While Randy Moss is no longer a Patriot, he can’t escape the AFC East. Moss will make his Vikings debut against the New York Jets and rival Darrelle Revis. And just when we thought we’d seen it all from Brett Favre, he surprises again.
I’m not sure what’s wrong with me this week, but I appear to have an infatuation with more underdogs than usual. Perhaps the MLB playoffs are clouding my judgment, or maybe I know something that no one else does (unlikely). Either way, week five in the NFL will hopefully give us some clarity in the lousy NFC because I need answers. Before we get to this week’s games, the bye teams were strangely active. All four made major changes.
Last Week: 9 – 5 – 0
Season: 36 – 26 – 0
Wheeling and Dealing, Literally (Bye Week)
Miami’s special teams unit got their coach fired after Monday night’s clinic on “how not to play special teams.” If I told you the Patriots beat the Dolphins 41-14 even though Tom Brady threw for only 150 yards and Randy Moss had zero receptions, you wouldn’t believe me. That’s how bad the Dolphin’s special teams were. When you surrender a kickoff return for a TD, a blocked punt, and a blocked field goal returned for a TD; you’re really bad. Needless to say, there’s not a lot of hope in Miami right now. Chad Henne looks average, and Brandon Marshall appears ready to erupt. After two weeks, Miami looked like a solid playoff contender. After four weeks, they look destined for 7-9 or 8-8.
New England made efficient use of their bye week by trading one of the greatest receivers in the league. As ludicrous as trading a player as talented as Randy Moss sounds, it’s hard to find fault in the Patriots’ logic. Moss was sulking, he wasn’t coming back in 2011, and New England is unlikely to contend for a Super Bowl with that lousy defense and a limited running game. Two picks in each of the first four rounds in the 2011 draft should fix those problems.
Marshawn Lynch was traded from one of the league’s worst teams to another of the league’s worst teams. Only, with his new worst team, Lynch will be in the hunt for a division title. Welcome to the NFC West, Marshawn.
The best team in the NFL added one of the league’s top quarterbacks to its roster. I’m the furthest thing from a Pittsburgh fan, but right now they stand alone atop the NFL. The offense may require time to gel but with a defense like Pittsburgh’s, time won’t be an issue.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Jaguars at Bills
Did something finally click for Jacksonville, or were they simply showing off for the Colts? Going on the road to face the worst team in the league after an emotional division win is a recipe for a letdown. I can’t really pick the Bills, though. Or can I? Buffalo will be blacked out for the first time since 2006. It’s a shame the local fans won’t get to watch the Bills first win. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +1.5
Buccaneers at Bengals
I have nothing to say, so I’m deferring to my four-month-old son (yes, he actually typed this); bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbvggfcvvb,………..nbnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnllllllllllllll32xx xxxxxxdrrdddodeiiiiiiiit454c f;cxfghftrrrrrrrrr;l/,.0- lkfe4#as zxdddddddd. Well said, kiddo. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -7
Falcons at Browns
There isn’t one NFC team I would confidently pick to go on the road and win, especially against a feisty AFC team like the Browns. Considering Cleveland’s losses came at the hands of teams with a combined 8-2 record, I’m not convinced they’re that bad. The Falcons, on the other hand, fell in love with themselves following their win over New Orleans and nearly (ok, should have) lost at home to the lowly 49ers. Regardless, I can’t pick the Bills and the Browns in the same week. They’d lock me up like Angelina Jolie in Changeling. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -3
Rams at Lions
The Lions win this week. It’s a simple as that. They’re way too talented to fall to 0-5. The Rams have a tough defense, but going on the road and playing well is more difficult than doing so at home, especially for a young team. Hey Shaun Hill, give Calvin Johnson 3-4 jump balls a game. You won’t be sorry. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -3
Chiefs at Colts
Manning is racking up offensive numbers at an MVP pace. Unfortunately, the Colts defense is adding key players to injured reserve at a similar rate. Manning has overcome bad defenses throughout his career, but this may prove to be his toughest challenge yet. Kansas City is coming off a bye, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare. It won’t matter. They don’t stand a chance against Manning’s offense at home. I already hear the ’72 Dolphins popping that champagne. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -7
Packers at Redskins
Donovan McNabb accepted the blame for the poor play of the Redskins’ offense. Surprisingly, he didn’t use the phrase, “I gotta do a better job there.” Without Clinton Portis, Washington is a better offense. Ryan Torain has more burst than Portis’ aging legs and Quintin Mikell has a footprint on his chest to prove Torain will run over people. I’m not saying Torain is an offensive savior, but he’s better than a beyond-his-prime Portis. Speaking of running backs, the Packers have none. And as they proved at home against Detroit last week, the Packers can’t protect a lead. Lucky for Green Bay, the Redskins don’t have the weapons to overcome an early deficit. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3
Bears at Panthers
If you love solid quarterback play, you should watch something else. Jay Cutler is out after being assaulted last weekend in North Jersey. Police are still investigating the incident. With Cutler down for the count, Todd Collins will step in to battle the underrated Panther defense. I’m rolling the dice here, but I think Carolina’s defense gives Jimmy Clausen his first NFL victory. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -3
Broncos at Ravens
Baltimore’s pass defense was thought to be a liability entering the season. Through four games, the Ravens rank first in pass defense. I love Ray Lewis and the Raven defense, but they haven’t faced an opponent with a respectable aerial attack yet. While Cincinnati is ranked in the top 10 in pass offense, 70% of that yardage came in a blowout loss to the Pats and last week vs. the Browns. As for Baltimore’s other opponents; Cleveland sits at 22, New York (Jets) 25, and Pittsburgh 31. So yeah, are we sure the Ravens’ secondary is that good? Enter the Broncos. Denver head coach, Josh McDaniels calls the NFL’s top passing attack. The Baltimore secondary will be put to the test. Also, it’s too early to give up on the Ravens’ offense, but I’m beginning to worry. One; they can’t run the ball. And two; Flacco has been inconsistent at best. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +8
Giants at Texans
I have no read on the Giants. After scoring 31 points in week one, New York’s mustered only 27 points in their three games since. What happened to Eli Manning and those young receivers? The offense isn’t solely to blame, though. Up until week four’s thrashing of the Chicago Bears, the Giant defense was mostly unimpressive. What Giants team will we see this week? I’m not sure, but if I had to guess, I’d put my money on the week one offense combined with the unimpressive defense. I’ve watched Houston every week and for whatever reason, I’m still not sold. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants +3
Game to Watch: Giants at Texans
Game on Call: Chiefs at Colts
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Saints at Cardinals
Max Hall makes his NFL debut against the defending Superbowl champs. I know nothing about Hall, so I won’t pretend to offer any insight. I will offer that if the Saints don’t regain some of their Superbowl swagger against the lowly Cardinals, they may never find it. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -7
Chargers at Raiders
Before I declare this a lock for the Chargers, I must remind myself that this is the same San Diego team that lost to Seattle and Kansas City on the road. The Raiders always play the Chargers tough too, so this is far from a sure thing. On the other hand, the Chargers are hitting their stride offensively. With the injury to rookie Ryan Mathews early in the season, San Diego discovered another reliable option at running back in Mike Tolbert. Philip Rivers is getting better every week, and Antonio Gates continues to run through defenses uncovered. They’re not the team they were in years past, but I expect the Chargers to win another AFC West title. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -6.5
Titans at Cowboys
The Titans are as unpredictable and inconsistent as an NFC team. Chris Johnson was held to less than 60 rushing yards twice all of last season. He’s already matched that number after just four games in 2010. One of the reasons Tennessee has struggled in the ground game is because of their passing game, or lack thereof. In addition to the Titans, only the Buccaneers, Jaguars, and Panthers have yet to surpass 200 passing yards in a single game. That’s not a group you want to be a part of. Until Vince Young can complement Johnson with a decent passing attack, the Titans will struggle to run against good teams. For a team that will only go as far as Johnson’s legs will carry them, that’s not good news. As for Dallas, they must feel good about their chances at an NFC title. The Packers, Saints, Giants, and Vikings look worse than expected, and the Eagles, Bears, and Falcons were exposed last week. In other words, Dallas might be the best team in the conference. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +7
Game to Watch: Titans at Cowboys
Game on Call: Chargers at Raiders
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Eagles at 49ers
Deja vu. Travel back with me to the 2002 season. After a week 11 clubbing of the Arizona Cardinals, it was discovered that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb suffered a broken leg. The injury would sideline McNabb for the remainder of the regular season. As a result of the injury, Philadelphia was forced to travel to San Francisco for a week 12 battle against the 49ers on Monday night football with backup quarterback Koy Detmer under center. Before dislocating his elbow, Detmer lit up the 49er defense, leading the Eagles to victory. Fast forward to 2010. The Eagles, with an unproven backup at the helm, are again set to visit San Francisco for a prime time matchup while their super-star mobile quarterback stays home with an injury. The 2010 49ers are beyond desperate at this point, so an Eagles win is a long shot. The drama at quarterback in Philadelphia has been a mess for over a year. If Kevin Kolb channels his inner Koy Detmer and leads the Eagles to victory, we could have a full blown quarterback controversy on our hands. If Kolb shines in victory, the over/under on how many times Andy Reid is asked who will be his starting quarterback is currently at 461. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +3.5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Vikings at Jets
One day men will learn that sending photos of your twig and berries via an electronic device is only a good idea if the recipient is an oncologist, and the subject line includes, “cancer, testicular.” Leave it to Brett Favre’s penis to overshadow Randy Moss’ return to Minnesota. Kind of a rocky start for a relationship that Minnesota fans hope will bring home a Superbowl, don’t you think? Anyway, the Jets are rolling right now. Next to the Steelers, they’re the best team in football. It would take a mammoth effort for Minnesota to pull out this win. While I’m proud to admit that I haven’t seen the photos, I’ve heard that “Favre” and “mammoth” don’t go well together. Sorry, Brett. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +4
Last Week: 7 – 7 – 0
Season: 31 – 29 – 2
(Lines as of 10/7, 10:48PM ET, from bodog)