Drew Brees and the Saints are the lock of the week.
After a horrendous Week 3, I rebounded somewhat solidly in Week 4, going 9-5. I was relatively happy with that, and especially happy with my upset special of the Rams for the second straight week. The Jaguars and Redskins each picked up impressive wins that I didn't see coming, but that has been the nature of the NFL so far this season. So, without any further adieu, away we go with a look at Week 5.
Chicago @ Carolina - Words cannot even begin to describe how badly the Bears looked Sunday night. Jay Cutler left the game at halftime with a concussion after being sacked nine times. The Panthers, on the other hand, played maybe their most competitive game of the season, giving the Saints all that they could handle.
As I sit here typing this preview, I really don't have any inkling as to what is going to happen in this game. I think that a lot of it will depend on the health of Cutler. If he plays, I like their chances a lot better, but no matter what, I get the feeling that Carolina is due to get in the win column sooner or later. Panthers 20-14.
Tampa Bay @ Cincinnati - The Bucs are coming off a bye, while Cincinnati is coming off a very disappointing loss to the Browns. Carson Palmer finally looked like his old self last week, but it wasn't enough to beat a bad team. This week, they play another team, that although is 2-1, some people still consider to be a bad team.
I think that Cedric Benson is the key to this game. A year after averaging a career high 96.2 yards per game, Benson is only averaging 65.5 yards per game this year. Tampa Bay ranks in the bottom five of the league against the run, so this is the perfect opportunity for Benson to regain some of his 2009 form.
While Tampa Bay should be well rested coming off their bye, Cincinnati should be more motivated after their ugly loss to Cleveland. Bengals 21-13.
St. Louis @ Detroit - This game features two teams who combined for three wins a season ago. St. Louis comes into this one, dare I say it, red hot. They have one two straight games for the first time since early 2008. Detroit comes into the game still winless at 0-4, but are definitely on the verge of getting their first win.
They have had chances to win all four games they have played, but have come up empty. This may be their best chance. Sam Bradford has been very solid to start his career, and with Steven Jackson still banged up, he may once again have to carry the team.
This one feels hard to predict as well, and I think it could be fun, in a disturbing, really want to change the channel sort of way. As much as I would like Detroit to get a win, I have to ride my winning streak on the Rams a little further. Rams 24-21.
New York Giants @ Houston - Both teams are coming off wins in Week 4. The Texans are coming off a win over the Raiders in which they almost blew a big second half lead. Arian Foster, after being suspended by the team for the first quarter came up with a big performance. He had 187 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, including a 74-yard touchdown jaunt.
The Giants are coming off a very ugly win over the Bears. For as well as the defense played, the offense played equally as poor. The defense only allowed six first downs, and 110 total yards. They also held the Bears to 0-13 on third down conversions. The offense, especially in the first half, was very inept.
Eli Manning only accounted for 195 yards. The ground game picked up in the second half, and was the only source of offense for the Giants. Both teams seem like they are due to for a big offensive explosion. I think the Texans get theirs this week. Texans 38-21.
Denver @ Baltimore - Another game featuring two winners from a week ago. The difference here, is that both of these teams are coming off impressive wins. Kyle Orton, surprisingly, leads the league in pass yardage through four weeks. He again carried the Broncos last week. Orton threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with less than two minutes to play.
The ground game for Denver, though, was non-existent. The Broncos had 19 yards on 20 carries as a team last week. Those numbers don't figure to improve that much this week against Baltimore's stingy top-ranked defense.
The Ravens are coming off a very impressive win over the Steelers. Joe Flacco, while not dominant, was able to manage the game well enough, to lead the Ravens to the game winning score with less than a minute to go. If the Ravens are really going to be one of the best teams in the league, this is a game that they need to win in a convincing manner. Ravens 28-10.
Atlanta @ Cleveland - This game feels like a mismatch. The Falcons are coming off a last second win over San Francisco, while the Browns are coming off a surprising win over the Bengals. The Falcons should have no problem moving the ball against a Browns defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in total yardage.
And when going the other way, the Browns offense may struggle to put up any points against a Falcon defense that allows the sixth-fewest points in the league. While Atlanta was unimpressive last week, I think they make up for it this week. Falcons 27-13.
Kansas City @ Indianapolis - The Chiefs are the NFL's lone unbeaten team, and this week they travel to Indianapolis to face Peyton Manning and a Colts' offense that is the second highest scoring team in the league.
The jury is still out on whether or not the Chiefs are for real. After an impressive win over the Chargers, they struggled to get by the Browns, and then bounced back by pummeling the 49ers. This is probably going to be the biggest test in finding out how good Kansas City really is.
The Colts are coming off a surprising loss to Jacksonville and now find themselves at 2-2 with a shocking 0-2 record in their own division. Both offenses are playing against mediocre defenses, but how well the Chiefs can stop Manning will be the key to this game. I don't think they will have much success. Colts 34-17.
Jacksonville @ Buffalo - The Jaguars are coming off the biggest surprise of the week. They shocked the Colts with a last second field goal. Buffalo, meanwhile, has had the season that most experts expected. The Bills come in at 0-4, and a week ago were destroyed by the Jets.
Maurice Jones-Drew is coming off his best game of the season, and going against Buffalo's last-ranked run defense, I would expect him to have an even bigger game this week. Some people think that this game will be close, and it may be through the first half, but the second half will belong to Jones-Drew. The ugly season for Buffalo keeps going. Jaguars 30-13.
Green Bay @ Washington - Donovan McNabb made a triumphant return to Philadelphia, and now looks to make an even bigger statement against Green Bay. The Packers had to rely on their defense in holding Detroit to only field goals down the stretch as they let a 14 point lead dissolve to two.
Statistically, the Packers were completely outplayed by the Lions. Green Bay ran only 40 offensive plays and held the ball for just over 22 minutes, but I guess they all look the same in the win column. Washington went in to Philadelphia and jumped out to an early lead on the Eagles and never looked back as they picked up the win in Donovan McNabb's homecoming.
Green Bay has not looked like the team that is supposed to be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl, so this needs to be a statement game on the road. Expect good things from Aaron Rodgers. Packers 28-16.
New Orleans @ Arizona - The Saints didn't look great last week, but I guess, much like the Packers, they all look the same in the win column. The good news for them, is they travel to Arizona, where the Cardinals were never in rhythm, and were nothing but sloppy a week ago.
Add to that, the Cardinals will be starting Max Hall, a rookie making his first career start. Oh by the way, Arizona has given up 41 points in both their losses. This is the lock of the week. Saints 41-7.
Tennessee @ Dallas - The Cowboys are coming off a much needed bye week. The last time they were on the field they earned victory number one on the season over a very good Houston Texans team. This week, they welcome a Titans team that is coming off a loss to Denver, in which they gave up 341 yards passing.
That should bode well for Tony Romo, who is still looking for that big break through performance this year. Last year's 2,000 yard man, Chris Johnson, has had two good games and two bad games. He has 354 yards through four games, but only 87 of those yards have come in the Titans' two losses.
This week he faces a stingy Cowboy defense that only allows 83 yards per game on the ground. That is not a good sign for Johnson, and in turn, not a good sign for the rest of the Titans. Cowboys 28-21.
San Diego @ Oakland - The Chargers have been the model of inconsistency through four games this year. They have alternated wins and losses thus far in the season, and this week travel to Oakland to face a Raider team, who other than Week 1, have been in every game they have played this year. To their credit, Oakland has shown some signs of life behind quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
The key to this one for Oakland though, will be how well they can stop the Chargers ground game. The Raiders have given up the second most yards on the ground this season, and this week they face the duo of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, who last week had a combined 155 yards on just 25 carries. The Raider defense will be tested. The alternating trend for the Chargers stops here. Chargers 27-17.
Philadelphia @ San Francisco - With Michael Vick likely out this week, the Eagles starting quarterback job returns to Kevin Kolb. The Eagles travel across country to face surprisingly 0-4 San Francisco 49ers, who were seconds away from their first win one week ago.
The Eagles offense, even with Kolb running things, should give the 49ers some problems. They have the ability to stretch the field with DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
But the 49ers are supposed to be the upstart team this year, and thus far have done nothing to show that they are worthy of the preseason high praise. Both Alex Smith and Frank Gore have been average at best. Call this one a hunch, because I have lost all confidence in the 49ers, but this is definitely a must win game for them. I skittishly make this pick. 49ers 20-17.
Minnesota @ NY Jets - The Monday nighter should be the game of the week. The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a bye, and should be well prepared to take on the NFL's best defense. The addition of Randy Moss shouldn't hurt things either. With Sidney Rice still sidelined, the Vikings now have a proven No. 1 receiver again. This acquisition should not only rejuvenate Brett Favre, but the entire Viking offense.
The Jets are coming off a thrashing of the Bills, but this week face a defense that is far superior than that of Buffalo's. Both LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene rushed for over 100 yards a week ago. I wouldn't expect either of them to hit the century mark this week against the fourth-ranked run defense.
And while the Jets defense is nearly as good, Adrian Peterson is not your average running back. And keep in mind, he has had an extra week to prepare. I like the road team in a mini upset. Vikings 31-20.