Are the Vikings now the hunted?
It’s official, I am not going to predict any more Kansas City Chiefs games. After upsetting a desperate Saints team two weeks ago in New Orleans, I thought for sure a home game against the Chargers, who just had it handed to them by the Falcons at home, would be a recipe for success.
Wrong! The Chiefs had it handed to them at home, which leads me to believe this year is setting up for another crazy “what the heck just happened?” type of season.
Okay, let’s get to it. Here are some week five games that should grab our attention.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
The Thursday night game features a surprising Cardinal team that is undefeated and the upstart Rams who play like their coach, tough and never quit.
The Cardinals are favored in this game, but if last week is any indicator of this game I would have to say the Rams have a very good shot at beating the Cardinals. Last week the Cardinals escaped at home against the Dolphins allowing rookie Ryan Tannehill to throw for more than 400 yards, while the Rams dispatched the Seahawks at home by making Russell Wilson look like a rookie.
The keys to this game will be whether the Cardinals can get to Sam Bradford and give Kevin Kolb time to throw. For the Rams it's all about finishing and establishing a running game.
Neither quarterback has been sensational, but Bradford is making good decisions and is completing over 61% of his passes. He will need to avoid that costly INT. Kolb’s QB rating is 97.6, so he looks to be playing well, although there are times he makes that bone headed throw that has viewers shaking their heads.
Which team will be upset this weekend?
Defensively both teams are playing well. Arizona is ranked No. 17 overall, but they need to improve their third down efficiency. For the Rams they are ranked No. 14 overall and seem to be coming together under Fisher’s schemes. Call this one a gut feeling, but the scale is tipping for the Rams despite the Cardinals unbeaten record.
Green Bay at Indianapolis
I know—sounds improbable right? Well, it depends on how the Colts come out this weekend. With the unfortunate news of Coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts could go one way or the other. They could play an emotional game that will spur them on, or the reality of them being an inferior team to the Packers will reveal itself by mid-third quarter.
No reason to throw out statistics.
The Packers are not the team from last year, and the Colts have a new identity. It will be about emotion and crowd for the Colts. For the Packers, it should be about taking care of business on the road, but this year has been screwy already. I am not necessarily going to say the Colts will win, but they have a better than average chance against a still vulnerable Packers team.
Chicago at Jacksonville
Chicago is coming off an impressive win Monday night at the Cowboys, but a road game against a pretty tough Jacksonville team might be a recipe for an upset.
The only way the Jags win this game is if they control the clock with Maurice Jones-Drew and pressure Jay Cutler. Look for the Bears to stack the line of scrimmage to stop MJD and force Blaine Gabbert to beat them.
Tennessee at Minnesota
Oh how the tides turn. For two weeks the Vikings have been the decided underdog and yet prevailed over two playoff teams from a year ago. The Vikings are five point favorites at home, and to a team that has lost its starting quarterback—sounds easy enough, right?
However, Matt Hasselbeck is one heck of a backup to have come in. The seasoned veteran will not be rattled by the Vikings defense which is ranked No. 8 overall. Jared Allen is questionable and the Vikings have not been great at stopping third down with 43% opposing offenses converting.
Ponder has looked efficient, although a bit pedestrian. I expect a better week as he continues to progress.
For the Vikings it’s simple, get Adrian Peterson going, stop Chris Johnson, chew up the clock, game over. If only it were that simple.
The Vikings are on upset alert and if they want believers, they need to win a game they are supposed to win, at home, playing well and with tremendous confidence. I am not saying the Vikings are a playoff team yet. And, their schedule would lend one to believe they could be 7-3 going into their bye, but the last six games are brutal, so Vikings fans should temper any playoff talk right now.
San Diego at New Orleans
How the Chargers are underdogs to a winless team, while having just dispatched the Chiefs at home the week after the Chiefs defeated the Saints at home is all beyond me. I would qualify this as an upset alert by virtue of the Chargers being underdogs on the road.
This is the bellwether game for the Saints. This could be a game that gets them somewhat turned around, or completely sets the table for one of those 4-12 seasons. I bet against the Chargers last week, but not this week. I think the Saints are done. That defense is awful and Drew Brees in not Superman—though he tries.
Houston at New York Jets
I can’t figure out the Jets. You would think they have a true identity, and yet who the heck knows who they are? The Jets are nine point underdogs at home. Heck you’d think they were 0-4 with that kind of spread.
The Texans come in undefeated, unphased, and unbelievably good in all areas. I picked the Texans to represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl and they don’t need a trip up in New York.
But the Jets are desperate. I mean really desperate. My feeling is that Coach Ryan worked the ever living day lights out of the team this week and they will be fired up.
The Jets could come out and play inspired ball and beat the Texans, but it is going to take a herculean effort on the part of Mark Sanchez and an offense that is more aimless than a Justin Bieber confrontation with law enforcement.
Denver at New England
The Patriots are favored by seven points, and all indicators would point to a Patriot victory at home, but Peyton Manning appears to be finding his stride, and he is very familiar with the Patriots.
Both teams are coming off impressive wins; the Broncos crushed the Raiders and the Patriots had their way with Buffalo after falling behind 21-7.
Here is my take. The last time the Patriots were home they lost to the Cardinals—a rare event. The Broncos come in with a more complete team and a much better quarterback, so there is possibility for the Broncos to come in and steal a road win.
Defensively, the Patriots are No. 20, and the Broncos defense is No. 7, but the Broncos are giving up about 50 less yards per game and both are allowing offenses to convert 41% of third downs. It will come down to whether one offense is able to sustain drives by converting those third downs, or which defense will stiffen when it matters most.
Offensively, what is there to say about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning that already hasn’t been said a hundred times over? Especially given how many times they have played against one another. This game comes down to which defense will make the crucial stand.
The Broncos may not pull off the upset, but my bet is they beat the spread.