Week 5 in the NFL has come and gone, and we now know one thing: Anybody can beat anybody else, anywhere.
Supposed Super Bowl contenders such as the Cowboys, Saints and Chargers all fell to what was set up to be inferior competition.
Now, there is no one favorite, and all the playoff spots are still wide open.
In particular, Houston looked like a completely different team than in weeks prior. Forgiving the loss to Dallas, the Texans looked poised to make a run, and the schedule seemed to set up favorably with a home game against the New York Giants. But the Giants came to play like it was 2008 and chased Matt Schaub all over the field.
One week after taking out Jay Cutler, the Giants' revived pass rush put heat on Schaub all day and made the All-Pro QB look like he was that guy the Chargers drafted after Peyton Manning.
With all this buzz around the NFL's newfound parity, the talking heads on ESPN will be buzzing all week looking forward to the games during the weekend. Feel free to play some Monday Morning Quarterback on these, but here are my Week 6 predictions for the NFL's lineup of games.
This one was supposed to be a lock for the Bears whether Jay Cutler plays in this game or not—that is, until I saw the elderly statesman Todd Collins at the helm for Chicago against the Panthers.
Collins, perhaps suffering from blurred vision at his more advanced age, threw four INTs against the winless Carolina Panthers. All totaled, his box score reads as follows: 6-of-16, 32 yards, 0 TD, 4 INT, 6.2 QB rating.
Good thing for the Bears JaMarcus Russell could have won this game as long as he didn't botch the handoffs to stellar running back Matt Forte.
Forte ran circles around the Carolina defense, and boy were their heads spinning. The back rushed 22 times for 166 yards and two TDs, otherwise known as an "Afternoon Delight" by fantasy owners. He, Robbie Gould and the Bears' D deserve the credit for the 23-6 win.
The Seahawks and their new flamboyant head man Pete Carroll are coming off a bye week following an embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams.
The 'Hawks may have been handled well by the Rams, but they also boast the second best rushing D in the NFL, allowing just 72.8 yards per game on the ground. You can be sure their front seven will come ready to fill any potential gaps for Matt Forte.
With that being said, they are likely ranked that high on run defense because they are too easy not to pass against. They have the second worst defense in the league in regards to passing yardage.
Here is where Jay Cutler comes in. With Jay on the field, the Bears have a legitimate threat of a passing attack. Without him, not so much as you can see by their other option at QB. Signs are good coming out of the Bears' camp, and it looks as if Jay will be ready to go, but if not, don't be surprised if the Seahawks take this one.
Prediction: Bears win 27-13.
Miami, another team coming off a bye week, travel into the not quite yet frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to take on what is likely to be a sore Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers.
The Dolphins will be looking to bounce back after their special teams in particular were torn to shreds by the New England Patriots and Patrick Chung.
They will be expected to bring a lot of pressure and try to get Rodgers in a position from where he is least effective: his back (or front in the case of the pic).
Rodgers was sacked four times in the loss to the Redskins this past Sunday and was hit even more. His shaky O-line will need to be a lot better this week to ensure they put some points on the scoreboard.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers came out very strong on D and looked to be handling the Redskins rather easily. That is until linebacker Clay Matthews strained his hamstring.
Once Matthews was off the field, the defense couldn't get quite as much pressure on Donovan McNabb, and it resulted in an overtime loss.
The Dolphins' running game should be ready to go, and if Matthews isn't on the field or is slowed down, the Pack' could be facing some issues.
All in all, Miami is still pretty young, but they may be too young to care. Charles Woodson cannot cover Brandon Marshall by himself all day, and after what I saw from the Packers' line, it would be tough to see them putting up many points against a very fast 'Phins D.
Prediction: Miami wins 20-13.
This just in: The Rams are still bad. Check that—they're really bad.
Coming off an unspeakable 44-6 loss to the lowly Detroit Lions and their backup QB Shaun Hill, the Rams have a very hungry passing attack to deal with.
Philip Rivers is bound to be steaming after his first ever loss to the Raiders. Look for those frustrations to be taken out against the poor Rams secondary and nonexistent pass rush.
Tom Brady could light this team up left-handed. Not one facet of the Rams' game looked anything close to what I would call sound, with the possible exception of Steven Jackson, who could get 2,200 yards behind a decent line.
The Chargers have some holes as well. They allowed two blocked punts to the Raiders, and special teams have let them down all year, but they still have an electric passing game and a good young running back in Ryan Mathews. Their defense is solid as well.
If the Chargers manage to lose this game, Norv Turner should be fired on-site.
Prediction: Chargers take this one 41-10 and are kneeling by halfway through the third quarter.
The third team fresh off a bye week is the newly de-Moss-ed New England Patriots. My guess is Tom Brady and company come in looking to prove they can put up points without their tumultuous wideout streaking down the sidelines.
I'm willing to bet that "cut your hair" comment by Moss did enough to make Brady want to put up as many deep balls as possible. The question is, who's gonna catch them?
Without Moss, the Pats have virtually no speed threat, unless Bill Belichick knows something we don't (and he usually does). They used the off week to find that guy who can bring down a Tom Brady spiral. For me, seeing is believing, and I don't see Wes Welker catching any 60-yard throws any time soon.
The Ravens look like the best team in football right now.
Joe Flacco struggled early on but has picked it up the past couple weeks and tore up a Cleveland Browns secondary that certainly kept Matt Ryan in check on Sunday (as dictated by my newly updated 2-3 ffl record).
Ray Rice is a great asset in the backfield as well. Their defense is always good too, and Ray Lewis is always great in that defense, which has actually been sneaky bad against the run this year. That shouldn't be much of an issue, however, as the Pats seemingly haven't run the ball since Bush was in office.
Gillette Stadium is always a tough place to play, though, and expect the Patriots to score. Just expect the Ravens to score more.
Prediction: Ravens 24-20.
The surprise of Week 5 had to be the New Orleans Saints' stunning loss to the Arizona Cardinals. I watched a lot of this game, and I'm still not exactly sure how it happened.
All I know is the score read Saints 20, Cardinals 30 when the game ended, and what went on during the game was unfamiliar. The usually scary accurate Drew Brees threw up three INTs, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Although the Cards put 30 on the board, the Saints' D is hardly to blame, as they didn't allow an offensive TD.
Credit the stripability of the Saints' offense, as the Cards scored twice on fumble recoveries. That and the accurate leg of veteran kicker Jay Feely were all the offense the Cards needed to pull off the upset.
The real question is what is going on with "Who Dey" nation? Brees throws three picks? It is painfully clear that Brees and his receivers have some problems getting on the same page, and if those problems continue, expect a similar result in Tampa.
The Bucs have been up and down a lot in the young season, but last week the up part shined.
With the help of a 61-yard TD run from Earnest Graham, who until last Sunday was still in the "where did they come from and where are they now" files, they Bucs outlasted an unspectacular Cincinnati Bengals team.
Josh Freeman showed he can lead a game-winning drive, which is always a great thing to see in a young QB. The defense forced some turnovers but failed to pressure the quarterback.
Prediction: Brees can't repeat that performance, can he? Saints win 33-20.
Well, well, well, look who has gotten their swag back. Is that the New York Giants?
You better believe it is. Tom Coughlin never fails to amaze me. As soon as people start talking about him being on the hot seat, the defense decides it's time to start playing again.
A week after making Jay Cutler feel like he was back in Vandy facing Georgia's pass rush, the Giants knocked Texans QB Matt Schaub down seven times, sacking him three times. They also deflected seven passes and picked off Schaub once.
On offense, Eli Manning has looked better, but he found some holes in the Texans' secondary to the tune of three TD passes. Add that to the lightning and thunder running attack of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, and you have yourself an early Super Bowl contender.
The Lions are coming off what feels like their most decisive win since they last made the playoffs in 1999. It did come at the hands of a rebuilding Rams team with a rookie quarterback and a weak defense, but they looked fast and sharp on both sides of the ball.
The big question will be whether Matthew Stafford is ready for this game, as his presence is a huge leadership boost to the entire team. He's got a big arm, and nobody can deny his heart.
With or without Stafford, though, the Lions' QB is likely to be on the ground much of the time. I don't see them throwing their franchise player into the lion's den. Expect another week off for Stafford.
Prediction: Giants make a statement 27-6.
Whether it's Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb, there's one common denominator for the Philadelphia Eagles' offense: a bad offensive line.
Better suited for Vick's style, the offensive line allowed five hits on Kolb against San Francisco; that includes four sacks.
Kolb likes to stand in there and deliver the ball down the middle, which means he's going to get hit. If Vick is back, not only is the deep ball once again in play, but the run is as well.
The Atlanta Falcons' offense was bottled up most of the game against the Browns but managed to break through in spurts. The Browns' offense was stagnant enough to keep the defunct Atlanta attack in the game until they could pull away.
Matt Ryan looked okay, but not great against a team that got torn up by Joe Flacco the previous week.
The Philadelphia defense certainly showed some holes against the 49ers, and if Ryan and the running game are in sync, they could put up some serious points at Lincoln Financial.
Prediction: Vick plays against his old team and ekes out a 38-33 win.
He's baaaaack. Ben Roethlisberger has had two weeks of taking snaps with the first team, and he'll be in uniform for the first time this year on Sunday.
Fresh off a four-game suspension, Roethlisberger is ready to get back to a state of normalcy, which means putting on No. 7 for the Steelers and getting back under center.
The Steelers' defense is the best in the NFL and they face a somewhat enviable task in lining up across from the not-so-feared Cleveland Browns offense.
Whether it's Seneca Wallace or Jake Delhomme, the Cleveland passing attack is almost nonexistent. Back that up with a slow-developing running game and you have yourself about 10 three-and-outs.
Expect the Steelers to force a few turnovers, run the ball effectively and incorporate some deep throws. Gee, that sounds like Steeler football to me. If Ben is ready, this team could be looking at a big winning streak.
Prediction: Steelers win 31-3.
Is that a QB controversy I smell? Perhaps.
Alex Smith was a heart-to-heart convo away from being pulled for backup quarterback David Carr. That lit a temporary spark under Smith that burned out just in time for the Eagles to pull out the win.
Smith led the 49ers on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and was one horrendous throw short of getting them into field goal range to tie the game. That quarter likely bought Smith some more time; the question is how much.
The 49ers defense showed signs of life in getting to the passer, but this probably has more to do with Philly's O-line woes than anything else. They did manage to recover a fumble but could not do much to stop Kolb from tearing up the middle of the field or LeSean McCoy from gaining over five yards per rush.
The Raiders come into this Bay Area showdown after defeating the Chargers for the first time in quite a while. Jason Campbell at last looked like the guy they thought they traded for in the offseason, and Michael Bush looked solid on the ground even with having to handle Darren McFadden's share of the carries as well.
Special teams won the day, however, as the Raiders picked up nine points on two blocked punts.
The Raiders will attack the 49ers on the ground, and if McFadden returns from injury, they will have a tough combo to deal with.
The 0-5 Niners are looking for their first win and may run into a team still bragging about that big home win. If they can catch the Raiders napping and Alex Smith plays like he's about to lose his job again, there is a chance they get off the schnide.
This cross-town rivalry has seen better years, but not many more uncertain than this.
Prediction: A lot of sloppy offense and a little defense give the Raiders a 27-17 win.
So, Rex Ryan wants to lead the league in wins? Well, this would be a big step. He leads his promising Jets team into Invesco at Mile High to take on the Denver Broncos and one of the biggest home field advantages in football.
The Jets come off a solid Monday Night Football performance at home against the Vikings.They did give up some points late, and the defense appeared worn down in the fourth quarter.
Without a 23-yard TD run out of Shonn Greene late in the fourth, we're likely talking about a loss. Greene did run for that TD, though, and the Jets now sit atop the AFC East at 4-1.
Mark Sanchez is improving, although 44 pass attempts out of him is less than ideal for the type of team the Jets want to be. Running the ball efficiently should be this offense's first priority, but they want to know they can throw when they need to, which is probably why Sanchez was stretched out in a game they had pretty well in hand.
The defense looked awesome for three quarters and softened in the fourth, which, when combined with a short week and cross-country trip, could be a recipe for a loss.
The Broncos are led by the surprising play of quarterback Kyle Orton, who is on pace for a record-breaking 5,500-yard season. He did well to dissect the tough Ravens D on Sunday despite the loss.
They lack a running game and any semblance of a pass rush, but the home field might be enough for an upset.
The Jets D may be tired, but they're anything but soft, and they will come after Orton until he's out of the game.
Prediction: Jets win 17-9.
Hello, and welcome to the All-Underachievers bowl. Today's matchup will pit the 1-3 Minnesota Vikings against the 1-3 Dallas Cowboys.
Both these teams have been huge disappointments early in the season.
The Cowboys came into this season with Super Bowl aspirations and lead the league in almost every offensive category but one: scoring. They simply cannot put the ball in the end zone. It's as if they are allergic to something in the paint around the goal line, and as soon as they get a whiff of it, they halt.
They have more problems than scoring, as their defense has employed the Swiss cheese strategy with all the holes they have. This team needs a big road win like this to get them back on track.
They have played nowhere near their talent level and should be embarrassed by their current record.
The Vikings were a Favre-ception away from a Super Bowl appearance in January. Now in October with the exact same team (minus Sidney Rice, add Randy Moss), they are 1-3 and looking up at the Packers and Bears.
The main problem has been that this year's Favre is a lot worse than last year's Favre. Brett is not playing with the same enthusiasm as he was last year, although some of it reappeared after his TD pass to Randy Moss Monday night.
Adrian Peterson is still "All Day," but the defense is a little more lax, especially in coverage.
The winner of this game may be back on track toward a playoff berth, while the loser will be 1-4 and in need of a miraculous winning streak.
Prediction: Who know with these teams? Best guess: Cowboys win 38-35, but I have absolutely no confidence in either team.
After a tough road loss in Jacksonville, many expected Peyton Manning to light it up against the Chiefs, but that's not the way it went down in Indy. Peyton struggled mightily against a familiar foe in Romeo Crennel, but the Colts did get the win.
The Redskins had their own little battle at home against the Packers. Donovan McNabb was constantly on the move as the pass rush was persistent in getting to the QB.
That is until Clay Matthews exited with an injury. After that, McNabb had more time to throw, and he used it wisely, as the Redskins were able to come out on top in a similarly gritty fashion.
The Colts and Redskins may come into this game following similar wins, but they are far from similar teams. Peyton is the architect of the Colts' offense. The quarterback/offensive play-caller for Indy reads the defense before each play, calls it and runs it. He is their offense.
The 'Skins depend on the mastermind of a successful running game in Mike Shanahan. Shanahan is blessed with a big O-line in Washington along with a very smart, talented quarterback and two very capable rushers.
This could be the best game of the week, or it could be a blowout. That depends on whether the Redskins can do enough on D to confuse Manning. If not, it could be an entertaining aerial assault put on by the NFL's golden goose.
Prediction: The latter—Colts win 31-21.
Every team in the AFC South is 3-2, which means this game is of great importance not only to the two teams involved, but also the two that aren't. The winner has an early edge to win the division, while the other is looking up at everyone else.
The Titans ride into Jacksonville following a big win in Big D this past week.
They managed to put a lick on Tony Romo 10 times last week; that includes six sacks. Although the offensive line for Dallas is a bit shaky, that type of pass rush cannot be ignored.
Add that to the most electrifying player in the game in Chris Johnson, and you have the makings of a very good team as long as Vince Young can hold on to the football. But then again, all Vince does is win, ugly as it may be.
The Jags took the momentum gained from the home win against Indy on the road and right into the Bills. They started slow but found their stride in the second half and never looked back.
The Bills may be the worst team in football, but any type of decent road showing out of the Jags and QB David Garrard has to put a smile on the face of Jack Del Rio, who always has a defensive front ready to shut down the running game.
The Jaguars and Garrard in particular have been too good at home to ignore. The Titans still need to put together a complete game before I consider them any type of contender.
Prediction: Jags win 24-20.
Finally to my game of the week: The until recently undefeated Kansas City Chiefs travel into Houston to take on the struggling Texans.
K.C. arrives in Houston following its first loss of the season, and man was it a tough one. They did everything they needed to on defense, as Peyton Manning was kept in check all day, not throwing for even one TD pass.
The problem was on offense, where Dwayne Bowe really struggled to catch balls, dropping passes on back-to-back plays, one being in the end zone. All of this amounted to a disappointing 19-9 loss to the Colts. There is no doubt the Chiefs' players will be motivated coming off that loss and will be looking for a team to beat up on.
They may have found that team in the Houston Texans, although I don't exactly see it that way. The Texans opened the year with big wins against the Colts and Redskins but have lost two of their last three and did not look good against the Giants this past week.
They were overmatched out front, as Matt Schaub was put on the ground time after time. Arian Foster carried just 11 times for 25 yards, and the pass defense was torn to shreds.
The Chiefs don't exactly have a record-breaking passing attack, but then again, neither did the Giants. They will score, likely on big plays to speedsters Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster.
The Texans need to establish a ground game to get their passing attack flowing. This means committing to the run and not just giving up after an unsuccessful 14 carries.
Prediction: The Texans have potential, but the Chiefs have a defense, and I'll take the latter 11 times out of 10. Chiefs win in Houston 20-16.