Here is how The Examiner breaks down this week in the NFL.
WEEK 7 STORY LINES
1. Since the 1971 AFL-NFL merger, the AFC East has always had at least two teams with a .500 record or better. That streak is in major jeopardy this year. Entering this weekend, the other three teams in the division not named New England have combined for two wins. The difference has been quarterback play. Trent Green is on his last legs in Miami, Chad Pennington could be benched soon by the New York Jets and Buffalo isn’t sure whether it should use Trent Edwards, a rookie, or J.P. Losman, a stiff, on a regular basis (Edwards starts this week). Meanwhile, the Patriots chug along with Tom Brady. They could have this division clinched after their ninth game.
2. The player Houston fans probably really wanted in the 2006 draft returns to his hometown Sunday — Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young. That is, if he can even play with his quad injury. But it’ll be interesting to see how his counterpart, Matt Schaub, performs. Schaub is off to a good start in his Houston career, with a 92.0 passer rating and averaging 8.29 yards per pass attempt. Young, meanwhile, has a 68.0 passer rating with three touchdowns and six interceptions. Then again, there’s this stat: He’s 9-3 as a starter.
3. Tampa 2 wasn’t just going to be a description of the Buccaneers’ defense this season; it was also going to be the Bucs’ win total. They had an aging roster and uncertainty at quarterback. But Jeff Garcia has revitalized Tampa Bay, finally giving coach Jon Grudena legitimate quarterback. Garcia, who this week faces the team he played for two years ago (Detroit), has a 103.6 passer rating and hasn’t thrown an interception in 144 attempts.
— John Keim
GAME OF THE WEEK
Colts (5-0) at Jaguars (4-1)
Defending Super Bowl champ Indianapolis is 5-0 and has outscored its opponents by 76 points this season. The Colts have Peyton Manning and, well, that’s usually enough. But Jacksonville is already playing the we-get-no-love card. Heck, two of the Jaguars’ first three home games weren’t sellouts. And keep this in mind: The Jags beat their AFC South rival 44-17 at home last year. Also, while the Colts have been unstoppable at home (a 112-34 edge), they have won their two road games at Tennessee and at Houston by a combined eight points. Jacksonville’s defense has allowed 58 points. The Jags’ ground game, led by Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, is averaging 4.9 yards a carry.
— John Keim
WEEK 7 PICKS
TITANS AT TEXANS Titans shine in the fourth with 28-3 edge. But will Vince Young play? We say yes. Titans 17, Texans 13
RAVENS AT BILLS Kyle Boller or Steve McNair? it doesn’t matter — their numbers are almost equal. Ravens 10, Bills 9
BUCCANEERS AT LIONS Redskins’ cover-2 blueprint exposed Lions’ offense. Jeff Garcia gets revenge. Bucs 20, Lions 17
CARDINALS AT REDSKINS Let’s just say if Tim Rattay’s passer rating was water, it would be freezing right now. Redskins 24, Cards 9
49ERS AT GIANTS Giants outscored opponents 106-54 in winning four straight. That’s beforefacing the Niners and Dolphins. G-men 24, Niners 13
FALCONS AT SAINTS In putrid NFC South, Saints can still climb back into contention. Pitiful Falcons can’t. Saints 21, Falcons 10
PATRIOTS AT DOLPHINS This is the definition of a lock. Pats’ closest win is 17 points; Fins haven’t won. Pats 34, Fins 13
CHIEFS AT RAIDERS Neither team’s defense can stop the run, which should make for a fast game. Raiders 23, Chiefs 21
JETS AT BENGALS Talk about a hanging Chad. Jets QB Pennington could be making his last start. Bengals 26, Jets 12
VIKINGS AT COWBOYS What does Patrick Crayton do after a 21-point loss? Predict a Super Bowl appearance. Cowboys 24, Vikes 17
BEARS AT EAGLES Suddenly, the Bears’ defense stinks. Chicago allowing 24.9 ppg compared with 15.9 last year. Eagles 24.9, Bears 23
RAMS AT SEAHAWKS Rams’ offense has scored 16 points or less five times this season. Their “D” stinks, too. Seahawks 20, Rams 14
STEELERS AT BRONCOS Broncos are 2-6 in their last eight home games, puncturing the myth of Mile High. Steelers 27, Broncos 17
COLTS AT JAGUARS Jags always good for one big victory at home; here it comes. Upset Special. Jags 20, Colts 17
— John Keim
PLAYER TO WATCH
Adrian Peterson is back to torment fans in Texas, this time those of the Dallas Cowboys and not the Texas Longhorns. But will he? The former Texas high school phenom who spurned his home-state team for Oklahoma is averaging 6.3 yards per carry for the Minnesota Vikings and has an NFL-high 607 yards rushing, but Dallas only allows 3.4 yards a pop.