GREAT GAMES, FANTASTIC FINISHES HALLMARK OF NFL IN 2010; NFL RETURNS TO UNITED KINGDOM AS BRONCOS FACE 49ERS IN LONDON
What to expect from the NFL week in and week out? Games that are this close.
"Teams that you might expect to win don't win," says New England Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK, who has his Patriots tied atop the AFC East with a 5-1 record. "Teams that you might not expect to win, win and win big. A lot of real close, competitive games come down to the last possession, the last play or one key play right at the end of the game. The league looks very competitive to me all the way across the board."
And here's the evidence:
With 31 of 104 NFL games (29.8%) decided by three points or fewer, the league is trending towards the highest percentage of three-point games since 1970 (1997, 67 of 240, 27.9%).
The Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers expect a close one this week - eight of their 14 games this season have been decided by eight points or fewer - as the NFL returns to London and historic Wembley Stadium. Both clubs seek to heat up as the second half of the season approaches.
The 49ers traveled directly from Charlotte to London on Sunday after a 23-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers and will spend the entire week in the United Kingdom preparing for the Broncos, who arrive in the U.K. on Friday morning.
"I wanted our guys to be able to come and get a taste of the culture, and at the same time, get a feel for the environment," says 49ers head coach MIKE SINGLETARY, whose club ranks among the top three most popular NFL teams in the U.K. "We're going to take full advantage of the experience. We will get the things done that we need to get done to get on track for Sunday, and head into the bye week and the rest of the season."
The Denver-San Francisco match-up will mark the fourth consecutive year a regular-season NFL game will be played at Wembley. Another sellout crowd in excess of 80,000 will greet the Broncos and 49ers.
Some of the key Week 8 games :
GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-3) at NEW YORK JETS (5-1) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
With a bye in Week 7, the New York Jets are back in action on Sunday, aiming to extend the NFL's longest winning streak of the year to six.
"You build something during the regular season, so winning five straight is a big deal," says Jets running back
LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON , who has been a key factor in the Jets success. "You gain so much when you're on a winning streak. You gain confidence, you understand how to win in tough situations - there are just so many things that you learn when you do go through winning streaks."
With six of the Packers' seven games in 2010 decided by seven points or fewer, Green Bay registered a key divisional win last week with a 28-24 victory against Minnesota. The Packers sit atop the NFC North tied with the Chicago Bears at 4-3 and look to start their own winning streak.
"We're on to the Jets," says Packers head coach MIKE MC CARTHY after their victory against Minnesota. "They're a very good football team. They're playing very well. They're going to be fresh, and it will be a big challenge for us Sunday."
In Week 7, there were 737 points scored, an average of 52.6 per game (14 games). That was the second-highest average in any week since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Week 7 in 1983 averaged 54.4 points per game (761 points, 14 games).
HOUSTON TEXANS (4-2) at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-2) (Monday, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)
The Texans and Colts are tied for second in the AFC South with 4-2 records and will meet in a key divisional matchup on Monday Night Football.
"Every win is important," says Houston Texans tackle ERIC WINSTON. "It's a race to get up as high as you can. You have to stack up the wins as fast as you can and hope no one catches you."
Houston aims to build off of momentum after a come-from-behind victory against Kansas City in Week 6. The Texans scored 14 points in the final 3:30 to win 35-31 while displaying toughness and passion. Quarterback MATT SCHAUB and the Texans defeated Indianapolis 34-24 on Kickoff Weekend and seek to win consecutive games against the Colts for the first time in franchise history.
In order to accomplish that feat, Houston will have to slow Indianapolis quarterback PEYTON MANNING, who has led the Colts to an 8-0 record at home against the Texans. The Colts return to primetime for a second consecutive game after a Week 7 bye, earning a 27-24 road victory at Washington on Sunday night in Week 6. Manning registered his 60th 300-yard passing game in his last outing and is closing in on Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (63) and BRETT FAVRE (61) for the most such games in NFL history .
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-4) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (5-1) (Sunday, FOX, 4:15 PM ET)
An interconference matchup will unfold at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. The game features a Patriots team that has won four consecutive games, and a Vikings squad that lost a nail-biter in Green Bay last week.
Minnesota wide receiver RANDY MOSS returns to New England, this time in a Vikings No. 84 jersey. Moss, who was traded to Minnesota on October 6, had 50 touchdown receptions during his 52-game tenure in New England (2007-10), tied with BEN COATES for the second-most touchdown catches in franchise history (STANLEY MORGAN, 67).
"I look forward to facing those guys on the 31st of October, but I still got love for them," says Moss. "I really do. It's just something I'll never forget. We did some magical things up there."
New England seems to be gaining momentum. With a 23-20 win at San Diego last week, the Patriots improved t [5-1 and have started the season with at least five wins in their first six games for the fourth time under Belichick.
The Patriots, who lead the league in scoring with 29.5 points per game, seek their 16th consecutive win at Gillette Stadium against an NFC opponent.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (5-1) at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-3) (Sunday night, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)
Winners of the past two Super Bowl titles will meet in primetime on Halloween. It's the 5-1 Steelers, who are on top of the AFC North and tied for the best record in the NFL, matched up against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
The Steelers defense is once again operating efficiently under defensive coordinator DICK LE BEAU - who has led a ferocious unit that allows a league-low 13.7 points per game. The Steelers are 3-0 on the road this season and are in the middle of a stretch of three straight road games. Pittsburgh won the first leg of the road trip, defeating the Dolphins 23-22 in Week 7. The club is 12-3 (.800) in primetime regular-season games under head coach MIKE TOMLIN.
Meanwhile, the Saints are focused on a quick turnaround, but are not in panic mode after a 30-17 loss last week to the Browns.
"We're still a work in progress," says head coach SEAN PAYTON. "We're sitting here at 4-3, and now the good news is, there are nine games left in the regular season. We're not at the halfway mark yet. We have all of our division to play again."