I went 11-3 in week four, improving my overall record to 24-6 through the two weeks that I’ve been doing this. Hopefully it’s not just beginners luck, although time will tell I guess!
Here are my picks for Week Five:
Cincinnati (3-1) @ Baltimore (3-1)
My pick: Cincinnati
-The Bengals have been playing exciting football so far this year, unless you're a Bengals fan, in which case you've been on the verge of a heart attack now for about a month. Look for that to continue - the Baltimore Ravens hold an edge on the offensive side of the ball but they suffered their first loss of the season last week, showing that they can be beat. Bengals QB Carson Palmer has truly returned to form (at least so far) this season, and he has more passing yards against Baltimore than any other team in the league.
Cleveland (0-4) @ Buffalo (1-3)
My pick: Buffalo
-I'm pretty sure I said this last week, but it's only a matter of time before Terrell Owens has a big game and shakes out of this offensive drought he's been in since his arrival in Buffalo. Eight catches for 158 yards just doesn't sound like TO, does it? He'll be going up against the 21st-ranked pass defense in the league, so this could be the game. The Browns will be reeling after an OT loss last week, but the Bills have also got something to prove. For Buffalo to win, quarterback Trent Edwards has to get his act together and complete more than 56% of his passes though.
Washington (2-2) @ Carolina (0-3)
My pick: Washington
-The Washington Redskins will be facing a rested Carolina Panthers team, but look for Clinton Portis to take control of this one. The Redskins need a better performance from quarterback Jason Campbell, who rallied from a rough start last week to lead his club to victory. The Panthers haven't been able to control games on the ground like they did in 2008 and Jake Delhomme is struggling big time this season - he's the NFC's lowest rated starting QB through four weeks.
Pittsburgh (2-2) @ Detroit (1-3)
My pick: Pittsburgh
-Regardless of what happens in the first three quarters, it’ll be interesting to see how the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the final frame, as that’s been their weak point all season long. Pittsburgh blew leads in week two and three and almost squandered a 28-0 lead last week against the Chargers, so look for them to try and regain that killer instinct (finally). Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns last week, look for him to build on that performance if he’s starting for Willie Parker again.
Dallas (2-2) Kansas City (0-4)
My pick: Dallas
-The Cowboys are a far superior offensive team taking on a team looking for its first win of the season – and Tony Romo should be able to feast on KC’s 28th ranked pass defense. He’ll be looking to get his completion percentage up after a disappointing effort in a week four loss. Chief’s pivot Matt Cassel needs to play better if his club has any chance this week.
Oakland (1-3) @ NY Giants (4-0)
My pick: New York
-Even with Eli Manning questionable for this one, I like the Giants chances of remaining undefeated against a hapless Raiders team with a defense that’s allowing almost 360 yards per game so far. JaMarcus Russell has thrown just one touchdown pass in his first four games, while Manning and the Giants are thriving both in the air and on the ground.
Tampa Bay (0-4) @ Philadelphia (2-1)
My pick: Philadelphia
-The Eagles will get a boost from the likely return of Donovan McNabb and will be a well-rested group coming off their bye week. It’ll be interesting to see how Philly uses Michael Vick in this one – he hasn’t really made an impact yet since returning to competition. The Eagles are averaging almost 400 offensive yards per game, while giving up about 260 – I suspect that’ll be enough to dump the Bucs.
Minnesota (4-0) @ St. Louis (0-4)
My pick: Minnesota
-It’s hard to bet against Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings when they’re playing as well as they are – especially when they’re up against a winless team like St. Louis. Speaking of Peterson, his production has slowed in the past two weeks, but he’ll be up against a low-ranked run defense, which bodes well for 2008’s top rusher. On the other hand, this could be a big letdown for a Vikings team that should remain undefeated…
Atlanta (2-1) @ San Francisco (3-1)
My pick: San Francisco
-The 49ers are coming off a shutout of the lowly St. Louis Rams that was as impressive offensively as it was on the d-side of the ball. San Fran’s sixth-ranked defense will have to shut down the likes of Michael Turner, who is awaiting his breakout game this season, but if they can do that, they’ve got this one in the bag. The Niners will need Vernon Davis to be at his best though if they want to come away with a victory.
Houston (2-2) @ Arizona (1-2)
My pick: Arizona
-Coming off a bye week, look for the Arizona Cardinals to come out swinging against an inconsistent Texans club that’s coming off a big win over the Raiders. Statistically these two teams are pretty even, with the exception of Arizona giving up an average of 80 more passing yards per game than Houston, and Houston giving up an average of 80 more rushing yards than Arizona so far this season. I think a rested Cardinals team will outlast the Texans.
New England (3-1) @ Denver (4-0)
My pick: New England
-Can the Tom Brady and the Patriots knock off an undefeated team two weeks in a row? Wes Welker will be back in the lineup, freeing up Randy Moss and giving Brady a serious threat downfield on every play. This could be the difference for the Pats, who have looked human on a few occasions this season. The Broncos are averaging a lot more rushing yards than New England is, but the Pats rush defense is a respectable 11th in the league. Give this one to New England.
Jacksonville (2-2) @ Seattle (1-3)
My pick: Jacksonville
-Even with Matt Hasselbeck’s return imminent, look for Seattle’s three game losing skid to continue. Their defense has been roughed up in the past two weeks, and while Jacksonville’s D is nothing to write home about their offense is capable of carrying them through this one. Look for Maurice Jones-Drew to try and have a breakthrough game on the ground against a Seattle team that’s allowing 124 rushing yards per game, on average.
Indianapolis (4-0) @ Tennessee (0-4)
My pick: Indianapolis
-The Tennessee Titans need a win soon to turn things around in a nightmare season that began with Super Bowl aspirations – too bad they’ve got Peyton Manning and the undefeated Colts storming their barn this week. As good as the elder Manning has been in his career so far, he’s putting up career numbers this year, which is bad news if you’ve got the league’s worst pass defense (which the Titans do). It might not be an easy win, but it’ll be a win nonetheless for the Colts.
NY Jets (3-1) @ Miami (1-3)
My pick: New York
-Mark Sanchez finally looked like a rookie last week, turning the ball over four times in a loss to the NFC South powerhouse New Orleans Saints, but look for him to bounce back this week with a strong performance. After all, we’ve all heard over and over again about how much “poise” he has. Miami is coming off a big win, but will be relying once again on a rookie of their own, Chad Henne, and I don’t like their chances.