Division Races Heat Up Early
Some Teams Still Searching for Answers
It's finally feeling like fall in New England. The Red Sox are playing in temperatures in the mid-40s and the Patriots will being playing in 80-plus degree weather in Dallas.
There are a few interesting games on tap this weekend. Of course, the biggie is the fifth matchup ever between undefeated teams with at least five wins. The other undefeated team is off this week.
Otherwise, we have 3-2 Houston visiting 3-1 Jacksonville as the AFC North heats up. The other second place team in that division, 3-1 Tennessee is at 3-2 Tampa Bay.
Also, there's a battle for the division lead in the AFC West between .500 Oakland (2-2) and .400 San Diego (2-3). Meanwhile, 2-3 Kansas City hosts 1-3 Cincinnati.
There's also an NFC matchup of one-loss teams: Washington (3-1) at Green Bay (4-1).
Enjoy the games. Here are the picks:
Minnesota (1-3) at Chicago (2-3), 1 p.m.
Chicago got by previously undefeated and apparently indifferent Green Bay, while Minnesota had the week off. Minnesota is actually outscoring their opponents. Minnesota also leads the league in rushing defense, and that means Chicago may need to rely on Brian Griese, which might be OK, because Minnesota also sports one of the worst pass defenses. Still not sure if Chicago is putting it together.
Prediction: Bears, 17-14.
Miami (0-5) at Cleveland (2-3), 1 p.m.
The team that passed on Brady Quinn against the team that traded up to draft him, yet has him riding the pine. Cleo Lemon will start for Miami. Most likely he'll spend most of his time handing the ball to Ronnie Brown. Then again, Cleveland has allowed a league-high 15 passing touchdowns. Cleveland also has a top-10 passing attack, and Miami's defense has not been as fearsome as past seasons, allowing an unbelievable 174 rushing yards per game. Cleveland's Jamal Lewis and Joe Jurevicius are listed as questionable, but there's no question they'd love to hit their bye week at .500.
Prediction: Browns, 26-10.
Washington (3-1) at Green Bay (4-1), 1 p.m.
Green Bay is off next week, so they should be looking to prove that last week's second half was an aberration and go into the bye with momentum. Washington, coming off their bye, pummeled another NFC North team with a winning record last week (Detroit, 34-3). Not sure what has led to Brett Favre's resurgence, but Washington has been playing the pass pretty well. Washington should have an edge running the ball. The tundra will be merely cool (mid 50s) and wet, making it not tundra.
Prediction: Packers, 24-20.
Houston (3-2) at Jacksonville (3-1), 1 p.m.
Jacksonville has had two weeks to prepare, and if they want to win they will need to have found a passing game. Houston has a pretty good run defense, and the Jags won't be able to pound it up the middle all game long. Houston squeaked by Miami at home. Houston has been shaky after a fast start, and they'll have their hands full with Jacksonville's defense. Both teams have division games next week, too.
Prediction: Jaguars, 13-10.
Cincinnati (1-3) at Kansas City (2-3), 1 p.m.
Normally I like defense over offense, but I'm not really sure K.C. has either. I know Cincy has an offense. On the other hand, no one likes traveling to Arrowhead. Then again, I'm not sure how much home field means to a team with a losing record. Of course, Cincinnati is 0-2 on the road. Kansas City should finally be able to run the ball. Maybe
Prediction: Bengals, 21-17.
Philadelphia (1-3) at N.Y. Jets (1-4), 1 p.m.
"Mangenius." What a joke. Philly was off last week, so they should be prepared. New Jersey lost to .. um .. New Jersey. Of course, the Eagles last game was a loss to -- New Jersey (the one that beat New Jersey last week). Even so, Donovan McNabb should have a field day.
Prediction: Eagles, 28-14.
Tennessee (3-1) at Tampa Bay (3-2), 1 p.m.
Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z moved Indianapolis ahead of New England in his power rankings because Indy beat division-leader Tampa Bay. Tampa is almost out of running backs, and Jeff Garcia probably won't be able to carry the team alone against Tennessee, who is trying to keep pace with idle Indy.
Prediction: Titans, 23-14.
Carolina (3-2) at Arizona (3-2), 4:05 p.m.
Carolina is pretty much out of quarterbacks. Not sure how much success you're going to have with a guy (Vinny Testaverde, if he plays) who hasn't even seen your offense this year. Arizona, quite obviously, is the surprise team of the year. They lost their first two games to division opponents by 3 points apiece, and then beat a pair of possibly playoff contenders fom the AFC North, and then held on against their third division opponent. Carolina is 3-0 on the road.
Prediction: Cardinals, 17-7.
Oakland (2-2) at San Diego (2-3), 4:15 p.m.
Believe it or not, this is a battle for first place in the AFC West. Oakland's good news: San Diego has a terrible pass defense. The bad news: Oakland's passing offense. On the other hand, Oakland leads the league in rushing offense. San Diego is off next week and needs to head into the bye with a .500 record. They may have found themselves last week, destroying Denver. If they haven't, Norv Turner may want to start looking a property in Nunavut.
Prediction: Chargers, 31-13.
New Orleans (0-4) at Seattle (3-2), 8:15 p.m.
We started Sunday with a winless team on the road against a 3-2 team; we finish it the same way. Seattle's two starting receivers are out. This may be New Orleans's best chance to get in the win column. For some reason, Deuce McAllister is still listed as the Saints starting running back in their depth chart on NFL.com. Still, "any given Sunday," blah, blah, blah.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-14.
Monday, Oct. 15
N.Y. Giants (3-2) at Atlanta (1-4), 8:30 p.m.
New Jersey has won three straight. Atlanta is not good. The stats say this game should be pretty even. The Giants have a couple key injuries in running back Derrick Ward and receiver Plaxico Burress, both listed as questionable. Atlanta has several injuries. The Falcons play better at home, but the Giants are just playing better right now.
Prediction: Giants, 30-17.
Last week: 12 - 2 (.857).
Season: 54 - 30 (.643).
After going 14-0 in Week 5 last year (Week 5 has been very, very good to me), I was 49-25 (.662).