There are 17 weeks in the NFL season. Week 6 was just one week on that slate, but when the season ends, Week 6 may be the one that is most impactful on the playoff fortunes of a lot of teams.
When Vikings fans woke up Sunday morning, there was a lot of reason for optimism. Chicago was on its bye week sitting at 4-1 and the Vikings were in a position to wake up Monday alone atop the NFC North. With Detroit playing at Philadelphia and Green Bay at undefeated Houston, not only could the Vikings have achieved separation from the two 2011 playoff teams from the NFC North, they could have been the No. 2 seed in the NFC through six weeks.
Robert Griffin III took care of that, but what happened around the league this week has a lot of people scratching their heads. Detroit came back from a 10-point deficit with five minutes to play to beat the Eagles and Green Bay pounded Houston like it was the expansion Texans, not one of two unbeaten teams remaining. Instead of potentially entering today with the Packers at 2-4, Detroit at 1-4 and the Vikings at 5-1, the outlook took a 180-degree turn. Green Bay is at 3-3 a game behind the Vikings and Detroit may have salvaged its season at 2-3.
After the Sunday night game, Aaron Rodgers appeared to dismiss the Vikings, claiming the Packers needed the win because they couldn’t “fall too far behind Chicago.” Vikings fans may have been frustrated with the performance of the team Sunday, but, for better or worse, Week 6 was proof why the NFL is so popular. Fortunes can change in a hurry and a team that looks like a world-beater one week can look like bums the next.
In MLB or the NBA or (if they ever play) the NHL, a team can hit a rough patch in their schedule, but everyone knows they’ll get it right over the course of a full season. Not so in the NFL, where one game can change perception of a franchise.
Consider what happened in Week 6:
The Giants went cross-country to play San Francisco, whose only loss was to the Vikings – a game many dismissed as a blip on the 49ers’ radar. What the Giants did to the 49ers was no fluke, as they dominated the Niners from start to finish in a 26-3 beating.
Pittsburgh fell to 2-3 with a loss to woeful Tennessee, which looked like it may not win a game the rest of the season when it got crushed by the Vikings four days earlier. Once viewed as a Super Bowl favorite, the Steelers are a team looking old and close to falling off the radar.
The Ravens improved to 5-1, but it came with a huge cost as the team likely lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb for the season and is already without Terrell Suggs. Teams are able to run against the Ravens, something they have been unable to do successfully for more than a decade and, despite being 5-1, the Ravens look like a team on the edge of disaster.
The AFC East has four teams that can be viewed as either being in first place or in last place. Thanks to a come-from-ahead loss at Seattle, New England’s one-game lead evaporated in the division and now all four teams are at 3-3, which is great news for the fans of the other three teams, but horrible news for Patriots fans.
The Eagles found ways to lose yet again. Even when they’ve won this year, it would seem that they have done it despite themselves and not because of any prowess. Their collapse against the Lions dropped them to 3-3 and, if it comes down to it, gave up a huge potential tie-breaker edge of the teams that finish the season with the same record. Give their “turn the other cheek” fan base, it would appear the sky is falling in Philly.
After a furious comeback attempt fell short, one can only imagine Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is climbing the walls. After making big proclamations early this season that the Cowboys were a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they’re 2-3 and in sole possession of last place in the NFC East.
The last unbeaten team (the Altanta Falcons) seem to be living a charmed life. They needed last second comebacks over also-ran teams Carolina and Oakland to remain undefeated, but with one division team (Tampa Bay) at 2-4 and the other two (Carolina and New Orleans) a combined 2-8, they could have the NFC South wrapped up by Thanksgiving.
Arizona and its smoke-and-mirrors team was supposed to come into Mall of America Field Sunday with a 5-1 record and tied for the lead in the NFC West with the 49ers. They are tied for first, but because they lost at home to the Buffalo Bills they didn’t claim sole possession of first.
Vikings fans weren’t pleased with the developments in Week 6. They saw it as an opportunity lost that, compounded with unexpected road wins by the Lions and Packers, has thrown them in the middle of an NFC North dogfight. But they were far from alone in shaking their heads as to what took place in the Week 6 games.
In the big picture, Week 6 will be just one of 17 weeks that make up the 2012 season, but in the myopic world of the NFL, it has thrown a lot of teams in disarray and made a lot of people rethink what they thought the 2012 season was going to produce.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.