Matthew Stafford throws season high 5 TDs in win over Panthers

With all the hype and expectations surrounding the Detroit Lions coming into this NFL regular season, Matthew Stafford and company finally were considered a force to be reckoned with in the NFC Conference, but many people weren’t expecting the up-and-coming Lions to start the year off with a 5-0 record.

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After a flawless five games for the Lions, Detroit proved to be the real deal and a serious threat to the defending NFC North division champion Chicago Bears and the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, the Lions getting off to a red-hot start were a bit premature in terms of labeling this team a playoff contender or possibly a Super Bowl title contender.

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 16: Brandon Pettigrew #8...

Brandon Pettigrew

There was no question that the struggling Detroit Lions franchise had finally turned the corner and gotten the kind of production they were looking for out of emerging superstars Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but a loss to another up-and-coming team in the San Francisco 49ers (25-19) in Week 6 was a wakeup call. The game went down to the wire with both teams having an opportunity to win, but in the end the resurgent 49ers came out on top.

This loss to the San Francisco 49ers was just the first of two straight losses for the Lions as in Week 7 the Detroit squad lost their second game of the season to the Atlanta Falcons (23-16) in similar fashion. Fortunately, the Lions did get back on track in Week 8 with a blowout win over Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos with an impressive offensive display in which Detroit lit up the scoreboard for 45 points while holding Denver to just 10 points.

The win over the Broncos was thought to get the Lions right back on track, but just a week later they fell to the division rival Chicago Bears (37-13). The loss to Bears wasn’t a big surprise as it was the first lockdown defense the Lions had faced this season.

In Week 11, the Detroit Lions wanted to get back on track once again as they hosted rookie phenom Cam Newton and the surprisingly good Carolina Panthers. Even though the Panthers had only won two games all year, the Lions were taking this team lightly as Carolina has given every team they have faced this season a run for their money, including the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

With that being said, this was not going to be an easy win for the potent offense of the Detroit Lions as the Carolina Panthers had the ability of pulling off the upset. This game was a shootout from start to finish with Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton battling it out back and forth.

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Fortunately for the Lions, Stafford came out on top in this one by throwing a season-high five touchdown passes to go along with a game-high 335 passing yards. Not only was Stafford on his game in Week 11, but the Lions ground game got a big boost from running back Kevin Smith who rushed for a game-high 140 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns.

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Are the Dallas Cowboys playoff bound this season?

Over the past half-decade or so, the Dallas Cowboys have been a perennial underachiever with arguably one of the most talented football teams in the NFL. Coming into this season, the Cowboys were optimistic that this would be the year they could contend for a Super Bowl title and dominate the competition in the NFC East division. With relatively the same team intact and an offense just waiting to explode, the consensus was that Dallas would be a force to be reckoned with, but they struggled early on once again.

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One of the biggest problems that has plagued this Dallas Cowboys’ offense has been the lack of a potent running game. With the Emmitt Smith era long gone, the Cowboys haven’t been able to give superstar quarterback Tony Romo the threat of a dominant rusher coming out of the backfield, but that might have changed over the last month or so with the emergence of up-and-coming running back DeMarco Murray.

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16:  DeMarco Murray #29 ...

DeMarco Murry

It is probably still too early to speculate or consider this young back amongst the elite running backs in the NFL, but Murray has played great in the absence of the injury prone Felix Jones. With solid performance after solid performance, Murray has gone from an unknown running back for Dallas and transformed into the undisputed starter.

Now that Felix Jones is coming back from injury in Week 11, the Dallas Cowboys had to make a decision between the running backs and no one argued with the fact that DeMarco Murray has earned the starting role out of the backfield. Whether or not this up-and-comer can continue to play consistently well throughout the rest of the season remains to be seen, but as of right now he definitely makes this team better and takes a lot of pressure off of starting quarterback Tony Romo.

With the running game firing on all cylinders and Romo finally getting the time to make something happen under center, the Dallas Cowboys have been red-hot with their most recent win over the Buffalo Bills being the biggest and most impressive win of the season. After lighting up the Bills for 44 points, the Cowboys have come into their own and could be ready to live up to their high expectations.

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In Week 11, the Dallas Cowboys will head to the nation’s capital to face off against the division rival Washington Redskins in what could be a crucial game for Tony Romo and company. At this point in time, the only team in the NFC East that looks like they can challenge the Cowboys within the division is the New York Giants. If the Cowboys can continue to win football games in this fashion and hold off the Giants in Weeks 14 and 17, the NFC East division title will be within their grasp.

So as long as DeMarco Murray continues to play consistently well out of the backfield and Tony Romo limits his mistakes while keeping the Cowboys’ offense clicking, the sky is the limit for Dallas as the playoffs seem to be on the horizon.

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NFL Week 11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers Sun. Nov. 20, 2011 1 p.m. EST

The quest for a perfect season continues for the cheese heads of Wisconsin as the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have won nine straight games and have looked unstoppable in the process. Along with superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers playing like an NFL legend in the making, the Packers’ defense has come alive with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson turning back the clock and leading the way for Green Bay.

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Obviously, the Green Bay Packers running the table in the NFL regular season is a stretch as it has been done only a handful of times, but with every passing game the potential for a perfect season is looking more and more likely. With Rodgers playing flawless football and the Packers just dominating every team in their path, there doesn’t seem to be a team left on their schedule that can beat Green Bay unless the Packers get bit by injury bug.

Waiting on the D

Green Bay Packers

Coming into Week 11, the undefeated Green Bay Packers will be playing at home at Lambeau Field against the up-and-coming Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Even though the Bucs aren’t the same team they were last season as they have struggled this season with four losses in their last five games, this team still has the potential to pull off the upset over the cheese heads at Lambeau.

One of the real bright spots for the Bucs over the past two seasons has been young quarterback and team leader Josh Freeman. Last season Freeman came out of nowhere and really was the driving force for the Bucs, but this season he has found it tough to connect with his wide receivers and as a result Tampa Bay is siting with 4-5 record and a third place standing in the NFC South behind the Atlanta Falcons (5-4) and the first place New Orleans Saints (7-3).

With the New Orleans Saints beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago, the NFC South division title is pretty much out of the question for the Bucs at this point, but a shot at the NFC Wild Card is still alive and well. The only problem is that this team will have to win as many games as possible from here on out in order to contend with the rest of the teams in the NFC Conference like the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons amongst others.

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As of right now, the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers have been heavily favored to come out on top at home with a -15 point spread. This spread is huge and a risk regardless of which team your betting on, but the Packers are about as sure a bet as any in the NFL this season.

With that being said, taking the Green Bay Packers to win and cover is a safe bet!

Take the Packers at -15.

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New York Jets’ defense comes up big against rival Buffalo Bills

Over the past two years, the New York Jets have been pretty difficult to figure out as they rarely play consistently or establish an identity. One thing is for sure; the Jets’ defense is for real and has really stepped up as of late in big wins over the Miami Dolphins (24-6) and the San Diego Chargers (27-21).

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Coming into Week 9, the New York Jets had arguably one toughest challenge ahead as they had to face off against the up-and-coming division rival Buffalo Bills. With the Bills becoming a force to be reckoned with this season, the race for the AFC East division title got that much tougher as the Jets had to contend with not one but two playoff caliber teams within the division.

New York Jets helmet

This was the first meeting of the season between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills and it was considered to be one of the best games of the week with a potent offense going up against a lockdown defense. Even though the Bills were favored (-2) to come out on top in this AFC East division showdown, the Jets definitely had the experience of being the underdog and underestimated.

With that being said, head coach Rex Ryan had some tricks up his sleeve on Sunday as he would not expect losing to an inferior football team on the road. The first half of this football game was a defensive battle with the Jets up 3-0, but that soon changed in the second half with New York exploding for 17 points in the third quarter.

This offensive explosion got started with a goal line touchdown from veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Shortly after the Bills were finally able to get the board with a field goal from kicker Rian Lindell, but Buffalo’s offense never really got going the way it has all season long as up-and-coming quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick really struggled against the lockdown defense of the Jets.

Buffalo Bills helmet

Fitzpatrick finished the game with just 191 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Along with turning the ball over twice, Fitzpatrick had just a 51.9 passer rating and will try to forget about this performance in which he could get nothing done against the Rex Ryan’s defense. Bills’ running back Fred Jackson was the only real bright spot for Buffalo as he racked up 120 total yards, but failed to reach the endzone and had a costly fumble.

As for the New York Jets’ offense, quarterback Mark Sanchez finished with 230 passing yards, one passing touchdown and an interception. Not eye-popping numbers from the young quarterback, but he did enough to get the job done and lead the Jets to the 27-11 win over the division rival Buffalo Bills.

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Next week will probably be seen as a playoff game for the New York Jets as they are set to square off against the New England Patriots for the second time this season. With the Patriots getting the win in their first meeting earlier in the season, the Jets will have to win this game in order to salvage any chance of winning the AFC East division title.

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Cincinnati Bengals win fifth in a row with rookie Andy Dalton under center

After the standoff between veteran quarterback Carson Palmer and Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown, the Bengals were considered to be a team that was doomed at the quarterback position for at least a few years. Without Palmer under center and the two best wide receivers leaving town (Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens), the Bengals’ offense was thought to be awful and in some serious trouble with a rookie quarterback leading the way.

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Now that the Cincinnati Bengals had drafted Andy Dalton out of TCU, the rookie gunslinger was forced into the starting role right out of the gate. Whenever this happens in the NFL, disaster soon follows with the rookie getting crushed by opposing defenses and not being able to keep up with the speed of the NFL game.

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06:  Andy Dalton #14 ...

Andy Dalton

Fortunately, Andy Dalton has adjusted to the NFL level much faster than anticipated and struck up some much-needed chemistry with fellow rookie wide receiver A.J. Green out of Georgia. With Dalton and Green quickly becoming one of the NFL’s most lethal combinations, the Bengals have really surprised people around the league this season as they are unbelievably in the hunt for the AFC North division title.

Despite not playing two of the best teams in the AFC North in the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, the Cincinnati Bengals look like they will be able to contend with the best of the best within their division and might be able to shock the league by eventually winning the division title. Next week the Bengals will face their toughest test yet as they will square off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, but this week they had to get by the Tennessee Titans that have also been a surprisingly good football team this season.

Coming into the Week 9 showdown with the Titans, the Bengals had won four straight games and looked as if the team had hit their stride. Even though it could have been argued that Cincinnati was the better team coming into this game, Tennessee was given the edge and favored to win by a same margin (-3).

This may have been a fairly even matchup between two up-and-coming teams in the AFC Conference, the Cincinnati Bengals ultimately proved to be the more complete team with Andy Dalton leading the way with arguably his best game in the NFL thus far. With 217 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, Dalton led the Bengals to their fifth straight win of the season and an impressive 6-2 record.

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Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselback led the way for the Tennessee Titans finishing with 272 passing yards and two passing touchdowns and superstar running back Chris Johnson was able to breakout of his funk with 110 total yards, but it wasn’t enough to get passed a very good Cincinnati Bengals squad, 24-17.

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Cowboys’ Miles Austin could miss 2-4 weeks with hamstring injury

Back in Week 8, the Dallas Cowboys were destroyed by the division rival Philadelphia Eagles in game that changed to outlook for both talented football teams. The win was exactly what the Eagles needed to get back on track and start to become the team that everyone predicted they would be before the season began. With Michael Vick and company back to form, the rest of the competition in the NFC East division took notice and need to step up their game from here on out.

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The one team that seems to have a shot at getting the best of the competition in the NFC East division besides the Philadelphia Eagles is the Dallas Cowboys. The loss to the Eagles in Week 8 was devastating to say the least with the defense getting dominated and the offense having no answer for Andy Reid’s secondary.

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 08:  Tashard Choice #2...

Miles Austin

Fortunately, the Dallas Cowboys were able to bounce back in Week 9 against the Seattle Seahawks in which quarterback Tony Romo was able to get the offense back on track and Rob Ryan finally got his defense firing on all cylinders. Not only did Romo have arguably his best performance of the season with 279 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions or turnovers, but the Cowboys’ running game appears to be turning into a force to be reckoned with DeMarco Murray turning into the real deal out of the Dallas backfield.

With Murray continuing to play well in place of the injured Felix Jones, the Cowboys have become a threat through the air along with on the ground. Murray racked up a game-high 139 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown on Sunday. Along with the impressive day on the ground, Murray also got the job done as a receiver with 47 receiving yards on four catches.

DeMarco Murray’s ability to be a solid threat in the passing game came at just right time for the Dallas Cowboys as Pro Bowl wide receiver Miles Austin went down with a hamstring injury. The injury wasn’t thought to be too serious in the beginning, but now it appears that Austin will be out for two to four weeks with a sprained hamstring.

This injury could be a devastating blow to the Cowboys’ offense as Austin has been Tony Romo’s favorite target over the past few years, but fortunately America’s Team will have Laurent Robinson in his place that played well once Miles Austin went down in the win over the Seattle Seahawks (23-13). Robinson finished with 32 yards and a touchdown on five catches.

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So in the meantime, DeMarco Murray and Laurent Robinson are decent backup plans for Tony Romo in the passing game, but if Miles Austin can’t get back healthy after a month the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble on offense.

Miles Austin has already been ruled out for next week’s game against the Buffalo Bills with the sprained hamstring.

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NFL Week 9: Denver Broncos @ Oakalnd Raiders

Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders Sun. Nov. 6, 2011 4:05 p.m. EST

Throughout this entire NFL regular season, the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders have made headlines on a seemingly weekly basis. With the Broncos finally handing the quarterback position over to fan favorite Tim Tebow and the Raiders seeing longtime owner Al Davis die suddenly and acquiring veteran quarterback Carson Palmer shortly after, a lot of people around the league have been keeping their eye on these two AFC West division rivals to see if they can turn things around.

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Unfortunately, despite new head coach John Fox finally going with Tim Tebow under center, the Denver Broncos have been doing much better as they have split the last two games against the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions with Tebow at the helm. Both of these games were ugly in terms of Tebow’s accuracy and play under center, but the second-year quarterback was able to lead the Broncos to thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Dolphins that impressed quite a few people.

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Carson Palmer #3 of...

Carson Palmer

Despite the come-from-behind win over Miami, the game against the Detroit Lions was another story altogether with the Denver Broncos getting dominated by Ndamukong Suh and company. Not only was Tebow completely taken out of this game by the Lions’ defense, but the former Heisman trophy seemed to play worse and worse as the game got out of reach.

This performance against the Detroit Lions was bad enough to get people thinking that Tim Tebow might end up back on the bench sooner rather than later. The one thing that makes things interesting with Tebow under center is the fact that the media is either praising him or tearing him apart. This is quite uncommon for basically rookie quarterback who has no experience or much time under center as the starter.

As for the Oakland Raiders, things seem to be on the up-and-up after they acquired veteran quarterback quarterback Carson Palmer via trade from the Cincinnati Bengals. Even though Palmer was awful in his debut in the loss to the division rival Kansas City Chiefs in which he threw three interceptions in just one half of play, the veteran gunslinger hadn’t play all season long and likely to be rusty.

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In Week 9, Carson Palmer will try to get off to a fresh start as the Oakland Raiders starting quarterback and should have a solid shot of getting his first win with his new team. The Denver Broncos might be a bit better on defense this season with the second overall pick Von Miller leading the way, but they will almost certainly be no match for the potent offense of the Oakland Raiders if Carson Palmer and running back Darren McFadden can get going early and often.

As of right now, the Oakland Raiders are heavy favorites to get the win at home in Week 9 with a -9 point spread. This spread is higher than anticipated, but still fairly solid considering the competition.

Take the Raiders at -9.

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Are the Philadelphia Eagles back on track after win over Dallas Cowboys?

The Philadelphia Eagles have been arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL this season. Not only did the Eagles make multiple Pro Bowl additions to their already extremely talented roster in the off-season in order to compete in the highly competitive NFC East division, but they were also able to lock up one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Michael Vick.

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With Super Bowl aspirations for this season and for possibly the next three to five years, the Eagles were considered to be a team on the rise in the NFL and nothing less than an appearance in the Super Bowl would be acceptable for Andy Reid and company. Unfortunately, the “Dream Team” has really struggled to start the season and came into Week 8’s matchup against the arch division rival Dallas Cowboys with a disappointing 2-4 record.

Eagles vs Redskins 10.16.11

Nnamdi Asomugha

Fortunately before heading into their bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles were able to get an impressive win over the New York Giants and gain some ground in the NFC East division. With the division title being up for grabs, the Eagles finally had a way to get back into playoff contention and the matchup against the Cowboys two weeks later was just as crucial for Michael Vick and company.

Even though the Dallas Cowboys were coming off a big win over the St. Louis Rams (35-7), the consensus was that the Philadelphia Eagles were the favorites in this NFC East division showdown with a -4 point spread. This spread was debatable as the Cowboys seemed to be rolling and the Eagles were one of the streakiest teams in the NFL, but Andy Reid’s squad was able to finally live up the hype as they dominated the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night by a score of 34-7.

This matchup between the Cowboys and the Eagles in Philly was considered to be one of the best games of the week, especially with the division and playoff implications. Unfortunately, that was far from the case as the Cowboys seemingly didn’t stand a chance against their arch division rivals with Tony Romo and company being helpless against the Eagles’ defense.

With the Eagles’ defense making considerable upgrades with free agent Nnamdi Asomugha and the recently acquired Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (via trade with Arizona Cardinals), the Philadelphia defense was considered to be the best in the league or at least close to that distinction. Even though the Philly defense hadn’t lived up the hype in the first few weeks of the season, they definitely came through in Week 8 as they held the potent Cowboys offense to just seven points.

Along with the defense stepping up, Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy came up big on offense with the superstar quarterback racking up 329 total yards and two touchdowns. McCoy was the main reason for the Eagles dominance on Sunday night as he had a career night with 185 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

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Needless to say, the Philadelphia Eagles finally had the kind of breakout game that everyone thought they would have on a weekly basis. With this win over the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Vick and company have moved up to second place in the NFC East division and look like they have a legitimate shot at winning the division title at season’s end.

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Are the Indianapolis Colts the worst winless NFL team right now?

There was a lot of speculation coming into this NFL regular season surrounding the health of superstar quarterback Peyton Manning and whether or not he would be able to start in Week 1 for the Indianapolis Colts against the division rival Houston Texans. Despite the team being optimistic about the recovery of Manning from neck surgery, the four-time NFL MVP quarterback was unable to get on the field in Week 1 and actually required more surgery on his neck.

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After a second surgery, the consensus was that the Indianapolis Colts needed to replace Peyton Manning for the short term and that they did be signing recently retired veteran Kerry Collins. Unfortunately, Collins never really panned out as the Colts starter and has now been put on the IR.

As a result of the Peyton Manning’s seemingly season-ending injury, the Indianapolis Colts are winless heading into Week 8 and might not be able to win a single game all season long. The Colts aren’t the only winless team in the league right now though as the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams have also failed to record even on win this season.

Tony Dungy

The debate now is: Which winless team is the worst in the NFL? Which team has the best chance of landing projected number one pick Andrew Luck out of Stanford?

Personally, I believe the Miami Dolphins are the worst team out of the three. The Dolphins might have the best defense of the three teams, but they definitely have the worst offense with no real threat on that side of the football.

Despite the fact that the Dolphins might be the worst winless team, the St. Louis Rams seem to have the best shot of landing the number one overall pick with their tough remaining schedule. The thing that makes this interesting is that the Dolphins are the one team that needs a franchise quarterback while the Rams have former number one pick Sam Bradford and the Colts have perennial Pro Bowler Peyton Manning.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the St. Louis Rams or the Indianapolis Colts get the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft as they will be faced with an extremely tough decision that will change everything. The consensus is that the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the first pick and possibly look to trade Peyton Manning, but the Rams haven’t really made it known or given any hint to what they will if they end up with the pick and have Luck land in their laps.

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In my opinion, the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams will win at least one game this season, but the Miami Dolphins look so awful at this point in the season that I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 0-16 record at season’s end.

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Drew Brees leads New Orleans Saints to 62-point rout of Indianapolis Colts

Over the past few years, the most anticipated matchups of the NFL regular season have been when superstars quarterbacks go head-to-head like Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), Tom Brady (New England Patriots), Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) and Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts). This season one of the best quarterbacks in the league has yet to play a game due to a slow recovery from neck surgery as four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning has been helpless as a spectator on the sidelines for the Indianapolis Colts.

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Coming into Week 7, the Indianapolis Colts had failed to win a game in the first six games of the season as they just haven’t been able to get going without Peyton Manning under center. Unfortunately, the Colts seemed headed towards a seventh straight loss against the New Orleans Saints who were looking to use this game against Indianapolis as a bit of a tune-up after losing to the division rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6.

Washington Redskins vs. New Orleans Saints at ...

Drew Brees - Quarterback for the New Orleans Saints

With the New Orleans Saints hungry for a big win over in Week 7, the Indianapolis Colts were in a trouble and had little chance of pulling off the upset as they were labeled 14-point underdogs. Drew Brees was coming off his worse performance of the season after throwing three interceptions against the Bucs, but he made everyone forget that ugly performance with a career night against the Colts.

Not only did the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in convincing fashion in Week 7, but they were able to light up the scoreboard all night long with Drew Brees having more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (31 of 35). The Saints offense was just unstoppable and relentless as they put up a season-high 62 points against the lowly Colts who could only counter with seven points of their own.

Drew Brees finished the game with 325 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and just four incompletions. An amazing performance to say the least as Brees connected with eight different receivers and had a solid running game backing him up with Saints’ running backs racking up 235 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Needless to say, the New Orleans Saints are officially back on track with arguably the best bounce back game in NFL history. Whether or not Drew Brees and company can put on a show like this against an elite team like the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots remains to be seen, but they definitely seem to be on the right track with Sean Payton and company having their sights set on making a second Super Bowl appearance in three years.

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It will be interesting to see how things pan out in the NFC South division from here on out as the Atlanta Falcons have gotten back on track with a win over the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the edge over the New Orleans Saints with last week’s win. The Bucs may challenge and the Falcons could come back, but the Saints seem destined to make the playoffs this season.

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