Brett Favre is almost out of luck. He and his Minnesota Vikings, along with the Dallas Cowboys, need a win to stay in the playoff mix. Lucky for us, these desperate teams face-off in week six. For either team, a win brings renewed hope, while a loss further derails what was once a promising season.
Remember when I titled last week’s recap, “Five Surives, Again,” instead of “Five Survives, Again”? Yeah, sorry about that. Let’s quickly move on before I feel completely inadequate.
This should be a fun week. Kevin Kolb’s life is in danger, AFC contenders go head-to-head, the weather is getting colder, and the NFL spared us by giving byes to three of the worst teams in the league. Televisions rejoice! Oh, I almost forgot. Somehow, there’s an NFL team with the league’s top rated offense and second ranked defense, yet doesn’t own a winning record. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Last Week: 6 – 8 – 0
Season: 42 – 34 – 0
Counting down the days until Kickoff 2011 (Bye Week)
I’ll say it again; Buffalo fans deserve better, much better. However, when Chan Gailey is hired to turn your team around, you shouldn’t expect progress. Buffalo needs a young, fiery coach to instill some excitement in a franchise that’s been aimlessly wandering for over a decade.
Unless the Bengals and Carson Palmer rally to make the playoffs, this could be the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati. I’m also debating whether or not to abandon the Ochocinco bandwagon. He’s not very good anymore, is he?
It’s bad enough the NFC West is awarded a playoff spot, but if it’s the Cardinals that get in, I might boycott the postseason. They’re the worst 3-2 team, ever.
This past week my brother and I discussed the Panthers’ approach to the 2011 draft. If Jimmy Clausen doesn’t show any sign of improvement by season’s end, the Panthers can’t pass on a quarterback with a top 3 pick, can they? Also, Carolina should trade Steve Smith to a contender before the deadline as a “thank you” for his years of service. He’s earned it. I’m sure he’d love the opportunity to play with a top tier quarterback for the first time in his career too.
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Seahawks at Bears
Seattle returns from their bye week with a newly minted ground game. They’re going to need it to keep an aggressive Chicago defense at bay. Also returning this week is Jay Cutler. Which Jay Cutler will return is uncertain. For the sake of the putrid NFC, let’s hope it’s the Jay Cutler from weeks 1 through 3 and not the one we last saw being abused by New York’s defensive line. My rule of thumb; avoid West Coast teams traveling east to play the early game, especially if they’re quarterbacked by a decrepit Matt Hasselbeck. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -7
Dolphins at Packers
Miami is 2-0 on the road and 0-2 at home. Winning at the Metrodome and Lambeau Field within a month would be most impressive. Not as impressive as beating division opponents at home (i.e. the games that really matter), but still. The Dolphins may get lucky as Aaron Rodgers’ status is up in the air (concussion). Packers head coach Mike McCarthy must feel awful about passing on a chip-shot field goal in the 2nd quarter of Sunday’s loss to Washington. Not only did it ultimately cost Green Bay the win, but it cost them their star quarterback too. If McCarthy correctly opts for the field goal, the Packers win in regulation. Thus, no overtime and no concussed quarterback. I’ll need a definitive health status on Rodgers before I can commit. If Rodgers plays, though, Green Bay wins. If he doesn’t, Miami does the victory dance. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3.5
Chargers at Rams
With Vincent Jackson rumored to return to the Chargers by the end of the month, it’s possible, and maybe even probable, that Philip Rivers breaks Dan Marino’s single season record for passing yards. While I’m sure Rivers would love to set a new NFL record, he’d probably settle for an adequate special teams unit. After five weeks, special teams has crippled the Chargers. San Diego boasts the league’s top ranked offense and is second in yards allowed per game. How does a team with a top rated offense AND defense stand at 2-3? I’ll tell you. In their week one defeat to Kansas City, the Chargers allowed a 94 yard punt return for a touchdown. San Diego lost by seven. In week three, the Chargers surrendered not one, but TWO kickoff returns for touchdowns. Again, they lost by seven. In week five, the Chargers had not one, but TWO punts blocked, directly resulting in 9 Oakland points. The Chargers lost by 8. Special teams can’t be undervalued. Because of theirs, the San Diego Chargers are 2-3 instead of 4-1 or even 5-0. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -8.5
Ravens at Patriots
Our first glimpse of the post-Randy Moss era in New England. I know Tom Brady won three Superbowls without a stud receiver, but he also had a reliable defense and a running game. I foolishly picked against the Ravens last week because I thought Denver’s then league-leading passing attack would exploit Baltimore’s secondary. I was wrong. Although I whiffed last week, I like the Patriots this week for the same reason… and to exact some revenge on Baltimore for the embarrassing whooping they put on the Patriots in last season’s playoffs. Fingers crossed. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +3
Saints at Buccaneers
With the exception of anyone in the state of Indiana, I was pretty much alone in rooting against the Saints last season. Nothing against the good people of ‘Nawlins, but I couldn’t/can’t stand Sean Payton and the Saints. Needless to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their fall from grace. As the Saints spiral out of control, the Buccaneers continue their ascent as the surprise team of the young 2010 season. Josh Freeman looks more like Ben Roethlisberger every week (on the field, of course). He’s the best young quarterback no one is talking about. They’re not flashy, but the Bucs grind out wins. Unfortunately, I can’t see the Saints falling to Tampa after their humiliating loss in the desert. Drew Brees needs help offensively, though. The disappearance of Marques Colston and Robert Meachem has made the injuries to Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush twice as devastating. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -4.5
Lions at Giants
If Calvin Johnson can’t go on Sunday; we should all say a prayer for Detroit quarterback, Shaun Hill. For his sake, let’s hope he didn’t watch Jay Cutler’s mugging two weeks ago. Detroit is hardly an elite team. Nevertheless, this game will tell us a lot about the Giants. Serious contenders beat bad teams like Detroit to a pulp. If the Giants struggle (or lose), we’ll know they’re the same average team we thought they were two weeks ago. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -10
Falcons at Eagles
Without Jason Peters protecting Kevin Kolb from John Abraham, the Eagles are doomed. Michael Vick wants to play against his old team. The Eagles should ignore his pleas and keep him on the bench for at least one more week, and maybe until after the bye. Kolb was good enough to beat the 49ers but he won’t get the Iggles into the postseason. Vick will. And that’s why Philadelphia can’t risk him playing this week. I’m still undecided about Atlanta. The offense isn’t consistent enough to be an elite team yet. However, the Falcon defense is as good as there is in the league. By allowing only 14 points per game, the defense only needs a few big plays from their offense to win. I don’t expect a win for my Eagles. I only hope King Dunlap doesn’t get Kevin Kolb killed. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +3
Browns at Steelers
The Browns always seem to give the Steelers fits. Remember last season’s 13-6 loss that ultimately cost the Steelers a playoff spot? Cleveland was finding a rhythm with Seneca Wallace before his injury. Now, it looks as if rookie Colt McCoy will make his first NFL start. Unfortunately, getting your first start against a Steeler defense is equivalent to getting your team to the national championship game and going down to injury in the 1st quarter. I don’t expect Pittsburgh’s offense to be explosive right away, but Ben Roethlisberger’s return should put them on that path. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -14.5
Chiefs at Texans
The Texans can’t afford to lose their 3rd straight game at home. Doing so, and entering their bye at 3-3, would put Houston fans in a panic and Gary Kubiak on the hot seat. Houston needs to establish Arian Foster and the run game, but more importantly, they need a healthy Andre Johnson. Kansas City’s defense is good (ask Peyton Manning), so points won’t come easy. Regardless, I like the desperate Texans against the offensively challenged Chiefs. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -5
Game to Watch: Ravens at Patriots
Game on Call: Falcons at Eagles
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Raiders at 49ers
The 49ers have been declared the eventual champions of the NFC West. Ok, so it was their Owner who made the declaration, but it’s not that absurd. San Diego and Green Bay are the only, “probably not gonna win” games remaining on San Francisco’s schedule. They still have five division games to play and all five are very, very winnable. Most importantly, they still play division leader Arizona (that doesn’t even sound right) twice. Catching up to the rest of the division won’t prove as difficult as it should. A 7-4 record down the stretch and a 4-2 or 5-1 division record should clinch the division. Of course, they need to get a win this week. The Raiders will make that tough, but they’ll be coming down from a big win last week, so Mike Singletary and the 49ers will finally get on the board. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +7
Jets at Broncos
Whether it’s injury or the contentment that comes with a contract guaranteeing $32 million, Darrelle Revis hasn’t found his 2009 form. New York’s defense was dominant for 42 minutes on Monday night before combusting. As the Ravens proved last week, a one dimensional offense won’t be successful against a superior defense. Unless they overlook the Broncos, New York should move to 5-1. With nagging injuries to Knowshon Moreno and an overall incompetence, Denver ranks last in the NFL in rushing. In fact, their rushing yards per game ranks dead last…by over 20 yards. Fittingly, former Bronco, Peyton Hillis ranks among the league leaders in rushing. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -3.5
Cowboys at Vikings
If you’ve ever witnessed the intensity of college students fighting over free pizza, you’ll certainly enjoy this matchup. At 1-3, these preseason favorites are desperate for a win. And that’s a severe understatement. Brett Favre’s 37 yard touchdown to Randy Moss on 3rd and 17 on Monday night may have saved Minnesota’s season. They still lost to the Jets, but after that conversion the offense woke up and resembled the prolific unit we’ve been waiting on for the past month. Aside from their week 3 victory in Houston, Dallas has struggled to produce a solid performance on both sides of the ball concurrently. This is the Superbowl of underachievers, so expect a high level of play. One that will remind us why we thought so highly of these teams in the first place. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +1.5
Game to Watch: Cowboys at Vikings
Game on Call: Jets at Broncos
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Colts at Redskins
I haven’t correctly picked a Redskins game since week two, which is embarrassing because they haven’t changed anything since week one. Washington’s offense is below average, yet they win with strong defense and an opportunistic quarterback. In week 5, the Redskins scored 16 points. 13 of those points resulted from three specific plays; a 52 yard pass to Santana Moss led to a field goal; a 48 yard touchdown pass to Anthony Armstrong obviously resulted in a touchdown (duh); and an interception by LaRon Landry provided the game winning FG. Clearly, the Redskins offense won’t run you out of the building. The key to Washington’s success is their defense. If the Redskin defense keeps the score down and dictates the game; McNabb will sneak a play or two here and there and find a way to win. In five games, the Redskins are 0-2 when surrendering more than 13 points. Score early and often and McNabb and Co. can’t keep up. Here’s hoping Peyton Manning is more successful than Aaron Rodgers. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -3.5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Titans at Jaguars
Monday Night Football is developing a trend of thrilling second halves. Take a look at the previous four weeks…
Week 2: Saints at 49ers; 16 points scored in the 1st half, 31 in the 2nd.
Week 3: Packers at Bears (ok, this one is a stretch); 17 points scored through 3 quarters, 20 in the 4th.
Week 4: Patriots at Dolphins; 13 points scored in the 1st half, 42 in the 2nd.
Week 5: Vikings at Jets; 9 points scored in the 1st half, 40 in the 2nd.
What does this mean? Nothing. I just found it interesting. (Actually, it could mean that most people are missing the best part of the game because they’ve given up and gone to bed. So there.)
As for this week’s Monday night action, it’s hard to predict what two unpredictable teams will do. Tennessee gave away a win to Denver at home, yet beat the Cowboys and Giants in convincing fashion on the road. The Titans might be underrated, overrated, or rated appropriately. If I had to choose, I would argue underrated. But again, I’m throwing noodles against the wall here. Jacksonville isn’t a model of consistency either. The Jaguars have beaten Denver and AFC South division favorite Indianapolis, but were crushed by the Chargers and Eagles between those wins. So, yeah, I’m not sure which teams will show up. The second half should be exciting, though. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -3
Last Week: 6 – 8 – 0
Season: 37 – 37 – 2
(Lines as of 10/16, 9:33PM ET, from bodog)