By Don Banks
October 18, 2009

ATLANTA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we try to make some sense of Week 6...

• It has been 10 years this season since the St. Louis Rams shot a big hole in the theory that a dome team couldn't win the Super Bowl. Remember that little time-tested NFL chestnut that got trotted out every late fall, like a well-worn holiday decoration? Dome teams were thought to be too soft and too climatically comfortable to ever endure the type of rough conditions required to earn a ring.

Well, I don't know if you've noticed, but old domes are where it's at this season in the NFL. The two oldest domes in the league are rocking this year, with the Superdome in New Orleans housing the 5-0 Saints, and the Metrodome in Minneapolis featuring the 6-0 Vikings. Toss in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta -- the NFL's third oldest dome -- where the Falcons improved to 4-1 with a win over Chicago Sunday night, and domes were the place to be for big games in Week 6.

And make no mistake, Super Bowl dreams are alive and well under the big top in both New Orleans and Minnesota, and they may well still take root this season in Atlanta, too.

The Saints' 48-27 destruction of the previously undefeated Giants (5-1) establishes Sean Payton's high-powered club as the class of the NFC -- at least until further notice. New York came into the game with the league's No. 1-ranked overall defense and pass defense, but left town with its air of invincibility severely punctured and its reputation for machine-like efficiency shattered.

In improving to 5-0 for the first time since 1993, New Orleans got touchdowns from an astounding seven offensive players against the Giants, rolling to 493 yards of offense and its third showing of at least 45 points in five games.

The Saints are now averaging a league-high 38.4 points per game, putting them on pace to score an NFL single-season record of 614 points. For comparison sake, the 2007 Patriots of 16-0 fame scored 589 points and cracked the 40-point barrier in just four games that season. The Saints need to average just over 36 points per game in their final 11 games to break New England's record.

New York's defense had given up just four passing touchdowns all season before Sunday's showdown of unbeatens, but Saints quarterback Drew Brees matched that despite leaving the game in favor of backup Mark Brunell in the fourth quarter. Brees is playing the game at a level we are unfamiliar with this season, and finished 23 of 30 for 369 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception against the outclassed Giants. The Saints scored touchdowns on their first four drives, and five of their six in the first half.

As for the Vikings, they barely withstood a furious Ravens fourth-quarter comeback to win 33-31, but Minnesota is now 6-0 for the first time since 2003, and has not scored fewer than 27 points in any game this season. That's the Vikings' longest streak in that department since 1998, when Minnesota went 15-1 in the regular season. The Vikings' blueprint for victory was again Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson, as it has been all season.

The ageless quarterback kept his personal magic carpet ride going with a 21-of-29 passing performance, for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Peterson thrust himself back on center stage with 143 yards rushing on 22 carries, a gaudy 6.5 average. And let's not overlook Vikings' receiver Sidney Rice, who is having a breakout season, as he put up career-best numbers against Baltimore's suddenly vulnerable defense (six catches for 176 yards). Favre and Rice are new best friends.

If you're wondering, New Orleans and Minnesota don't play this regular season, but there's always the chance the two NFC powers will collide in the playoffs. Maybe in the NFC Championship Game, with a trip to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV on the line. Newly renamed Land Shark Stadium in Miami wouldn't be like playing at dome sweet dome, but I'm sure the Saints or the Vikings would be able to handle the early February elements in South Florida just fine.

• Not that I'm making predictions or anything, but as I wrote last week, fast starts can some times turn into furious fades. The last time the Saints were 5-0 before this season, in 1993, they wound up missing the playoffs at 9-7. The last time the Vikings were 6-0 before this season, in 2003, they wound up missing the playoffs at 8-8.

Just thought it was worth repeating.

• It was a very good day to be named Rice at the Metrodome. As we said, the Vikings' third-year receiver came up huge with six catches, including a 58-yard catch and run that set up Ryan Longwell's game winning 31-yard field goal in the game's final two minutes. Rice also had a 63-yard non-scoring reception, which led to another Longwell field goal in the third quarter.

But Baltimore second-year running back Ray Rice caught a career-best 10 passes for 117 yards, and added 77 yards with a pair of touchdowns on the ground in making his own bid for the game's Most Valuable Rice honor.

• Pretty shocking to see the vaunted Ravens' defense struggling to this degree. But maybe at this point we should stop calling the Baltimore D vaunted. After entering Week 5 against Cincinnati having not given up a 100-yard rushing game to an individual in 39 games dating to December 2006, Baltimore's defense has now been dented for triple digits twice in two weeks -- by Minnesota's Peterson and the Bengals' Cedric Benson.

Losers of three in a row after a 3-0 start, Baltimore has given up 130 points in six games this season, 21.7 per game. That translates to a season total of 347 points allowed, which would be a whopping 103 more than the Ravens allowed last year. That's an increase of more than 42 percent in points allowed, and that's staggering slippage.

• When Ravens kicker Steve Hauschka kicked wide left on what would have been a game-winning 44-yard field goal at the final gun in Minnesota, I'm guessing that's the first time this season Baltimore really, really wished it had re-signed veteran Matt Stover. Too late now. The Colts added the longtime Raven to their roster last week as a midseason injury replacement for Adam Vinatieri.

• It had to be fun for the old-guy quarterbacks like Favre and Brees to outduel the younger generation in Eli Manning and Joe Flacco in Sunday's headline games. Flacco darn near brought the Ravens all the way back in the Metrodome, throwing for 385 yards and a pair of scores, but Favre has pretty much been in a zone of his own since winning that Week 3 thriller at home against San Francisco.

• Well that should just about seal the deal in Washington. The Redskins let the winless Chiefs score the game's last 11 points to pin a 14-6 loss on Washington and drop Jim Zorn's club to 2-4, despite playing its sixth consecutive game against an opponent looking for its first victory.

Jason Campbell was put out of his misery at halftime, with the benching finally clearing the way for veteran backup quarterback Todd Collins to take over. Not that the move helped the woeful Skins. Things are too far gone in D.C. for that. Now all that's really left is for owner Daniel Snyder to decide when he wants to lower the boom on the beleaguered Zorn, and inform his favorite personnel man, Vinny Cerrato, that accountability runs in every direction except for the owner's box.

Think about this: In three home games this season Washington has scored a total of one touchdown and eight field goals, despite playing host to St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.

You wonder what John Riggins might have to say this week? Or even Clinton Portis, for that matter.

• Good to see Tennessee hasn't stopped fighting, despite its woeful start to the season. When it was 59-0 in that snowfest against New England in Foxboro, I started worrying that the Patriots' Minute Men wouldn't have enough dry gun power to keep firing their muskets after every Patriots score.

When you combine New England's team-record 59-point showing with that very similar 47-7 beatdown of Arizona in the snow last December, the Patriots' combined 106-7 domination of the Cardinals and Titans should have been enough to impress even the toughest BCS voters. Absolutely nobody plays better in a snowstorm than New England.

• Wonder what it really took for Jeff Fisher to talk Vince Young out of his parka and into that game in those wintry conditions? Remember, VY isn't always hip to entering a game, even in September.

• It took about a month and a half, but the Packers of the preseason finally made their first regular-season appearance. Green Bay didn't finish as strong as it started in a 26-0 win over visiting Detroit, but seeing Aaron Rodgers strike for 358 yards on 29 of 37 passing had to at least calm a little of the unrest in Packerland.

Green Bay still allowed Rodgers to be sacked five times, and that puts its ignominious season total at an NFL-worst 25 sacks. On a brighter note, Green Bay's 3-4 defense made some plays for a change, with five sacks and three interceptions of Lions quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton.

• The trend of teams coming off their bye with a vengeance continued in Week 6's early-afternoon games. The Saints and Packers were both off in Week 5, and they won their games by 21 and 26 points. Chicago lost at Atlanta coming off its bye week; San Diego is at home against Denver on Monday night.

So far this season, teams are 6-1 coming off their bye. Last week's four returning teams went 4-0 after taking Week 4 off.

• Is there a more wildly schizophrenic team in the NFL than the 3-3 Houston Texans, who snapped the Bengals' four-game winning streak in Cincinnati with that 28-17 win? If you're keeping score, the Texans have now gone loss, win, loss, win, loss, win this season, earning unexpected victories at Tennessee and Cincinnati, and unexpected losses at home to the Jets and Jaguars.

Sounds like another 8-8 season on the way to me. It must be maddening to be a Houston Texans fan.

• Kind of a classic example of a forgot-what-got-us-here loss for Cincinnati. The Bengals played as if they spent all week buying into the hype that was just starting to surround them in the wake of last week's emotional upset win at Baltimore. So much for the praise that has been lavished on the Bengals defense. Houston's offense picked Cincy apart in a way the Steelers or Ravens couldn't.

• Wow. Nine completions for Cleveland's Derek Anderson at Pittsburgh. After last week's 2 of 17 showing for 23 yards, going 9 of 24 for 122 yards with one touchdown, one interception and two fumbles lost must make it feel like it's Miller Time.

What's next? Double digits in completions?

• I'm pretty sure Carolina special teams guy Dante Wesley doesn't even have to bother watching the mail this week. He'll hear about the league fine that he'll get for launching himself into Bucs punt returner Clifton Smith before he sees it. Smith, who was calling for a fair catch, left the game with a concussion and didn't return, and that won't help Wesley's case one bit.

• Perhaps it's time we rethink the notion of the big, bad NFC East. In Week 6, only the Cowboys, who were on their bye, got out with their reputation unscathed (not that it's all that good to begin with).

The first-place Giants got humbled at New Orleans, by three touchdowns. The Eagles went out to Oakland and somehow made the Raiders look like a professional football team one week after the Giants dismantled them. And the Redskins put on their third consecutive putrid homefield showing, losing to the winless Chiefs by eight.

• Maybe it was the five touchdown passes in the second quarter. Maybe it was the team-record 59 points and 622 yards of offense he helped put on the board. Maybe it was completing 19 of his first 20 passes and finishing 29 of 34 for 380 yards and a career-best six touchdowns in his 2½ quarters of action.

But I say Tom Brady is back. At least that's what the Titans defense told me Sunday. They saw no sign of him favoring his left knee at the snow globe that was Gillette Stadium.

• Uh, oh. Andy Reid is doing it again. Philly called 46 passes and just 14 runs in its shocking 13-9 loss to the Raiders. That despite Oakland owning the NFL's 30th ranked rush defense after Week 5. And it's not like the Eagles couldn't run it against the Raiders. They gained 67 yards on those 14 carries, a healthy 4.8-yard average.

What did all those passes lead to for Philadelphia? Best I can tell, three David Akers field goals, and six sacks of Donovan McNabb.

• Seattle's defense might have two Qwest Field shutouts to its credit this season, but the Seahawks got carved up by the Cardinals' Kurt Warner in Arizona's 27-3 win. Warner barely let the ball hit the turf in going 32 of 41 for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the win firmly announced that Arizona will be very much a factor after all in the defense of its NFC West title this season.

Mark Sanchez Fever appears to have cooled. After his boffo 3-0 start, the Jets rookie quarterback is 0-3, with eight interceptions, two fumbles lost, and just one touchdown pass during that span. And worse, he looks flat out nervous in the pocket, like any other rookie QB.

And losing at New Orleans and Miami is one thing, but dropping a 16-13 overtime decision to the Bills at home is unforgivable if New York (3-3) really has designs on the AFC East title. If Jets head coach Rex Ryan was ticked off after last week's meltdown at Miami, what's his mood going to be like this week in light of this egg-laying? He might offer to trade half his roster.

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