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NFL Week 6 -- The Untouchables

By Brian Chase

COLUMNIST

While the city of Boston has been maniacally cheering the Red Sox for the past few weeks, another sport has quietly played out a large portion of its season: the NFL. Yep, it’s week six in the football season, and that means you can now tell who the amazing and appalling teams are. Actually, there are only three teams left with undefeated records, and they all got there through wildly different game plans. So, I’m going to give you an overview of each team, its strength and weaknesses, and their relative chances of remaining undefeated. I will also name some other teams with winning records that follow the same general strategies. So, without further ado:

1. Minnesota Vikings (5-0): This team came out and surprised everybody with a potent offense and solid defense. What that offense really keys off of is passing. Sure, runningback Moe Williams is good, but he’s not the kind of dominating back that takes over games. Receiver Randy Moss, however, can and will take over any game he’s in. As long as the Vikings’ passing game, especially to Moss, is clicking, the Vikings can outscore just about everybody in the league. Their defense is good, but not dominating. However, when you can rack up points like the Vikes, all the defense needs to do is keep the other team from scoring once in a while. Eventually, though, this team will run into someone who can shut down their offense, so I think the chances of them staying unbeaten are the lowest of the three teams. Other teams with this strategy: Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts.

2. Carolina Panthers (5-0): Passing game? What’s that? Carolina’s practically never heard of the passing game. But, when you’ve got a stifling defense, great special teams play, and an excellent, domineering running game, who needs passing? The Panthers play the exact opposite type of game from the Vikes, and they have two running backs now, Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster, who both can run well consistently. This takes pressure off quarterback Jake Delhomme, which is good, because he hasn’t shown he can handle pressure well. The old football axiom is that defense wins games, and while Minnesota’s defense is good, I like Carolina’s better. Thus, I think Carolina’s chances at going undefeated are the best of these teams, especially since they have already beaten the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa. Other teams with this strategy: Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens

3. Kansas City Chiefs (6-0): KC has a great running back, Priest Holmes, but he’s only great occasionally. Same with tight end Tony Gonzalez, kick returner Dante Hall, and quarterback Trent Green. Their defense is good generally, but weak against top-level running backs and receivers. So how do the Chiefs keep winning? I could utter platitudes about never giving up or giving in, which are true to some extent, but there are two real reasons these Chiefs are unbeaten: one, they are incredibly lucky, and they capitalize well on their luck. Two, with all the potentially great weapons they have, the chances are high that someone will step up to win the game. In their first two games it was Holmes, the next three Hall, and last Sunday Green threw for 400 yards in an upset win over the Green Bay Packers. You would think that the luck would run out at some point, but the next 6 games the Chiefs have are all against mediocre-to-bad teams. They won’t be defeated until they face the Denver Broncos or the Vikings late in the season, but they will be defeated, unless they can shape up their defense. Other teams: Denver Broncos, New England Patriots.

There are your undefeated teams. Now to move on to some key games this weekend. Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings: This could be the game where the Vikings drop out of the undefeated ranks. The Broncos are playing solid defense, and outplayed the KC Chiefs in a loss two weeks ago. If Randy Moss or Vikings quarterback Dante Culpepper have bad games, watch out. The saving grace for the Vikings is the fact that Denver quarterback Jake Plummer is out for the game with a fracture in his foot. This severely hampers the Denver offense. Score: Vikings 24, Broncos 10.

Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers: This match-up is similar to the one above, since it pairs an undefeated team against a team that could probably beat them. This game stars the best quarterback in the NFL, the Titans’ Steve McNair. The question is whether he can get the Titans the win. The Panthers just came off an overtime defeat versus the Indianapolis Colts, who also have a great quarterback, Peyton Manning, so I’m pretty sure the Panthers will have a solution to McNair. Score: Panthers 21, Titans 17.