we wonder how much time Chip Kelly will give Michael Vick in Philly. Let's kick-start Six from Sunday:

1. Leaky O-lines hurt Giants, Steelers

It was 1968 the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers were 0-4. The last time the New York Giants were 0-4 was 1987.

Where do these two storied franchises go from here?

Both have offensive lines under duress, which puts their pocket-passer quarterbacks in a very bad position. Both quarterbacks are being sacked once every 11 pass plays and will be sacked 60 times by the end of the season ... if they make it to the end of the season.

There is a lot of turmoil surrounding these two teams and both know the only team to make the playoffs from an 0-4 start was the 1992 San Diego Chargers. Those Chargers rushed for 17 touchdowns in the 12 games that followed the 0-4 start and stopped the bleeding on the sacks that plagued them in the first four games.

2. How about those QB changes?

Cleveland and Minnesota went to their backup quarterbacks this week because the starter was injured.

Cleveland's Brian Hoyer was the inactive third QB two weeks ago on a 0-2 team. He now has led the Browns to two wins with 590 yards passing and five touchdown passes. Brandon Weeden has four touchdown passes in his last seven games. The Browns play Thursday night in Buffalo and the club can't put Weeden back in the lineup, no matter the health status of the former starter.

As for the Vikings, the club says it will go back to Ponder when he's healthy but it will be hard when you consider Ponder was sacked 10 times in three games and Matt Cassel was sacked once Sunday against Pittsburgh. Ponder had seven turnovers in three games and Cassel had none in the win over the Steelers.

Both Hoyer and Cassel put their teams back in the playoff race, and it's not the time to go back to a losing formula.

3. Ground game is coming alive

After Week 1, it looked like the run game was nonexistent in the NFL. After three weeks and 48 games, teams have averaged 26 rushing plays and 106 yards a game as teams started to balance their offenses.

Not including the Monday night game, Week 4 saw the rushing rise to 28 carries a team and 112 yards per team. Thirteen teams ran the ball for more than 112 yards. The 14 winning teams averaged 135 yards rushing and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground. The 14 losing teams averaged 85 yards rushing and only had five rushing touchdowns.

4. Triple hit with rookies

The Buffalo Bills' top-three rookies were very impressive this weekend in a win over the defending champion Ravens.

EJ Manuel may not have had big numbers but he led his team to a win and threw a touchdown to rookie wide receiver Robert Woods, who had four receptions for 80 yards.

Even more impressive was rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonzo. All he did was pick off Joe Flacco twice and register five tackles and two passes defended. The Ravens rushed the ball just nine times for 24 yards, and Alonzo leads the defense and makes the calls.

The future is bright for the Bills, and the future may be now.

5. QBs on thin ice?

As we watch teams experience success switching quarterbacks, you have to wonder where the next quarterback decisions may come from.

Tampa Bay went with rookie Mike Glennon, who threw two interceptions late in his debut and gave the game to the Arizona Cardinals. I could see the Bucs sticking with Glennon but there were a lot of empty seats in the stadium. If they continue to lose the team may have to do something or there could be changes at the end of the season.

You have to wonder how long the Eagles will go with Mike Vick, who is on a one-year contract and the team is 1-3. The record isn't Vick's fault but when will the Eagles find out what they really have in Nick Foles?

The Jaguars can't keep going in the direction they are headed with 31 points scored in four games. The Jacksonville quarterbacks have one TD pass in four games, as well as seven interceptions and 18 sacks.

6. Up and down the NFC

Take a look at the six NFC teams that were in the playoffs last year. Only Seattle (4-0) has a winning record. The rest of the 2012 NFC playoff teams have a combined 6-13 record.

Washington, Green Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, and San Francisco have a lot of work to do if they want to get back to the postseason.

As for the Seahawks, they have altered their reputation as a poor road team. Seattle is now 5-1 in its last six road games, and they have done it with 1,042 rushing yards (174 yards per game). On defense they have given up 17.5 points per game with 10 sacks, seven interceptions and five fumble recoveries.

 
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