NFL Picks Week 5: Which 0-4 Teams Have Best Chance of Winning?
At the close of Week 4 of the NFL season, there's nothing worse for a fanbase than staring at the standings and seeing your team in the cellar of their division at 0-4.
Miami and St. Louis have a bye in Week 5, so nothing can change there until Week 6, but we'll discuss their chances to get that goose egg off the board when they resume play in Week 6 anyway.
For Indianapolis and Minnesota, the schedule-makers were reasonably kind to them in Week 5, and both have a chance to grab that elusive first win.
But whether it's in Week 5 or Week 6, all of these teams desperately need to get their first victory under their respective belt.
Following is a discussion of each of these struggling teams, and their chances to get out of the hole in their next matchup. Let the race to 1-4 begin!
1. Miami Dolphins
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The Case for 1-4: The Dolphins have a bye for Week 5, so there will be no reprieve this weekend. In Week 6, they face off on Monday Night Football with a New York Jets team that has struggled to live up to high expectations, but still sits comfortably ahead of Miami at 2-2.
Injuries have left the Jets with a crippled defense, and their offensive line crumbled on Sunday night, leaving Mark Sanchez vulnerable to a sound beating by the vaunted Baltimore front seven.
Whatever else is wrong with the Dolphins, you have to acknowledge their killer pass rush, which could do serious damage to the Jets thanks to their struggling offensive line.
The fact that Coach Tony Sparano's job is in danger may help the Dolphins as well. They're under the gun in Week 6 and they know it. If they don't win, it could be Coach Sparano's last day running the team.
Additionally, while the Jets are clearly the better team, divisional opponents always have a slightly greater chance than those outside one's division, thanks to the increased familiarity.
The Case against: Division rival or not, the Jets are still the better squad. While the Jets defense is not at its strongest, the Miami offense won't be the most challenging they'll face. And though the Jets defense is banged up, they're still ranked 10th in the league, which is probably enough against a Miami offense that has looked troubled ever since their surprisingly good showing in Week 1 against the Patriots.
Brandon Marshall should have a good game against a Jets secondary that hasn't been as tough as advertised thus far this season, but will it be enough? Probably not.
And on the other side of the ball, Miami's defense is ranked the third-worst in the NFL. Aside from their respectable pass rush, there isn't much good stuff going on there. Unless they can crush the Jets O-line and force Sanchez to make mistakes under pressure, the Jets offense will likely pick them apart.
Bottom Line: Miami has a small chance at a win in Week 6, but the odds don't favor them. Underachieving or not, the Jets are still a darn good team and a playoff hopeful. And you can bet they're hopping mad about being pounded by the Ravens on national TV on Sunday night. They have a tough game coming in Week 5 as well, against New England, so they may be that much more hungry for a win against Miami in Week 6.
At the close of Week 6, Miami could easily be 0-5 and Coach Sparano could be out of a job.
2. Minnesota Vikings
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The Case for 1-4: Of the remaining winless teams after four weeks of play, the Minnesota Vikings are probably the one I'm most surprised to see in this position. I don't think anyone thought they would be anything close to a contender this season, but they didn't look like a good bet to be 0-4 at this point either. At least on paper, there is a good argument that the Vikings are the best winless team out there.
They have arguably the league's best running back in Adrian Peterson, a tougher defense than their fellow 0-4 teams, and a smart veteran QB in Donovan McNabb who, despite early struggles this season, should be able to turn things around at least to some degree.
But perhaps the best argument for Minnesota to be the first 0-4 team to post a win? Week 5 pits them against the Arizona Cardinals who, while not among the winless, are far from among the league's best.
The Arizona defense has been downright terrible against the run, giving the Vikings the perfect opportunity to use their best weapon—Adrian Peterson—to rack up points. While neither defense has exactly been stellar, the Cardinals have ceded more total yardage than the Vikings have.
And while the Arizona offense has its strong points, Kevin Kolb has struggled a bit, and Beanie Wells as the go-to back has worked so far, but many are skeptical as to whether he can keep it up. The Vikings D hasn't been as good as advertised prior to the season, but they're better than they've looked so far too.
The Case Against: Whether they're better than they've looked or not, the Minnesota defense is still a disappointing 21st in the league.
The Arizona offense has been worse than many expected, but Kevin Kolb has a much higher upside than Donovan McNabb does at this point in their respective careers, and a better receiving weapon in Larry Fitzgerald than McNabb does in the decent but inconsistent Percy Harvin.
And even if, like me, you're waiting for the other shoe to drop on Beanie Wells, you can't argue with the numbers he has put up so far.
Bottom Line: Given their potential and the matchup they have in their fifth game, the Vikings probably have the best shot at a win of the remaining winless teams.
The Vikings defense should be able to handle the Arizona offense, but the Vikings offense absolutely has to improve if they want to win. At an average of 19.3 points per game, Minnesota is only a few ticks behind Arizona at an average of 21.5.
If the Vikings can put together even a decent game this week, they have an excellent chance to log their first win of 2011.
3. St. Louis Rams
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The Case for 1-4: The Rams as a winless team after four games is a bit of a stunner, especially considering that many folks thought they had a shot to win their division. Granted, the NFC West is widely considered the weakest division in football at the moment, but that doesn't mean any team thought to be a contender should be sitting at 0-4 going into Week 5.
The Rams are also the most talented offensive team of the 0-4 group, at least on paper. Injuries have been a huge part of their problem, much more so than a lack of talent. Sam Bradford has fallen stunningly short of expectations so far this season, with a completion rate under 50 percent. But you have to believe a quarterback that good will find a way to right himself sooner rather than later. Some of that may hinge on whether he gets WR Danny Amendola back for the team's next game.
St. Louis has a bye in Week 5, which is fortunate for them considering their injury situation. It buys Amendola another week to possibly get healthy. It also gives RB Steven Jackson, who has been limited and is still nursing an injured quadriceps, another week to heal.
The Case Against: After their bye in Week 5, the Rams are stuck dealing with the Green Bay Packers. Sadly, you could probably end the argument that the Rams have any shot to get to 1-4 just with that statement.
Regardless of whether the Rams are sure to improve given the level of talent they possess, and regardless of the fact that the bye week should help their key injured players heal, the Packers are probably the worst draw possible for an opponent for any team, let alone one that hasn't even managed to win a game yet.
Bottom Line: Aaron Rodgers won't need to throw six touchdown passes to beat the Rams' struggling defense. And the Packers defense should have no trouble handling a banged up St. Louis offense, whether they're in better shape by Week 6 than they are now or not.
Sorry Rams fans, unfortunately your team looks like a lock to go 0-5.
4. Indianapolis Colts
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The Case for 1-4: Pity the poor Indianapolis Colts who, after years of success, suddenly just can't seem to buy a break. Obviously that all began with the loss of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, and from there it was domino effect straight downhill.
The Colts, despite their struggles, nearly beat both the Steelers in Week 3 and the Buccaneers in Week 4. So it seems that maybe the injury to Kerry Collins may be the best thing that's happened to the Colts this season, as QB Curtis Painter, bad hair notwithstanding, has looked better than expected so far.
Though the Colts were severely weakened by the loss of Manning, Painter seems capable of stepping up and at least attempting to save his team, and he has Reggie Wayne, as well as a not great but still probably underrated defense to help him out.
But the best news for those hoping the Colts can get out of their winless rut is that they face another struggling team in the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5. The Chiefs have logged just one win on the season, and that was against the winless Vikings—and the Chiefs barely eked that one out.
The Case Against: As much as the Colts have looked much better in Weeks 3 and 4 than they did in Weeks 1 and 2, they still have a lot of problems. As much as Painter has been better than Collins, their offense still ranks dead last in the league in yardage. Kansas City has been terrible on that front too, but they're several hundred yards out in front of the Colts.
Bottom Line: The Colts may be the most evenly matched with their next opponent of the four remaining 0-4 teams. Perhaps the best thing they have going for them is that they seem to be improving, while the other three winless teams are mostly just spinning their wheels.
On paper, Kansas City is the better team in this matchup, though not by much. In other words, it's anybody's game, and I wouldn't bet against Indy getting their first W of the season in Week 5.