Stakes raised at Cowboys-Vikings, more Week 6 storylines
The loser of the Cowboys-Vikings showdown will not make the playoffs
Colt McCoy could very well get a rude welcome to the NFL in Pittsburgh
The Ravens will become this year's dominant team if they win at New England
A Colt gets thrown to the wolves. Football and crab cakes -- that's what Baltimore does. Andy Reid is setting himself up to be caught in the middle of a bitter Philly quarterbacking sandwich. And when David Carr getting on the field is the answer, the question must be, "How long 'til Mike Singletary gets fired?"
Storylines abound in Week 6, and the season seems to get juicier with every passing week.
But we begin in Minneapolis, where officially the game will be played at the Metrodome, but you might as well call it the Target Center II, because everyone in this one seems to have a target squarely on their back.
Say goodnight, loser. Will it be goodnight, Brad? Or goodnight Wade? There have been exceptions, but generally speaking, teams that start the year 1-4 simply do not make it to the playoffs. Period. End of story. The stakes, then, are obvious -- especially for the head coaches.
We know the Vikings' Brad Childress already knows his way to the airport, given his part-time position as Brett Favre's chauffeur last offseason. And we know Jerry Jones gave the Pokes' Wade Phillips the dreaded vote of confidence last week. One of these two fellows surely will be in for a long walk on a short plank after this one.
Thankfully for Brett Favre, the most talked-about appendage on his body last week was his arm. Specifically, it was his elbow. Favre is listed as questionable. But there's about as much of a chance of Favre missing a start as there is of his being the keynote speaker at the Mensa International convention. Still, he's been mostly unproductive, mostly a distraction and an interception machine. Sad, but true: The game not only has caught up to Favre, it's passed him by. Favre now has a valuable weapon in Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson at his best and a terrific defense. If he can't get this team a win now, there's big trouble in Minny.
Someone on national TV finally recognized there's an elephant in the room, and his name is Tony Romo. Good for you, Tony Dungy. Yeah, you've been criticized for questioning Romo's leadership abilities on NBC last week. And Romo bristled and invited you behind the scenes, in film rooms and such at Valley Ranch, just so you can see the kind of leader he is. But facts are facts. With so much attention on Phillips' job status, and Romo's charm and popularity disarming, a lot of folks are losing sight of the fact that Romo is mostly all-show, no-go when it comes to crunch time. That is, big games and postseason games.
This is a BIG game. The Cowboys are possibly the most talented team in the conference and are a dismal 1-3. There's never been a better time to step up and show something.
Jared Allen needs to grow a slump-busting mullet or something. The man is due. Big-time. There's a misconception that Allen has not been effective this year. Nothing could be further from the truth. He's gotten close on a lot of sacks and affected every game with pressure and penetration. And here come the Cowboys, against whom Allen dominated with a sack, forced fumble and a tackle for loss in last year's NFC Divisional Playoff win.
Elsewhere in Week 6, the storylines remain equally as intriguing:
2. Welcome to the NFL, Colt. Wow, talk about trial by fire. Colt McCoy will become the 16th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999. There's no truth to the rumor the 17th already is warming up. All the Texas-ex has to do is lead the Browns into Pittsburgh, in one of the most hostile environments, against one of the league's hottest teams, against arguably the NFL's best defense on the same day that Ben Roethlisberger returns from his suspension. Good luck with all that.
3. "We want Carr ... We want Carr." The Niners are in full-blown implosion mode, to the point that fans were chanting a verbal suicide note of sorts last week. In the midst of Alex Smith's turnover-marred performance against the Eagles, fans actually chanted for David Carr. The same Carr, mind you, whose career highlights after being selected No. 1 overall by the Texans in 2002 mostly were for the other team.
4. Who says there's no dominant team in the NFL this year? The Ravens are on the verge of proving the Parity Patrol wrong. If you beat the Jets in New York, the Steelers in Pittsburgh and the Patriots (this week's opponent) in New England, you're on your way to the Super Bowl. The Ravens can beat you on the ground, on special teams, in a number of ways defensively and are efficient in the air. They're also getting healthy.
5. The Pretenders -- Houston or Kansas City? Considering these cities are known for their barbecue, one of these teams' playoff hopes is about to get smoked. The Texans especially can ill afford a loss. Already, they've lost two of three home games. Lose three home games, and you're just not a playoff team. The Chiefs have a cupcake schedule over the ensuing seven games (Jags, Bills, Raiders, Broncos twice, Cardinals and Seahawks), so they can recover. Still, their playoff worth would get a big boost with a quality win over an AFC South team on the road.
6. Jay Cutler can't remember how many concussions he's had ... isn't that irony? It's no joking matter. Cutler, who reportedly has had five concussions dating to his Vanderbilt days, was cleared to start Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers. He says he doesn't remember having more than the one that was delivered by the Giants' ferocious pass rush. This is an extremely slippery slope upon which Cutler and the Bears are walking. They have playoff hopes. Beyond that, concussions are not the kind of injuries with which to play and the Bears offensive line is porous.
7. The Tampa Bay Bucs might be the best team in the NFC. No, really. Or at least the once-lowly Bucs will be able to if they can beat the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. Josh Freeman is a rising playmaker who already has guided his team to a pair of quality road wins (Panthers and Bengals) and has showed that indefinable quality of making plays when it matters most. Teammates follow this guy and trust him. He put up 10 points in 1:26 on the road last week to beat the Bengals 24-21. Whatever "it" is, he's got it.
8. How long until Kevin Kolb gets the hook? The answer could well be, as soon as Michael Vick feels well enough to play. Kolb might have been solid all-around in the Eagles' win at San Francisco last week. But Andy Reid likes what Vick has brought and if his ribs do not hinder him, Vick is sure to play significant time against the Falcons.
9. We know Darrelle Revis has speed to burn, but what about after he parks his car? The Jets and specifically Revis, who's still bothered by a bad hamstring, need a real pick-me-up. So they go a Mile High and get exactly that. It's very rare an NFL team can afford to sit one of its best players voluntarily. But this is one of those occasions, even if it is on the road. The Broncos can't run the ball. In fact, they're not even interested in running. They also cannot stop the run. With an off week after this, will gambling-man Rex Ryan take the calculated risk and sit Revis?
10. Can Aaron Rodgers stop the hemorrhaging in Green Bay? Early-on this season, most of the Packers' struggles were self-inflicted. At least those were correctable. It appears the only solution to the Packers' remarkable tear of, well, tears, is for Rodgers to put this team on his back and carry it to the postseason. Even Rodgers is coming off a concussion. But with Ryan Grant out for the year and now Jermichael Finley most likely done, too, it's all on Rodgers.