NFL Picks Week 5: 10 Games That Could Come Down to the Final Minute
Guess what? It's time for an updated list of NFL Week 5 picks.
Although some of you may have seen my previous quick hits for this coming weekend, it's already time to re-evaluate and make some updates.
With Jay Cutler out with an injury, Knowshon Moreno once again out, the Bills leaning towards starting Fred Jackson and Randy Moss making Brett Favre excited in Minnesota, there's going to be a lot of games to look forward to this weekend.
Here are 10 games that could come down to the final minute.
New Orleans at Arizona
Why It Will Be Close: It shouldn't. These are the champs coming into town to do battle against a struggling team. The Cards are so desperate to get their offense started that they're handing the ball to undrafted rookie free agent Max Hall.
Why New Orleans Will Win: The Cardinals have problems on both sides of the ball. Last weekend against the Chargers, they lost 41-10. The Cardinals are allowing nearly 400 yards a game by air. That means the Saints and company will have plenty of opportunities to score.
Key Playmaker: Drew Brees. With a revolving door of receivers getting involved in the passing game, the only constant has been Brees. He has the ability to make anyone that can catch the ball look good.
Prediction: New Orleans 34, Arizona 10
Denver at Baltimore
Why It Will Be Close: Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton gains a lot of passing yards. The problem for his team is their inability to convert those yards to touchdowns. If they figure out a way to get to the end zone against the Baltimore defense, this game will be close.
Why Baltimore Will Win: Their offense and their defense should be at the top of their game. With Knowshon Moreno, once again absent, the Denver Broncos rushing game is virtually non-existent in the hands of Laurence Maroney and Correl Buckhalter.
The Ravens can focus on stopping the pass, which they've had plenty of success against this season. Baltimore has only allowed one touchdown by air and an average of 119 passing yards per game.
Key Playmakers: Joe Flacco. He just needs to zone in and get his receivers involved. With Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, he's got play of capable pass-catchers to throw the ball to.
Prediction: Baltimore 21, Denver 10
Jacksonville at Buffalo
Why It Will Be Close: There's so many things going wrong in Buffalo that it's hard to see this game be close. Now that Marshawn Lynch is gone, the Bills should go with their rookie first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller as the lead runner. But wait. No they're not, they're going with Fred Jackson.
The Jags are coming off a big win against the Colts and should have plenty of momentum to dispatch a winless Bills team in disarray.
Why Jacksonville Will Win: The Buffalo pass defense has given up eight touchdowns this season. With a good game from David Garrard last week against the Colts, he needs to build off that success. The Bills have yet to get an interception on defense, which should give Garrard more confidence in letting the ball loose.
Key Playmaker: Mike Sims-Walker. Sims-Walker needs to get himself involved in the passing game, he was glaringly absent last week and he also had a poor game to open the year. If the Jags are to do well, he needs to get more balls thrown his way and be a factor.
Prediction: Jacksonville 21, Buffalo 10
Atlanta at Cleveland
Why It Will Be Close: The Browns were able to defeat a Cincinnati Bengals team with a potent passing attack last weekend. They can do the same thing to the Falcons in this matchup but Atlanta touts a better rushing game and should be a challenge for the Browns.
Why Atlanta Will Win: Considering Peyton Hillis has been the most productive player for the Browns this season, he'll had a hard time against the Falcons rush-defense, who have allowed an average of less than 100 yards a game and only two touchdowns this season.
Key Playmaker: Michael Turner. While Cedric Benson had problems being effective against Cleveland last weekend, Turner should not have the same problem. He's a much better running back and should be the biggest difference in this game.
Prediction: Atlanta 24, Cleveland 10
Tampa Bay at Cincinnati
Why It Will Be Close: Tampa's defense may lack experience but they don't lack talent. They're capable of slowing down the Bengals. But their efforts might not be enough to outlast a veteran Bengals team.
Why Cincinnati Will Win: Their offense showed signs of life last week against the Cleveland Browns. Although the team lost, 23-20, they were able to rack up a total of 413 offensive yards. If Charlie Batch gave the Tampa Bay defense fits before their bye week, Carson Palmer with his long life of offensive weapons should have no problems getting his offense started.
Key Playmaker: Cedric Benson has had to battle with consistency issues throughout his Bengals career. Sometimes he's good, sometimes not. If Benson is on, there's no stopping them.
Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Tampa Bay 17
NY Giants at Houston
Why It Will Be Close: The Texans let their opponents into games because they allow a lot of passing yards. Eli has formidable receivers in Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham.
Why Houston Will Win: The return of Brian Cushing makes this Houston defense even better. With Ahmad Bradshaw nursing an ankle injury, the Giants rushing attack could easily be locked down by the Texans. If it comes down to becoming a battle between Eli and Schaub, the Texans have the advantage.
Key Playmaker: Arian Foster. They Giants have been solid against defending the rush but the Texans' offensive live are a huge group and they will matchup well against the Giants. Foster should continue to post big numbers in this game.
Prediction: Houston 31, New York 24
Kansas City at Indianapolis
Why It Will Be Close: While the Colts can throw with the best of them, this year's Chiefs have shown that they can run with the best of them. With the Colts weak at defending the rush, the Chiefs just may have enough talent and manpower—Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones—to keep up with them offensively.
Why Indianapolis Will Win: The Colts aren't used to being a .500 team, four games into the season. They'll want to come out strong and recover quickly from the embarrassing loss last weekend to the Jaguars. If this becomes a high-scoring battle, the Colts have more experience to pull of the win.
Key Playmaker: Peyton Manning is the big difference maker. Give him the ball in the game's last minute and he'll put you in a position to win. If it comes down to it, he may lead the team to ideal field goal kicking position or even a game-deciding touchdown at the game.
Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Kansas City 17
Philadelphia at San Francisco
Why It Will Be Close: The Eagles are not as exciting without Michael Vick at quarterback. When Kolb came in last weekend in relief—although he was effective—he did not have the same game-changing effect. San Francisco's pass defense has already allowed eight touchdowns this season. Kolb doesn't need to be Vick, he just needs to take advantage of his opportunities. With San Francisco winless so far, there's pressure from top-to-bottom for them to win. They shouldn't hold anything back.
Why Philadelphia Will Win: The 49ers have not looked good and continue to struggle all year. Although they've fired their offensive coordinator and are looking to spark their offense, there's been little reason to believe that that's possible right now. Alex Smith continues to disappoint and Michael Crabtree has shown very little since coming into the league last season.
Key Playmaker: Kevin Kolb. He needs to work out some kinks and learn to utilize key players in DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy.
Prediction: Philadelphia 21, San Francisco 17
Tennessee at Dallas
Why It Will Be Close: Both teams have had trouble with their passing games this season. While Vince Young was expected to have problems as the quarterback, Tony Romo was expected to flourish with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Why Tennessee Will Win: They have an underrated pass defense that has only allowed three touchdowns all year and have picked the ball four times. This sounds like trouble for Tony Romo. Dallas running backs have been ineffective all year, if Romo can't get his game going, there's no shot for the 'Boys.
Key Playmaker: Chris Johnson. The Cowboys should have no answer for one of the league's top running backs.
Prediction: Tennessee 20, Dallas 14
San Diego at Oakland
Why It Will Be Close: This is a rivalry game. Although the Chargers have won against the Raiders the last 13 times that they have played, there's still bragging rights at stake. Playing this game in Oakland in front of their home fans should motivate the Raiders to keep this game close.
Why San Diego Will Win: The Raiders have a run defense that rank near the bottom of the league, second only to Buffalo. They might also be without the service of their most productive player this season in Darren McFadden. Add to that a potent San Diego pass defense, and the Chargers have a clear advantage.
Key Playmaker: Phillip Rivers. There's no question this is Rivers' team, he's got a balanced offensive attack to utilize against Oakland led by trusty tight end Antonio Rivers. Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert can both catch and run with the ball out of the backfield.
Prediction: San Diego 24, Oakland 17
Green Bay at Washington
Why It Will Be Close: Both pass defenses have allowed plenty of yards. Last week, the Pack allowed Shaun Hill of the Lions to throw for 331 passing yards and two touchdowns. While, Aaron Rodgers is always a threat throwing the football. If the Lions can keep it close against Green Bay, the Redskins should be just as formidable.
Why Green Bay Will Win: The Washington pass defense has allowed and average of over 300 passing yards this season. That's music to the ears of Aaron Rodgers. With the Packers running game still in flux, they're going to have to rely on their passing attack to win this game.
Key Playmaker: Aaron Rodgers. Last week he had difficulties getting the ball off against the Lions. He needs to take initiative and step up and get himself more passing attempts.
Prediction: Green Bay 28, Washington 21
St. Louis at Detroit
Why It Will Be Close: With the exception of Minnesota, the Lions have actually battled their opponents in very close games this season. That list includes the Bears, Eagles and Packers. Now that they'll face the Rams at home, the Lions should play them tight as well.
Why St. Louis Will Win: The early success and emergence of Sam Bradford has been big for the Rams. With the chemistry developing between Bradford and Mark Clayton, the St. Louis passing game is showing signs of life. Now that Steven Jackson doesn't have to carry all the workload, they have a balanced attack that should give then an advantage over the Lions.
Key Playmaker: Steven Jackson. The Packers had problems with their offense against the Lions because they lacked a running game. Jackson is a tougher matchup for the Lions than Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn.
Prediction: St. Louis 28, Detroit 24
Chicago at Carolina
Why It Will Be Close: The Bears, with Cutler injured, will be sending out a 38-year-old quarterback in Todd Collins, while the Panthers will bring out a rookie quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, for only the third start of his career. Both of their passing games will likely struggle in this game, thus it should be a low-scoring tightly fought game.
Why Carolina Will Win: The absence of Cutler is a big deal for this Bears offense who have had very poor results from their running game. If Cutler's arm is out of the game, they will have to rely heavily on their defense and specialty teams.
Key Playmakers: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. The big loss for Panthers was the injury to top playmaker Steve Smith, but it might actually be a blessing for this squad. Now that Smith will likely be out, it will give them time to focus on their running game. The tandem of Williams and Stewart were among the league's best last season. There's no reason to believe that they won't be able to step it again, even against the Bears rush defense.
Prediction: Carolina 14, Chicago 10
Minnesota at NY Jets
Why It Will Be Close: Before the Randy Moss trade, the Jets would have been the easy favorites. Now with Moss coming on board and Favre returning to New York, this game has all the makings of close game. Sanchez has emerged as a solid quarterback early this year and his rapport with Dustin Keller has netted positive results on the field. But the Vikes boast a pass defense that has only limited opponents to three touchdowns all year.
Why Minnesota Will Win: The team has added motivation. Favre finally gets himself a top target. Now Percy Harvin will not have to struggle as the number one wide receiver and with Moss around to draw top coverages, things might open up underneath for everyone else. Schiancoe, who has already been Favre's favorite target this year, but his game might also also see more improvement. And don't forget the Vikes also have a Adrian Peterson.
Key Playmakers: Randy Moss. Was there even a question? Even if Moss doesn't haul a touchdown, he'll have positive effect for the team's morale and passing game.
Prediction: Minnesota 31, NY Jets 24