One of the NFL’s undefeated already fell in Week 5. Will the Falcons and Texans follow suit? Also, the Steelers talk trash, Hall of Famers meet in New England, and Kevin Kolb needs a hug (and an ice bath). (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Last Week: 11 – 4 – 0
Season: 40 – 23 – 0
Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)
Cardinals 3 at Rams 17
I expected a defensive struggle Thursday night, but what the Cardinals and Rams did offensively on Thursday night was simply horrific. Someone on Twitter noted that the only fans watching such an ugly game were Rams fans, Cardinals fans, and gamblers. Good call.
Kevin Kolb will get a lot of blame for Arizona’s struggles, though it wasn’t really his fault. The offensive line was HORRENDOUS, allowing nine sacks and failing miserably to ever establish a running game. The coaching staff didn’t help Kolb, either. The Cardinals never trailed by more than seven in the 1st half, yet only ran the football 12 times (for 42 yards). Instead of grinding away at the defense and slowing St. Louis’ pass rush, Arizona dropped Kolb back to pass 31 times. He was 14/27 for 132 yards, sacked four times and under constant pressure. 31 pass plays to 12 rushes in one half; even Andy Reid thinks that’s extreme.
Marinating on defeat (Bye Week)
Yes, all four of our bye teams are coming off a loss. Three of those losses were especially painful. The Lions couldn’t muster an offensive touchdown until the final minutes, the Raiders never found the end zone at all, and the Cowboys got drubbed at home in front of a national audience while throwing five interceptions. Needless to say, the Cowboys have offensive issues, quarterback issues, and let’s be honest, Cowboy issues. This is who the Cowboys are/have been for the past decade. Year in and year out, Dallas is a talented group of underachieving stars. Dez Bryant can’t run the right route, and when he does, he can’t catch. The offensive line can’t protect Tony Romo, and when they do, his carelessness with the ball leads to points the other way. Jerry Jones shouldn’t be an NFL General Manager. Yet he is, and he’s done a terrib… wait, never mind. He’s done a terrific job. Keep it up, Jerry!
Remember that high-flying, unstoppable offense that lit up the NFL in 2011? Neither do the fine folks of Detroit. When Calvin Johnson starts dropping touchdown passes, you know you’re in for a loooonnggg season. Too bad that “Hall of Fame” tandem of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley hasn’t worked out. (You know Suh’s been struggling when you have to look up how to spell his name again. Two years ago I could spout it off like one of those 11 year olds at the spelling bee tournament – “Ndamukong Suh. N D A M U K O N G S U H, Ndamukong Suh.” [Insert clapping.])
Carson Palmer can no longer carry a team into the playoffs? You’ve got to be kidding me. How could anyone have foreseen this? I’m shocked. Absolutely shocked. I thought flushing a number one and number two draft pick for an aging quarterback five years removed from his best season made complete sense. I don’t know what to believe in anymore.
I was waaaaaaayy down on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers until they finally showed signs of life in the final 19 minutes against the Washington RobertGriffinskins. If I’m Greg Schiano looking in the mirror over the bye week, this is what I’m saying to myself: “Hey Greg, You’re not a playoff team. You’re just not. Why not figure out if Josh Freeman is our future quarterback. Let’s open up the offense and air it out. The more opportunities we give this kid, the more we’ll know about whether he has it or not. Oh yeah, one more thing, way to take the league by storm with your brilliant idea to attack the victory formation. You’re such a bad***.”
Early Games (1:00PM ET)
Dolphins at Bengals
I’m reevaluating my feelings on the Dolphins. I just assumed they were bad, but after falling short in overtime in back-to-back weeks against the Jets and Cardinals, I think I was wrong. The Dolphins are a competitive non-playoff team. There’s no shame in getting drubbed by the Texans, and considering what the Raiders did to the Steelers, a win over Oakland is relatively impressive. Ryan Tannehill may not be the most athletically gifted or mechanically sound of the rookie quarterback crop, but he’s a gamer. Unfortunately for Miami, Andy Dalton is a gamer, too, and a better quarterback. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3.5
Packers at Colts
If Aaron Rodger played in a dome, is there any doubt he’d win every offensive award and the MVP year in and year out? If Rodgers doesn’t throw for at least 300 yards and 3 TDs I’ll be disappointed (and devastated for fantasy purposes). On the other hand, the Colts are coming off a bye week, and let’s be honest, the Packers haven’t exactly been the most consistent team in the league through four weeks. I’m excited to see how the NFL’s officials try to screw the Packers for the third week in a row. My guess is they rule a successful Packers field no good or a Colts missed field goal good. (Get well soon, Chuck Pagano. Hopefully the Colts stay competitive in your absence.) PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -7
Ravens at Chiefs
I fell for Kansas City’s resurgence last week and looked like a moron. It’s gonna be a long season for the Chiefs. Fans are raising money to fly banners begging the team to fire its GM, Brady Quinn… let me repeat that… BRADY QUINN… is getting first team snaps in practice, and this week marked the third week in a row a different national media personality wondered if Matt Cassel was purposely trying to kill Dwayne Bowe. The Ravens are coming off an extended break and have the Cowboys and Texans on deck, so it’s possible the Chiefs could sneak up and bite the distracted Ravens, but I can’t pick the dysfunctional Chiefs two weeks in a row. I have a family to take of. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -6.5
Falcons at Redskins
Let’s pretend for a second I think the RobertGriffinskins can win this game. What can I use to defend my argument? 1. The Falcons struggled to slow down Cam Newton and the Panther offense in Atlanta a week ago. Robert Griffin III and Washington’s offense is underrated and potent. Their ground attack is devastatingly good. 2. Though the Redskins defense is horrible, the Panthers defense isn’t much better and they hung around with the Falcons until the final seconds ticked off the clock. 3. Atlanta’s run defense is the 4th worst in the NFL. Washington’s ground attack is ranked 2nd. 4. Matt Ryan is a douchebag. How does “ice” become your nickname when you haven’t won a playoff game in your life? Ice isn’t supposed to melt in January. 5. I’m running out of valid arguments. This is depressing. I hate the Falcons. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -3
Browns at Giants
This feels like one of those games where the Giants show up hungover from a disheartening loss, play lousy, piss off the home crowd, and win 17-13 or something like it. The Giants torture their fans like no other team in football and then totally redeem themselves by winning Super Bowls after the entire fan base has written them off. It’s identical to what happens in Philadelphia… only without the Super Bowls. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +10
Eagles at Steelers
I can’t even begin to explain how happy I am the Eagles are getting almost no respect in this game. The last thing the Eagles need is for the bandwagon to swell exponentially after one solid outing. The Steelers wide receivers calling Eagles rookie cornerback Brandon Boykin “Candy Bar” is also entertaining. (The Steelers think they can take advantage of the rookie.) However, have the Steeler receivers forgotten the protection given to Ben Roethlisberger this season has been spotty at best? I love the Eagles chances in Pittsburgh. The Steeler defense is old and overrated and that offensive line can’t protect Roethlisberger. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; +3.5
Late Games (4:25PM ET)
Seahawks at Panthers
Based on Seattle’s dreadful offensive performance in St. Louis last week, the Panthers appear the easy pick. Yet, despite Russell Wilson’s inability to play quarterback even remotely well, the Seahawks will still contend in almost every game because their defense is that good. Also, Cam Newton doesn’t excel against talented defenses. Carolina’s best offensive efforts this season came against the Saints and Falcons, two divisional opponents with ho hum defenses. (Ok, the Saints D is atrocious.) Given that Carolina’s defense is closer to the Saints’ than the Seahawks’, it’s possible Wilson actually has a decent game on Sunday. I’m still picking the Panthers, but I don’t feel good about it. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -3
Bears at Jaguars
Good news Jaguars fans; some of the tarps covering thousands of empty seats are coming off due to increased interest in tickets! Bad news; those extra seats (and thousands more around the stadium) will undoubtedly be filled with Chicago Bears fans screaming “Da Bears” at your lousy team and making fun of your appalling offense. You know, the one ranked dead last in every offensive category except rushing, and even there you’re ranked 31st. If Blaine Gabbert has less than five turnovers, you can be sure I’ll be sending my cousin endless text messages declaring Tony Romo is worse than Gabbert. Woooh baby, I can’t wait! BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears -5
Titans at Vikings
A classic kick to the groin game for the Vikings. After two surprising victories over the 49ers and Lions, Christian Ponder and the Vikings have morphed into the NFL’s 2012 darlings. History tells us these things usually come to an abrupt halt. The Titans are the perfect candidates to deliver the aforementioned kick to the man region. I have no reasonable argument to support this pick. It’s a total gut call. Since the Detroit Lions have a bye week, I’m sure they’ll be watching this game and shoving forks in their eyes wondering how they surrendered four special teams touchdown returns in two weeks, costing them two games they probably win otherwise. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +6
Broncos at Patriots
Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history will go head-to-head for possibly the last time. Though Peyton Manning isn’t what he once was, he’s still good enough to give his team a realistic chance of winning every week. Don’t be confused, though, the Broncos can’t win this game, not with their defense. The Patriots offense can do too much. Whether it’s pounding the opponent with the ground game or slashing them through the air, teams with iffy defenses can’t compete with the Patriots. Manning may make it interesting with another late rally that ultimately falls short, but I’m expecting New England to control this one from start to finish. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -6.5
Bills at 49ers
Buffalo needs a good showing Sunday. While they don’t necessarily need to win the game, it’s important for their own psyche they contend with one of the NFL’s better teams. A week ago it looked like the Bills were ready to contend for a division title, and then BOOM – the Patriots dropped 45 2nd half points on them. It was a devastating performance for the Bills, especially because the front office devoted so many resources to upgrading the defense. Traveling across the country to face the NFL’s premiere defense after such an embarrassing loss is a tough task. If the Bills get steamrolled for the second week in a row they may not recover in time to compete for a playoff spot. With Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller still ailing, and Ryan Fitzpatrick going up against the 49er defense, I can’t see how the Bills escape San Francisco with a win. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +10
Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)
Chargers at Saints
It’s fitting that Drew Brees aims to break the NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass against the team that essentially gave up on him for a younger stud. Although that younger stud was Philip Rivers, giving Drew Brees the boot was a big mistake, like Julia Roberts shrugging her shoulders while holding a dozen shopping bags, mistake. In other words; HUGE. (I can’t believe I just reference Pretty Woman. I hope my son never reads this.) Assuming he isn’t abducted or injured early in the 1st quarter, there’s no way Brees doesn’t break the record Sunday night. The real question is whether the Saints can get off the schneid and give their fans hope of a decent season.
Regardless of the Saints desperation, I still think the Chargers have a good chance of winning simply because the New Orleans defense is so bad. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe Brees allows the Saints to lose on his special night to the team that threw him to the curb. Sean Payton will also be in the house, so I wouldn’t put it past him to relay play calls to Brees via subliminal messages on the Superdome’s video screen. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -3.5
Monday Night (8:30PM ET)
Texans at Jets
The Jets quarterback situation is a disaster. Their running game isn’t much better. In fact, if the NFL ruled the Texans were not permitted to use a quarterback and required Arian Foster to snap the football from center, I’d still pick the Texans to win… and convincingly. There’s nothing the Jets do well right now except attract sarcastic headlines. Conversely, Houston is so balanced and so, so good.
Mark Sanchez will spend most of the night running for his life from J.J. Watt and the rest of the Texan defense. The Texan offense will get a 20 point lead at some point in the 3rd quarter and bore Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden to death, leaving us viewers to wonder if Jon Gruden is sober when calling games. And then, when all hope is lost and the Jets appear finished, Tim Tebow will rescue New York and lead the Jets to a stunning victory. Or not. However, Monday will be the night the Jets finally decide to insert Tebow at quarterback. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -9
If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 7 – 8 – 0
Season: 30 – 32 – 1