Carolina at New Orleans
This is only the fifth week of the season, but its desperation time for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are 0-3, off a bye week, and off a Monday Night disaster on their home field. It’s not mathematically impossible for the Saints to make the playoffs if they start 0-4, but even in the weak NFC, it’s very unlikely. If New Orleans loses another home game, you can’t like their chances to play in January. Therefore, the Saints should give their all this week.
Looking back at the start of the season, you can see New Orleans’ flaws. Week 1 their secondary was completely overwhelmed by the Colts passing offense and the Saints receivers couldn’t separate from the Colts quicker secondary. Week 3, the Titans defensive front overpowered New Orleans offensive line. Outside of RB Reggie Bush, the Saints haven’t shown enough speed or power to be an upper echelon team.
Fortunately, the Carolina Panthers are neither quick nor are they overpowering. The Panthers secondary has been pretty poor this season and with David Carr starting at quarterback it’s unlikely the Carolina offense will exploit the Saints secondary the way Payton Manning did. WR Steve Smith should be running wide open in that porous Saints secondary, but if Carr can’t get him the ball, it really doesn’t matter. It looks like the Texans knew what they were doing when the elected not to resign Carr.
I can’t see New Orleans running the football with Reggie Bush. Bush has been reduced to a third receiver because he can’t run between the tackles. If the Saints are going to win this game, they have to throw the ball and throw it often.
I see this game as a shootout. Give me New Orleans to cover the short number. Saints win 27-24.
Atlanta at Tennessee
Atlanta started so badly that people wrote them off. Week 1, they played an ugly, ugly game in Minnesota with QB Joey Harrington making the kind of mistakes that got him run out of Detroit.
That was Week 1. Now here we are in Week 5 and all of sudden the Falcons look pretty good. For some reason, Atlanta’s wide receivers suddenly decided to play football. Both WR Roddy White and WR Michael Jenkins are big, fast receivers that have started their careers by dropping the football. These two couldn’t catch a social disease for two and a half years. But for whatever reason, they’ve made QB Harrington look pretty good the last two weeks. Jenkins caught two touchdown passes last week and White has a 70 yards TD two weeks ago. With TE Alge Crumpler playing well and Atlanta having a decent running game, the Falcons can score.
It’s been a long time since the Titans were nine point favorites. Tennessee is getting this kind of respect not entirely because of QB Vince Young. Young’s proven he’s a special talent, but the Titans most impressive units have been their offensive and defensive lines. Tennessee was all over Drew Bres in that Monday Night victory and their offensive line pushed around the bigger Jaguars defense. The Falcons don’t match up particularly well with the Titans, but in the unfamiliar role of a big favorite the Titans may have a let down here.
The total on this game went from 39.5 to 40.5 early in the week indicating the wise guys are expecting a high-scoring game. I can’t disagree with them. Atlanta covers this number, but the Titans get the victory 28-20.
San Diego at Denver
All hell broke lose this week after the Chargers blew a big home halftime lead to the visiting Chiefs last Sunday. HC Norv Turner is under fire for not giving the rock to RB Tomlinson in the second half of last week’s game. Tomlinson was ripping the Chiefs a new one in the first 30 minutes of that contest and then suddenly disappeared in the second half. So what’s Turner going to do this week with the national media all over him? You got it, give it to Tomlinson.
And it should work. Denver’s defense has been terrible against the run. The Broncos defense has given up 200, 186, and 226 rushing yards in the last three weeks. There is no way, no how they are going to stop Tomlinson this week. Denver is 1-11 ATS in their last twelve games and the lack of defense has a lot to do with it. San Diego isn’t great, but they are better than Denver. Chargers win 24-20.
Cleveland at New England
This is the mother of all sandwich games. New England has been awesome. They have blown out the Chargers, the Jets, and Monday Night the Bengals were dismantled on their home field. The Patriots are among the NFL’s leaders in every important offensive and defensive statistical category. So why shouldn’t the Browns be their latest victims? It’s obvious that New England are the more talented team, but they find themselves off a big victory over the Bengals on Monday Night and next week they have a showdown on the road against the undefeated Dallas Cowboys. This week it’s a little matter of getting past the Cleveland Browns and that’s the problem. It will be hard for the Patriots to get up for this game and cover a 16 point spread.
Cleveland’s defense is terrible, but the Browns offense can play. QB Anderson has hooked up with TE Winslow and WR Edwards while RB Lewis is averaging over five yards per carry. I thought their offensive explosion against the Bengals was a fluke, but after watching the first half of the Ravens game, I’m starting to believe.
It’s possible to imagine the Patriots will look past the Browns and won’t execute giving Cleveland the chance to hang around. New England wins, but doesn’t cover. NE 24-17.
Arizona at St. Louis
The Rams are finished. Cluster injuries to the offensive line, at runningback, and at quarterback have broken the spirit of this team. Fourth string offensive linemen will be stating for St. Louis because this team has absolutely no one else to play. This isn’t a problem that can be fixed in the next few weeks or months. There is no silver lining. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. This team has scored 39 points in four games and until the Rams fix their offensive line and defense, they are going to struggle to stay in games.
The Cardinals won in St. Louis last year and they are favorites this year, and why not? I don’t love the two quarterback offense, but if that what works, why the heck not. Money is pouring in on the Cardinals. They win 24-10.
Chicago at Green Bay
There’s nothing to like about Chicago. Everyone knows about their struggles at quarterback, but Chicago’s problems go deeper. The offensive line hasn’t been very good, RB Benson hasn’t run the ball well, and the defense is riddled with injuries. Like the Rams, the Bears’ prospects are looking dimmer and dimmer as the injuries and questions mount. It looks like a very disappointing season in the windy city.
If you like Green Bay, get them now. You know they are the better offensive team with the better quarterback, but the Packers have the better defensive squad as well. At a field goal difference, GB is cheap.
All the steam is coming in behind the Packers with square and sharp money coming in behind the green and gold. This game goes to four points by kickoff. Green Bay wins 24-10.
Upsets of the Week
San Diego and New Orleans.