Stop using cliches.
Oh, right. Anyway, we have one surprising 4-0 team (Cardinals), one surprising 0-4 team (Saints), and one 2-2 team that is on the verge of ending its season already (Jets). That last team got shut out last week while losing their top receiver for the year on a play in which he needlessly fumbled and had it returned for a touchdown. Oh, and some Tim guy might, like, play or something.
WHAT? Houston Texans at New York Jets
WHY? This is one of those games that brings out the schadenfreude in me, as it could be reminiscent of the 45-3 drubbing the Patriots gave the Jets in 2010. The Texans have won each of the last 8 games started by Matt Schaub, with an average margin of victory of 20 points, while the Jets have lost 5 of their last 7, with an average margin of loss of 10. And that includes a 48-28 blowout of the Bills in Week 1. Houston is an impressive 9-point favorite on the road on Monday night, and it will be hard to back the J-E-T-S even with that kind of spread.
WHO? I don't know if you've heard, but Mark Sanchez has this backup that people want to see play. Mark hasn't really helped his cause since the scoring-outburst-heard-round-the-world in Week 1. He's completed fewer than 47 percent of his passes in each game since, throwing for just 182 yards and fewer than 1 touchdown per game. He's on pace for his fewest completions and yards since his rookie season, and worst of all, he's not even close to on pace to finishing with between 103 and 106 rushing yards, which he has in each of his first three seasons! I've been adamant all along that Sanchez would remain the starter all season, but I sort of expected him to outplay Blaine Gabbert and Brandon Weeden.
HOW? You know that really annoying commercial where Mark Sanchez throws a ball and goes thousands of miles through the air, passing all sorts of landmarks? Yeah, you should probably just watch that instead. Even with the music, it might just be less painful.
WHAT? Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers
WHY? The Battle for Pennsylvania? Yeah, nobody cares. The Battle of Dameshek-backed teams? Fewer people care. How about the fact that the Eagles have somehow managed to win three games by a combined 4 points while turning the ball over 8 times in those games, including an emotional late-game win against a division rival? And now they face a desperate 1-2 team coming off a bye at home with a bunch of important players coming back from injury? This is as tough of a situation as the Eagles will find this year to win a game, and it will be interesting to see if they come to play.
WHO? A close honorable mentions to the returning Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, but I think that the key to this game is whether or not the Eagles get LeSean McCoy going early. With Polamalu and Harrison back in the fold the Steelers will be more willing to bring pressure on Michael Vick, and the Eagles need to run the ball to keep the defense honest. Since the start of last season (in games McCoy plays), the Eagles are 7-1 in games where McCoy rushes for 100 yards, and 3-8 when he does not. Not to mention that the Steelers have the third-best pass defense in the league this year, and with Polamalu and Harrison coming back (beating you into the ground with this, I know), it can't be getting any better for the passing game.
HOW? OK, there's only a slight legality issue here, but try to get a cheese steak from Philly at kickoff, throw on the radio, then drive around 110 mph west on Route 76 so you can get to Pittsburgh in time to get a Primanti Bros. sandwich and watch the end of the game. Then drive back.
WHAT? Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
WHY? Duh, Brandon Lloyd faces off against his former
quarterback offensive coordinator team! Oh, you wanted me to talk about Manning vs. Brady? Didn't we get enough of that in the Super Bowl? Oh, THAT Manning. OK, good, that almost got ugly. These quarterbacks have had some epic duels in the past, the most poignant of which (in my opinion) being the Colts' 38-34 win in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, in which the Colts trailed 21-3 at one point, that led to Manning's only Super Bowl win (where he faced...?). The surrounding personnel is enormously different for these guys, obviously, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out with McGahee/Thomas/Decker vs. Ridley/Lloyd/Gronkowski after years of James/Harrison/Wayne vs. SomeGuy/Branch/SomeThirdGuy.
WHO? Peyton Manning should have been the MVP of the league last year, and it looks like his team's performance is just as tied to his performance this season. He has completed 77% of his passes with a 5/0 TD/INT ratio in Denver's wins, against just a 56% completion rate with a 3/3 TD/INT ratio in their losses. With those losses both coming in close games against 4-0 teams in the Texans and Falcons, it looks like Peyton has his team positioned just below the elite in the league. Well, he has another shot to make a statement, and has thrown for at least 325 yards and 4 TD against the Pats in his last two meetings with them.
HOW? Bring your Michael-Vick-style Kevlar vest, because you definitely should be watching this game with Marvin Harrison (and his gat) in Philly. Just bring the tissues, because there might be some reminiscing going on.