With six divisional games on the schedule, this is the last big divisional weekend for a month. You have to wait until Nov. 12 for a weekend in which there are more than four such games, which makes these divisional contests even more special. Any weekend in which the four NFC East teams are playing each other is special because they keep knocking each other off. For the Giants, this could be the crossroads of their season.
While tight end Jeremy Shockey has called out the coaching staff, Tom Coughlin still has control over this team. But this is a must win as another loss could cause more players to turn critical. The Giants are giving up 30.7 points a game and they can't get their defense off the field. Opponents are averaging 71.6 plays a game against the Giants and quarterbacks have kept their linebackers off-balance with quick offenses and no-huddle plays, leaving huge gaps in their pass coverage.
Coughlin had the bye week to fix the problem, but he faces a Redskins' offense that is gaining momentum after starting slowly. Two opening losses had everyone wondering about the offensive changes of Al Saunders but the Redskins scored 67 points in the past two weeks and Mark Brunell is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league. Critics are silenced. Further complicating Coughlin's mission is the slight pectoral tear that will sideline linebacker Carlos Emmons for a couple of weeks. The Giants already were struggling at linebacker and losing Emmons' leadership isn't going to make it easier.
9. Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
What was supposed to be the key matchup in the AFC East is a major downer. The Dolphins have been horrible. At 1-3, their pass protection is non-existent. Receivers seem slow. Daunte Culpepper has been a sitting duck at quarterback. The running game has been spotty. Heading into the season, this looked to be the year Nick Saban was going to challenge the Patriots for the AFC East title but if the Dolphins lose, they will be three games behind the Patriots.
Despite a secondary that lacked cornerback Ellis Hobbs and Randall Gay, Bill Belichick did one of his rabbit-out-of-the-hat coaching jobs last week as the Patriots routed the Bengals 38-13. Belichick is 3-1 despite a lack of threats at wide receiver and an offseason of personnel losses instead of gains. Win this one and the Patriots all but claim another AFC East crown and can start printing playoff tickets since they will have beaten everyone in the AFC East once.
With a relatively easy schedule, the Patriots could start coasting to the playoffs. For the Dolphins, this is crisis time. Saban works his players hard and losing this game could kill the hopes of this team because it's rare for a 1-4 team to make the playoffs. There hasn't been a 1-3 team make the playoffs since 2002. Saban is fighting the odds and he knows it.
8. Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Thanks to Steve McNair, the Ravens believe. It's been long time since the Ravens had this much belief in a quarterback. Against a tough Chargers' defense, McNair led the Ravens to a come-from-behind win last Sunday. That's the mark of a great quarterback. He can play poorly for three quarters, but if the game is close, the best quarterbacks can step up and win it. His leadership is allowing the Ravens' defense to fly around the field with even more confidence.