Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
I think last night’s game between the undefeated Atlanta Falcons and the seemingly all-but-defeated New Orleans Saints was the least surprising, surprising outcome of the season thus far. We all kind of knew that the Falcons weren’t as good as their undefeated 5-0 record might have suggested. Either way, the Saints showed some spunk and their usually awful defense did a pretty impressive job of keeping the Falcons off balance. Scratch that, they did a good job excluding stopping Devonta Freeman, who I seriously hope you have on your fantasy team (humble brag: he’s on mine).
Anyway, last night’s game was a good one, continuing the run of solid games we had last week in Week 5. Based on this week’s schedule, our recent run of great football should continue. Here are five games you want to make sure you don’t miss this coming weekend.
1. New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
I mean, did you really expect any other game to be on top of this list? Have you forgotten that our entire offseason was dominated by Deflategate drivel? If you’re a New England Patriot, and your name just so happens to be Tom Brady, and you’re looking for someone to blame for the incessant questions about your integrity and legacy in an offseason that you should have spent celebrating your fourth Super Bowl win with your supermodel wife, it would be the Indianapolis Colts. They are patient zero. Tom Brady is going to be on the war path, so don’t let his innocuous answers about “not needing extra motivation” or his “it’s just another game” talk fool you. Brady and Co. are going to be out for blood.
Yup, the Patriots are a massive storm on the horizon, and they’re heading straight for Lucas Oil Field on Sunday night. Unfortunately, the Colts are completely ill-equipped personnel wise to handle what’s about to hit them. Their only saving grace is that they know what’s coming and can try to prepare. That and they’re probably going to get Andrew Luck back for this game.
Will knowing that the Patriots want to embarrass them in their own house be enough to keep this one competitive? It’s not impossible – but it’s highly improbable. I’m seeing seven Brady touchdown passes – including one in garbage time when he should be out of the game and they should be kneeling on the ball just to stick it to the Colts. Good luck Indy, you’re going to need it.
2. Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Speaking of NFC South teams that probably aren’t as good as their undefeated record suggests, I give you the Carolina Panthers. Their class of opponents so far this year have a .286 winning percentage. Not impressive. But now they have a tremendous opportunity in front of them and get a chance to prove just how good they are on the against Seattle Seahawks, who have some proving to do themselves.
The Seahawks have had a rough start to their year and blew a 17-point lead to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend to fall to 2-3 on the year. Still, they’re as good at home as anybody and are likely getting Marshawn Lynch back this week, two factors that play very much in their favor. This should be a tight game and would greatly strengthen Carolina’s currently flimsy resume. As for the Seahawks, a team nearly everyone expects to see playing meaningful games in December, getting to .500 and avoiding four losses is absolutely vital.
3. New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Don’t look now but the Eagles offense might, just might, have found their groove. I know, I know, they put up 39 points against the Saints, who rank last in basically every defensive category even after a solid performance against the Falcons last night, I get it. But the Eagles – a team with a ton of new parts this season – are finally showing some real signs of life. Now they have the chance to prove last week wasn’t a fluke against a slightly better, but not much better, New York Giants defense.
Meanwhile, the Giants have shrugged off a 0-2 start and are now leading the NFC East at 3-2 after an incredible comeback win over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday night. Both teams have their flaws, and both teams have their fair share of detractors, but hey, it’s still a chance for Philly to take a share of the division lead. It’s even more of an opportunity for the Giants, though. If “Big Blue” can best the Eagles this weekend, they will be 4-2 heading into a home game against the Dallas Cowboys next week, who still will be without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. The Giants really have a chance to put an early stranglehold on the division if they can eek out a win on Monday night.
4. Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Up until last week you could question the strength of the Bengals’ schedule but not anymore. The Bengals are for real this year and proved it during an incredible comeback against the vicious Seattle Seahawks defense. The Bills on the other hand are sputtering the last few games. After dominating the Dolphins 41-14 the Bills dropped an ugly 24-10 game to the Giants and snuck past a mediocre Tennessee Titans team 14-13. They’ll need to up their game in a big way if they want to get a win against a Bengals team that is the class of the AFC alongside the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos.
Besides Week 1 against the Raiders, the Bengals defense has let up at least 20 points in each of their games, so there aren’t impenetrable by any means. However, the Bills will have to find a way to shut down A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, and the Bengals’ two-headed running back combination of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. The Bengals are top five in the league in both points per game and yards per game so the Bills have a tough task ahead of them. The last time Dalton played Ryan’s defense was in 2013 when Ryan coached the Jets. Dalton absolutely torched the Jets to the tune of five touchdowns and 49 points en route to a 49-9 victory. Let’s see what Rex learned from that experience.
5. Arizona Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Welcome home, Bruce Arians! Wait… nevermind – Arians was unceremoniously “retired” from the Steelers organization at the end of the 2012 season. After a stop-over in Indianapolis, he ended up as the coach of the Cardinals where he’s built the Cardinals into a contender under his watch. Just like Tom Brady, Arians has said this week that this is “just another game,” and just like Brady, Arians is full of it.
When Arians returns he’ll find his former offense in quite a different state than he left it. Mike Vick currently has the keys to the car and Todd Haley has completely transformed the unit from the one Arians had implemented. But Arians also gets to show off his own high-powered Cardinal offense. The Cards are averaging 38 points per game, a league high, and they’re doing a lot of it with two reclamation projects in Chris Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald has been stellar and he leads the league in receiving touchdowns this year with six and is averaging 98 yards per game. Meanwhile Johnson is leading a Cardinals rushing attack that averages five yards per carry, a league high.
On paper, this matchup doesn’t favor the Steelers, but home field helps, and they’ve done a surprisingly impressive job keeping their heads above water in Ben Roethlisberger’s absence. If they can ruin Arians’ home coming, it’ll be their most impressive win yet.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.