By Tony McClean
Updated: October 26, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Ct.
— Lets take a brief look at the standings as we slowly approach the midway point of the season. Da Bears and the Indy Horseshoes are still the only unbeatens left in the game, both at 6-0.
In the NFC, the Giants (4-2) and the surprising Saints (5-1) are the top dogs in the East and South respectively. Seattle (4-2) has a slight edge on the Rams (4-2) in the West due to their last gasp win at St. Loo two weeks ago.
On the outside looking in are teams like Carolina (4-2), Minnesota (4-2), Philly (4-3), Atlanta (4-2), and Dallas (3-3). We’ll know a little bit more about these teams within the next few weeks.
In the AFC, New England (5-1) still controls the East with the Jets (4-3) not too far behind. The Ravens and Cincy (4-2) are tied for the top spot in the North. They’ll meet each other for the first time at Baltimore next week.
Denver (5-1) leads the Chargers (4-2) by a game in the West. The Broncos are also 2-0 in the division while the Bolts are 1-1. They’ll meet each other for the first time on November 19th at Invesco Field.
Teams on the outside looking in are Jacksonville, who have fallen to 3-3 since their 2-0 start, and the Chiefs who are also 3-3. Something to ponder down the road: K.C. hosts the Jags in their season finale on New Year’s Eve at Arrowhead.
***image7***FACTOID OF THE WEEK
So far, it’s the year of the rookie in the AFC. Three AFC rookies lead their teams in rushing yards (Indy’s Joseph Addai with 354 yards, New York’s Leon Washington with 346, and New England’s Laurence Maroney with 361), four lead or are team co-leaders in sacks, and many others are starting or holding down key roles for their teams.
TRIVIA QUESTION Cleveland’s Kellen Winslow Jr. has 38 catches in his first eight career games, the second most ever by a tight end in his first eight games. Which tight end had the most catches in his first eight games?
A. Keith Jackson B. Tony Gonzalez C. John Mackey D. Shannon Sharpe (The answer comes at the end of the column) LAST WEEK: 4-8 (60-36 overall)
Oh, geez! Where do we start? Well, picking the Bills (Sorry, Roland!!) didn’t help. We lost on field goals in Tampa (62 YARDS? 62 FRIGGIN YARDS FROM MATT BRYANT?) and in Atlanta. The Raiders picked this week to show up at home as well as the Texans (MY GOD!!) surprising the Jags. Thank goodness for the Colts and Drew Bledsoe for saving me. To paraphrase those political commercials, I’m Tony McClean and I did not approve of this asswhuppin’!!!
SUNDAY FALCONS at BENGALS
While most of the country got caught in the Dallas QB soap opera (more on that later), very quietly Mike Vick out dueled both Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch in a shootout at the Dome last Sunday. After being sacked seven times against Big Blue two weeks ago, No. 7 bounced back with avengance against the Black and Gold. Will he be able to do it against a Bengal defense that kept Carolina under check last Sunday? Something to ponder: Cincinnati has won nine of its past 10 games against NFC opponents. Just a hunch, lets make it nine of their last 11.
RAMS at CHARGERS
The Chargers are still licking their wounds from last week’s bitter loss at Arrowhead while St. Loo looks to bounce back from their own bitter defeat two weeks ago against division foe Seattle. Despite the loss last week, San Diego comes into the game still ranked No. 1 overall defensively. Given the uncertainty of Shawn Merriman’s status over the next few weeks, that No. 1 status probably won’t remain. The Rams have shown more balance offensively, but still aren’t quite there on the defensive end. It will be a close one, but we like the Bolts.
COLTS at BRONCOS
These two teams had seemingly met every year in the playoffs until last season when Indy got home field throughout the playoffs. The Colts are trying to become the second team in league history to start a season at 7-0 in consecutive years. Curly Lambeau’s Green Bay Packers performed the feat three years in a row from 1929-31, finishing with the best record in the NFL all three seasons. The Broncos remember those successive Wild Card losses to Indy in 2003 and 2004. Considering the touchdown streak that Denver’s defense is on, this should be the game of the day. Don’t be surprised if it’s the upset of the day as well.
COWBOYS at PANTHERS
In this week’s episode of “How The Tuna Melts”, Big D’s newest heartthrob Tony Romo gets his chance to be undressed in front of a national TV audience. For the Cowboys and their legion of fans, the QB and the network change this week. However with that same offensive line, Romo-Cop will find out just what Drew Bledsoe already knows. “The fetal position works best, kid”, No. 11 was quoted to say along with a few choice expletives. Just look for ex-Cowboy Keyshawn Johnson to tap Julius Peppers and company on the shoulder and yell “Sic’ Em!!!!!!!!!”
MONDAY PATRIOTS at VIKINGS
This week’s ESPN Monday Nighter on paper looks to be a slightly better match up than last week’s incident at Irving. Both teams are coming off big road wins: New England finished a season sweep of the Bills while Minnesota snapped Seattle’s team-record 12-game home winning streak at Qwest Field. The Patriots are returning to their road warrior status again as they’ve won their last five on the road, outscoring opponents 156-64. Will there be a letdown on either side. If it is, I think it will on the purple side of the ball.
OTHER GAMES Giants over Bucs: If Matt Bryant hits another 60-yarder at the gun, I’ll eat my hat. (Just in case, I’ll sample wool hats with fries this week).
Saints over Ravens: Another Baltimore loss and Brian Billick will have to fire his ego.
Seahawks over Chiefs: This could be a shootout, but Seattle should pull this one out.
Packers over Cardinals: This week’s new action thriller is “Dead Man Walking” starring Denny Green.
Bears over 49ers: Me thinks Chicago shouldn’t struggle with Frisco.
Titans over Texans: That grumbling you hear in the background are Houston fans who wanted Vince Young.
Eagles over Jaguars: Is it me or wasn’t Jacksonville 2-0 about a few days ago?
Jets over Browns: No, Romeo didn’t call me about his latest opening. Thanks for asking.
Steelers over Raiders: Note to Coach Cowher: If you don’t start Charlie Batch and you lose this game, you have no one to blame but yourself.
BYES: Bills, Lions, Dolphins, Redskins.
TRIVIA ANSWER: A. Through the first eight games of his rookie season of 1988, Philadelphia’s Keith Jackson had 48 catches through the Eagles’ first eight games. He finished with a team-high 81 catches and six touchdowns.