2011 NFL Week 5 Picks: Upstart Bills vs. Underachieving Eagles

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IOctober 4, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field on October 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The 49ers defeated the Eagles 24-23. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

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Game of the Week: Eagles at Bills

If one were to mention in August that the Philadelphia-Buffalo matchup would feature a first-place team against a struggling squad, not a soul would have batted an eye. Yet the predetermined roles of each roster have been reversed, as the 1-3 Eagles limp into Ralph Wilson Stadium to take on a blazing Bills crew in the WhatIfSports.com NFL Game of the Week.

While Buffalo's 2-0 start put the league on notice, many contended a visit from the mighty New England Patriots would quell any misguided optimism concerning the Bills' 2011 prospects. And through the first 25 minutes of Week 3's ballgame, this forecast appeared to be coming to fruition, as Tom Brady and company held a 21-0 lead. Yet the Buffalo secondary toughened up, picking off Brady four times, while Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson ignited the dormant offense. With time winding down, kicker Rian Lindell laid one between the pipes to give the Bills a shocking 34-31 comeback win over the rival Pats, putting Buffalo atop the AFC East with a 3-0 mark. The Bills were hit with a reality check against the Bengals in Week 4, but few expected Buffalo to be 3-1 at this juncture.

On top of the division is where the Eagles were projected to place thanks to their offseason acquirements of Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins and others. Alas, Philadelphia has initiated their 2011 campaign with a rocky start, losing three-straight games against the Falcons, Giants and 49ers. At the heart of this vexation has been the failure to protect Michael Vick, most of which is rooted in inferior line play. With Vick missing significant time in two of the four contests, the Eagles' offense has stalled.

For the Eagles to get back on track, the team will need to reestablish their run defense. Philadelphia is surrendering 139.5 yards on the ground, third-worst in the league. And while no quick-fixes can shore up the offensive front, the Eagles must find a way to keep their versatile but vulnerable QB healthy. Luckily for Philly, LeSean McCoy has helped provide some stability in the backfield, rushing for 363 yards on just 66 carries in the early going. Also producing has been Jeremy Maclin, who missed most of the preseason with an unknown ailment.

To have a chance against the Bills, Philadelphia must contain Jackson, who has exploded onto the NFL scene with 369 yards on the ground and another 147 in the passing game. But the Buffalo offense is far from a one-dimensional attack. Fitzpatrick has been extremely effective in the first three games, hitting 63.4 percent of his throws and maintaining a 96.9 QB rating. Although the team traded away the services of veteran Lee Evans in August, the receiving corps hasn't missed a beat, with Stevie Johnson (24 receptions, 314 yards), David Nelson (22 receptions, 251 yards) and Scott Chandler (11 receptions, four touchdowns) providing the necessary targets for Fitzpatrick to operate.

So who wins in this East Coast encounter? According to the WhatIfSports.com award-winning simulation engine, the Eagles come out on top 51.4 percent of the time by an average score of 21-20. Here are the rest of this week's predictions:

NFL Week 5
Matchup Win% Avg Score
New York Jets 39.5 17 Boxscore
@ New England Patriots 60.5 20 Jets" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Chicago Bears 43.8 17 Boxscore
@ Detroit Lions 56.2 19 Bears" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Seattle Seahawks 43.6 17 Boxscore
@ New York Giants 56.4 20 Seahawks" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Philadelphia Eagles 51.4 21 Boxscore
@ Buffalo Bills 48.6 20 Simulate Game
Cincinnati Bengals 52.9 20 Boxscore
@ Jacksonville Jaguars 47.1 19 Simulate Game
Arizona Cardinals 53.3 25 Boxscore
@ Minnesota Vikings 46.7 23 Cardinals" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Oakland Raiders 54.3 22 Boxscore
@ Houston Texans 45.7 21 Raiders" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Tennessee Titans 58.6 22 Boxscore
@ Pittsburgh Steelers 41.4 19 Titans" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Kansas City Chiefs 60.3 23 Boxscore
@ Indianapolis Colts 39.7 18 Chiefs" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 61.5 24 Boxscore
@ San Francisco 49ers 38.5 19 Buccaneers" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Green Bay Packers 66.1 25 Boxscore
@ Atlanta Falcons 33.9 20 Packers" target="_blank">Simulate Game
New Orleans Saints 68.1 25 Boxscore
@ Carolina Panthers 31.9 19 Panthers&vSeason=2011&vTeam=New+Orleans+Saints" target="_blank">Simulate Game
San Diego Chargers 78.2 29 Boxscore
@ Denver Broncos 21.8 19 Chargers" target="_blank">Simulate Game