How pretty the turnaround in Kansas City has been.
How pretty the turnaround in Kansas City has been.
How ugly the turnaround in Houston has been.
When the Texans visit the Chiefs today, it will match up a title contender against a team trying to get things going in the right direction. With a twist, of course: The Texans are also-rans instead of AFC South leaders, and the Chiefs are undefeated rather than simply rebuilding from a 2-14 season.
Kansas City has won six in a row, and Houston has dropped four straight. The Chiefs are a takeaway machine with 18 and a plus-12 differential. Houston is very charitable with 15 turnovers and a minus-12.
But the Chiefs don't want to hear anything about being 6-0.
"If you allow that to happen, there's where you get into problems," said coach Andy Reid, the man most responsible for the winning after joining the Chiefs this season following 14 generally successful seasons in Philadelphia. "Personally, I don't worry about all that, and I haven't seen any of our guys worry about all that."
There's plenty to worry about in Houston, where Case Keenum gets his first NFL start at quarterback for the injured Matt Schaub.
"I've been around a few teams that have gotten in a funk, turned the ball over and made mistakes. This has been very, very difficult," coach Gary Kubiak said. "You don't stay the same. If it continues, you've got to continue to search for something each week. That's what we're trying to do this week by changing things up and trying to get it to go away."
Denver (6-0) at Indianapolis (4-2)
The return of the great quarterback, well advanced at age 37.
Manning will be honored before the game in the stadium he helped get built and by the fans to whom he brought almost nothing but winning football — and a Super Bowl title.
Then he will do what he has always done, going out to beat the opponent. If he wins, he will join Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks to beat all 32 franchises.
Dallas (3-3) at Philadelphia (3-3)
The winner will take over first place in the NFC East. Imagine that, a team with a winning record in this downtrodden division.
Dallas might have to get there without two stars: DE DeMarcus Ware (thigh) and RB DeMarco Murray (knee). The Eagles, losers of eight straight at home, figure to have Nick Foles at quarterback instead of Michael Vick.
Regardless, look for lots of wide-open offense.
Cleveland (3-3)at Green Bay (3-2)
Are the Packers becoming a running team? They've had 100-yard rushers in three of the past four weeks — Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin — after not having one for nearly three seasons. But they do have Aaron Rodgers, of course, which means the ball will be going downfield even without the injured Randall Cobb.
Cleveland's defense can be formidable, especially against the run, so Rodgers might have to take to the air often. He won't complain about that.
Baltimore (3-3)at Pittsburgh (1-4)
A classic AFC North rivalry game, except that the Steelers have fallen by the wayside. They did get their first win last week against the Jets, and a victory over the defending Super Bowl champions will have the folks in Pittsburgh dreaming of an amazing turnaround.
But Baltimore has won three in a row at Heinz Field, which once was a house of horrors for the Ravens. One player Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger won't want to see is linebacker Terrell Suggs. "Sizzle" has sacked Roethlisberger 151/2; times, the most of anyone.
Cincinnati (4-2) at Detroit (4-2)
Normally, the juice here would be the presence of two of the game's top wideouts, Cincinnati's A.J. Green and Detroit's Calvin Johnson. But Johnson has been slowed by a right knee problem, which means Lions running back Reggie Bush might have to carry the load.
The Bengals have a breakaway running threat of their own in rookie Gio Bernard, but the focus for Cincinnati is a solid defense that gets after the quarterback (18 sacks).
San Francisco (4-2)at Tennessee (3-3)
Tennessee must find a way to cover Vernon Davis. The tight end victimized Arizona last week for the most yards of his career, 180, on eight catches with two touchdowns. In his only game against the Titans, he had a career-high 10 catches for 102 yards.
Might the Titans put their top cornerback, Alterraun Verner, on Davis? Verner vs. Vernon could be exciting because Verner is tied for the league lead with four interceptions and he ran one back for a TD.
Quarterback Jake Locker is expected to return for Tennessee. He sprained both his right hip and knee Sept. 29 against the Jets.
Chicago (4-2)at Washington (1-4)
Oddly, these teams are dead even through 47 meetings, 23-23-1.
Chicago is making its living on takeaways with an NFC-leading 17 and has a plus-7 differential. That could be decisive against the Redskins, who are minus-1.
New England (5-1)at New York Jets (3-3)
New York gave New England quite a test in the rain in Week 2, but these Jets are severely limited after injuries at the offensive skill positions.
Of course, the Patriots have similar issues health-wise, losing two of their best defenders in NT Vince Wilfork and LB Jerod Mayo. The offense still has Tom Brady, who takes special pleasure in beating the Jets, doing so six straight times in the regular season. He's 18-4 against the Jets, not counting the postseason.
Buffalo (2-4) at Miami (3-2)
The other AFC East matchup, with the Dolphins coming off two losses and a bye.
Buffalo made an impressive rally to force overtime before losing to Cincinnati last week. The Bills have lost both road games.
Miami must find a way to protect Ryan Tannehill, who has been sacked 24 times, on a record pace. Buffalo's Mario Williams has eight sacks already.
San Diego (3-3)at Jacksonville (0-6)
Coming off an impressive Monday night win over Indianapolis in which they did pretty much everything well on both sides of the ball, the Chargers face a cross-country trip on a short week. Hardly a recipe for success, except that the opponent is winless Jacksonville.
The Jaguars had their best performance of the season in their loss at Denver, and still fell by 16 points. Do we need to say more?
Tampa Bay (0-5) at Atlanta (1-4)
Atlanta has had a long time to stew about its weak start. Its three-game slide is the first under coach Mike Smith, and coming off a bye, if the Falcons don't begin a turnaround now they'll never catch sight of New Orleans in the NFC South. But with Julio Jones gone for the season and Roddy White hobbled, the passing game no longer is formidable.
Look for lots of throws to tight end Tony Gonzalez, who could wind up drawing Bucs star cornerback Darrelle Revis in coverage.
St. Louis (3-3) at Carolina (2-3)
Seems rare to say the Rams and Panthers are coming off big victories.
Sam Bradford had a career-best 134.6 quarterback rating last week against Houston, and he has two new faces who are contributing. Rookie RB Zac Stacy has at least 75 yards rushing in the past three games, and first-round pick Tavon Austin leads all NFC rookie receivers with 24 catches.
Minnesota (1-4)at New York Giants (0-6)Monday night
This sure looked like a nice matchup when the schedule came out. Adrian Peterson against a tough defense on a perennial contender.
Now, there's little reason to tune in, although the Vikings are starting their third quarterback this season, recently acquired Josh Freeman.