Here are my picks for the NFL's Week 5:
*Sunday, October 5, 2008*
Kansas City 1-3 at Carolina 3-1 – 1:00 PM (Line: Panthers by 10)
Last Week: Kansas City beat Denver, 33-19. Larry Johnson rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. Carolina defeated Atlanta, 24-9. Jake Delhomme completed 20 of 29 passes for 294 yards and two TDs, with no INTs, fumbles, or sacks.
What To Expect: Kansas City is getting no respect from the oddsmakers despite their impressive win over the previously-unbeaten Broncos last week. Of course, that was a home game for the Chiefs, and Arrowhead Stadium is always a tough place to play for a visiting team. This week they are on the road at Carolina, where the Panthers are 2-0 this season. Offensively, Carolina is just mediocre. On defense, they are solid against the pass and average against the run. Kansas City's passing attack had been pathetic in their first three games, but new starter Damon Huard looked fairly impressive last week. As for running the ball, Larry Johnson has three touchdowns and over 300 yards over the last two games. Defensively, the Chiefs are awful against the run and only average against the pass. I predict a Panthers win, but it should be closer than most people seem to think.
RJ's Pick: Carolina by 5
RJ's Lame-Game Of The Week: Chicago 2-2 at Detroit 0-3 – 1:00 PM (Line: Bears by 3)
Last Week: Chicago beat Philadelphia, 24-20. The Bears defense held the Eagles to just 2-for-13 on third down conversions. Detroit had a bye week.
What To Expect: I am not particularly impressed with the Bears offense. Yes, rookie running back Matt Forte gets a lot of yards, but it's on a lot of carries; his yards-per-carry average is less than four. Kyle Orton is a mediocre game manager at best. The Bears run defense is solid, but their pass defense is porous. I do respect their red zone defense, however. The Detroit Lions, even when they are really bad (like, say, this season) usually play pretty well at home. Also, this is the first game of the post-Millen era, so expect the hometown fans to be going wild (at least in the 1st quarter). The Lions have an almost non-existent running game, and Jon Kitna throws too many picks. And their defense is an absolute joke, especially against the run. Still, I feel strangely compelled to pick them for at least one more week.
RJ's Pick: Detroit by 2
Atlanta 2-2 at Green Bay 2-2 – 1:00 PM (Line: N/A)
Last Week: Atlanta lost to Carolina, 24-9. Roddy White had a nice game in the loss, catching seven balls for 90 yards. Green Bay lost to Tampa Bay, 30-21. Ryan Grant had another awful game, rushing for just 20 yards on 15 attempts and fumbling once.
What To Expect: Atlanta has looked good at home and bad on the road this season. Of course, their home games were against Detroit and KC (combined record 1-6) while their road games were against Tampa Bay and Carolina (combined record 6-2). Still, it can't be seen as a good sign that the Falcons are already 0-2 in their division, having lost both games by the same rather lopsided score of 24-9. The Falcons have the number one rushing offense in the league, but their passing attack leaves a lot to be desired, as rookie quarterback Matt Ryan has been inconsistent. Green Bay has a potent passing offense, but Aaron Rodgers (who has a sprained shoulder but is expected to play) needs to work on his accuracy. The Packers defense has given up more points each successive week. If the Falcons get ahead early and are therefore able to stick with the run, they should have a pretty good chance of pulling out the road win.
RJ's Pick: Atlanta by 1
San Diego 2-2 at Miami 1-2 – 1:00 PM (Line: Chargers by 6.5)
Last Week: San Diego beat Oakland, 28-18. LaDainian Tomlinson had 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Miami had a bye week.
What To Expect: The Chargers are first in the league in points scored per game. However, their pass defense is last in the league in yards allowed. The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown and a decent run defense. I don't think this will be much of a contest (although the Dolphins have already shown this season that they are capable of surprises).
RJ's Pick: San Diego by 11
Seattle 1-2 at New York Giants 3-0 – 1:00 PM (Line: Giants by 7.5)
Last Week: Seattle had a bye week. The New York Giants also had a bye week.
What To Expect: The Seahawks have healed up considerably at the wide receiver position since their last game in Week Three. They rank second in the NFL in rushing yards per game. They also have a solid defense against the run. So the only big question mark remaining about this team is their pass defense. The New York Giants are in the top-ten in most offensive and defensive categories. They are also well-rested and playing at home. So…is this a trap game? Possibly, but I'm not about to pick against the defending Super Bowl champs at home while they are still undefeated. Still, I expect a close game.
RJ's Pick: New York Giants by 3
Washington 3-1 at Philadelphia 2-2 – 1:00 PM (Line: Eagles by 6)
Last Week: Washington shocked Dallas, 26-24. Jason Campbell was excellent once again, completing 20 of 31 passes for 231 yards and two TDs, with no INTs or fumbles. Philadelphia lost to Chicago, 24-20. Correll Buckhalter had a respectable game, rushing for 66 yards and a TD on 16 carries, but his inability to get into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line late in the 4th quarter pretty much cost the Eagles the game.
What To Expect: Jason Campbell is having a terrific year. Clinton Portis is on pace for his best season since 2005, possibly 2003. Santana Moss is on pace for his best year of his career. And the Redskins have won three in a row. Meanwhile, the Eagles are all banged up. Brian Westbrook may not play again this week, Donovan McNabb still isn't 100%, and the offensive line is in rough shape. Still, it helps to have the number one defense against the run in the NFL, and to be playing at home, where they are 2-0 so far this season. This is a very difficult game to pick, but I gotta go with the road 'dog.
RJ's Pick: Washington by 3
RJ's Game Of The Week: Tennessee 4-0 at Baltimore 2-1 – 1:00 PM (Line: Titans by 3)
Last Week: Tennessee beat Minnesota, 30-17. Rookie running back Chris Johnson rushed for 61 yards and 2 TDs on 17 carries. Baltimore lost to Pittsburgh in overtime on MNF, 23-20. Derrick Mason had a great game in the loss, catching eight passes for 137 yards.
What To Expect: The Titans are undefeated at 4-0, their best start ever. Why? A few reasons: Kerry Collins replaced Vince Young at quarterback, rookie running back Chris Johnson is averaging five yards per carry, Vince Young is injured, the Titans defense is giving up the fewest points-per-game in the league…and did I mention that Vince Young hasn't played since Week One? The Ravens are nearly undefeated themselves, losing a heartbreaker at Pittsburgh in overtime last week. Their passing offense is ranked next-to-last in the league, but their running game is ranked third in yards-per-game. This offensive imbalance is problematic, but rookie quarterback Joe Flacco is improving. Defensively, the Ravens are in the top-three in most statistical categories, which is why they are such a dangerous team. This is another tough pick to make, but I'm going with the home team.
RJ's Pick: Baltimore by 4
Indianapolis 1-2 at Houston 0-3 – 1:00 PM (Line: Colts by 3.5)
Last Week: Indianapolis had a bye week. Houston lost to Jacksonville in overtime, 30-27. Matt Schaub had his first solid performance of the season, completing 29 of 40 passes for 307 yards and 3 TDs, with no INTs or sacks.
What To Expect: The Colts are last in the league in rushing yards per game. They are next-to-last in yards allowed on the ground per game. Shockingly, they are 0-2 at home. And they haven't even really played anybody yet: Chicago (2-2), Minnesota (1-3), and Jacksonville (2-2). The Texans give up a lot of points, but they have a decent pass defense. This is sort of an unpredictable matchup. I'll go with Indy, under the (relatively safe) assumption that Peyton Manning will find a way to get it done.
RJ's Pick: Indianapolis by 1
Tampa Bay 3-1 at Denver 3-1 – 4:05 PM (Line: Broncos by 3.5)
Last Week: Tampa Bay beat Green Bay, 30-21. Earnest Graham was terrific, rushing for 111 yards and a TD on 20 carries. Denver lost to Kansas City, 33-19. Eddie Royal made 9 catches for 104 yards, but also fumbled the ball away once.
What To Expect: Tampa Bay is (surprisingly, to me at least) in the top-ten in most offensive categories. However, one category that is not true for is points-per-game. That's because of a sub-par red zone offense. In 18 trips to the RZ in four games, they have just 7 TDs. While that might seem like a good deal if you have Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant to your fantasy team, I don't think Jon Gruden is all that happy about it. (By the way, my heart goes out to the entire Bryant family, who are no doubt still in unimaginable pain after a truly tragic loss.) The Broncos have the league's number one offense in total yards. Jay Cutler is having a terrific year, although he needs to watch those INTs. Defensively, the Broncos are abysmal. This should be a high-scoring game. It's usually wise to go with the Broncos at home unless you have a really good reason not to, which there doesn't seem to be here.
RJ's Pick: Denver by 7
Buffalo 4-0 at Arizona 2-2 – 4:15 PM (Line: Cardinals by 1)
Last Week: Buffalo beat St. Louis, 31-14. Fred Jackson gained 46 yards and scored a touchdown (the first of his career) on just 7 rushing attempts. Arizona got crushed by the New York Jets, 56-35. This game deserves some comment. The Cardinals turned the ball over seven times, including three Kurt Warner interceptions (and three more Kurt Warner fumbles). Yet Warner managed 472 passing yards for the game, and three Cardinals wide receivers had over 100 receiving yards. The score was actually 34-0 at halftime, before Arizona cut the lead to 34-21 late in the 3rd quarter. Weird, wild stuff.
What To Expect: The Bills are 4-0 for the first time since the other Bush was President. Their offense isn't really all that spectacular, but their defense is holding opponents to fewer than 16 points-per-game. The Cardinals have dropped two straight. Their offense is pretty one-dimensional: Kurt Warner throws the ball an average of 35 times a game, while their running backs average just 3.5 yards per carry. This one could go either way, but I think you have to pick the undefeated team over the team that's lost two in a row.
RJ's Pick: Buffalo by 4
New England 2-1 at San Francisco 2-2 – 4:15 PM (Line: Patriots by 3)
Last Week: New England had a bye week. San Francisco lost to New Orleans, 31-17. Arnaz Battle had a nice game in the loss, catching 7 passes for 120 yards.
What To Expect: I don't know what to expect from New England anymore. (Last season was so much more predictable!) Matt Cassel seems to be getting worse each game, and the Patriots run defense was exposed and exploited by the Dolphins in Week Three. (Perhaps they should look into getting some linebackers who aren't members of AARP.) The 49ers have a very average offense (although Frank Gore is a very above-average player), but defensively they are a little below average. I have to figure that Bill Belichick made some adjustments during the bye week, and therefore I shall go with the road team here.
RJ's Pick: New England by 6
Cincinnati 0-4 at Dallas 3-1 – 4:15 PM (Line: N/A)
Last Week: Cincinnati lost to division rival Cleveland, 20-12. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and fumbled once in his first start since 2005. Dallas lost to Washington, 26-24. The Cowboys ran the ball just 11 times for a meager 44 yards.
What To Expect: The Bengals are ranked near the bottom on the league in virtually every offensive category. Chris Perry is averaging just 2.9 yards-per-carry. Through four games, the Bengals have just two passing touchdowns. Defensively, they are horrible against the run but good at containing the passing game. However, they don't have any pass rush to speak of (just two sacks through four games), so even that one relative bright spot isn't much to brag about. The Cowboys are averaging 30 points-per-game, third in the NFL. Defensively, they are only average. Still, I don't think this one will be close at all.
RJ's Pick: Dallas by 21
Pittsburgh 3-1 at Jacksonville 2-2 – 8:15 PM (Line: Jaguars by 4)
Last Week: Pittsburgh beat Baltimore in overtime, 23-20. The Steelers managed just 69 yards on 28 rushing attempts, yet still won with a lot of help from their defense, especially linebacker James Harrison, who had 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Jacksonville beat Houston in overtime, 30-27. David Garrard finally had a decent game, completing 23 of 32 passes for 236 yards and a TD, with no INTs or fumbles, and also ran for 41 yards and a touchdown.
What To Expect: Willie Parker is expected to sit again this week. In fact, it's uncertain as of this writing who exactly the Steelers will play at running back against Jacksonville. The offensive line hasn't played well the last two weeks, and Ben Roethlisberger has taken a beating because of it (11 sacks in the last two games). The Steelers defense ranks among the top-five in the league. Jacksonville has won two straight, both in close games, after losing two close ones to start the season. Bad news: Jaguars offensive lineman Richard Collier is reported to be paralyzed from the waist down and had a leg amputated after being shot fourteen times in early September. The Jaguars have underperformed both offensively and defensively so far this season. I'm going with the upset.
RJ's Pick: Pittsburgh by 2
*Monday, October 6, 2008*
Minnesota 1-3 at New Orleans 2-2 – 8:30 PM (Line: Saints by 3)
Last Week: Minnesota lost to Tennessee, 30-17. Adrian Peterson rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in the loss. New Orleans beat San Francisco, 31-17. Drew Brees threw for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns, including two TD passes to Lance Moore.
What To Expect: The Vikings are 0-2 on the road. Adrian Peterson is averaging 105 yards-per-game and over five yards per carry. The Vikings run defense is ranked third in the league. The Saints are 2-0 at home. Their passing offense is number one in the NFL in yards-per-game. Defensively they are pretty bad, though. I'll go with the home team, but it shouldn't be a blowout.
RJ's Pick: New Orleans by 7
[Bye Week Teams: Cleveland Browns 1-3, Oakland Raiders 1-3, Saint Louis Rams 0-4, New York Jets 2-2]
WEEKLY RESULTS (2008):Powered by Sidelines