Two Undefeated Teams Left
Four Winless Ones Too
Turns out that I was not deceived at all.
With only two road teams winning in Week 5; and I, spending more than a couple minutes per game analyzing, went 14-0. Not sure I've ever done that before.
But I'm not going to brag, as though I were Ray Lewis. After all, I was 8-6 in the previous back-to-back weeks, and this sport has a way of imposing humility. One week at a time. It is what it is. And all that.
Here's a quick look at what happened.
Sunday, Oct. 8
Buffalo (2-2) at Chicago (4-0), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Bears, 31-14.
Result: Bears, 40-7.
Hmmmm. You know, maybe these guys are for real. Certainly, before the season, I thought Chicago would win because Buffalo stinks. But the Bills have been playing fairly well, all things considered. I still have a hard time believing Rex Grossman is that good. But a lot of people had a hard time thinking Tom Brady is that good. We get a close look at him here Thanksgiving weekend, but I'd really like to see him play before then.
Cleveland (1-3) at Carolina (2-2), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Panthers, 28-7.
Result: Panthers, 20-12.
Julius Peppers had a monster game, and the Carolina defense played the way they're capable. If they had done that more often last year, they may have made it back to the BigOne. Yeah, I know it's "just Cleveland," but after a 2-2 start, this could be a good confidence builder. Now if only the offense can do something.
Detroit (0-4) at Minnesota (2-2), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Vikings, 35-16.
Result: Vikings, 26-17.
Minnesota's win keeps them an uncomfortable two games behind Chicago for the division. Wild cards are not easy to come by. Don't expect two teams from this division to make the playoffs. I wouldn't count on Minnesota's defense to bail them out of too many games, unless they're playing no one but Detroit for the rest of the season. Two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter? Ya, I like what Mike Martz is doing with the Lions offense.
Miami (1-3) at New England (3-1), 1 p.m.
Please see separately posted game preview.
Prediction: Patriots, 31-13.
Result: Patriots, 20-10.
Miami always plays New England tough. The late-season rematch down south might pose even a tougher problem for New England if they don't improve, and especially if Miami does.
St. Louis (3-1) at Green Bay (1-3), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Rams, 34-14.
Result: Rams, 23-20.
The Greatest Show on Turf held to 326 yards, 209 passing. Geez, Kurt Warner used to get that in the first half. This is not the Willie Wonka Mike Martz Kurt Warner Rams anymore. These guys win by playing offense and defense. I'd say, "Ya, but it's only Green Bay," except that St. Louis is now 4-1. "Ya, but it's only Green Bay, Detroit and Arizona; and Denver, but that was Week 1. And they lost to San Fran." Well, if they beat Seattle this week, it will make the division more interesting.
Tampa Bay (0-3) at New Orleans (3-1), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Saints, 27-13.
Result: Saints, 24-21.
That should have been a much easier win at home. A fourth quarter punt return for a touchdown counts for a win (and a win's a win), but it should make you wonder why you were down by 4 with four minutes left to play. Drew Brees didn't have a great game, so you can grin and bear it this time. Tampa, meanwhile, has already had its bye week, and now has Cincinnati, Philadelphia and the New York Giants before facing New Orleans again. Fortunately, only the Giants game is on the road. Barring a minor miracle, the season's over.
Tennessee (0-4) at Indianapolis (4-0), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Colts, 56-6.
Result: Colts, 14-13.
Wow. Come-from-behind wins over the New York Jets and Tennessee? Indy is a lucky 5-0, to say the least. Tony Dungy better figure out something quick, because after next week's bye, they're home against Washington's Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, at Denver for Mike and Tatum Bell, and then here for Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney. Last I checked, they could all run. Meanwhile, Jeff Fisher should have someone proofing his resume. And it's only going to get worse. I don't even want to tell you what their schedule looks like through November.
Washington (2-2) at N.Y. Giants (1-2), 1 p.m.
Prediction: Giants, 24-20.
Result: Giants, 19-3.
Don't count out the Giants just yet. The defense finally showed up. If the offense can actually start generating points, they'll be in business. We'll know in two weeks after they travel to both Atlanta and Dallas. Washington would probably be OK in the NFC North or South. But they're not. Mark Brunell looked great against Houston, didn't he?
Kansas City (1-2) at Arizona (1-3), 4:05 p.m.
Prediction: Chiefs, 27-24.
Result: Chiefs, 23-20.
Dennis Green. He kills me. Can anyone give me three good reasons to switch from Kurt Warner to Matt Leinart when the passing game really isn't the problem? That's three good reasons. So much for Arizona being the surprise team of the year. Again. Kansas City will probably be happy to have Trent Green back, but Damon Huard has done prett y well. They're another team whose schedule gets real tough real quick. Watch the injury report to see if Larry Johnson is on it.
N.Y. Jets (2-2) at Jacksonville (2-2), 4:05 p.m.
Prediction: Jaguars, 21-20.
Result: Jaguars, 41-0.
Only 489 yards combined? I figured Jacksonville would have had more than that themselves. Who can figure the Jets? Of course, four turnovers and a blocked punt don't help. The Jets should be one of those bure 8-8 teams last loses to the better teams and beats the worse ones with no surprises. Jacksonville looks like a contender again. Maybe. Can't really figure them either. Byron Leftwich didn't look particularly strong, and I don't know that they can go far that way. They're not the Baltimore Ravens of several years ago.
Oakland (0-3) at San Francisco (1-3), 4:05 p.m.
Prediction: 49ers, 23-10.
Result: 49ers, 34-20.
San Fran gets their next win in five weeks at Detroit. Oakland gets theirs in 2008.
Dallas (2-1) at Philadelphia (3-1), 4:15 p.m.
Prediction: Eagles, 28-24.
Result: Eagles, 38-24.
As Drew Bledsoe slowed down at the 50 while giving up on chasing Lito Sheppard, you just knew he was thinking, "I can't believe I did that again!"Neither can we, Drew. Yet, somehow, we also fully expected it. Other than that, it was a boring game, huh? Really, Dallas would probably be pretty good without the head case and the cement head. I didn't quite understand why so many people thought Philly would be worse this year than last. I picked them third only because I thought New York and Dallas were that much better it what I thought was clearly the best division in the NFL. They're certainly better without the head case. Donovan McNabb still needs to prove he can do it in the playoffs, but he went a long way in showing he can play under pressure and win big games.
Pittsburgh (1-2) at San Diego (2-1), 8:15 p.m.
Prediction: Chargers, 23-20.
Result: Chargers, 23-13.
Ben Bledsoe ... I mean, Roethlisberger ... I'm sorry. That's not a fair comparison. Roethlisberger will never throw for 30,000 yards as fast as Bledsoe. But he'll make a run at number of late game-on-the-line interceptions. I was surprised San Diego threw so much, instead of trying to rely on their ground game. Was that just Marty Schottenheimer trying to show that he's more than a one-trick pony? Philip Rivers was sharp, and San Diego was 9 of 16 on third down, while Pittsburgh had just 9 third downs and succeeded on just 3 of them. By the way, that makes Charlie Batch 1-0 and Roethlisberger 0-3. Just saying.
Monday, Oct. 9
Baltimore (4-0) at Denver (2-1), 8:30 p.m.
Prediction: Broncos, 27-17.
Result: Broncos. 13-3.
Weather and defense kept the score way down. Apparently, it also make Steve McNair lose him mind. I wonder if the Ravens, like the Dolphins, are contemplating their preseason thoughts of how their great free agent pickup savior at quarterback is going to complete the puzzle? And didn't you love the way Tatum Bell dragged Ray Lewis for 5 yards on that third down run that set up the killing touchdown? Hard to imagine, but the Broncos were actually the Good Guys in this one. Denver has a couple easy games before they face Indy. That should be a great game considering Denver's defense and Indy's lack of a rushing defense. Baltimore has a few tough ones, and they could go from 4-0 to 4-3 in a hurry.
Incidentally, after the game, the ESPN "analysts" discussed their AFC power rankings. (I heard this on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan.) Michael Irvin had New England at No. 5 and Baltimore at No. 4. He did not have Denver in the top 5. When it was pointed out that New England and Baltimore have only one loss each, and both came at the hands of Denver, who is 4-1, Irvin didn't bother to explain why they weren't in his top 5. Maybe the rankings were a friend's or his brother's.
Week 5 Byes: Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, Seattle