I was worried last week after the first four games I predicted were all wrong, but I ended the week 9-5 bringing my total prediction record for the season to 48-42 which is -embarrassingly- the best margin above .500 so far. I hope to continue in that direction this week. Let’s get to it:
Cincinnati @ Atlanta: There has been a lot of trash talk going on between these two teams already. It’ll be interesting to see who can follow through on Sunday. The Falcons seem to struggle while playing from behind so the Bengals should look to put up points fast and early. They also need to hope for a big game from left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who will be lining up against John Abraham, who has a knack for getting to the quarterback. Cincinnati corners Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph will also have their hands full defending Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. It just seems like too tall of an order for the Bengals. Falcons win 24-21.
Washington @ Chicago: Both of these teams suffered disappointing losses last week, and apparently there’s a decent chance for rain in this game and who doesn’t love football in the rain? The Bears have also done a dreadful job at protecting Jay Cutler this year allowing 27 sacks already, which is almost an average of four-and-a-half per game. Look for Brian Orakpo to add to his young, yet impressive, resume this week. The Bears left tackle Frank Omiyale will be faced with the task of trying to stop Orakpo from getting to Cutler. Good luck. Skins win it 20-17.
St. Louis @ Tampa Bay: Somebody needs to expose the Buccaneers for the bad team that they are. If you want to hear something that speaks volumes upon volumes about the development of Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, here’s a tid bit for you: “Against the San Diego Chargers last week, 10 receivers had at least one catch.” For a young quarterback to be spreading the ball around that much is amazing. That shows patience, maturity and the confidence to throw to the open man, whether it be a Pro Bowl player or an undrafted rookie. You know who else demonstrates those qualities? Peyton Manning. I’m not saying Bradford is the next Manning, but he is very good and is proving himself worthy of the #1 pick in this year’s draft. Rams win 21-17.
San Francisco @ Carolina: The Panthers are still winless, being one of only two teams that still have a big goose egg in the win column. They really let me down, after I had picked them in the preseason to be a sleeper team that could make a playoff run – they have a goose egg in the win column and because of it I have egg on my face. Fortunately for them the 49ers have also been sorely disappointing, getting their first win just last week at home against the Raiders. Both of these teams are bad but the Niners are traveling East from coast to coast which is extremely difficult to do. I’m picking the Panthers one more time, but if they lose this one, I’m picking them to lose every game for the rest of the season. Panthers win it 17-14.
Buffalo @ Baltimore: The Bills are the other winless team at this point in the season. It’s so bad that people are wondering if they would be able to beat a UFL (United Football League) team. Unfortunately for them, I just don’t see the game this week helping their cause. The Ravens are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Patriots and will be looking to take their frustration out on the hapless Bills. To make matters worse it’s in Baltimore. I’d provide more analysis but it just doesn’t matter. Ravens win 31-10.
Philadelphia @ Tennessee: I really hope the Eagles win this game, at this point in time my favorite team is the Colts and my second favorite team is whoever happens to be playing against any of the other three AFC South teams. Both of these teams are sitting on 4-2 records but the Eagles are undefeated on the road so far this year. There have been recent reports of Kenny Britt being involved in a bar fight, if anything comes of this between now and Sunday (unlikely) and he doesn’t play, that will have a huge impact on the game. The Eagles will be without DeSean Jackson, but Maclin stepped up big last game so he certainly has the capability to beat Cortland Finnegan. As much as I hope it’s not true – Titans win it 21-20.
Jacksonville @ Kansas City: Well the Chiefs were doing just fine until they started facing the AFC South. They went from being the last undefeated team in the league to losing back-to-back road games against the Colts and Texans. They only lost by four to the Texans, who had to make a comeback to pull out a victory. The Chiefs are undefeated at home this year and the Jaguars just aren’t a very good team. I expect the Chiefs to bounce back from this two-game skid, while the only team the Jags have beaten on the road is the Bills. For my unnecessarily specific prediction of the week, I have Eric Berry getting the first interception of his young career. Chiefs win it 24-14.
Pittsburgh @ Miami: This should be a heck of a game. Oddly enough the Dolphins are winless at home so far this season while the Steelers are undefeated on the road. Look for the Dolphins to send Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess, and Brian Hartline on deep rounds to stretch the field and giving Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams more room to run in the ground game. The Steelers need to find a way to get their running game going. Ben Roethlisberger had a good first game back last week but that was at home against the Browns, who failed to get any pressure on Big Ben. It will be a different story this week at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Dolphins win 21-20.
Cleveland @ New Orleans: Speaking of the Browns, they have the misfortune of playing the defending Super Bowl champs this weekend. The Browns are 1-5 this season and winless on the road. The Saints are 4-2 and have done a great job of beating up on bad teams so far this year – three of their wins coming against the 49ers, Panthers and Bucs while the fourth win came against the Vikings in Week 1, when both teams looked terrible. Fortunately for the Saints the Browns are another one of those bad teams that they have been taking advantage of so far this year. Look to see how young Colt McCoy does in the second start of his career – and two tougher first starts would be difficult to come up with. Saints roll 31-14.
Arizona @ Seattle: These division rivals are both coming off big wins over teams sitting near the top of the NFC (the Saints and Bears) and are sitting with 3-2 records, just a half-game ahead of the Rams for the division lead. One of these teams will have the sole lead over the division by Sunday night (unless of course they tie in this game) and the other will likely fall to third place behind the Rams – assuming the Rams beat the Bucs. It’s in Seattle, the Seahawks have been showing improvement, I can almost guarantee rain, the ‘Hawks are undefeated at home and the Cards have struggled on the road. Seahawks win it 24-20.
New England @ San Diego: Norv Turner has been the Chargers head coach over the past four seasons (including this one) and during that time the Chargers have gone 10-13 through Week 6 of the regular season. 2-4 this year, 2-3 last year, and 3-3 in both 2008 and 07. Each of those last three years they bounced back to win the division, including a 13-3 final record last year. I think it’s safe to say that the Chargers have developed a reputation of playing the first six weeks under Norv Turner. This is a loooooong trip from the northeast coast to the southwest coast for the Patriots. If the Chargers want to prove that they’re capable of bouncing back just like they did each of the past three years, this would be a good statement-game to do it with. Plus the Chargers are undefeated at home this year. Bolts win it 24-21.
Oakland @ Denver: This game is going to be dreadful. Both teams are 2-4, the Broncos are only 1-2 at home, the Raiders are winless on the road and rumors are that Tim Tebow might be seeing more snaps this week. All of that adds up to a bad football game. The most interesting part of this game will be watching Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha defending Broncos receiver Brandon Lloyd. If there is one thing I’m sure about with this game, it’s that you can bet your shiniest penny that I won’t be watching it. I guess I gotta pick one of them to win, so I might as well go with the upset (Denver is favored by nine) so the Raiders win it 12-10.
Minnesota @ Green Bay: Brett Favre returns to Green Bay… again. The Packers are three-point favorites in this game, but I gotta be honest, I don’t really know why. Yes, they’re the home team, and yes, the Vikings are winless on the road so far this year, but Randy Moss has another week under his belt working in the Vikings system and to get on the same page as Favre. Plus the Packers aren’t very good against the running, allowing 4.7 yards per carry (27th in the league) which surely has Adrian Peterson’s mouth watering. To add to that point Green Bay linebackers Nick Barnett and Clay Matthews are listed as questionable, which will damper their run defense even more. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked nine times in the past two games and suffered a mild concussion in the process. Both games also went into overtime and they lost them. Plus they don’t have their BYE week ’til Week 10. There is no way the Packers aren’t feeling worn down right now. And don’t forget that last year when the Vikings traveled to Green Bay, Favre threw four touchdowns. Vikings win it 31-24.
NY Giants @ Dallas: This is an absolute must-win for the Cowboys. They’re 1-4 on the season, and winless at home and are quickly becoming viewed as one of the teams in the bottom third of the league. It’s so confusing because they look like one of the best teams on paper but they just keep losing even though their stats look good. Tony Romo has a passer rating in the 90s, Felix Jones is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, Roy Williams is on track to have one of the best -if not the best– season of his career, and the defense has allowed the fewest total yards in the league. They just aren’t winning. The Giants on the other hand looked horrible in Weeks 2 and 3 but have bounced back nicely and already have traveled down to Texas once this year, when they hung 34 points on the Texans. If Dallas loses this game then a miracle, and only a miracle, will get them to the playoffs. They’ll be winless in the division, winless in the conference, winless at home and WAY behind in the division, with the division leader holding the head-to-head tiebreaker against them. Start searching for a miracle, Dallas, because I have the Giants winning 21-20.