By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) The 2012 season has been as wild and unpredictable as any I can remember. Six weeks in the books and there’s only two teams in the AFC that have a winning record, Houston and Baltimore, which face each other in Week 7. Here’s my take on how this weekend’s NFL action will shake out:
(Home team in all CAPS)
Game of the Week: TEXANS 27, Ravens 23 – Noon
In a potential AFC Championship preview, the Ravens head to Houston to battle the Texans. The Ravens were victorious against the Cowboys, but it came at a steep price. Lost for the season is their top corner, Ladarius Webb, and their heart and soul, linebacker Ray Lewis. On the other sideline, the Texans are licking their metaphorical wounds after getting pasted by the Packers. Even though the Texans’ record was aided by a soft schedule, they’re still a very dangerous team and I like them to rebound at home.
VIKINGS 20, Cardinals 17 – Noon
Two early-season surprises square off, as the Cardinals visit the Vikings. Not buying either of these teams as a whole, primarily due to holes on offense, but both defenses are for real. The Cardinals have one of, if not the worst offensive lines in the NFL, and will have no answer for Jared Allen. If you’re a fan of offensive football, find a different game. Give me the Vikings at home in a lesser of two evils situation.
Cowboys 24, PANTHERS 20 – Noon
Fresh off a bye week, the Panthers need a win in the worst way. Cam Newton slogs through a sophomore slump, leaving his stellar rookie season as nothing but a memory. Not only has Newton been bad, he’s been a whiner. Remember that “primma donna” label that floated around before the 2011 draft? Looking accurate at the moment. The Cowboys inspired effort in Baltimore came up just short, but I like them on the road against an inferior Panthers squad.
Saints 31, BUCS 23 – Noon
It’s been quite some time since the Saints were looking up at the Bucs in the NFC South standings. After this weekend, they won’t be staring up at them much longer. The Saints defense can’t stop anybody, but their offense is still explosive. The Bucs defense is stout against the run, but allow over 310 passing yards per game. The Saints are a bad opponent to have in town when you have issues in your secondary. Give me the Saints on the road.
Packers 27, RAMS 17 – Noon
The Packers played their first complete game of the season last Sunday night, thoroughly dismantling the Texans, in Houston. I’ve been commenting all year that something was amiss with the Packers offense, but they were back to old form. Aaron Rodgers was throwing laser beams and receivers were winning in man coverage. The Rams defense – specifically their pass rush and corners – is legit, but they aren’t at the Packers level.
GIANTS 31, Redskins 20 – Noon
Despite being 4-2, the Giants are the best team in the NFL. Eli Manning is playing like the league’s MVP, the defense is still dominant, and they can salt away a game by running the football. There’s no doubt that RGIII is a gifted play maker, but I expect the Giants defensive ends to play contain and force him to be a pocket passer. I like the defending champs at home.
BILLS 27, Titans 23 – Noon
If you’re a glutton for bad football, this game is like a meal prepared by Paula Deen. Yes, I know the Titans beat the Steelers last week, but as a whole, they’re one of the worst teams in the NFL. They have a porous defense and a toothless offense. The Bills aren’t much better, but they can at least move the ball. Teams coming off a win on Thursday Night Football are 1-4 this season, so give me the Bills at home.
Browns 20, COLTS 17 – Noon
The Browns got off the schnide last week picking up their first win and splitting their season series with the Bengals. The Colts “Chuckstrong” campaign petered out, as they were walloped by the Jets. Obviously, expectations aren’t very high for teams led by rookie quarterbacks, especially these two, who simply don’t have enough talent to compete on a weekly basis. If Trent Richardson’s rib injury doesn’t prevent him from playing, I like the Browns to pound a soft Colts run defense, and eke out their first road win of the season.
PATRIOTS 31, Jets 17 – 3:25 PM
There’s no love lost in this AFC East rivalry. The records say these two teams are peers, but in reality, they aren’t at all. The Jets are an awful football team. Digging into the Patriots record, their three losses have been by a combined four points, while their three wins have been by a combined 55 points. This game will fall into the latter category.
RAIDERS 20, Jaguars 16 – 3:25 PM
I think I read somewhere that Alameda county judges are forcing people to watch this game as part of their creative sentencing programs. If the Titans/Bills game didn’t satisfy your craving for poor pigskin, this game is dessert. The Jaguars had an extra week to prepare, but will it make a difference? Unless they were able to acquire a new quarterback, offensive line, and two receivers, no, no it will not. The Raiders gave the Falcons a scare last week, and will pick up a win this weekend.
Steelers 28, BENGALS 24 – 7:20 PM
Pivotal AFC North match-up in Cincinnati between the Steelers and Bengals. Neither of these teams can run the football, and have become one-dimensional passing attacks. The Steelers have only played one team with a winning record – the Eagles – yet they’re 2-3, so it’s panic time in Pittsburgh. The Bengals have something really special in wide receiver AJ Green, who could light up a Steelers secondary that hasn’t recovered from their playoff loss in Denver. All that said, I am taking the Steelers in what amounts to a “must win” game.
BEARS 24, Lions 20 – Monday Night
The Lions and Bears tangle for the 165th time, and one of these two teams will pick up their first divisional win. The Lions woke up late last week, rallying from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Eagles in overtime. Huge win for the Lions, as it saved them from starting the season 1-4. The Lions have embraced this “bad boy” label, but to me, they’re just bad at football. As dominant as the Bears defense as been this season, I’m still skeptical about the team as a whole, in large part due to their sporadic offense. Hopefully, the Bears used their bye-week to sort some things out, as they should beat a lesser Lions team at home.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.