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NFL: Seahawks Out To Halt Cowboys Winning Streak

football

Week six of the NFL regular season is coming up this weekend, and it’s getting near panic stations for all teams with losing records. Teams who already had their bye week have as many as twelve games left to play, but a run of losses at this stage can be very hard to overturn down the stretch. With the Oakland Raiders having already fired their head coach, it is a clear reminder that plenty of people’s jobs are on the line already. Can any of the early-season strugglers catch up to the big boys? Let’s take a look at the action coming up this weekend and find out.

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks were relatively comfortable in their win over Washington on Monday Night Football, winning by two scores despite having three Percy Harvin touchdowns chalked off for infringements. It was a remarkable night for Harvin in that respect, but the Seahawks showed off their offensive diversity, coasting to victory on the back of Russell Wilson’s ground game this time. If the defense has dropped off marginally, the offense has picked up the slack. The three-headed beast of Wilson, Harvin and traditional running back Marshawn Lynch is so diverse that it is nigh on impossible to contain, and that is just the ground game. They face an interesting challenge this weekend, but gamblers rarely prosper by betting against the Seahawks in CenturyLink Field.

 

The Dallas Cowboys travelling to play the Seattle Seahawks is a fascinating proposition. Are they on a hiding to nothing, or have they nothing to lose? After their surprisingly good start, it is surely more the latter than the former. The Cowboys still lead the league in rushing, but gave more responsibility to Tony Romo to help them overcome their Houston Texans neighbours in over time. This has pushed the Cowboys record to 4-1, joint-top of the NFC East. The truly riveting aspect of this game will be the battle in the trenches, yet again, as the Cowboys strong offensive line takes on the Seahawks impressive defensive line rotation. Dallas will have to win and win well in that area if they are to come out of Seattle with the W. Expect DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant to be marked men.

Verdict: Seattle

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

The AFC East co-leaders clash at Ralph Wilson stadium this weekend, with the Buffalo Bills having seen their new ownership ratified unanimously this week. This is great news for the Bills fan base, as new owner Terry Pegula has vowed to keep the team in their hometown. On the field, the Bills coaching staff was rewarded for dropping starting quarterback EJ Manuel in favour of veteran Kyle Orton, as they picked up a big road win against the Detroit Lions. That makes two big away wins against NFC North wins for Buffalo, and it has been a big part of their successful start. Their eleven unanswered points in the fourth quarter underlined the team’s resilience, whose dominant defense may gain more media traction if Orton can keep rewarding their work. They are looking for a big statement win this weekend.

The meltdown warnings have been downgraded for the New England Patriots following their dismantling of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday Night Football. The Patriots looked like their old selves, forcing turnovers and converting them into big scores. This is the basis for the 2014 Pats to dominate. Their defense has a number of talented playmakers, and if they can continue to force turnovers (New England have the joint-highest positive turnover differential, although they are tied with the Bills) then they will be successful. Question Tom Brady and his receivers all you want, but if you keep giving him the ball while you fail to put up points, he’ll find a way to beat you.

Verdict: New England

Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals come into this game having surrendered their unbeaten status in New England, going down rather meekly to the Patriots. All of a sudden, they find themselves with the same number of wins as the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and just one win more than the Cleveland Browns, all of whom are the Bengals divisional rivals. Such is life in the NFL. The Bengals had plenty of trouble protecting the football on Sunday Night Football, and for once could not blame Andy Dalton for their turnover woes. Expect them to return to the ground game at home this weekend. This is no easy fixture for Cincinnati, and they will have to play well to avoid the beginning of a losing streak.

The Carolina Panthers recorded a big come-from-behind victory against the Chicago Bears last weekend, forcing vital turnovers in the fourth quarter that they converted into ten points. It is somewhat remarkable, given the injuries to all of Carolina’s dependable runners and Greg Hardy’s continued absence, that the Panthers find themselves top of the NFC South. While their divisional rivals have struggled, you would have to expect them to get a surge of good form sooner rather than later. The Panthers hurt players have all been key to their game plan in recent seasons, and if they can’t run the football successfully they will have a hard time in this road game.

Verdict: Cincinnati

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have certainly had their fair share of difficulties through the first five weeks, but they have still managed to win four of those five games, sitting joint-top of the NFC East.  Their offensive line remains in tatters, with several starting players out missing. This has surely been a factor in LeSean McCoy’s early season struggles. The star running back is averaging just under three yards per carry, a stunning falloff from last year’s numbers. His struggles have arguably affected Nick Foles too, who is having far less success in his second year as starting quarterback. Were it not for Darren Sproles and his 6.9 yards per carry, along with dynamic pass-catching ability, who knows where this Eagles side would be. Their bye week comes next week, and they would be in a fantastic position if they can secure this big home divisional win and take a rest at 5-1.

The growing pains suffered by the New York Giants in the first couple of games appear to have been weathered. Eli Manning’s form has improved immeasurably in the last few weeks, looking like the guy with the two Super Bowl rings once more. This will be a big clash of offensive styles, with the Giants having implemented a new West Coast offense. It will be interesting to see if they can keep up with the Eagles rampant, ravenous attacking style. The Giants will have every opportunity to put pressure on Foles, as the Giants pass rush has been no slouch this season. With a very capable secondary sitting behind it, they can afford to go hunting the quarterback.

Verdict: New York

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns have emerged from the mire that hung over them coming towards the end of the off-season. Josh Gordon was lost to suspension for the year. They had gotten older on defense. The supporters roared for first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel to be handed the reins at quarterback. It looked like another year of dog-eat-dog politics and losses on the field. In the first half of game one, they were down 27-3 to this weekend’s opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers. It looked like a typical Browns collapse. Yet they rallied, narrowly losing 30-27 in the end. Brian Hoyer made throws, and they ran the ball with confidence and success. They beat the New Orleans Saints, and last weekend recorded the biggest ever road comeback win as they bested the Tennessee Titans. Cleveland want to play, and Hoyer is leading them. They have a run of four winnable games starting this weekend. If they can win those games, they could be in line for a shock playoff appearance.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely have their backs against the wall this weekend. Coming in off a narrow win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, they play a side with no fear of them after their previous encounter. All is not well in Pittsburgh, and their performances fluctuate  so wildly that it is hard to know what they will bring on any given Sunday. One thing is for sure though; if they don’t stamp down this potential Browns insurgency, they may find themselves watching the playoffs on TV.

Verdict: Cleveland

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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