Nearly forgot, week 5 picks!
Eagles @ Bills
Not happy starting with this one. The Eagles have looked bad lately. Yesterday I went over their red zone woes, but it's more than that. Their run defense is terrible, their secondary is nowhere near 'Dream Team' levels, and they turn the ball over way too much. Against a Bills team that can pack a good passing game and a good rushing attack, that shouldn't bode well. But then again... the Eagles can move the ball on people. It's almost coin flip territory to decide it, though on balance I think Buffalo just edges it. Bills win.
Saints @ Panthers
Carolina is at home. That's all I can think of in their favour, literally. Everything else just shouts "Saints win!" at me. The Panthers can't rush the passer, they can't stop the run, their secondary can't cover, their offensive line struggles at times, their running attack has been largely flat, and they only move the ball through the air when Cam throws that thing up for grabs. I just think a defensive coordinator like Gregg Williams is way too smart for that. There's no way he's going to let Cam Newton throw the ball to Steve Smith without him threading the needle between two defenders. He'll chuck all kinds of looks at the rookie QB, confusing him and forcing him into turnovers. Meanwhile Drew Brees and the Saints offense will be ripping up Carolina's D. Saints win. Comfortably.
Raiders @ Texans
The big question I have is this; how much will losing Andre Johnson affect the Texans? That's a big blow to lose a guy that talented. Can Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter fill in? They are pretty good and don't get anywhere near enough credit for what they do (it's tough with Andre Johnson dominating the scene) but can they carry the team along? Will Houston's running attack hold up to the Raiders D? How will Wade Phillips's scheme match up against a strong Raiders rushing attack? Man those are some tough asks. And that's the problem I have. There's just too many questions over the Texans still. I'm not a huge fan of this pick, but, I'm taking Oakland. Raiders win.
Chiefs @ Colts
Christ. What a game! Presuming your idea of fun is to watch two bad teams duke it out. How bad though is the deciding factor. Curtis Painter has actually been getting better, slowly but surely. The Colts defense is finding ways to somehow hang on and keep their team in games. Joseph Addai is gradually picking up the offensive slack in the running game. And it's not like the Chiefs are some dominant force waiting to crush the lowly Colts. They themselves have struggled, hurting from the loss of Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki and Eric Berry. They're just not the same defense as last year and they love Matt Cassel too much on offense. So as stupid as this sounds, and God knows I could end up regretting it, I'm going to back Indianapolis for the first time this season. Colts win.
Bengals @ Jaguars
These are two teams headed in opposite directions. As Andy Dalton slowly settles in to the Bengals offense and starts to figure things out, so the Bengals coaches are also starting to find the right mix of run and pass, and Jay Gruden is getting his play calling in order. The Bengals defense is also picking up, perhaps not in the form of a wild pass rush but certainly with a more disciplined defense. The Jaguars however are fumbling around (almost literally at times) in the dark, trying to put square pegs into round holes. Blaine Gabbert is not the quarterback of the future and will continue to avoid throwing long passes, to run away from 3 man rushes, and to throw interceptions. The Jaguars defense will singularly fail to generate pressure and they will give Maurice Jones-Drew as few carries as possible. Hence, Bengals win.
Cardinals @ Vikings
In all the talk of the Vikings giving away leads, the Cardinals have been somewhat let off the hook. Granted, the Cardinals aren't blowing twenty point half time leads, but they do have a tendency to let close games slip away and are really struggling on defense. If I could, I'd bin this game from my picks, writing it off as both teams being too incompetent to viably judge. But I can't so I must pick. I just... I'd like to think that the Vikings will 'unleash the Peterson' whose been having a great year so far, but just isn't getting the second half carries. Will they though? How many chances can you give a team to change their ways? And the Cardinals have been steadily increasing the work load for Chris "Beanie" Wells with good results, so maybe now is the time to trust them? Ahh I can't make up my mind. Fuck it, I'm taking Minnesota, on the principle that I think by now the pressure will have mounted sufficiently for them to sit up and take notice. Vikings win.
Seahawks @ Giants
Right now I wouldn't trust the Seahawks to get drunk at a Christmas party, even if that party involved a wild orgy of drink and women, with free champagne on offer and a mandatory shot of whisky for all guests every half hour. I certainly don't trust the Seahawks to beat the Giants. Their offense consists of random plays that occasionally work, almost to the surprise of Tavaris Jackson and the coaching staff. Their defense has seen high picks and free agent money invested in it recently, trying to build a pass rush of some form, which to date has failed to produce much of note. On the other side of the field, the Giants are still the Giants. Providing they can avoid fumbling the ball once per quarter, they should have enough to win it. Giants win.
Titans @ Steelers
This is, for me at least, a gimmie for the Titans. The Steelers have been awful so far and things are only set to get worse. The loss of James Harrison to injury is a massive blow for the Steelers, as is the loss of probably their best offensive lineman (only decent lineman?) Chris Kemoeatu and the possible loss of nose tackle Casey Hampton. Just about the only good news for the Steelers is the return of Brett Keisel. I just can't see where the Steelers are going to improve? And with the Titans playing the way they are, on both sides of the ball, it's difficult to look past Tennessee in this one. Titans win.
Buccaneers @ 49ers
Last week I didn't think the 49ers had a chance. Coming from a 49ers homer (something about that doesn't sound right), that should make people worried about San Francisco. But credit to them, they came back into it and got the job done. The defense is finding ways to get turnovers in the back end, largely thanks to corner Carlos Rogers (the 49ers tie the league lead in turnovers with +8). Frank Gore is slowly getting back to his old form and the 49ers D-line is getting pressure up front, largely courtesy of rookie 1st rounder Aldon Smith. The Buc's have done ok, but they seem to be struggling a little more than they really should be. Josh Freeman is a bit hit and miss right now, while the D-line should be (but isn't) piling on the sacks. I dunno, there's just something about this game that says to me San Francisco may just pull one out of the bag. 49ers win.
Chargers @ Broncos
As much as I think the Chargers are not firing on all cylinders, particularly Phillip Rivers, they have to be favourites in this one. The Broncos put up three touchdowns through the air last week, and yet still managed to turn the ball over three times as well. The Broncos D is also horrific. Just like seemingly everything else that John Fox touches, the defense has become a car crash of a unit, blowing assignments and wandering around the field aimlessly at times in a manner that would embarrass a high school coach. I hate John Fox. Chargers win.
Jets @ Patriots
It's this old game again! Rex Ryan has been in his usual form in the run up to the game, trying to take the heat off his team by focusing the media on himself. This week it might be the perfect strategy, because the Jets looked rancid last week. The defense was - as you might suspect - the bright spot. But even they didn't really get going until the second half. The offense was just.... lets not even talk about, for to do so is sure to bring up nightmarish memories of fumbled snaps, blown protections and a quarterback so unresponsive to pressure that it would take him 3 days to register being punched in the face. Just about the only hope New York has is if they can scheme to take away Wes Welker. Now if anyone can do it, Rex and his weapons can. And that actually catches my eye. See here's what I'm thinking; the Jets can shut Welker down and put a lot of pressure on Brady, while the Patriots lack the pass rush to really get after Mark Sanchez. As crazy, stupid, insane and whatever other adjectives you can think of, I actually think this might be the perfect game for New York right now. Jets win.
Packers @ Falcons
Really? The Falcons? God this team has gone downhill, from playoffs to laughed off in one season. They can't protect Matt Ryan. They can't catch enough of his passes, even when he does hit people in the hands. They can't seem to get after the quarterback, despite having some of the (on paper) best pass rushers in the league, and they suck in the secondary. Just putrid. Meanwhile the Packers are the Packers. They're routinely putting up big numbers on people, with the touchdowns to back it up. Their defense has a few issues compared to last year, but it's holding up enough to give the offense breathing space. I really think this will be one sided. Packers win.
Bears @ Lions
Everyone is talking about the Lions looking to avenge their loss from last season, when the Calvin Johnson touchdown catch that wasn't a catch was ruled not a catch, or something. Things. Words. Stuff. Anyway, the Lions are basically the favourites by far for this, but I'm not buying it. This is a team that trailed 20-0 against the Vikings in week 3. In week 4 it was 20-3 at half time, then the Cowboys extended the lead by another seven. In both cases the Lions only came back into it when their opponents self destructed. In week 2 they mauled the Chiefs, but again it took 3 interceptions from the opposition to make the Lions look as good as they did. I just don't see the Bears doing the same. They saw what Matt Forte can do last week and Mike Martz will basically have two choices this week - 1) run the ball like mad with Matt Forte or 2) don't, and risk getting lynched by the fans, the press, the players, his head coach, his GM and the owners. Hell even Barrack Obama would get on a plane, fly to Detroit, and just slap Martz for being so stupid. You can never under estimate the ability of Jay Cutler to throw away games, or the ability of Mike Martz to call stupid plays, but I believe in Chicago for a change. Don't let me down now guys. Bears win.