Raise your hand if you thought the Patriots and Jets would be playing for first place in the AFC East in Week 6.
Didn’t think so.
It’s difficult to decipher which is more unexpected: New England losing twice at home in the first month of the schedule, or the Jets being 3-2, same as the Patriots.
They meet Sunday at MetLife Stadium, and with Buffalo on a bye, the winner grabs the top spot in the division. Heady atmosphere for New York, commonplace for New England.
“They’re a good team,” says Jets quarterback Josh McCown, who is new to this rivalry that the Patriots have dominated for years, winning 10 of the past 12.
“Obviously, they have been for a long time in our league. Any time you’re going against them, you know you’re going against the best. So, we know we have our hands full.
“What they’ve done so well over the years is game planning for you. Having 10 days to prepare for us, we know that they’ll be ready to go.”
That’s right: The Patriots haven’t played since an Oct. 5 victory at Tampa Bay.
Tom Brady has been nursing a sore left shoulder, but promises he’ll be behind center going for a record 187th regular-season win for a quarterback. He’s tied with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.
“It’s a physical sport, so I think everyone is dealing with something,” Brady says. “Everyone’s running around and they’re big and they’re fast and they hit hard. You have bumps and bruises, but you just deal with them the best you can and try to get ready for the next week.”
The weekend began with Philadelphia’s 28-23 victory at Carolina on Thursday night.
Carson Wentz threw for 222 yards and three touchdowns to help the Eagles improve to an NFC-best 5-1. Cam Newton threw three interceptions for Carolina (4-2).
Off in Week 6 are Buffalo (3-2), Dallas (2-3), Seattle (3-2) and Cincinnati (2-3).
Pittsburgh (3-2) at Kansas City (5-0)
Who has more incentive here?
Pittsburgh comes off a befuddling home loss to Jacksonville in which Ben Roethlisberger kept throwing to the wrong team. So the Steelers need a quick turnaround to re-establish themselves as an AFC contender.
The Chiefs don’t need to have long memories when it comes to the Steelers. Last January, Pittsburgh came into Arrowhead Stadium and won an 18-16 playoff game.
“We’re a different team now as well,” says Chiefs QB Alex Smith, who is putting up MVP-type numbers, “so you relish the opportunity a little bit, the chance. But you look at it, it does bring back memories of a missed opportunity.”
Green Bay (4-1) at Minnesota (3-2)
The Packers can really establish themselves as the cream of the NFC North by extending their superiority over the Vikings. Green Bay has won five of its past seven road games vs. Minnesota, though it lost at U.S. Bank Stadium a year ago.
Aaron Rodgers has been at the top of his game in the tightest situations such as last week at Dallas, and he likes facing Minnesota. Rodgers is 12-6 as a starter against the Vikings, with a 68.3 percent completion rate, 4,810 yards, 40 TDs and six interceptions.
He will need to be aware of DE Everson Griffen, who has at least one sack in each of five games this season, tying a career-long streak.
Los Angeles Rams (3-2) at Jacksonville (3-2)
The odyssey begins for the Rams, fortunately for them in Jacksonville. They begin an 11-day road trip that starts with a cross-country flight to Florida and continues across the Atlantic to face division rival Arizona in London on Oct. 22. The team will spend four days in Jacksonville following Sunday’s game.
The Jaguars have an NFL-worst 9-28 record at home (not including five London games) since 2011. They have dropped eight of their past nine at EverBank Field.
A highlight could be the running games, with rookie Leonard Fournette for Jacksonville and Todd Gurley, the 2015 top offensive rookie, for Los Angeles.
Indianapolis (2-3) at Tennessee (2-3), Monday night
Talk about domination, the Colts have won 11 straight in this series and 16 of 17. Colts coach Chuck Pagano has not lost to Tennessee in 10 meetings.
Indy running back Frank Gore likes the sight of the Titans and has four TDs rushing in his past three games at Tennessee.
If Titans QB Marcus Mariota can’t go, well, Matt Cassel has had some success against Indy. Cassel threw for 257 yards with four touchdowns in his most recent game against the Colts. But that was six years ago while with the Chiefs.
Detroit (3-2) at New Orleans (2-2)
Coming off two straight wins and a bye, the Saints have had no turnovers in four games.
But Detroit has an NFC-high 11 takeaways, with Darius Slay, Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson providing difficult matchups in the secondary.
They will be tested by Drew Brees, who has 300 or more yards passing in each of his six games vs. the Lions.
And rookie Alvin Kamara’s role will expand with Adrian Peterson traded to Arizona. Kamara had 96 scrimmage yards, including 71 receiving, and a TD catch in a Week 4 victory in London against Miami. Kamara ranks second on the team with 20 catches this season.
Miami (2-2) at Atlanta (3-1)
It’s been ages since the Dolphins won in Atlanta: Sept. 21, 1980, in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium — the one before the Georgia Dome, which was before the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium.
They come off a sloppy victory over undermanned Tennessee and now face the defending NFC champions, who had a bye last week.
Miami must watch out for RB Devonta Freeman, who has 13 TDs in his past seven home games, and 2016 MVP Matt Ryan, who has thrown a TD pass in 23 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest active streak.
Cleveland (0-5) at Houston (2-3)
With J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus sidelined for the season and Brian Cushing suspended, the Texans’ defense could be in real trouble. Maybe not this week, though, as the mistake-prone Browns come to town.
Cleveland starts untested Kevin Hogan after rookie DeShone Kizer was benched by coach Hue Jackson. Seems that Jackson is recognizing his 1-20 record in charge is a tad underwhelming.
Still, the Browns bring a potential headliner in top overall draft pick Myles Garrett. The DE played at Texas A&M and, in his delayed debut last week had two sacks.
Houston has a top rookie of its own in quarterback Deshaun Watson. He threw five TD passes with no interceptions in a loss to KC. Watson is second in the NFL with 12 touchdown passes.
New York Giants (0-5) at Denver (3-1)
In a strange bit of scheduling, the Broncos play their fourth home game in six weeks, plus they had a bye. They won the previous three in Denver, and considering how banged-up the Giants are, this seems like a Mile High romp in the offing.
A rested Denver leads the league in defense, and the Giants will be without top wideouts Odell Beckham Jr., and Brandon Marshall for the rest of the season. Kick returner/receiver Dwayne Harris also is hurt.
Tampa Bay (2-2) at Arizona (2-3)
Arizona made an intriguing move this week by trading for Adrian Peterson. If the once-dominant running back has much left, he could provide a boost for a spiraling team that severely misses standout RB David Johnson. Arizona is averaging a league-worst 2.6 yards per carry.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston doesn’t want to remember the 40-7 thrashing at the hands of the Cardinals last season. In perhaps his worst pro performance, he threw four picks, one of which Marcus Cooper took back 60 yards for a score.
Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) at Oakland (2-3)
With Derek Carr (back) likely to return at quarterback, the Raiders are a different squad. They’d better be considering after three straight defeats they are falling well behind the Chiefs and Broncos in the tough AFC West.
The Raiders have won four straight in this series, the past three wins all by a field goal. And with the Chargers finally getting their first victory with a late surge at the Giants, look for this one to be close, too.
Also watch for Carr and Philip Rivers to go to the air often — and probably deep. These are two of the worst defenses on deep passes: Oakland ranks last with a 130.2 rating on opponent passes more than 20 yards in the air; Los Angeles ranks 31st with a 128.5 rating.
Chicago (1-4) at Baltimore (3-2)
Now that Mitchell Trubisky has had his first taste of being a starting quarterback in the pros, he could be tasting more turf at Baltimore. The Ravens already have 12 sacks, with Terrell Suggs getting four of them.
Oddly, the Bears’ only win this season is against Pittsburgh, which handily beat the Ravens 26-9.
Baltimore has the 31st-ranked passing offense, and with starting RB Terrance West out (calf), the Ravens could turn to Javorius Allen. He had 73 yards and a touchdown in a win at Oakland and leads the team with 20 receptions.
These teams have met five times, with the home side winning all of them, giving Chicago a 3-2 edge.
San Francisco (0-5) at Washington (2-2)
San Francisco has won four consecutive games against Washington. Of course, the Niners haven’t beaten anyone in coach Kyle Shanahan’s first season. Shanahan was the Redskins offensive coordinator from 2010-2013.
The 49ers don’t make it easy on opponents and are the first team to lose four consecutive games by three points or fewer since the 1994 Oilers.
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