Sunday, October 07, 2007

NFL Week 5 Games to Watch

While the Pats have a bye (well, they play the Browns at home), Tampa Bay will have its 3-1 record tested by Coach Dungy & the Colts

Sorry I've been gone for a bit again (I know, I promised I wouldn't do that anymore), but the 1-2 combination of a new job and coaching my son's little League team has left me precious little time for my beloved blogging.

Throw in the fact that I still have to track the Sox as the proceed in the MLB playoffs for my other blog, and you can see how it can be a little tough to keep up with this particular site.

Anyway, I'll quit with the excuses and get to the previews. As we enter Week 5 of the NFL schedule, there are a number of surprises throughout the league, namely the fact that the Saints (0-3), Bears (1-3), Chargers (1-3) and Rams (0-4) have been HUGE disappointments, while the Packers (4-0), Lions (3-1), Steelers (3-1) and Bucs have been major overachievers, making for a league rife with parity and giving more credence to the term "on any given Sunday..."

The teams that are not surprising anybody continue to be the Pats and Colts, both sitting pretty at 4-0, exactly where every expert expected them to be before the season began.

New England has been absolutely dominant, averaging 37PPG while holding its opponents to a meager 12PPG as the defense has been stifling and Tom Brady continues to utilize his new BFF, Randy Moss, like a kid who just got a Nintendo Wii for his birthday.

The rejuvenated Moss has torched the rest of the #1 receivers in the league to the tune of 505 yards (1st in NFL) and 7 TDs (1st) on 31 receptions (4th), a 16.3 YPC average that doesn't even begin to tell the story of the grace, style and effortlessness with which he makes most of those catches.

While New England should have no trouble dispatching with the upstart Browns (2-2), the Bucs will have their hands full with former coach Tony Dungy's Champion Colts.

That game is just one of five games to watch this week, although I'm not sure how much of the Browns game New Englanders are going to catch with the Sox going for a series sweep against the Angles in the ALDS this afternoon at 3:00.

1. Buccaneers (3-1) at Colts (4-0)
Jon Gruden has not only laid to rest the talk of a possible coaching change after this season by getting his upstart Bucs right in the thick of the playoff mix in the lackluster NFC.

Behind a revitalized defense that is leading the conference in yards allowed per game (291.8), points allowed (44), and bone-jarring hits, and on offense that is finally capable of putting the ball in the end zone with veteran mercenary QB Jeff Garcia at the helm, the Bucs find themselves tied for the second best record in the NFC at the quarter pole one year after finishing with a miserable 4-12 mark.

But this game will be a true test of where the Bucs are at against strong competition. So far Tampa Bay has beaten three teams that are a combined 2-9, and a trip to the RCA Dome isn't exactly a place you want to test your young defensive and offensive players.

Peyton Manning and Co. have barley missed a beat after winning the title despite losing several key players to injury and free agency, and much like the Pats as long as they have Mr. Madison Avenue and mild-mannered genius Dungy they will be able to overcome most NFL obstacles.

Still this match up of the recent Super Bowl champs, laced with the subplot that everyone believes Gruden won his title with Dungy's players in his first season in Tampa lingering in the Dome like fireworks smoke, should make for an intense early season match up, with the deciding factor possible coming in the running game, as Tampa Bay lost starting RB Cadillac Williams last week for the season to a knee injury, a devastating blow to a unit that was averaging 137 YPG, good for 8th in the NFL, one spot below the Colts.
MY PICK: Indy 28, Bucs 24

2.) Browns (2-2) at Pats (4-0)
The only thing mildly interesting about this match up is the return of former defensive coordinator and current Brons head coach Romeo Crennel to New England for the first time since he left the organization for the browner pastures of C-Town three years ago.

Crennel has avoided the hot seat this season by guiding the Browns to a surprising 2-2 start, despite the distractions of signing #1 draft pick QB Brady Quinn just days before the regular season began, and then trading incumbent starter Charlie Frye after Week 2.

Backup-turned-starter Derek Anderson has made the denizens of the Dawg Pound stop clamoring for pretty boy Brady to take the helm of the floundering franchise by leading his team to a 51-45 upset of the cross-state Bengals, and after a loss to Oakland, an impressive 27-13 victory over the hated Ravens, using former Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis as a battering ram against the vaunted Ravens defense.

None of that will matter today. New England is locked and loaded, and you can bet the farm they're not about to fall victim to the upset bug that has been plaguing contending teams throughout the NFL and college landscape this season. The pats will win and win big, and they'll be up by so many points before the start of the Sox game that everyone will be able to tune out in time to catch the opening pitch.
MY PICK: Pats 45, Browns 13

3.) San Diego (1-3) at Denver (2-2)
The reeling Chargers take their sorry sideshow of a squad into the Mile High city fresh of the embarrassing home loss to the mediocre Chiefs, but with the Broncos having trouble living up to their own preseason Super Bowl expectations and learning they may be without the services of starting running back Travis Henry for a drug suspension, this game should be up for grabs.

Which disappointing team will want it more is what this one comes down to, and something tells me the wounded pride of guys like Phillip cry me a Rivers, LaDainian Crybaby Tomlinson and Shawne Merriroid will be enough of a motivator to overcome the offensively inept Jay Cutler and the Broncos. whose two wins have come via last-second field goals.
MY PICK: Chargers 27, Broncos 17

4.) Bears (1-3) at Packers (4-0)
The Bears have gone from cream of the NFC to the bottom of the barrel in just a matter of months, but it's not the anemic offense that is totally to blame for the sudden decline. The top-rated defense of a year ago has sunk to unfathomable depths, allowing a staggering 34 4th-quarter points in a 37-14 loss to the Lions last week, that coming on the heels of a 34-10 shellacking at home by the Cowboys the week before.

The Packers, meanwhile, have been the Saints of the 2007 season, riding the rejuvenated arm of record-setting quarterback Brett Favre to its best start in a decade and playing with the poise and confidence of a team with a veteran leader and a bunch of guys who have no business being one of only four undefeated teams in the league but don't know any better.

This ancient rivalry could take an ugly turn today, as the pack express looks to steamroll the stumbling Bears out of the NFC playoff picture in early October.
MY PICK: Packers 31, Bears 19

5.) Dallas (4-0) at Buffalo (1-3)
The Cowboys look to extend their season-opening streak of scoring at least 34 points in every game when they travel to rowdy Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first Monday Night game in Buffalo since Buffalo Bill was a star vehicle for Dabney Coleman.

With former franchise savior JP Losman relegated to spectator due to injuries and ineffectiveness, Buffalo will look to young QB Trent Edwards to lead the way. the rookie signal caller out of Stanford might be motivated by his alma mater's stunning upset of USC Saturday night, but that won't help his defense stop Tony Romo, running back Marion Barber, T.O. and the rest of the Dallas offensive juggernaut.

This one could be interesting--for a half--but much like Dallas' win at Chicago two weeks ago, look for the 'Boys to salt this one away in the second half and win easily.
MY PICK: Cowboys 41, Bills 24

That's the latest from the blogosphere, and I promise I will try to get back here before Halloween rolls around.

Go Sox!