NFL matchups and other notes

If Cam Newton and the Panthers have any hope of bouncing back from their horrific start and making...

If Cam Newton and the Panthers have any hope of bouncing back from their horrific start and making something of this once promising season, they must beat the visiting Cowboys. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:22 PM ET

THE FOUR BIG GAMES ON SUNDAY:

1. Baltimore Ravens (5-1) at Houston Texans (5-1)

Incredibly, these are the only two teams in the entire AFC with a winning record. In a weird twist, each has lost its best linebacker for the year in the past couple weeks -- Brian Cushing of Houston and Ray Lewis of Baltimore. These teams met in the playoffs last year, and this game's winner will carry legit Super Bowl dreams forward.

2. Washington Redskins (3-3) at New York Giants (4-2)

If the Giants could do THAT to Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, it should follow that they'll crush the over-achieving Redskins and QB Robert Griffin III. But if we've all learned anything about this NFL season, it's that from one week to another there's no extrapolating anything. So who knows.

3. Green Bay Packers (3-3) at St. Louis Rams (3-3)

If there were any doubts that Aaron Rodgers was incapable of summoning his 2011 form and repeating as NFL MVP, he erased them in Houston last Sunday night. One defensive coach who might cause him a fit or two is the Rams' Jeff Fisher, whose defence already has done likewise this season to Detroit's Matt Stafford and Chicago's Jay Cutler. Then again, the Rams lost those games.

4. New York Jets (3-3) at New England Patriots (3-3)

One runaway win over the Colts, and Jets head coach Rex Ryan figures the Patriots are now fearful of his club. Let's be clear here. There was a minor earthquake in upper New England this past week. That would have been the only thing that might have compelled Bill Belichick to shake in his boots.

MUST-WIN SUNDAY

The team that must win, or else

CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-4)

They're probably past reclamation already, but if Cam Newton and the Panthers have any hope of bouncing back from their horrific start and making something of this once promising season, they must beat the visiting Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The 2-3 Cowboys are vulnerable, after brain-farting away a much-needed victory at Baltimore. If Newton still gives a fig this year, it's time to step up.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Detroit Lions (2-3) at Chicago Bears (4-1)

Bears fans must feel as though the world's proper order is being restored, what with their team atop the NFC North -- and Detroit looking up at the rest of the division, fortunate to have won the two games it has. Lions fans keep waiting for their team's D-line to dominate a game. And as the Packers happily discovered, the Bears' O-line isn't so good at that pass-blocking thing. Therein lies Detroit's one hope.

THE 3 BIG MATCHUPS

RGIII vs. JPP

Washington's Robert Griffin III is quickly learning how to survive in the NFL -- by sliding and by stepping out of bounds more when he runs. The Skins O-line has been protecting him with three things -- fantastic run-game blocking, spit and bailing wire. Expect the reawakened Giants D-line monsters, led by end Jason Pierre-Paul, to smack RGIII early and often ... if they can catch him.

ARIAN FOSTER vs. BANGED-UP RAVENS D

With apologies to Texans quarterback Matt Schaub and his able crew of wideouts, the Houston offence goes as Foster goes. When the Packers stymied the all-Pro running back last Sunday night, the Texans offence could barely move. In Houston's favour: the Ravens bled rushing yards in vats against KC and Dallas the past two weeks, and leading tackler Ray Lewis is now out for the year.

MEGATRON vs. BEARS SECONDARY

Detroit and Chicago don't play until Monday night, be we can't wait to see how the Lions' star wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, fares against a Bears secondary that has blanketed every decent wideout it has faced thus far. Corner Tim Jennings has four interceptions, safety Major Wright has three and corner Charles Tillman has two.

SUNDAY BRUNCH

Quick-hit breakfast items to whet your Week 7 appetite:

In four of their first six games, the Cincinnati Bengals faced a rookie quarterback -- Cleveland's Brandon Weeden (twice), Washington's Robert Griffin III and Miami's Ryan Tannehill.

The Bengals won only twice, and are 3-3.

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That doesn't mean Cincinnati's second-year sensations, quarterback Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, aren't still lighting it up together. They are, to the tune of a league-leading 628 yards and six TDs. Only the Giants' Victor Cruz has as many TD grabs as Green.

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Did you know that Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings leads the league in receptions, with 49? You do now.

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Ten quarterbacks have double-digit touchdown totals: Aaron Rodgers (16), Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees (14), Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick (12), Eli Manning (11) and Tom Brady, Phil Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger (10).

THE BIG NUMBER

46.52

Number of combined points per game being scored by both teams this season. The NFL full-season record is 46.48 in 1948.


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