While the AFC North boasts an intriguing showdown between the Bengals and Ravens, there are plenty of lopsided match-ups in week five. Eight teams with a collective 23-8 record face off against opponents with a collective 3-28 record. Let’s see if I can identify the upsets.
Last Week: 10 – 4 – 0
Season: 42 – 20 – 0
Enjoying MLB Playoffs (Byes)
No Bears. No White Sox. No Cubs. Only a Blackhawks game on Saturday night will keep the Chicago faithful occupied this weekend. Despite the week off, Jay Cutler will be busy on Sunday as he is being honored at halftime of the Patriots/Broncos game. True story. He’s being inducted into the “Denver hates you more than diabetes” hall of fame. Should be exciting.
I have access to some people’s thoughts. It’s a neat gift. Here are three I found interesting from the past week:
Shawn Merriman – “Where did I put the number for that steroids guy?”
Norv Turner – “We’re in the AFC West, we’re in the AFC West. Everything will be fine. Six more wins and we clinch this thing.”
LaDainian Tomlinson – “Don’t forget interview at retirement community. I need to get on that waiting list.”
I grew up watching Bret Favre play quarterback as a Packer for what felt like 30 years. I wonder what he is up to now…wait, was that him in Vikings purple? Too soon, Packer fans? The only time ESPN didn’t broadcast Favre last Monday night was when he was… getting dressed, using the restroom, and giving Packers GM Ted Thompson the finger after every touchdown pass.
After drafting him #2 overall, the Saints can’t be thrilled that Reggie Bush gets more recognition for his girlfriend than his play. I’ve spent the last 20 minutes staring at the screen thinking of what else to add here. In that time, Matt Holliday tried to catch a game winning fly ball with his athletic cup, and the 2007 San Diego Padres just collectively nodded their heads while thinking, “Payback is a b&%$@.”
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Bengals at Ravens *Game of the Week
For the fourth consecutive week, my game of the week features a division battle. Why, you ask? Well, division battles are almost always competitive (even if one team is bad) due to the sheer hatred that exists. You’ll get a stinker every once in a while, but if you stay away from the AFC and NFC West, you should be alright. After being spanked by the refs for aggressive play (not tolerated in NFL football), the Ravens will certainly look to decapitate Bengals quarterback, Carson Palmer. It gets worse for Palmer. The NFL knows it screwed up last week (hence no fines for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed). Therefore, the referees are likely to let the Ravens play and be more liberal with their penalty calls. See you in 2010, Carson. RAVENS.
Browns at Bills
The Bills can’t get the ball to their receivers and the Browns just traded their best receiver to the Jets. When that is the headline for a game you know it’s going to be rough. In the Browns defense, Braylon Edwards’ hands had become more effective at punching club promoters than catching footballs, so the trade wasn’t the worst thing. Moving on. The Bills, Bucs, and Chiefs all gave the boot to their respective offensive coordinators just weeks before the season began. How’s that working out for you? A 1-11 combined record is a glowing endorsement for why a team shouldn’t waste an entire training camp practicing an offense that won’t be around on opening day. Cleveland needs you, LeBron. Bruce Wayne was whatever Gotham needed in the city’s time of need. You’ll need to do the same for Cleveland. We’ll see you at tight end next week. BILLS.
Redskins at Panthers
I was bummed when I learned the Panthers were favored here. I lost a guaranteed win. Nonetheless, I’m still confident they can win by a touchdown. Why? Because I saw Jake Delhomme in Minnesota last week strolling around with Brett Favre. Whatever Favre has been drinking, you can be sure that Delhomme was getting his share as well. However, if Carolina fails me yet again this week, I’m done with them. I’ll grab their face, awkwardly kiss them, and then ignore them for the remainder of time a la the Michael Corleone-Fredo relationship in the Godfather II. The Redskins regained some of their feistiness this past week. The cynic would argue that fighting amongst teammates isn’t positive. When you’re the Washington Redskins, anything that proves you have a pulse must be considered positive at this point. PANTHERS.
Steelers at Lions
It’s been nearly four years since the Steelers last visited Ford Field. It was there that they won the most horrific Super Bowl in NFL history. The game was so hard on the eyes that I remember walking around like Mark Ruffalo in “Blindness” for the next three days. I can’t imagine this contest being too different. It’s been a tough couple of days for Detroit. The Tigers’ best player shows up legally drunk to a crucial regular season game, and then the Tigers fall apart in the play-in game. Doesn’t every outfielder learn in 9th grade to stay back on the ball and surrender the single when it’s the bottom of the 10th, no outs, bases empty, and you have a 5-4 lead? Good news, Detroit fans; only nine more months until the Red Wings lose to a lesser opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs! STEELERS.
Cowboys at Chiefs
The Cowboys are banged up and have very little to show for it. The Chiefs have nothing to show for anything. They’re just bad. I have nothing else to say about this game. Ok, I do. I can honestly say I feel no sympathy for Tony Romo when he’s bad, ever. He’s not boisterously cocky, but he is as arrogant as they come (see post game “who cares” attitude, stupid smirk during games, etc…). Hey Tony, remember that time the ball fell out of your hands on the game winning field goal attempt? Or how about the time you won that playoff ga…oh, that’s right, you haven’t won a playoff game, ever. COWBOYS.
Raiders at Giants
Good gracious this week is horrible. If you want to see an intense, competitive football game, visit your local high school. If you want to see grown men get mauled and abused by other grown men while the emperor from “Star Wars” looks on, tune in to this game. The great thing about attending an NFL game when JaMarcus Russell is the quarterback is the likelihood of catching an errant pass. It’s similar to a foul ball at a baseball game. Only, you’ll need to run away once you catch it as the NFL is too cheap to let fans keep the balls. This is a real possibility though. Russell is the only NFL QB bad enough to miss a receiver by 17 yards and sail it into the crowd. I’m on eBay right now looking for Raiders tickets for just this reason. Who says the Raiders aren’t exciting? GIANTS.
Buccaneers at Eagles
The week five 1 o’clock games are equivalent to the following movie marathon: League of Extraordinary Gentleman, 88 Minutes, Doubt, Knowing, Blindness, Eagle Eye, Godfather III, and almost anything with Colin Farrell. Not what one would call, “Must see TV.” Nonetheless, due to my love for football, and especially the Eagles, I will watch. Three things to watch for: Jeremiah Trotter’s return, Donovan McNabb’s return, 65 yard game-winning field goals. I shouldn’t have said that, I don’t think I’m over it yet. EAGLES.
Vikings at Rams
If TVs had minds of their own, I’m pretty sure they would refuse to display all but two of this week’s early games. I’m calling DIRECT TV right now to ask for some money back. Good thing the baseball playoffs are on right now. A game like this is where an NFL player really earns his dough. After an emotional, nationally televised event last week, the Vikings travel to visit the lowly Rams. It will certainly be a challenge to bring their best game, and I don’t think they’ll do it. (If you can’t relate, allow me to assist you. Ok, last Sunday you went out with Eva Longoria. The night couldn’t have gone better. This Sunday you’re taking Rosanne out. See? It’s crushing and demoralizing.) The Vikings won’t lose because the Rams are beyond bad, but it will be closer than it should. VIKINGS.
Game I’ll Watch: Buccaneers at Eagles
Game I’ll DVR: Bengals at Ravens
Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)
Falcons at 49ers
Chance to prove you’re a legitimate contender in the NFC, take two. The Brett Favre/Greg Lewis tandem miraculously shot down a valiant effort by the Niners in week 3. If they fail this week at home, the naysaying will begin. I have a lot of faith in 49ers coach Mike Singletary, but the combination of missing Frank Gore and catching the Falcons after a bye is less than ideal. Forget it; I’m taking the Gore-less Niners. There may be a time when I actually enjoy the Falcons, but I’m just not there yet. 49ERS.
Texans at Cardinals
Interconference games that generate little interest should be required to put up 45 points or more. If they don’t, both teams receive a loss. It’s harsh, but it’s for the league’s own good. Besides, the 45 points shouldn’t be an issue in this contest. If it is, then both teams deserve a loss anyway. These teams are moving in opposite directions. The Texans are in a tight right race for second in the AFC South while the Cardinals are still trying to find someone to take them back to the 2008 playoffs. They can’t run the ball, Kurt Warner is off this year, and everyone is cranky. Maybe we’ll see Matt Leinart soon. One can only hope. TEXANS.
Patriots at Broncos
If anyone knows Tom Brady’s weaknesses, it is Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. It will be interesting to see what McDaniels (former Patriots quarterback coach/offensive coordinator), does with his speedy and aggressive defense this week. NFL officials have the Patriots on a two game winning streak even though the offense is ordinary at best. The Patriots improvement on defense is extremely encouraging. If they can manage Denver’s running game and force Kyle Orton to be, well, Kyle Orton, they should win the game. As for the Broncos, I wonder how long Lovefest 2009 will last between McDaniels and disgruntled receiver, Brandon Marshall. If he doesn’t catch more than six balls this week it could be as early as Monday. By the way, thank you, Brian Dawkins, for saving the game last week and chasing down Cowboys WR Sam Hurd. Millions of Philadelphians nostalgically nodded while they sat on their couches and reminisced about the countless times you came through for the Eagles defense. When can we put up a statue of Dawk next to Rocky? 2012? 2013? PATRIOTS.
Jaguars at Seahawks
If Matt Hasselbeck plays the entire game, the Seahawks win. If he doesn’t, they lose. Kudos to the Jaguars for their recent play. I gave up on them after week 3, of training camp. Perhaps fans in Cleveland, Oakland, St. Louis, and so on should try not showing up for home games. Apparently it provokes productive play. Who knew? SEAHAWKS.
Game I’ll Watch: Patriots at Broncos
Game I’ll DVR: Falcons at 49ers
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Colts at Titans
Ahhh, here we go. This is an upset I can believe in. You say, “But Peyton Manning is having an incredible year,” and I say, “Agreed.” This loss won’t be on Peyton’s hands. Sure, he may mix in an interception or two with his three TDs, but this loss will belong to the defense. Remember the Dolphins running circles around the Colts a few weeks ago? Well, Titans RB Chris Johnson is one of the top five running backs in the NFL. He’ll score twice and total close to 200 yards. The Titans also need a win more than any other team, and the Colts are groomed for a defeat. Sunday night, on the road, and facing a desperate division rival rarely produces a positive outcome. TITANS.
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Jets at Dolphins
Another division rivalry, another desperate underdog at home, another upset. Mark Sanchez is entering the, “rookie quarterback is playing like a rookie quarterback,” stage of the season, and that is not good for the Jets. New WR Braylon Edwards will raise some eyebrows with a few drops, but the Wildcat offense will prevail. FYI, I met one of my neighbors the other day. He said he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981 for trimming his bushes. Also, somewhere in Texas, George W Bush googled, “Nobel Peace Prize,” as he tried to understand why he never won. Thought you’d like to know. DOLPHINS.
If I were Charles Barkley…
Weekly Reminder: I pick every game so I don’t look like a pansy and only pick the easy ones. This is certainly a week when I wish I didn’t commit myself to pick every game. If I correctly pick five games, I’ll let me play an additional hour of Madden on Saturday. My goal is to be around 60% at season’s end (unlikely). As is the weekly custom, there is one over/under as well (because they’re too much fun not to have at least one).
Minnesota Vikings at St. Louis Rams (+10)
Dallas Cowboys (-9) at Kansas City Chiefs
Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers (-3.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia Eagles (-15.5)
Oakland Raiders at New York Giants (-16)
Cincinnati Bengals (+8.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers (-11) at Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-6)
Atlanta Falcons (+3) at San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots (-3.5) at Denver Broncos
Houston Texans (+5.5) at Arizona Cardinals
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks (no line)
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (+4)
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (+2)
Last Week: 6 – 8 – 0
Season: 23 – 25 – 0
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Over 41
Last Week: 1 – 0 – 0
Season: 2 – 2 – 0
(Lines as of 10/08, 9:47PM ET, from bodog)