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2011 NFL Week 6 Primer

San Francisco 49ers new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh makes a point to officials during play against the Oakland Raiders at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 20, 2011. UPI/Terry Schmitt

49ers @ Lions, 1:00PM ET
Neither of these teams has to prove anything this weekend. Both the Lions and 49ers are legit and if you disagree then you really haven’t been paying attention lately. No team in the league is playing better defensively right now than San Francisco and Detroit’s passing game is only overshadowed by the league’s elite (i.e. New England, New Orleans and Green Bay). This is the most intriguing matchup in Week 6 and I can’t wait to see the result.

Bills @ Giants, 1:00PM ET
What a great test for both of these teams. The Bills are 4-1 but in their two road games this season, they crushed a bad Kansas City team and lost to the Bengals after squandering a double-digit lead at halftime. The Giants, meanwhile, were playing with loads of confidence until they overlooked the Seahawks last week at home. Focus won’t be an issue for either of these teams as they both look to use this game as a measuring stick.

Eagles @ Redskins, 1:00PM ET
It’s funny, the Eagles haven’t played a full four quarters since Week 1 and have dropped four straight and yet, you get the feeling that people still expect Andy Reid and Co. to figure it out. Well, it’s now or never. If the Eagles can get to 2-4 with a bye week coming up, maybe they can put a little run together in the second half. But if they lose this week to another divisional foe then Reid and his coaching staff will have to sit on a five-game losing streak for two weeks. With their backs against the wall, if the Eagles can’t win this Sunday their deficit in the NFC East may be too much to overcome.

Panthers @ Falcons, 1:00PM ET
People are attempting not to break their necks jumping off the Falcons bandwagon – and for good reason. Their offense is broke and coordinator Mike Mularkey keeps trying the same conservative tactics to try and fix it. He’s either unable or unwilling to change and either way, the Falcons keep losing. Even though Atlanta owns the better record coming into this NFC South showdown, it’s Carolina that’s covered in optimism right now.

Rams @ Packers, 1:00PM ET
The mini scare they received last week in Atlanta may have proven to be great for Green Bay. Before the Falcons built a 14-0 lead on the Packers, Green Bay may have believed it was invincible. But they quickly got things corrected, won the game, and now they can get re-focused with another inferior team in the Rams coming to town this weekend. Two weeks ago the Packers crushed the Broncos and if they want to keep firing on all cylinders, Green Bay needs to rout a bad St. Louis team as well.

Jaguars @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET
I guess all those claims that the Steelers’ run was over after they lost to the Texans were a tad overstated, huh? The Steelers looked like their dominant selves last Sunday against the Titans and now get to feast on a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert this weekend. The Jaguars haven’t had much offense since Gabbert took over the quarterback reins and they could once again struggle at Heinz Field this Sunday. That’s not an easy place to play when your resume is lacking experience.

Colts @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET
The Bengals have a golden opportunity to get to 4-2 on the season but they face a huge test this Sunday. No not on the field, as the Colts are less fearsome than a box of puppies. But mentality this is a prime opportunity for Cincinnati to be overconfident. They know they should beat the Colts and that’s often how NFL teams get burned. If anything, Marvin Lewis and his team should remember how overconfident the Bills were coming into Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Buffalo believed it had a win locked up after knocking off the Patriots the week before and the Bills squandered a double-digit lead at halftime. Beware the letdown, Cincinnati.

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NFL Week 6 Primer

Jake DelhommeSunday’s Best: Panthers (4-1) at Buccaneers (3-2), 1:00 PM ET FOX
This isn’t the sexiest matchup on the Week 6 schedule, but it’s a battle for first place in the NFC South. Carolina is coming off a 34-0 rout of the Chiefs, a game in which they held Larry Johnson to only two yards rushing, while Tampa dropped a close one in Denver. The Panthers can thank a healthy Jake Delhomme and a stingy run defense for their hot start this season. With Delhomme back under center and a nice 1-2 punch of DeAngelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart in the backfield, the Panthers’ offense has been incredibly balanced this season and therefore, hard to stop. And Carolina’s front seven has kept opponents from averaging over 100 yards on the ground. The Bucs will go back to Jeff Garcia at quarterback with Brian Griese nursing an injured arm. It’ll be interesting to see if the Panthers take away Tampa’s 8th-best rushing attack, because the last time the Bucs couldn’t run the ball was against the Bears – a game in which Griese attempted 67 passes. Will Garcia have to do the same this week?

Upset Watch: Cowboys (4-1) at Cardinals (3-2), 4:15 PM ET FOX
I’m going right back to the well. In my primer last week, I warned to watch out for the Cards upsetting the previously unbeaten Bills. I’ll do the same this week as the Cowboys roll into the desert after almost blowing a 17-point lead to the Bengals last Sunday. Dallas has more talent than any other team in the NFC, but they’ve proven to be as fragile as T.O.’s emotions. Arizona flat out plays a different brand of football at home and could have wideout Anquan Boldin back this week, although it’s doubtful. Even without Boldin, the Cards have more than enough weapons to score on a Dallas defense that is giving up close to 23 points a game. The key obviously will be whether or not Arizona can stop the Cowboys’ high-powered offense. Dallas is racking up over 400 yards and 30 points a game and the Cards are just two games removed from surrendering 56 points to the Jets. Even if ‘Zona can’t pull off the upset, I would expect one wild shootout.

LaDainain Tomlinson
Intriguing Matchup: Patriots (3-1) at Chargers (2-3) 8:15 PM ET NBC
Remember when New England mocked Shawne Merriman’s “Lights Out” dance after a playoff win in San Diego a couple of years ago and hurt LaDainian Tomlinson’s feelings? The Pats return to the scene of the crime and no team plays with a bigger chip on their shoulder (and for really no reason) than the Chargers. Even though they won in convincing fashion against the 49ers last week, this is clearly a different Patriots team without Tom Brady. (What a statement, I know). It’ll be interesting to see if Matt Cassel can have a coming out party this weekend, because no team in the entire NFL is playing worse against the pass right now than San Diego.

Other Notable Games:
Bears (3-2) at Falcons (3-2), 1:00 PM ET FOX
The last time rookie QB Matt Ryan faced the Tampa 2 defense he had his worst outing as a pro, throwing two interceptions in a loss to the Bucs in Week 2. He’ll get a chance for redemption this week against Chicago, a team that has typically owned Atlanta in the past.

Jaguars (2-3) at Broncos (4-1), 4:15 PM ET FOX
Big Ben and the Steelers lit up Jacksonville’s defense last week. Will Jay Cutler and the Broncos’ offense do the same on Sunday?

Ravens (2-2) at Colts (2-2), 1:00 PM ET CBS
Peyton Manning vs. Ray Lewis is always fun to watch.

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