Five weeks in the books and we still have a lot of teams that could become serious contenders and fall back down to earth once they start getting into the heart of their schedule. The only teams right now that look like playoff teams right now are the Packers, Saints, Lions, Patriots and maybe the Ravens.
The Chargers are 4-1 but they have yet to look impressive. The Steelers have looked either past their prime or Super Bowl worthy. The 49ers are 4-1 but would anyone really be afraid to play them right now? The Jets, Eagles and Bears are all complete disappointments so far but neither team is really that far off from being back in the playoff picture.
I'm going to try and take some time out every week and talk about and pick each game. I analyze more than who has the better team. You really have to consider the human element of each game. Sometimes one team just badly needs a win and that is the difference in a big game. Other times a team is coming off a big win and they are setting themselves up for a let down. Unlike basketball, football is such an emotional game. If one team just flat out wants it more than the other for whatever reason, they usually come out on top.
Philadelphia at Washington- Eagles by 1.5- Never has a 1-4 team been favored on the road against the division leader with three fewer losses. The Eagles need this win badly. So does Andy Reid and so does Juan Castillo. Last week Juan simplified the defense by keeping Nnamdi in press man coverage and he wasn't thrown at in 63 plays he was in for. The defense didn't play that bad. Dumb penalties and FIVE turnovers only lead to 31 points, which isn't terrible. If the Eagles can take care of the ball they should win this game. The Eagles have two straight division games counting Sunday's contest and could be within a game of the division through seven games in a couple weeks. This is just a game that the Eagles have to have and the Redskins don't. They have a nice team but other than their scary 3-4 OLB duo of Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, they are average at best. Eagles win and cover the spreak.
Carolina at Atlanta- Falcons by 4- What has happened to a Falcons team that finished 13-3 last season? This is a team the upgraded both sides of the ball and were able to resign everybody, yet they don't look like a playoff team. They need to start winning now otherwise they could be 3 games behind the Saints in the NFC South. Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Michael Turner all look very unimpressive so far. The Panthers on the other hand really have nothing to lose this season. Cam Newton has looked great at times and this season is really about getting better more than it is about wins and losses. Worst case scenario for the Panthers is they have a top 5 draft pick and they take a playmaker on offense or a stud CB on defense. They are really set up to start competing for division titles in a year or two at the earliest. Newton's play has energized the fanbase and they don't have to win to keep their interest. Atlanta should win this game but they have to get the ground game going and involve Roddy White early and often. Falcons win and easily cover the spread.
Indianapolis at Cincinnati- Bengals by 7- When the lockout ended did you really think we would see the Cincinnati Bengals favored against the Colts by 7 points? Andy Dalton looks like a solid quarterback. Makes good decisions and can break down a defense. He doesn't wow you and he won't appeal to fantasy owners but he will be solid for years to come. Give him a running game and a good defense and he will win you ball games. The Colts aren't a good offense without Manning. None of their receivers are really that scary. Just quality players that run good routes and work well with Manning within the offense. The key to this game will be turnovers and stopping the run. If the Bengals can get their running game going early and not make mistakes, they should win this game. They might even lay a whooping on the Colts. Bengals win but won't cover the spread.
San Francisco at Detroit- Lions by 4.5- And the game of the week is...the Lions against the 9ers? Key for both teams is a dominant defensive line and good quarterback play. Stafford is taking advantage of Calvin Johnson every chance he gets. Johnson might finish with 20 TDs this season. Jim Harbaugh knows what he has in Alex Smith. A smart quarterback who doesn't go through his progessions very well. A lot of simple pass plays that utilize the two tight ends. As simple as it is, the put 48 on the Bucs last week. This looks like a week where the 49ers will start to come back to earth a bit. Weakness of Lions defense is in their secondary and the weakness of 49ers offense is the deep ball. This is setting up for a one sided affair. Lions win and win big.
St. Louis at Green Bay- Packers by 15- This is by far the biggest mis-match of the season. The Rams secondary is banged up and will travel to Green Bay to face off against an offense that actually has too many weapons. How do you keep Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley happy will still getting touches for James Starks and Ryan Grant? Rams offense doesn't look like it can score more than 20 points without getting some help from it's defense. The Packers don't look like they can score less than 20. This one should be ugly. Look for the Packers to attack early and build a big lead into halftime and play conservative in the second half. Packers win and cover a big spread.
Buffalo at the New York Giants- Giants by 3- The Giants absolutely collapsed against the Seahawks last week while the Bills had another 4+ forced turnovers in an upset against a supposed contender. If Eli Manning can make good decisions and not turn the ball over, the Giants should win the game. Both teams are lucky to have as many wins as they do and this one could really go either way. Giants win a tight one at home, barely cover the spread.
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh- Steelers by 12- Another mismatch as the Steelers top notch defense faces off against a rookie quarterback who hasn't look very good early on. Blaine Gabberthas a completion percentage of 49.5% and is averaging less than 200 yards a start. That was against the Panthers, Saints and Bengals. This week will be a lot tougher. Steelers are coming off a big win against the Titans and are starting to look more like the AFC champs from a season ago. Steelers win and win big.
Houston at Baltimore- Ravens by 7.5- Gotta feel for those Texans fans. Just when the Texans are looking like a solid playoff team they lose Andre Johnson for at least a month and then lose Mario Williams for the season. The Texans will have to lean on their running game on the road against the second best run defense. Having said that I think the Texans have a lot of fight in them and they will keep the game close and give themselves a chance to win it late. Owen Daniels will be the difference in this game. Texans upset the Ravens on the road.
Cleveland at Oakland- Raiders by 7- Still don't believe in the Madden curse? Peyton Hillis is having a nightmarish type season whether is be whopping 197 rushing yards or his agent telling him to sit out with a sore throat during a contract season, Hillis is losing the respect of his teammates. The Browns don't look any better than they did last year. No weapons on offense and an average defense. Look for the Raiders to take the momentum from last week's emotional victory and use it to overpower the Browns. Raiders win and cover.
Dallas at New England- Pats by 7- This one looks easy. The Pats passing offense has been on fire and the Cowboys secondary STINKS! But, the Pats defense isn't any better. Actually it's worse. The Cowboys have the weapons to move the ball as long as their O-line doesn't self destruct. Tom Brady doesn't perform well when under duress and Rob Ryan proved that last year as the Browns upset the Pats with Ryan as their DC. He will do the same this year with Dallas. Cowboys upset the Pats.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay- Saints by 4.5- Very quietly the Saints have been the second best team in football. They had plenty of chances to beat the Packers on opening night and have won four straight since. The Bucs are coming off a drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers and will now be without workhorse back LaGarrette Blount. You have to be able to run the ball in order to beat the Saints, even at home. I expect the Bucs to keep it close for a while but eventually the Saints will pull away. Saints win and cover
Minnesota at Chicago- Bears by 3- Minnesota has one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL. The Vikings are a season ending injury from Adrian Peterson away from being shutout the rest of the season. The Bears are a victim of two things through a 2-3 start: No talent at wide receiver and a rough schedule. The Bears three losses have come against the Saints, Packers and Lions. Matt Forte has 775 total yards through the first five games and needs to be a bigger part of the offense. Whichever running back has a bigger game probably leads their time to victory. The Bears should win this one at home. Bears win and cover in an ugly game.
Miami at New York Jets- Jets by 7.5- Let's keep this simple. The Jets are 2-3 and need to get back on track. The Dolphins are on the road with nobody at quarterback. Jets win big and get back to .500.