Head coach Chuck Pagano brings his toughness to a team that is translating it to the field. The 4-1 Colts head to San Diego to face his brother, defensive coordinator John Pagano. This will be a memory for them to share on Monday Night Football. A good face-off at the helm between the emerging Andrew Luck and the rekindled Philip Rivers. Both offenses have been impressive. Indianapolis can play in a shootout and/or grind it out in struggling affairs, whereas the Bolts matriculate the ball up and down the field, excellent playcalling and usage of talent by new head coach Mike McCoy.
The Chargers are getting a lift now that the young receivers are feeling more comfortable, hopefully Ryan Matthews can stay healthy because that tandem with Danny Woodhead will give any defense headaches. Acting like you forgot about tight end Antonio Gates. Might be a step slower but he is making plays like he used to, taking care of his body and looking healthy. The defense on the other hand needs to lower the amount of points they allow, perhaps sending more blitzes and playing more man-to-man. Just leave All Pro safety Eric Weddle in the middle of the field by himself to read the QB’s eyes and play the ball.
Indianapolis is playing the prototypical football most teams prefer to play, they are just so balanced and move the chains at will. The defense has formed a tough identity, whatever you try to do they will make you work for it. They can play smash-mouth football, they’ll sling the ball around in a shootout, and the defense changes focus by the week according to each opponent. They don’t try to force their style of play, simply overload what you like to do while tempting you to take what is given, but it will be the lesser of the two poisons.
New Orleans goes to New England undefeated, while tight end Rob Gronkowski returns for the Patriots to square off in a “Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird” matchup against Jimmy Graham. Both are dominant and unstoppable when healthy, which Graham has been this year by leading the entire league in receiving. Realize the gameplan is for defenses to contain these studs, so really it will come down to their performance facing the defenses. It would be awesome if they guarded each other, but we’ll have to wait for some offseason, charity basketball game or something.
This is a big game for each team, to test themselves among the elite, to see how they measure against other contenders at this point in the season. Not only do they have an outstanding tight end matchup, the QB’s aren’t too shabby either. New England’s Tom Brady fell just short of the consecutive games with a touchdown, a record that Drew Brees of the Saints holds and thought we be broken by this week’s counterpart. New Orleans is rolling offensively, and the newly infused defense by coordinator Rob Ryan has been the perfect compliment to an undefeated start. The Saints have to prove to themselves, that they can go out and beat a good team in their territory, something they’ve struggled with in recent years. The Patriots have gotten some key weapons back for Brady to throw to, which they hope opens up holes for the ground game that was their x-factor last season. New England doesn’t need this game at much as New Orleans, they have overachieved with less because they have leadership and fire to get the job done without excuses.
Cardinals @ 49ers
Another game to look forward to resides in the NFC West, where Arizona travels to San Francisco. I happen to like the Cardinals more than most. They do have to try to compensate for the flaws along the offensive line, but they sure have the defense to keep them in games and the tools to score enough points to win. The secondary is full of ballhawks, mainly the exciting cornerback Patrick Peterson and attention-hogging rookie, safety Tyrann Mathieu. Not to mention the return of inside linebacker Darryl Washington, notching 9 tackles, an interception, and a pass defensed in his season debut. Head coach Bruce Arians will eventually figure out the puzzle on offense, he has the great Larry Fitzgerald and an emerging rookie running back, Andre Ellington coming to fruition.
San Francisco has gone back to their ways of just winning football games. After a reality check against the Colts, they recognized that trying to be pretty wasn’t working for them, meaning they should pound the ball all day and wear the defense down. This will reveal itself in second halves of games resulting in opposing offenses being out of rhythm against a well-rested defense that forces a lot of turnovers, and allow QB Colin Kaepernick to use his speed when defenders are fatigued. The 49ers are a little banged up on both sides of the ball, but expect a hard-fought division game with a few highlights from the stars.
Last week’s loss will not hang over the heads of the Dallas Cowboys, because now the rival Redskins come to town after a bye week to regroup. Sunday Night Football features a struggling division full of teams, but this matchup will be exciting as usual and is a coin toss to predict. Last week has nothing to do with this week, where the coach knocked on the quarterback for making the same mistakes he did as a player. Also, owner Jerry Jones let his voice be heard, and Tony Romo is being somewhat celebrated for having the best statistical game in Cowboys’ history. They lost but get a boost with the return of receiver Miles Austin. Washington has had time for the backfield of RG3 and Alfred Morris to heal (mentally and physically), but it would be nice if the defenses invited themselves to compete this week. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall didn’t give receiving counterpart Dez Bryant any bulletin board material, actually complimenting Bryant’s impact and the challenge he presents.
Sticking within the division, Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy tweeted that Knowshon Moreno sucks. He doesn’t say a lot of controversial things but when he has a strong opinion, he voices it and stands by it. They came out of the same draft where Moreno went 12th overall and McCoy was picked 53rd, in the second round. A couple weeks ago the Eagles flew to Denver and got destroyed 52-20. We do know that Moreno is the best back the Broncos have and looks smooth in his offense (he fortunately inherited), whereas Shady McCoy is the catalyst in Philly and has catapulted his name into Offensive Player of the Year consideration. Hey, the tweet by ESPN’s Skip Bayless, well it did the job.
Eagles teammate Desean Jackson was asked about his matchup with cornerback Darrelle Revis this week in Tampa Bay, and he said that he was faster. This is true, Revis can’t keep up with him in terms of speed, not many people can. Revis responded by saying, “I guess that’s what fast people say. He’s fast. Personally, that doesn’t mean anything to me.” Of course Eagles Coach Chip Kelly was asked, saying that this isn’t a track meet but will be interesting to see. You could look at the Eagles one of two ways: winning a game to enter first place in the division is confidence boosting to say the least, or Coach Kelly has transcribed a personality and outlet for truth to express to the media that craves this stuff.