Kevin Kugler on Ravens-Texans, Jets-Patriots and Lions-Bears

10/20/2012

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Week 7 already?? How is it that the months without football go so slow, and the football months FLY by?!?! We are nearing the halfway mark… but we aren’t there yet. Still plenty of time to go to Buffalo Wild Wings, order up the hottest sauce you can handle, and watch football. Three games I’m looking at this weekend… a great compliment to your wings and beer at BWW!

1. Ravens and Texans… playoff rematch in week 7? Yes, please! However, this matchup looks a lot different than the one we saw last January, especially on the Ravens side. No Lardarius Webb. No Terrell Suggs (although he did practice for the first time this week and could play on Sunday). And no Ray Lewis. That’s a combined 18 tackles and 2 INT from last year’s 20-13 Baltimore win over the Texans in the playoffs. Now, that Ravens defense has to figure out a way to stop Arian Foster and the Texans’ rushing attack. Remember, the Ravens gave up 227 yards on the ground last week in the win over Dallas, so this is easier said than done.

But Houston is trying to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Packers… a game in which Foster couldn’t ever get on track. Just 29 yards on 17 carries on Sunday night didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Texans’ ability to run the football, and add to that mix, Houston has some defensive deficiencies of its own. 427 yards allowed to Green Bay, as Aaron Rodgers erupted for six TD passes in the 42-24 win. Houston is also battling history, having never beaten the Ravens in six outings. If they can’t establish a running game against a Ravens defense that isn’t exactly vintage Baltimore defense, history will repeat itself again on Sunday.

2. Jets-Patriots. Yes, it’s a rivalry.  But don’t take my word for it. Tom Brady on Wednesday said, “It’s a great rivalry, there’s no question… it’s a great rivalry and it’s a fun game for us players.” These games are the types of games that you get excited to be a part of, whether you are playing, sitting in the stands, or fortunate enough to be broadcasting, as I will be with my partner Mark Malone on Sunday. But what about the game? Both teams are 3-3, but the road they each took to get there was very different.

For the Patriots, the season so far has been one of close calls. New England is just 4 points away from a potential 6-0 start. But as former Patriots Head Coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.” The record says the Patriots are 3-3. How did they get here? Begin with the end. The end of the game, that is. The Patriots have struggled to close. Seattle last weekend came up with 14 points in the 4th quarter to win. Baltimore? The Ravens put up 10 points in the final frame in winning 31-30. And the Arizona Cardinals? The touchdown that provided the final margin of victory came in the 4th quarter. The Patriots have allowed 48 points in the 4th quarter this year, the most they’ve allowed in any quarter in 2012.

When you think about the Jets, you think about defense… unless you’re thinking about Tim Tebow, but really, it’s defense that you should be thinking about first. Under Rex Ryan, the Jets have led with defense. That’s still the strength of this team, but it’s not what it used to be. New York is 18th in the league defensively this year, and 28th against the run. The Patriots have shown the ability to run the ball this year, and the ability to stop the run for the Jets will be tested on Sunday. Also, the Jets ability to handle the dual threat of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will be tested in Foxboro. Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry were signed in the offseason to bolster the secondary, a secondary still reeling a bit after the loss of Darrelle Revis. No matter what Sanchez or Tebow do on Sunday, the Jets will win or lose this game on the defensive side of the football.

3)  Our Monday night affair in Chicago features the Lions and the Bears. The Bears have the chance to be in first place all alone if they can knock off the Lions on Monday, not to mention gain some divisional ground on their NFC North rivals with a win. The Bears are coming off their bye week, giving some of their veterans a chance to rest up and heal up for a physical battle with the Lions on Monday. Did it give the Bears a chance to figure out how to protect Jay Cutler? The Bears are on pace to allow 45 sacks this season, a slight improvement over the 49 allowed last year, but still a lot of punishment for Cutler to take on a weekly basis. Can they show improvement against a Lions defense that has the capability of creating havoc, especially with their front four? One area the Bears have to feel good about is the back end of the defense. The much-improved secondary is led by Tim Jennings, who’s tied for the league lead with four interceptions on the season. He and the rest of his mates will be tested by the passing attack of the Lions.

That Lions passing attack has to show up, because the running game has been intermittent at best. Granted, coming off the bye last week, the run game showed signs of life in the win against the Eagles, with Mikel Leshoure averaging 4.7 yards per attempt. But the passing game was still expected to carry the offense, and will be on Monday night. Matthew Stafford isn’t afraid to attack, tossing 45 passes last week against the Eagles despite that improved running game. Look for that Bears secondary to be called upon again to prove that they’ve taken that step that they believe they have in the first five games of the year.

Enjoy the games and the wings from Buffalo Wild Wings!

— Kevin Kugler

Westwood One NFL play-by-play announcer Kevin Kugler tackles subjects that are interesting to him each week in his blog. The Football Insider Report is brought to you by Buffalo Wild Wings. Protect the Football. This weekend, Kevin and Mark Malone will be in Arizona as the 4-1 Cardinals host the Buffalo Bills. Coverage begins at 3:30 PM Eastern Sunday on Westwood One Sports.

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