CLOSE GAMES & STANDINGS HIGHLIGHT COMPETITIVE NFL
October 16, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
Six weeks into the NFL season, the games on the field have been close… and so are the standings.
This season, 65 of the league’s 92 games (70.7 percent) have been within seven points or fewer during the fourth quarter. The 65 such games are the most ever through the first six weeks of a season, surpassing the previous mark of 64 set in 1999 and 2004.
“Winning is tough in this league,” says Cincinnati Bengals head coach MARVIN LEWIS, whose team defeated Buffalo 27-24 in overtime last week. “We know that.”
A look at the standings shows the competitiveness and unpredictability of the National Football League.
Through the first six weeks, there are 21 teams with a .500 or better record. Five divisions – NFC West (4), NFC North (3), AFC East (3), AFC North (3), AFC West (3) – have at least three teams with a .500+ record.
The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are both 6-0, the only two unbeaten teams this season. Since 1990, when the 12-team playoff format was adopted, 27 of the previous 29 teams (93.1 percent) to start 6-0 made the playoffs.
“Every win is a big win,” says Chiefs head coach ANDY REID. “In this league, we don’t take any wins for granted.”
With Denver and Kansas City both leading the AFC West, this is only the second time since the divisional structure was implemented in 1933 that two teams in the same division started 6-0. In 1934, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, then members of the NFL’s Western Division, each started 10-0.
“It’s not easy to win football games,” says Broncos quarterback PEYTON MANNING, who is one of only two quarterbacks in NFL history to be at least 90 games over .500 (TOM BRADY). “I learned long ago to never take winning for granted. It’s tough to win in the NFL.”
Since 1990, 201 of the league’s 276 playoff teams (72.8 percent) had a winning record after six games. But nothing is a given in the NFL. More than a quarter of the playoff clubs since 1990 (75 of 276, 27.2 percent) had a .500 record or below after six games, including half of last year’s postseason field (Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and Washington).
Week 7 kicks off on Thursday night when the Arizona Cardinals host the Seattle Seahawks (NFL Network, 8:25 PM ET). The week concludes when the Minnesota Vikings visit the New York Giants on Monday night (ESPN, 8:40 PM ET). Some of the key games this weekend:
ST. LOUIS RAMS (3-3) at CAROLINA PANTHERS (2-3) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
The Rams have won two games in a row, including last week’s 38-13 victory at Houston. St. Louis scored on offense, defense and special teams in the team’s Week 6 win.
“I think everyone totally bought in,” says Rams quarterback SAM BRADFORD about the team’s turnaround and winning streak. “If you look at the way we’ve played the past two weeks, it’s been a completely different mindset and attitude.”
Bradford passed for three TDs last week for a career-high 134.6 passer rating. A pair of rookies added scores on defense and special teams as first-round pick ALEC OGLETREE had a 98-yard interception-return touchdown – tied for the longest by a LB in NFL history – and undrafted rookie DAREN BATES returned a fumble on a kickoff 11 yards for a TD.
Quarterback CAM NEWTON accounted for four touchdowns – three passing, one rushing – in the Panthers’ 35-10 win at Minnesota in Week 6. Newton and DAUNTE CULPEPPER are the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to record three games with at least three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in their first three seasons.
“This is a team that understands the importance of where we are right now and where we can go,” says Carolina wide receiver STEVE SMITH, who had a touchdown catch last week. “It’s a team that seems to be waking up.”
Defensively, the Panthers were led by safety MIKE MITCHELL (two interceptions, one sack) and linebacker THOMAS DAVIS (two sacks).
“We went out and played great team defense,” says Davis of the entire unit’s performance.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (4-2) at DETROIT LIONS (4-2) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)
The Bengals sit alone in first place in the AFC North after last week’s 27-24 overtime win at Buffalo. Quarterback ANDY DALTON passed for 337 yards and three touchdowns and MIKE NUGENT kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal with 6:44 remaining in the extra period.
“We’ve done some good things,” says Dalton of the team’s recent play on offense. “It’s nice for us to come out and score, move the ball well and do some good things, so we have to keep getting better and keep improving. That is what we are going to do.”
Detroit is tied with Chicago atop the NFC North and the Lions seek to knock off an AFC foe for the second consecutive week. In the team’s Week 6 win at Cleveland, MATTHEW STAFFORD threw four touchdown passes, including three to undrafted rookie tight end JOSEPH FAURIA. Fauria is the first tight end in franchise history with three touchdown receptions in a game.
Defensively, linebacker DE ANDRE LEVY had two interceptions and is now tied for the NFL lead with four this season.
“He’s always been a good player,” says Lions head coach JIM SCHWARTZ. “He’s always had eyes for the football.”
DALLAS COWBOYS (3-3) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-3) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
First place in the NFC East is on the line when the Eagles host the Cowboys. Both teams are coming off wins in Week 6.
DWAYNE HARRIS sparked Dallas last week with a 90-yard kickoff return and an 86-yard punt-return touchdown in the team’s 31-16 win over Washington. The Cowboys lead the NFC with 183 points scored and TONY ROMO’s 108.6 passer rating is the highest mark in the NFC.
“The division games are big,” says Romo. “We have a big one with Philadelphia. It’s a tough place to play. They’re playing tough football so it’ll be a good test for us. We’ll be ready.”
Philadelphia has won two in a row after last week’s 31-20 victory at Tampa Bay. Eagles running back LE SEAN MC COY leads the NFL with 630 rushing yards and 871 scrimmage yards and is one of the most versatile players on a dynamic offense. Philadelphia is the only team since the 1970 merger to gain at least 1,600 net passing yards (1,628) and 1,050 rushing yards (1,071) through the first six games of a season.
“I’ve seen improvement from where we started to where we are right now,” says head coach CHIP KELLY.
DENVER BRONCOS (6-0) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-2) (Sunday, NBC, 8:30 PM ET)
The Colts will host the Broncos on Sunday night as quarterback PEYTON MANNING returns to Indianapolis. Manning leads the NFL with 2,179 yards, 22 touchdowns – the most ever through the first six games of a season – and a 128.8 passer rating. Selected No. 1 overall by the Colts in 1998, Manning posted a 141-67 regular-season record for Indianapolis, passing for 54,828 yards, 399 touchdowns and a 94.9 passer rating. He guided the Colts to the playoffs 11 times, including a victory in Super Bowl XLI.
Denver improved to 6-0 on Sunday with a 35-19 win over Jacksonville. The Broncos have scored 265 points, the most ever by a team through the first six games of a season. Manning passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over the Jaguars while running back KNOWSHON MORENO rushed for three scores.
ANDREW LUCK, the No. 1 overall selection by the Colts in 2012, has won 15 of his first 22 career starts. He guided Indianapolis to the playoffs as a rookie a year ago and currently has the team in first place in the AFC South.
In last week’s loss at San Diego, Indianapolis wide receiver REGGIE WAYNE reached 1,000 career catches (1,001), becoming the ninth player in NFL history to accomplish the feat. The Colts – with Wayne and MARVIN HARRISON (1,102) – are the first team in NFL history to have two players with 1,000 receptions each with a franchise.
“He came in from day one and you could see the talent was there,” says Indianapolis head coach CHUCK PAGANO, who was an assistant coach when Wayne played collegiately at Miami. “But his work ethic, his passion for the game, the way he studied and the time that he put in, things that he sacrificed, it was real evident early on that he was special. Certainly you can’t predict the type of numbers and years, but we knew early on that he was going to be a great player.”
2013 NFL STANDINGS