John Canton: It's week six of the NFL season. As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to go over every game this week.
It's one of those weeks where the parity of the NFL is looking right at us because there's only one game on the schedule this week with a point spread above seven points. That's the Falcons hosting the Raiders, which is 9.5 points. The other twelve games on the schedule this week are under 7 points. When spreads are that close it is proof that anybody can really win any game. We see it every week. Are there really favorites anymore? Obviously there are, but no upset ever really shocks me anymore.
Standings Straight Up After Week 5:
John 50-27 .649 (Last Week 11-3)
Mike 48-29 .623 (11-3)
Bret 46-31 .597 (11-3)
We all picked the Steelers to win on Thursday. We all got that wrong, so we're starting off the week at 0-1 heading into these 13 games.
Byes: Chicago, New Orleans, Carolina, Jacksonville
All game times are Eastern.
Oakland (1-3) at Atlanta (5-0) 1:00 PM
Bret: Atlanta needs to be careful here. Oakland is coming off a bye week where they've surely been doing everything they can to figure out the Falcons passing game, and on the turf McFadden could go off here. This one has about a 20% chance of an upset here.
However, no matter what plan the Oakland coaches come up with, I don't think Oakland has the talent in the secondary to pull it off. I expect this to stay close but play out a lot like the Washington game. Roddy White has a big game and Atlanta stays unbeaten. Atlanta 27 Oakland 20
Mike: I don't expect the Raiders to have made much progress on defense in their bye week. Atlanta's passing attack should have a field day against a team that's given up at least 34 points in three of their four games. The West Coast team heading East for the early game is also in play here. The spread on this one is a little off-putting, but ultimately I think I still like the Falcons to win big. Atlanta 37 Oakland 24
John: I think Oakland is really bad in a lot of areas. They probably shouldn't have even won that game against the Steelers, but they had a lot of fortunate things happen to leave with the victory. The Falcons have had some close wins too. This one won't be close. Big game for QB Matt Ryan once again, who is the NFL MVP at this point in the season. How about the play of TE Tony Gonzalez? He's been clutch for them. Atlanta's using their weapons well. The Raiders are giving up over 31 points per game. And they're supposed to slow them down? Maybe at home. Not in Atlanta. Falcons 34-14
Cincinnati (3-2) at Cleveland (0-5) 1:00 PM
Bret: Cleveland's big chance! They've impressed in losses the last two weeks, and Cincinnati seems to be regressing. I worry about Green-Ellis, he's gotten worse each week, and is barely above replacement at this point - the Bengals seemed like they might be going to Scott last week before he went down for the season - not a good sign for the running game. Cleveland has enough defensively (i.e. Haden) to disrupt the Cincy passing game as well.
On the other side of the ball, Cleveland has been improving every week, and might have actually found a guy who can catch the ball in Gordon. I think Cleveland finally strikes gold and leaves Cleveland as the only team with an o-fer on their sheet. Cleveland 24 Cincinnati 20
Mike: I think this will be a closer game than the records might indicate. Joe Haden is back for the Browns, and anything he can do to limit AJ Green's catches will do wonders for their defense. I still expect it to be a higher scoring game, just not maybe the 34-27 variety we saw between these guys in week 2.
Brandon Weeden has been passable at QB, and Trent Richardson has looked about as good as anyone could have expected, so I think the upset is certainly in play here, but I don't think I see Cincy losing back-to-back games to Miami and Cleveland. Cincinnati 30 Cleveland 27
John: This is one of those games where I just think Cleveland is due for a win. They're the last winless team in the league and when these teams played in week two the Bengals won 34-27 because the Browns showed a lot of fight. This time I think the Browns will win thanks to rookie RB Trent Richardson, who is showing why he deserved all that hype. I wouldn't be shocked if he had a 150 rushing yard, 2 TD type of game. Plus as Bret pointed out, now that the Browns best CB Joe Haden is back maybe they can slow down the Cincy passing attack a bit. Browns 27-24
St. Louis (3-2) at Miami (2-3) 1:00 PM
Bret: If I'd have told you at the beginning of the season that St. Louis/Miami would be a team between two quality teams you'd have laughed at me, but that's exactly what it is. St. Louis' defense had its coming out party on national television last week. Miami still hasn't had quite that break out game (and a noon game against St. Louis won't be that game either.)
However, Miami continues to be a really solid team in all areas, and excel at several key positions. In this game they'll be able to take advantage of St. Louis' porous pass blocking and lack of offensive weapons to make it another long day for Bradford.
Offensively Miami may struggle as well. Reggie Bush hasn't been the same since his injury, and he probably won't improve much this week. That'll leave Miami relying on their passing game. I actually have more faith in Tannehill than I did Kolb to make the 3 big plays he'll need to score enough to win this game. Miami 24 St. Louis 16
Mike: So far St. Louis' defense has looked much better at home then on the road. Not shockingly the team is also 3-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. Miami has come across as a very middle of the road team so far this year. Close OT losses to the Jets and Cardinals, close win on the road in Cincy, easy win over the Raiders, and a sound defeat to open the season against the Texans.
As long as Cortland Finnegan doesn't eat Ryan Tannehill's lunch (which is certainly possible) I'd expect the Dolphins to win here. The Rams are not moving the ball on the ground particularly well, and with Danny Amendola out they're going to struggle to move it through the air as well. Miami's defense should do enough to create opportunities for their offense to score. Miami 20 St. Louis 10
John: There's no question that my Rams are better at home than on the road. That's something we see all the time from young teams on the rise. The Dolphins are a young team too, so it will be an interesting battle. What's impressive about the Dolphins is they have the number one rush defense in the NFL giving up only 61.4 YPG. Even though the Rams best offensive player is RB Steven Jackson, he's yet to have a very good game and the team is only 23rd in rushing. The good news is Jackson is over the nagging injuries he's had because he's not listed on the injury report this week.
Where the Rams offense might struggle is in the passing game. It's hard to replace the best receiver, Danny Amendola, who is out 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury. I think the short passing attack will continue although they might try more deep balls because Bradford may not be as comfortable throwing short to the young receivers who may not run the routes as well as Amendola did. This is my way of saying the Rams offense might have some problems here.
I think the story is on the other side of the ball. The Rams defense, especially against the pass, is very good. They can rush the passer with their front four (thanks to DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn) and they can cover well with CBs Cortland Finnegan (best free agent signing of the season?) as well as rookie Janoris Jenkins, who was a steal in round two. I don't think it will be easy for the Dolphins to throw against the Rams. A lot of it will depend on Reggie Bush. If he's healthy he can have a big game because the Rams can be run on. I'm not sure if he is, though. I'll go with the Rams on the road. It just feels right. Rams 20-17
Indianapolis (2-2) at NY Jets (2-3) 1:00 PM
Bret: Man, I don't want to pick the Jets here. I really don't. I think their offensive weapons are the worst in the league. I think they threw everything they had at Houston and still needed a kick return to even stay close. But. Indianapolis just isn't that good either. Their win last week was awesome, and if they can get the kind of penetration they got against Green Bay in the 2nd half, they may knock Sanchez out of the game.
The best unit in this game is the Jets defense, and they'll be able to disrupt the Indianapolis offense enough to keep them from putting up a ton of points. Luck will struggle on the road against a more sophisticated defense like this. Lots of turnovers and field goals in this one. For the love of god, let Tebow free! I know he can do it! New York 19 Indianapolis 13
Mike: I gotta say I have no idea how this game is going to play out. The Colts played inspired football for a half last week, but they also went down 21-3 to the Packers and looked pretty poor in the process. The Jets were completely demolished by the Niners two weeks ago, but they're the best team in the NFC, and they also kept the game to within 6 against the Texans on Monday night.
The question is how good or bad are either of these teams? I'm taking the Jets here mostly because it's in New York, and the Colts haven't had to play a game outside of Indianapolis in over a month, and when they did the Bears blew them out. But again, I have no idea. Sanchez could throw four interceptions and the Colts could win by a touchdown, too. New York Jets 23 Indianapolis 17
John: I don't think this will be a pretty game. Last week's win was a huge game for the Colts who rode the emotion of their ill coach to mount a comeback win against the Packers. That's probably the best thing that will happen to them this year. As for the Jets, the injuries to key players like Revis and Holmes really showed. They showed fight against the Texans last week, though. They lost because the Texans are too good and due to all the Jets injuries they couldn't make enough plays. I admired their heart. They are not quitting. Believe me as a Rams fan I know quitting over the last decade or so.
This week? I'm actually picking the Jets. It's rare. It feels wrong. I just think they will continue to play hard under coach Rex Ryan and as long as Mark Sanchez doesn't throw three picks (1 or 2 is likely) they can probably hold on to win an ugly game. Jets 24-14
Detroit (1-3) at Philadelphia (3-2) 1:00 PM
Bret: Here's a game we'll learn absolutely nothing about either team. Philadelphia wins? "Well, Detroit is awful" Detroit wins? "Philadelphia is awful!" More important than the outcome of this one is how each team plays. Philadelphia is a Super Bowl contending team (especially on defense) but they HAVE to score more in this game - anything under 30 is a disappointment. On the other hand, Detroit has to stop a team like Philadelphia if they want to be taken seriously. If they give up more than 24 to Philadelphia, that's a huge disappointment.
The other side of the ball is where the serious football will be played. Stafford is going to have to pick up his game - and make much more precise throws - against the Eagles to beat them. I don't think he'll be able to do enough though, not without the help of a running game. The Philadelphia defensive line will be doing plenty to keep him pressured, and even the smallest mistake will get knocked to the ground by the Philadelphia secondary. I see this game being really frustrating for Detroit. Philadelphia earns a big victory here and gets some momentum going forward. Philadelphia 31 Detroit 21
Mike: How disappointing is Detroit? I really thought they had that game against the Vikings last week. Calvin Johnson had one of his worst games in recent memory with only 5 catches for 54 yards and no touchdowns. Matthew Stafford has only 3 TDs compared to 4 INTs through four games. This is a guy that threw for 5,000 yards and 41 TDs last year! There are some short field scoring opportunities for Stafford this week with the Lions going up against the turnover machine Vick. But even their defense has been pretty pedestrian. They're 9th in the league in yards allowed per game, but 20th in DVOA. And they're so mentally weak. Not that Philly is exactly an example of mental fortitude. I was hoping Philly would be favored by more than 3.5 so I could pick Detroit to cover in a close loss, but I guess I'll just have to jump on the Philly bandwagon for this week. Philadelphia 27 Detroit 21
John: I think this is finally game where the Eagles offensive firepower shows up. They will cut back on the turnovers and you'll see huge plays from QB Michael Vick connecting with WRs DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin. I also think RB LeSean McCoy will have a monster day and don't be surprised if he's the best back in fantasy football for at least this week. The Lions defense is awful. Even their DLine, which was supposed to be pretty good, has looked terrible. Their offense has issues too. Sorry Detroit. After your one good season last year it's back to a top ten draft pick for you. Eagles 37-17
Kansas City (1-4) at Tampa Bay (1-3) 1:00 PM
Bret: Will they even play this game in the Kansas City and Tampa Bay markets? I'm not sure if I would. I've seen Brady Quinn up close, and he is simply not good - poor decision making, poor mechanics. This will allow Tampa Bay to stuff the box and shut down the run even more than they usually do. It's going to be a long day for the Kansas City offense.
Similarly, tough match up for the Tampa Bay offense. The Kansas City defense has been moving closer to what I think they should be each week, and may be ready to jump to the next level here. Freeman has really been average this year and it's allowed defenses to focus on stopping the run. I don't see that changing this week (or in the immediate future) Love the under here. Tampa Bay 12 Kansas City 3
Mike: This game is setting up to be a solid win for the Buccaneers. They've had three tough, close losses to the Giants (Giants won after a 25 point fourth quarter), the Cowboys and the Redskins (Lost due to a last second game winning field goal by the Redskins), two coming on the road. Kansas City, despite their close loss to the Ravens last week, are still not a good team, and I don't think the introduction of Brady Quinn is going to change matters. The 4.5 point spread is a little high for a Bucs team that has had consistency issues putting up points, but I think I still like them to cover. Tampa 24 Kansas City 16
John: Fun stat. The Bucs are 1-13 in their last 14 games since they lost 10 in a row to end last season and they have started out this year at 1-3. The Chiefs are pretty bad, though, so I'll go with the home team coming off the bye in what should be the game I barely flip to during my Sunday NFL viewing. I think Bucs will run rookie RB Doug Martin quite a bit, find WR Vincent Jackson down the field and handle the Chiefs mediocre offense led by backup QB Brady "I can't believe I'm actually playing" Quinn. Buccaneers 23-14
Dallas (2-2) at Baltimore (4-1) 1:00 PM
Bret: Best game of the early part of the day. This is another game of strength vs. strength, but the rolls are reversed from what they usually are for these teams. It's Baltimore's offense vs. Dallas' defense.
Dallas's defense has impressed me every week I've seen them play - primarily how well they tackle up front and the ability of the corners to play in man coverage. I don't think Claiborne or Carr will have trouble covering the Baltimore wide outs. That leaves a battle of Ray Rice vs. Dallas linebackers. As much as I like the Dallas defense, I like Rice a little bit more and I think he'll have a big day (160 all purpose yards, 2 TDs).
The Baltimore defense continues to be unimpressive to me, I think they can be run and passed on - something most people refuse to believe possible - but they continue to seem a little soft to me. I think Dallas will definitely be able to move the ball - the deciding factor of this game will be Baltimore's ability to create turnovers. If Dallas hangs onto the ball, they win the game. If they don't, Baltimore wins.
In a game I consider mostly a coin flip, I'll give the win to Baltimore. Baltimore 27 Dallas 24
Mike: I'm picking the Ravens to win, but I just can't get over this feeling that the Cowboys are primed for the upset. The Ravens have been walking the tightrope the last four weeks, losing by one to Philly, winning by one against New England, winning by 7 against Cleveland and winning by 3 against Kansas City. That's a dangerous game to play, especially if you're trying to be taken seriously as an elite team. Meanwhile Dallas is coming off a bye week in which they had plenty of time to think about how badly they were beat by the Bears. If it was in Dallas I think I'd take the Cowboys, but I just can't quite get behind the Tony Romo train. Baltimore 28 Dallas 24
John: The Ravens have won 13 in a row at home, so that's the first stat that jumps out of me. However, I'm picking the Cowboys here because I think after coming off their bye they realize that they need more balance on offense. You can't keep putting Tony Romo in situations where he is playing from behind and he causes mistakes to happen. After the week off, I think the Cowboys will try to establish the run with DeMarco Murray early because Baltimore's rush D is ranked 20th in the league.
I think the Ravens will struggle throwing the ball. Dallas has the top pass defense in the league and the Ravens are not the kind of passing offense where they spread it around. They have Boldin and Smith outside, Pitta at TE and Rice out of the backfield. They're easy to cover if you have the right personnel, which the Cowboys have. If Baltimore establishes the run and Ray Rice has a 150 yard game then they will win. I don't see that happening though.
I'll pick the Cowboys. It will be a physical game that the Cowboys win because they will have more balance on offense and they have the personnel to slow down the Ravens when they need to. Romo took a lot of heat after the Bears loss on a Monday night. I think he comes back with a much better performance here. Cowboys 26-23
New England (3-2) at Seattle (3-2) 4:05 PM
Bret: This is a sneaky game for New England. I think their offense is awesome - in the most true sense of the word, as in I am in awe of them. But, it's a sandwich game between Manning and the Jets, on the road, and against the best defense in the league.
I don't think Russell Wilson can do much against the New England defense, and his mistakes and turnovers will cost Seattle the game eventually, but Seattle covers the 3 1/2 point spread. New England 20 Seattle 17
Mike: All this talk of Seattle's defense and the home field advantage has just made me very anti-Seahawks. Yes, their defense is good, yes Seattle is a tough place to play, but at the end of the day their offense is terrible and at some point you need to actually score points. They've averaged 14 points a game their last three games, and scoring points against the Packers and the Panthers is not exactly a difficult proposition.
I don't much care for their prospects against the Pats front seven. They are going to need a ton of help on special teams and defense to really make this a game, especially since the replacement refs will not be in Seattle this weekend. They might be able to keep it to single digits, but I don't think the Seahawks have any real chance of winning this game. New England 24 Seattle 13
John: This is the first of three NFC West teams at home in a late game. The record of NFC West teams at home this year? It's 10-0. Yes Seattle, your win in the "Fail Mary" game against the Packers counts in that. I think this will be a tough game for the Patriots. The Seahawks have a very physical defense and they cover the pass really well. Since the Patriots don't throw down field much, that plays into what Seattle wants to do. Keep everything short, make the tackles and maybe force Brady into a mistake or two due to the raucous crowd. In their two previous home games the Seahawks held the Cowboys to 7 points and the Packers to 12 points. Who's to say they can't do it against the Patriots too?
The key for Seattle will be establishing the run game with RB Marshawn Lynch and limiting the mistakes by QB Russell Wilson. If they can get 25 carries or more from Lynch then it will be a successful day for them. I think they win the game and prove once again that their home field advantage is the best in the league in terms of taking a team out of the game they want to play. Stay away from that damn Seattle fish, I guess. Seahawks 19-17
Buffalo (2-3) at Arizona (4-1) 4:05 PM
Bret: This is the perfect game for Buffalo. Arizona isn't talented, and they're waking up to that. They have no running game and no ability to protect the passer. Buffalo has a defensive line that should be pissed off at the beating they've taken in the national press this week (deservedly). The pounding for Kolb continues this week. Buffalo's defense scores a pick 6 on 3 INTs, the Buffalo running game pounds away for 35 carries and 160 yards. Buffalo gets back on track and Arizona slowly realizes just how bad they are. Buffalo 30 Arizona 13
Mike: What do we make of the Bills? Blown out the last two weeks, but against two of the top three teams in the NFL. Comfortable wins against Kansas City and Cleveland (Cleveland game wouldn't have been as close if Spiller hadn't been hurt I think). Are they a great team? Certainly not. But can't they still be a decent team? And what's Arizona going to do now without Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams? Again, we're talking about a similar situation with St. Louis in that they're having a tough time moving the ball at all on offense. With Spiller close to being back to 100% and Fred Jackson good to go, I just like Buffalo's offensive weapons more than I like what the Cards bring to the table. I'm taking the Bills in an upset here, and at the very least I like them to cover. Buffalo 17 Arizona 16
John: I really regret thinking the Bills will make the playoffs. That defense is awful. The good thing for them is that the Cardinals are down to their #3 RB William Powell, so how effective will their run game be? Luckily for Arizona they have an excellent defense. I don't think the Bills offense will have a very good game. Kevin Kolb won't get hit 400 times like he did against the Rams (number MAY be an exaggeration), so that should allow him to connect with Larry Fitzgerald down the field for some big plays. I like the Cardinals here. Cardinals 24-10
NY Giants (3-2) at San Francisco (4-1) 4:25 PM
Bret: This game won't be quite as close as everyone is expecting it to be. The last two weeks San Fran has hit another level, and honestly I think Kaepernick could take them even further than Smith can - I like everything I've seen from the few times he's played in the regular season and preseason.
It's a long way for New York to travel, and San Francisco is going to be fired up. I see the offensive line getting pushed around, Eli having a tough game, and the defense causing 2 or 3 turnovers. I know football outsiders has San Francisco 4th in DVOA, but my eyeballs have them first in bad ass. I really think they're like the Ravens of old, and simply aren't going to allow teams to move the ball in their house. San Francisco to win and cover. San Francisco 27 New York Giants 14
Mike: Big game here for both teams. The Giants are trying to find their place after beating up on lesser competition but falling in both of their divisional games so far this year. San Fran is coming in with a head full of steam after destroying the Jets and Bills, but you expect more of a challenge from the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Ultimately I think this game will come down to whether or not the Giants can have any success throwing the ball on the Niners defense. They have to be hoping that Hakeem Nicks will be healthy enough to play. Even though the Giants have been able to put up points with Nicks out, there's no denying that there is a difference between him and Ramses Barden or Reuben Randle. I think Nicks plays, and I think the Niners win a close one. San Francisco 20 New York Giants 17
John: It's a huge revenge game for the 49ers since they lost at home to the Giants in the NFC Title game. It was a very close game that the Giants won mainly thanks to fumbles by 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams. Turnovers make a difference, especially in the playoffs.
This year I think the 49ers are the better team. Their balance on offense is a big reason for their improvement on that side of the ball. They can run the ball with Frank Gore or they can throw with Alex Smith, who surprisingly is the league leader in passer rating thanks to a 69% completion percentage, 8 TDs and 1 INT. That offensive efficiency is amazing. Obviously we know they have a great defense and I don’t think the Giants have the personnel to match up with them.
It's going to be hard for the Giants to win with star WR Hakeem Nicks banged up. If he plays how effective will he be? If he doesn't play you know the Niners will focus their attention on Victor Cruz and if they can shut him down then who does Eli Manning go to? I don't think the run game will be that effective either. Maybe if Nicks was healthy I'd consider the Giants, but I can't do it. The Niners are just too deep, healthy and talented to lose this revenge game for them. 49ers 30-14
Minnesota (4-1) at Washington (2-3) 4:25 PM
Bret: Dangerous game for Minnesota here. Everything I look at tells me they should win the game, but Washington is the best team they're going to play until November, and these road games for teams trying to establish themselves can be tricky.
Washington's defense continues to outplay its talent - I believe they're 4th in overall defense - but that's more a function of who they've played than who they are themselves. Still, I think Minnesota will have trouble taking advantage of Washington's weakness down field. Without any deep threat Washington will be able to play close to the line and keep the Minnesota offense from doing much for most of the day, but I still suspect Peterson will manage to carry the team to a few long drives like he always does, and that'll be enough for them to score a couple of touchdowns.
If Washington is going to have any chance offensively, RGIII obviously has to play, but I worry for his health if he does. The reports about him not knowing the quarter or score seem pretty serious - I've suffered concussions in football games before, but never that bad - I can't believe he'll be feeling totally up to scrambling and juking and taking on linebackers this week - even if he does play - and a tentative RGIII is not a good RGIII. Alfred Morris and the running game will have to carry this team, and I trust AP to carry Minnesota more than I trust Morris. Minnesota 21 Washington 14
Mike: Didn't see a line here, I assume it's because Griffin isn't 100% to play, although everything I've seen would indicate that he is. I certainly didn't expect the Vikings to start out 4-1, although when you look at their schedule so far really only the Niners win is surprising. Close games against the Jags and Colts, good win over Tennessee and a solid effort against the Lions. If they lose that Niners game, they're looking at 3-2 which I'm not sure anyone would bat an eye at.
Christian Ponder continues to impress me, Adrian Peterson somehow looks like he never tore his ACL, and the defense keeps putting up strong numbers. But they're not world beaters. And I think they're set up for a bit of a fall on the road outside for the first time this season. I like what Washington has going on offense with a solid run game and Griffin creating problems with his legs, and I think they win this one. Washington 27 Minnesota 24
John: I'm done picking the Redskins until they prove they can stop somebody. I think losing their top defensive player, OLB Brian Orakpo, was a bigger blow than any of us thought because they have no pass rush without him on the field. If you have no pass rush against a team with a mobile QB like Christian Ponder, an elite RB like Adrian Peterson (makes the play action viable) and a lighting quick WR in Percy Harvin then I'm going with the other team. That's the Vikings in this case. I think Robert Griffin III will play despite last week's concussion and have a great game while doing. I'm predicting something of a shootout, which would be wonderful since I have Griffin, Peterson and Harvin in a fantasy league that Bret and Mike are also in. Score some points! Vikings 33-27
Green Bay (2-3) at Houston (5-0) 8:20 PM
Bret: Something is wrong with Green Bay, and everyone knows it. I honestly don't know how in the hell a team can take entire halves off like the Packers offensive line has. Either you're good or you're bad, you can't be both - they're in some sort of quantum state now. And that's not good enough to beat a well oiled Houston defense. The loss of Cushing is going to hurt, but I think they're still good enough to keep Green Bay from taking a quantum leap forward this week. (Hah! I crack myself up!)
Really this game will be more about Houston's ability to control the ball and control the clock. They'll continue to run the stretch play to perfection, amass yards and keep Rodgers off the field. For Green Bay to win this game Rodgers and the offensive line are going to have to have a perfect game. (Every turnover could cost them 7 minutes of possession) right now I don't trust Green Bay to do that. It'll be a close one, and maybe come down to a field goal or a failed comeback by Green Bay, but I'll take Houston. Houston 30 Green Bay 28
Mike: Oh Green Bay, you frustrate me so. I don't understand their offensive production so far. The quick slants, the screen passes, the dump offs to the running back, the short passes allowing the receivers to run with the ball, that's what I think of with the Packers, and it seems like they've gotten away from it. They're also not helping themselves on the deep plays either, Rodgers seems to be just a bit off this year when it comes to hitting those passes. And losing Cedric Benson for most of the season who looked to be plenty serviceable isn't going to help matters either.
Houston on the other hand has been flat out impressive. Their defense has looked strong, their running game hasn't lost a step from last season even though there was some skepticism because they lost a couple of offensive linemen, Owen Daniels is finally totally healthy and looking a little more like the tight end everyone expected him to be. However, there are a couple things going against them in this game. The first is the loss of Brian Cushing. He is huge for that team, and losing him is going to be a big blow, although they're fortunate they have JJ Watt to take the reigns. Second is the situation surrounding this game. Houston is 5-0, cruising along, everything's going fine. Green Bay is 2-3 and is very desperate for a win. There could be a problem where Green Bay just wants it more than Houston does. I don't buy this train of thought, however, and think Houston gets the win because they are just flat out the better team. Houston 31 Green Bay 24
John: I'm going Packers. It's one of those "gut feeling" picks because they're sitting there at 2-3 thinking if we lose this game we may miss the playoffs. It was a crazy thought six weeks ago, but that's how the NFL is. I still believe in them, though. They have too much talent to not make the playoffs and with that in mind I have to roll with them.
Are the Texans good? Yes they are. They can score (29.8 points per game) and stop teams (14.6 points against per game). When you win by an average of 15 points per game that's a very good sign. Their wins are not against good teams, though: Dolphins, Jaguars, Broncos, Titans and Jets. Of those, only the Broncos might make the playoffs while the other four are very unlikely. This is the Texans biggest test. They might be going into it with overconfidence, which is why I like the Packers.
The other reason I really like the Packers? Aaron Rodgers. I think he's the best player in the NFL. The problem is the running game sucks, the offensive line has issues and he's without top WR Greg Jennings. It's hard to prove you're the best when you have to deal with all that. I just have this feeling that Rodgers will show why he's the reigning MVP and will make sure his team leaves Houston with the victory by leading his team to a scoring drive in the final moments. This should be a great Sunday night battle. I'm looking forward to it. Packers 27-26
Denver (2-3) at San Diego (3-2) 8:30 PM (MON)
Bret: I'm scared of this game, and think it's the hardest one to pick this week. San Diego continues to underwhelm me on both sides of the ball. I just don't think they excel at anything, but playing at home at night against Denver (and Manning) is usually a recipe for success for San Diego.
Denver's offense continues to play at seemingly 60% capacity. The talent is right there, but drops and fumbles have been killing them. If they can keep their hands on the ball I think they can score with just about anyone - and San Diego is definitely susceptible to giving up points to a passing team like this, but at some point they're going to run out of games they can lose and chalk up to growing pains. This one is pretty important.
Luckily for Denver, guys like Bailey and Manning are smart enough to realize that and pull out the game they really need here if they're going to take control of the AFC West.
Denver's defense was built with this San Diego team in mind, and I expect the pass rush to come heavy in this one. Gruden is going to salivate over Von Miller for the entire second half, Rivers will give us his angry face, Denver gives up a few big plays, but mostly keeps San Diego in check. I'll take Denver to control the game and win by a touchdown. Denver 27 San Diego 20
Mike: Norv Turner on Monday night is always an enticing proposition! The Chargers were absolutely hosed at the end of that Saints game last week, but at the same time, you can't score your last points of the game with 12:27 left in the third quarter and expect to win. Denver, I don't think they're a great team necessarily, but I do think they're an above average team and they're quite capable of beating most teams in the league. I don't buy San Diego as a legit team, and Peyton Manning should be able to put up points on them just fine. Any time we're talking about a Norv-led team, I think big games like this one are just perfect situations for them to crawl into a hole and lose. Besides, both these teams seem destined for 8-8, and it would be that much more difficult to accomplish if Denver started 2-4 and San Diego 4-2. Denver 34 San Diego 27
John: I think last week the Chargers realized "hey Ryan Mathews can be an elite running back if we give him the ball in the right situation." They did. They lost the game, but he got 139 yards from scrimmage on just 18 touches. What puzzled me about the Chargers game last week is they ran the ball only 18 times even though their yards per rush was 6.5 yards per carry. That's a huge number. If you run the ball that well you should be running it 35 times per game. Of course they lost because Norv Turner is the head coach and he is a poor game caller as we all know over the years of betting against him.
Listen to me, Norv. Against Denver you should run. They are 21st in rushing defense giving up 121 yards per game and they have a good pass defense due to the pass rush. You need balance. Asking Phil Rivers to throw it 40 times is not the right move. Run the ball, keep Peyton Manning off the field and play a smart game. How is Norv Turner still a head coach if he can't see how obvious it is to call a game like that?
I'm going with the Chargers because I hope somebody that works for them is smart enough to tell their coach how to call a game properly. It wouldn't surprise me if they lost. It's football, though. Run the ball well and use that to open up the pass. It will ease the pressure on Rivers. The Broncos might score a bunch, but I think the Chargers will win at home. Chargers 31-26
The Degenerates Dungeon
This is where we give you some picks for our best bets of the week. Note that lines moves from the time we write this (Friday AM) to the time the games kickoff. We keep track of the odds and we'll use that to write down our records too.
Records so far:
Mike 15-10 (Last Week 3-2)
John 13-12 (3-2)
Bret 11-13-1 (2-2-1)
1. Oakland +9.5
A lot of points for a team coming off a bye.
2. Buffalo +4.5
I'd bet a money line of +200 if you can find it too.
3. NY Jets -3.5
I'd be a lot more confident if I could get a line to 3 at a reasonable price, but the Jets should take this one at home.
4. Kansas City/Tampa Bay Under 40
Assuming Brady Quinn plays Tampa may need to get to 40 by themselves.
5. San Francisco -6.5
Don't love this one, but as long as you can still get 6.5, that's a nice line to have.
Pittsburgh @ Tennessee Under 43.5 - Stupid blocked punt. I was really excited when the score was 20-16 and it seemed like neither offense was going to score another TD for the rest of the game.
New England -3.5 @ Seattle - Arizona caught the Patriots off guard. Seattle won't. New England knows exactly what it's getting into.
St. Louis @ Miami -4 - I'm hoping betting against St. Louis on the road can become a trend.
Kansas City @ Tampa Bay Over 40 - Seems like a pretty low number for two teams with average defenses. Trust in Brady Quinn. Actually wait, maybe that's not such a good idea.
Indianapolis @ New York Jets -3.5 - I just think this line is more a product of the teams' schedules and the Jets should win this one barring a total Sanchez meltdown. Which means they'll probably lose.
@ Eagles -3.5 over Lions - A one win team on the road to keep it close? No thanks.
@ Falcons -9.5 over Raiders - That number is not too high for me.
Browns/Bengals over 43.5 - I just think they can score on eachother.
Jets/Colts under 43.5 - Has a low scoring feel to it.
Chargers/Broncos over 49.5 - A big number. Feels like an AFC West shootout.
That's all from us for this week. Follow us on Twitter:
You can also email John Canton at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.