Last Week: 11 - 5
Season: 42 - 22
Week 5 Byes: Washington, Dallas, Baltimore, Miami, St. Louis and Cleveland.
Last week started out rough with a 5-4 record over the 1:00 games, but we picked it up with a nearly perfect evening slate to go 11-5. It would have been better it weren't for Dallas, Philadelphia and Buffalo, who blew leads that combined were 70-9 in the second half.
If a couple picks can stand up for four quarters this week, we should have a big week. It already looks a little easier with Tony Romo on his bye week. There are five other teams with their mandatory week off this week.
The other 26 teams will give us some interesting match-ups. The playoff picture will continue to become a little more clear with each week, and it's becoming critical for teams with bad starts to begin to turn it around.
We have three divisional match-ups this week, which are always my favorite games. Out of those three, two of them are going to be dynamite games to watch.
We'll go ahead and start with two of last week's biggest letdowns, the Eagles and the Bills.
The Eagles will have a shot to salvage their season this week in Buffalo; another defeat here and they may be digging their own graves. They made some costly mistakes last week against San Francisco and subsequently blew a 20-point fourth quarter lead. Now is the time to turn it around.
They will have to do it in Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the Bills made their stunning comeback victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Bills and their fans will be looking to erase a late-game collapse of their own with another big home win.
The key will be the running games, as Fred Jackson and LeSean McCoy will be headlining the box scores after this one. Philadelphia has the No. 30-ranked rush defense and Buffalo has the No. 25-ranked rush defense.
Ball protection will be the deciding factor here, as the Eagles come in with a minus-6 turnover differential. Buffalo leads the AFC with a plus-7 turnover margin and will look to rattle Michael Vick much like they did Tom Brady two weeks ago.
I'm going to go with the underdog here and expect the Eagles to falter again in a tough road environment.
Buffalo Bills over Philadelphia Eagles 30 - 27
This game, despite their combined 1-7 records, should be fairly interesting. Actually, because of their bad starts, it makes this game even more interesting.
They make up a two of last year's 12 playoff teams as defending division winners and until a week ago, a lot of us had to wonder if either team would win a game. The Chiefs broke through first with a 22-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Both teams are really struggling to throw the ball this year, which is understandable for the Colts, who weren't expecting Curtis Painter to be leading their team before the season started. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are not getting the effectiveness they saw from quarterback Matt Cassel a year ago.
After losing their first two games by a combined score of 89-10, the Chiefs are playing much better, losing to the Chargers 20-17 and getting their first win last week. The Colts haven't been so lucky, but they have taken two very good teams down to the wire the last two weeks before losing.
Both teams have poor run defenses, which is better news for Kansas City who loves to run the football. They may have lost Jamaal Charles for the year, but Dexter McCluster is giving them another version of a speedy, explosive change-of-pace back.
Given the heart both of them have shown recently after being counted out, I am going to go with the Colts on their home field. The way they played the Steelers and the Buccaneers, I feel they are on the verge and should be able to pull one out.
Indianapolis Colts over Kansas City Chiefs 23 - 19
The Vikings make up the only other team in the league without a win that will be playing this week, as Miami and St. Louis will have the week off. The Vikings have actually held second-half leads in all four of their games this year, but have fallen apart late.
The Cardinals welcomed in new quarterback Kevin Kolb and had hopes of winning the NFC West this year. They are a team that feels they were just three years and a quarterback away from their Super Bowl-caliber play of 2008.
While the Cardinals managed to outgain their opponents in their last two games, each came away as a loss. Kolb may find it difficult to hit his favorite target Larry Fitzgerald this week. He will most likely be tailed by second-year corner Chris Cook, who is 6'2" and did a decent job knocking away a few balls headed towards Calvin Johnson two weeks ago.
The running backs will headline this match-up. Beanie Wells just had a career day with three touchdowns against the Giants. Adrian Peterson has always been a force, but especially when he is playing at home. The Vikings average 159 rushing yards at home and perfectly fitting for them is the Cardinals No. 27-ranked road rush defense, giving up 147 per game.
Peterson will be too much for the Cardinals to bottle up at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis. This would be a great time for Donovan McNabb to earn his keep in Minnesota and lead a couple second-half drives to hold on for a win.
Minnesota Vikings over Arizona Cardinals 26 - 23
Well, four weeks ago the Giants had just lost to the Washington Redskins and played so poorly it looked like they were in for a long year. Now they are 3-1 and have a shot to become the sole leader in the NFC East with Washington off this week.
They will welcome the 1-3 Seattle Seahawks, who only average 14.5 points per game at MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks did have a promising finish to their loss against Atlanta last week, scoring a season-high 28 points.
It is well known, though, that Seattle always plays better at home and making the trip to New York probably won't end well for a team that only averages 5.5 yards per pass. Tarvaris Jackson and the Seattle offense has been abysmal. Besides their inability to score, they're not moving the ball much either, only gaining 254 yards per game.
Eli Manning has dealt with the loss of Steve Smith and nagging injuries to both Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. He and Victor Cruz have connected for a few big plays during his stars' absences en route to a 105.6 passer rating for Manning.
The Giants should be able to push the Seahawks around at home in this one.
New York Giants over Seattle Seahawks 31 - 16
The Tennessee Titans thus far have taken on the role of bullying opponents, a spot the Pittsburgh Steelers are very familiar with. Tennessee comes into the game with the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, only allowing 14 points per contest. In fact, in the only game they lost, they gave up their season high of just 16 points.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense looks all right if you just look at their No. 5 ranked scoring defense at 18 points a game, but they are struggling in a lot of areas they usually excel. The Steelers are allowing 119 yards rushing per game. If it weren't for holding the Seahawks inept offense to 31 yards rushing, that number could be a lot worse.
Even more astounding for the Steelers is their lack of a pass rush. They only have seven sacks all season, good for just 22nd in the league. This week doesn't seem to offer much optimism there with their leader in sacks, James Harrison, out with an orbital fracture around his right eye.
The defense still keeps them in games, even if it isn't as dominant as in years past. Another problem is Ben Roethlisberger managing to rack up yards, but only coming away with three touchdowns. Worse yet, he has nine turnovers in four games.
The Titans will still have their hands full trying to win at Heinz Field. Matt Hasselbeck is having a resurgent season statistically, but is still trying to find a replacement for Kenny Britt. Hasselbeck did have three touchdowns in Britt's absence a week ago, and Chris Johnson cracked 100 yards for the first time this season.
Things seem to be going very well for Tennessee right now, while Pittsburgh seems to have worked extra hard for their two wins. As banged up as the Steelers are, they looked dominant one time this season and it was in their only home game. Against my better judgment, I am going to go with Pittsburgh to dig a littler deeper at home.
Pittsburgh Steelers over Tennessee Titans 23 - 20
If the Carolina Panthers keep playing the upper echelon of teams so closely, they are going to knock someone off eventually. A team that was thought to be in the running for the No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft, the Panthers have lost each of their three losses by seven points of less.
Whether its Ron Rivera getting the Panthers to play harder than they did under John Fox or Cam Newton keeping them in games himself, they seem capable of giving the Saints a test.
Okay, maybe a test for the first half. The Saints are on fire after losing the Week 1 shootout with the Packers. Drew Brees leads the league's No. 5 scoring offense at nearly 32 points per game. They are doing it through the air as expected, but still getting good production on the ground for a balanced attack.
I think Cam Newton will have another big game statistically here, but in the end its just too much precision in the Saints fast-paced offensive attack.
New Orleans Saints over Carolina Panthers 38 - 23
The Jacksonville Jaguars' plan to let David Garrard go prior to the season's kickoff is back-firing badly. The Luke McCown- and now rookie Blaine Gabbert-led Jaguars have the league's last ranked offense, not even scoring 10 points per game. They have failed to gain 300 yards in each of their last three games, all losses.
Yet they are favored in this game. They have achieved their only win at home this year and also played to a 23-10 loss at home to the Saints. It looks like they played them closely, but they gave up over 500 yards to New Orleans.
The Bengals, on the other hand, have a rookie starting quarterback of their own. In this case, though, Andy Dalton has struck up a very exciting connection with fellow rookie A.J. Green. The Bengals also boast the league's No. 6 overall scoring defense. A lot of that has to do with Leon Hall and the secondary only giving up 189 passing yards per game.
As if the Jaguars needed any more hurdles to find their scoring punch. I see the Bengals taking control of this one early and the defense shutting down Gabbert when it counts late.
Cincinnati Bengals over Jacksonville Jaguars 23 - 13
The Raiders will travel to Houston to try and avoid falling below .500 for the first time this season. This game will feature this season's best running back to date in Darren McFadden and a healthy Arian Foster, who took the league by storm a year ago.
For McFadden's standards, he was held in check last week against the Patriots, gaining only 75 yards rushing. Foster found his hamstring at full strength and took a big work load of 30 carries for 155 yards.
Both offenses will rely on their running games in this one. The Texans have really scaled back their passing attack from years past when Matt Schaub was known for 300- and 400-yard outings. They only average 231 yards through the air this year and are now without superstar wide receiver Andre Johnson for a couple of games.
The Raiders have shown they can play with the game's elite when they beat the New York Jets by 10. The Texans, who are always fighting for respect, were able to shut down the Steelers last week in a 17-10 game.
The big question for Houston will be if they can keep the box from getting too crowded on Foster without Johnson in the game.
The Raiders will try to come into Houston and run wild with McFadden and Michael Bush. While I think they have a shot, having played tough all year, I think Houston's improved defense will be the deciding factor in this one.
Houston Texans over Oakland Raiders 20 - 17
Going by records alone, this is the week's best match-up with the 3-1 Buccaneers visiting the surprising 3-1 49ers. Had it not been for a miracle comeback led by Tony Romo for the Cowboys, the 49ers would be sitting at 4-0.
Rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh may not have the 49ers playing pretty football, in fact they've been out-gained in each game this season. What they have managed to do though, is lead the NFL in turnover differential at plus-8. They are getting timely takeaways and grinding behind Frank Gore.
For everything Alex Smith is not, he is becoming a decent game manager with only one interception in four games thus far. Good news for the run-heavy 49ers, Frank Gore finally had a breakout game with 127 yards last week after just 148 in the first three games combined.
The Buccaneers lost Week 1 to the red-hot Detroit Lions, but have not lost since.
They do bring a little more offensive firepower to the table than the 49ers do. Josh Freeman isn't having the start he was expected to with just three touchdowns to four interceptions. They are getting good contributions from LeGarrette Blount and rising youngster Preston Parker at receiver.
The Buccaneers bring more firepower to the table here, but they must win the turnover battle to take this one on the road.
San Francisco 49ers over Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21 - 20
The San Diego Chargers are widely regarded as one of the best teams in the league year in, year out. Yet, for some reason they let inferior teams hang around and finish games with much closer scores than many would expect.
They are better across the board than the Denver Broncos, who are continually stirring up controversy with their quarterback situation. Drafting Tim Tebow may have been a big mistake, if for nothing other than his fan base causing an uproar each game and getting in starter Kyle Orton's head.
One draft pick who is finally paying huge dividends is the Chargers 2010 first-round pick Ryan Mathews. Mathews if looking like the LaDainian Tomlinson replacement he was drafted to be with his dual-threat skills. He has 288 yards rushing and 254 yards receiving, good for second on the team.
The Chargers on paper should have no trouble in this game, especially after the Broncos were dismantled by Green Bay 49-23 just a week ago.
The Broncos look as if they will have Champ Bailey available again this week to help cover the explosive Vincent Jackson. Antonia Gates will be out again for the Chargers, which coupled with Bailey's presence, could subtract their two biggest mismatches.
Still, too much talent in San Diego and a messy situation in Denver means a loss at Mile High for the Broncos.
San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos 30 - 20
The Jets come in after being embarrassed two weeks in a row by giving up 34 points in each. They failed to score an offensive touchdown a week ago. The Patriots come in 3-1 and having scored at least 31 points every game this year. Fittingly, the Patriots are eight-point favorites.
Still, you never know what you're going to get here. The Jets took the first game for these division rivals last year, only to be blasted on national TV 45-3 in the next. Right when you thought Belichick and Tom Brady had Ryan's Jets figured out, they lose to them at home in the playoffs.
So, again, you just never know. I wouldn't be surprised if the proud Jets team overlooked the last two opponents while foaming at the mouth waiting for the Patriots. You know every player and coach involved had this game circled on their calendar.
When you don't know what to expect, always go with Tom Brady. That's what I always say.
New England Patriots over New York Jets 34 - 23
The Green Bay Packers are in familiar territory for the second time in three weeks. They already revisited Soldier Field and beat the Chicago Bears in similar fashion to the time they did it on their Super Bowl run.
Now they come back to the Georgia Dome, where they beat the Atlanta Falcons 48-21 en route to their title. The way the Packers and the Falcons have been playing so far this season, that score won't be a stretch.
The Falcons did beat the explosive Philadelphia Eagles on their home field earlier this season. Historically, quarterback Matt Ryan just doesn't lose in the Georgia Dome giving them a ray of hope at home.
The way the Packers beat them in Atlanta speaks volumes to the match-up problems the Packers bring to the Falcons, though. Matt Ryan has been running for his life this season, being sacked 13 times already, which has really muddled their usually efficient offense.
The Packers do have the No. 31-ranked pass defense, which favors Matt Ryan and his duo of star receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones. They should be able to exploit the Green Bay secondary to make this one a little more exciting than their playoff exit, where they went out with a whimper.
Aaron Rodgers, though, looks unstoppable at the moment. After a six-touchdown performance last week through the air and on the ground, he now has 12 touchdowns to only two interceptions.
The Packers are catching the Falcons while they are still working out a lot of protection issues and should be 5-0 after this one.
Green Bay Packers over Atlanta Falcons 41 - 31
The Detroit Lions are the talk of the league and deservedly so. They have won eight straight regular season games on their way to a 4-0 start to this year. They have come from behind to win after being down at least 20 points their last two weeks.
They now host a Monday Night Football game against the defending NFC North champion Chicago Bears. Matthew Stafford is healthy through four games and his presence is being felt, especially by Calvin Johnson. Johnson, whose career high is 12 touchdowns, already has eight this year after tying an NFL record for four straight games with two touchdown catches to open the year.
The defense is playing well too, only giving up 19 points per game. The secondary, which has long been their biggest weakness, has the second most interceptions in the league with seven. The offense is taking care of the ball too, leaving Detroit tied with a league best plus-8 turnover differential.
The Chicago Bears will have their hands full stopping these Lions. The Bears give up over 300 yards passing per game.
The Bears could have even more trouble moving the ball this week. They relied solely on Matt Forte and the run game in their win last week where quarterback Jay Cutler only had 102 yards passing. The Lions front-four could be feasting on Cutler, who has already been sacked 15 times.
If Forte has trouble early, this one could get out of hand fast and be another reason for Detroit-area sports fans to smile about their vastly-improved Lions.
Detroit Lions over Chicago Bears 34 - 20