Last week was one of the most wretched I can remember in the NFL. Six of the week’s fourteen games were blowouts of 20 points or more, and three of the closest games (Buffalo/Cleveland, Washington/Carolina and Dallas/Kansas City) were egregiously painful to watch.
Fear not, as the Week 6 slate is decidedly more interesting.
I went 10-4 last week to push my overall record to a respectable 49-27.
The show, on with it…
Houston (2-3) @ Cincinnati (4-1):
Houston was supposed to contend for a Wild Card berth this season (sound familiar?) but instead are middling at 2-3 — good for just third place in the AFC South.
Cincinnati was supposed to be about where Cleveland (1-4) sits right now, proving that NFL prognosticators (myself included) know absolutely nothing until at least a few weeks into the season.
RETURN TO FORM
The Texans put up an inspired effort last week, coming from a 21-0 deficit to put themselves in position for a 28-28 tie late in the fourth quarter, but it was not to be. Short-yardage situations have plagued Houston all year long and it won’t get easier against a Bengals team tied for 12th in first downs allowed and 10th in third-down conversions allowed.
Cinci is even better on offense thanks to a where-the-hell-did-this-come-from season from the NFL’s leading rusher, Cedric Benson, and a passing game with a variety of weapons.
All that said, this screams “trap game” for the Bengals. Coming off a big win against the Ravens, there’s a good likelihood that Cinci is looking ahead to back-to-back games against the Bears and Ravens and the Texans are good enough on offense to fell a distracted Bengals team.
JORDAN SAYS: Texans 21, Bengals 20
Detroit (1-4) @ Green Bay (2-2):
The record makes it seem otherwise, but the Detroit Lions have some fight in them. They’ve been in every game at halftime and gave the defending Super Bowl champions a four-quarter fight last week.
Matthew Stafford is questionable for Sunday’s tilt at Lambeau, and Daunte Culpepper filled in very well last week but he’ll be hard-pressed to put up a similar performance against the seventh-ranked Packers defense. With the 3-4 scheme Green Bay is running now, they’ll be able to send a variety of blitz packages against the relatively immobile Culpepper.
With a week to rest, Aaron Rodgers and Co. should be plenty able to rack up yards and points against a Lions unit that, though improved, is still in the bottom third of the league.
JORDAN SAYS: Packers 28, Lions 14
Baltimore (3-2) @ Minnesota (5-0):
The Ravens are reeling after consecutive losses, especially since both losses were the result of defensive meltdowns late in the game. They could take solace in those losses both being to possible playoff teams, but something tells me Ray Lewis has been motivating his defensive unit all week to give Brett Favre hell.
And they’ll need to. The Vikings’ offensive line have been a group of stalwarts so far this season; Favre has been sacked only 11 times through fives games, and that time in the pocket has allowed him to rack up 1,069 yards and nine touchdowns.
If the Ravens can get up early — something this high-powered offense is more than capable of — and attack Brett Favre non-stop, it’ll take Adrian Peterson mostly out of the equation. The 40-year-old quarterback has been amazing with the lead, how he’d react down by more than a touchdown late in the game remains to be seen.
I like the Ravens here in a close one.
JORDAN SAYS: Ravens 26, Vikings 21
New York Giants (5-0) @ New Orleans (4-0):
Now this is the matchup everyone has been waiting for.
Both of these teams have bulldozed their competition through five weeks, but there’s an important difference and that’s quality of opponents. The G-Men haven’t played a quality squad yet, and have had the good fortune of playing three of the NFL’s worst five teams in Kansas City, Oakland and Tampa Bay.
HAULIN' IT IN
New Orleans, on the other hand, demolished a very solid Philadelphia Eagles team and completely shut down a New York Jets team that was 3-0 at the time.
There are plenty of similarities, though.
Eli Manning and Drew Brees are ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in passer rating. Each has at least nine touchdowns and 1,000 yards through the air.
Both teams boast mutli-faceted run games, dynamic receivers, and shut-down defenses.
In a game that’s almost too close to call, the nod has to go to the home team, especially since the Superdome is one of the NFL’s truest home-field advantages.
JORDAN SAYS: Saints 24, Giants 16
Cleveland (1-4) @ Pittsburgh (3-2):
I’m going to type this out for the first time right now, because I was too furious to do a column on the game:
Derek Anderson was 2-of-17 for 23 yards passing last week and beat the Buffalo Bills. It’s almost unfathomable. Jamarcus Russell was laughing at Derek Anderson last week. Joey Harrington and Tim Couch were home laughing at Derek Anderson. J.P. Losman was laughing from a Las Vegas Locomotives practice.
Obviously, that’s not going to fly against a real football team like the Steelers.
It’s clear that Pittsburgh misses Troy Polamalu on defense, as last year’s No. 1 unit has given up at least 20 points in each of the last three games. The hard-hitting safety is the Steelers’ most important cog. As a pass rusher, as a tackler, as a run-stopper, as a leader. He’s almost a mirror image of Indianapolis’ Bob Sanders and these defensive struggles are not unlike what Indy went through in 2007 while he was hurt.
He’s probable for Sunday, but it won’t matter. They’re playing the Browns, remember?
JORDAN SAYS: Steelers 33, Browns 12
Carolina (1-3) @ Tampa Bay (0-5):
Both of these teams are better than their records.
Not by much, but they are. The Buccaneers have to be thrilled with how first-year quarterback Josh Johnson is playing. His stats haven’t been exemplary, but with nobody of note to throw to, a weak offensive line and a first-year head coach, the onus is not on him.
He’s looked poised and comfortable at key moments, and I think he puts together his best performance even against a tough Panthers defense.
I still don’t think it’s enough to win, though. Jake Delhomme has settled a bit, completing 60% of his passes, and the teammate-punching Steve Smith has yet to go off. Now is as good a time as any — Tampa has allowed more throws of 30+ yards than any team in football.
JORDAN SAYS: Panthers 19, Buccaneers 10
Kansas City (0-5) @ Washington (2-3):
The Chiefs have quietly put up back-to-back respectable performances in losses against the Giants and Cowboys.
Well, if you don’t count the anti-tackling clinic they put on in overtime of the Dallas game.
MISSING: LARRY JOHNSON
What’s held KC back the most is a complete and total lack of a run game. Larry Johnson is so far over the hill he forgot there was a hill, and Matt Cassel is their second-leading rusher. Yeah. It’s that bad. No run game means no play-action and it means no time for Cassel to get the ball to Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley or Bobby Wade.
Washington has a stout defense, which doesn’t help matters for KC, but I made a pact with myself five minutes ago to never pick the Redskins unless they’re playing the Rams. They already did.
JORDAN SAYS: Chiefs 16, Redskins 3
St. Louis (0-5) @ Jacksonville (2-3):
This is GASB’s “May as well take a three-hour bathroom break” game of the week!
JORDAN SAYS: Jaguars 28, Rams 6
Arizona (2-2) @ Seattle (2-3):
Don’t look now, but the Seattle Seahawks are ready to make a charge. Even at 2-3, the Seahawks have looked good in every game besides a 34-17 thrashing at the hands of a Colts team that may very well be the best in football.
What’s more, is two of those losses — San Francisco and Chicago — were both with backup Seneca Wallace. This Seattle team plays completely differently with Matt Hasselbeck at the helm and in the two games the oft-injured quarterback has played, he’s completing 63% of his passes and has seven touchdowns to two picks.
Oh, and what’s that, the Arizona “let’s mail this one in” Cardinals are surrendering 374 yards per game through the air?
I like Hasselbeck to have his best game of the season in a 300-yard performance here. Not only is Hasselbeck throwing well, but his top two receivers — T.J. Houshmandzedah and Nate Burleson — have each caught at least 25 passes for over 300 yards.
JORDAN SAYS: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 19
Philadelphia (3-1) @ Oakland (1-4):
Oh, great, another good NFC East team against another atrocious AFC West team. No, no, scratch that — THE atrocious AFC West team.
MACLIN AND RELAXIN'
The Raiders are a trainwreck of biblical proportions. There’s no run game, Jamarcus Russell couldn’t hit the ocean if he was standing in the middle of it, and the defense has been gashed in every game but one this season.
Enter the 3-1 Eagles.
McNabb found a new favorite target in first-round pick Jeremy Maclin last week, and with Desean Jackson flanking the other side and Brian Westbrook in the backfield, this is one of the most dynamic offenses in football. If Philly isn’t up by three touchdowns at the half I will eat my hat, your hat, your father’s hat, and every hat in the New Era factory.
JORDAN SAYS: Eagles 40, Raiders 7
Tennessee (0-5) @ New England (3-2):
With the Dolphins edging the Jets last week and making the AFC East a whole lot more competitive, this suddenly became a must-win game.
Luckily, the Patriots get a chance to rebound from last week’s loss against the listless Titans.
Tom Brady still hasn’t quite found his groove, but he’s got the perfect forum in which to do it this week. Tennessee ranks dead last in overall pass defense and they’re a banged-up unit. Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin might both miss this game, and if that’s the case, look for an air raid from Brady and Co.
JORDAN SAYS: Patriots 30, Titans 13
Buffalo (1-4) @ New York Jets (3-2):
Not so much Super Bowl chatter following the Jets now, is there?
I’ll go ahead and toot my horn in saying that the Jets were not as good as their 3-0 record looked. They’ve only had one hundred-yard rusher and Sanchez has only thrown for over 200 yards twice; both were in the season-opener against the Texans.
Hardly a marquee win.
And contrary to Rex Ryan and Calvin Pace’s sour grapes whining after the loss to Miami, the defense got flat-out beat. Granted, not every team runs the wildcat, but they couldn’t get any pressure on a quarterback starting his second career game, either.
HUNGRY... FOR A WIN
Luckily for Gang Green, the woeful Bills are trudging to the Meadowlands this week.
Buffalo’s offense has hit a brick wall. A really sturdy, reinforced brick wall. The offense has managed just 13 points in the past three games and Trent Edwards is regressing by the week. He simply won’t throw it deep; no deep crosses, no deep hooks, no deep outs. Nothing.
Captain Checkdown goes down with the ship.
JORDAN SAYS: Jets 23, Bills 7
Chicago (3-1) @ Atlanta (3-1):
Very interesting game in the ATL.
Both teams are coming off convincing victories, both have young, talented quarterbacks and workhorse tailbacks and both figure to vie for division titles.
With each squad having a similar offense, the game should come down to defense.
Chicago has a better pass defense and a better run defense, but the Falcons are fourth in the league with only 15.8 points per game allowed. That’s the biggest difference in Mike Smith’s team from this year to last. There are playmakers on Atlanta’s defense now.
John Abraham and Kroy Biermann bookend the speedy defensive line and have three sacks apiece and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has registered 47 tackles on the season. The Bears have their playmakers too, even with Brian Urlacher hurt.
Adewale Ogunleye leads the team with 4.5 sacks and defensive end Alex Brown has five tackles for a loss.
Whichever defense plays bigger on Sunday night will earn its team a win.
JORDAN SAYS: Falcons 19, Bears 14
Denver (5-0) @ San Diego (2-2):
I guess we have to take the Broncos seriously now, don’t we?
It’s funny; everyone had the Chargers penciled in for 11 wins and an easy AFC West title this year. Now it’s looking every bit like Denver will avenge their late-season collapse in 2008 by going 6-0 in the division and winning it.
And they’re winning it with Kyle Orton at the helm. With a rookie running back. With a rookie coach and a dramatically re-tooled defense allowing an NFL-low 8.6 points per game. Denver is also top-5 in rush yards per game allowed and pass yards per game allowed. Numbers don’t lie.
DUM AND DUMERVIL
Neither does a ‘5’ in the win column and a ‘0’ in the loss column.
There’s little reason to believe the Chargers can be the first to beat Denver. They rank second in passing offense but dead last in rushing offense and the Broncos do a damn good job of getting after the quarterback. Elvis Dumervil’s eight sacks is a team-high and Brian Dawkins has galvanized this unit into a tackling machine that keeps runners at the first level of defense and receivers on their backs.
Six wins it is.
JORDAN SAYS: Broncos 21, Chargers 10
BYE: Miami, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Dallas