My top two choices in Week 5 were the Giants over the Browns – although I recommended possibly shifting off them if Hakeem Nicks sat (and he did) – and the 49ers over the Bills. Neither team had much trouble in its win, and San Francisco became the first club in NFL history to put up 300 yards passing and rushing in its blowout of Buffalo. Mark it down now: Chan Gailey will be the first head coach fired.
The only true upsets in Week 5 were: the Colts shocking the Packers 30-27 after trailing 21-3 at the half – Andrew Luck is clearly going to be a superstar; and the Dolphins winning 17-13 at Cincinnati. The Green Bay one is a bit surprising, but you shouldn’t have been picking a road team. And I don’t happen to think the Bengals are all that great so that wasn’t earth-shattering. Some might call the Rams beating the Cardinals an upset, but I don’t. I warned you that was a trap game with St. Louis having the home-field advantage in short turnaround week. I was a bit worried about the Ravens at Kansas City and Baltimore only escaped 9-6. At least the Ravens did what most Chiefs fans apparently were happy about (I’m sure you’ve seen Eric Winston’s diatribe): knocking out Matt Cassel.
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The NFL has to love the parity of 2012. Entering Week 6, according to a league release, 20 teams are in first place or within a game of first in their respective divisions, tied with 2005 and 2010 for the most through Week 5 since realignment in 2002. Only one game separates all four clubs in three divisions (AFC East, NFC East and NFC West), the most through Week 5 also since 2002.
For Week 6, the teams on a bye are Chicago, New Orleans, Carolina and Jacksonville. There are some definite dud matchups this week and really only one overwhelming favorite. Presumed favorites are listed first in games.
Atlanta vs. Oakland: The Falcons, I believe, would have lost last week if Washington QB Robert Griffin III hadn’t left the game with a concussion. My two concerns here are that Atlanta has had two close calls already at home and that the Raiders are coming off a bye. Plus, the majority of your league probably goes with the Falcons. But I can’t find a better option.
Philadelphia vs. Detroit: If you had to start an NFL team right now and I told you that you had to pick one quarterback-receiver combo in the league, wouldn’t you almost have to go Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson (talent and youth)? But the Lions’ offense doesn’t look right, and Detroit also can’t stop giving up special teams touchdowns. Detroit did have a bye last week to prepare and faces a must-win because it won’t be returning to the playoffs if it starts 1-4.
Arizona vs. Buffalo: I absolutely don’t believe in the Cardinals, especially now that they have also lost RB Ryan Williams for the season (Beanie Wells out until Week 12 at least). Plus, QB Kevin Kolb has been sacked 17 times in the past two games. If this game was in Buffalo, I’d stay away. But the Bills are just so bad right now I have trouble seeing them win another road game (they did win at Cleveland, but that doesn’t count).
Pittsburgh at Tennessee (Thursday): I’d almost be surprised if the Titans don’t pull the upset even though they have the worst defense in the NFL and worst point differential. Home teams are 3-1 in these quick turnaround Thursday games so far, and none of the four games have been crisply played (take the “under!”). The Steelers will be without Troy Polamalu and probably LaMarr Woodley. The Titans are again without Jake Locker. Yawn.
Baltimore vs. Dallas: I hate banking on Dallas in either direction because the Cowboys are totally schizophrenic. Who had them beating the Giants in the opener? Who had them getting blown out at home by Chicago last time out? The Cowboys had a bye to prepare here, so they might pull the upset.
New England at Seattle: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gets to face his former team for the first time, and Seattle is simply a tough play to place. Traveling cross-country rarely works out for coastal teams. And that Seattle defense played awesome when Green Bay visited.
San Francisco vs. NY Giants: The Niners would love some payback for the NFC Championship Game loss, and the G-Men have a similar travel predicament as New England. But this game is still too close to call to risk your survivor pool pick.
Washington vs. Minnesota: I have no earthly idea what to make of this game. I’m not a Vikings believer as it appears Christian Ponder is coming back to earth as he has had his two lowest-rated games of the season in the last two, yet the Vikes won. But the Skins supposedly will have Griffin III off that concussion.
Houston vs. Green Bay: Short week for Houston, which looked mortal in its Monday night win at the Jets. Plus, the Texans now have to deal without stud linebacker Brian Cushing after he was lost for the season. The Packers, meanwhile, might have lost running back Cedric Benson for the season. This could still be a Super Bowl preview, but only if Green Bay wins. At 2-3, the Pack certainly need it more.
San Diego vs. Denver: For what it’s worth, Peyton Manning is 1-5 in his past six meetings vs. the Chargers. But No. 18 has thrown six touchdown passes in his past two games this season and no picks in the past 15 quarters. The Chargers should win at home, but they also have yet to beat anyone of note so far this season.
Cincinnati at Cleveland: Presumably non-DirecTV viewers in the other 49 states will be spared this game. The Browns have lost three straight in this series but could have won them all. And they have to win once this year, right? This likely will be Cleveland’s best chance for a home win until Week 14 vs. Kansas City.
Miami vs. St. Louis: Don’t expect many points here between two of the NFL’s more inaccurate QBs in Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford (seriously, would Miami even trade Tannehill for Bradford right now?). Here’s guessing the Jets would take either one.
NY Jets vs. Indianapolis: Ah, the Jets. I really don’t know why Rex Ryan keeps putting Mark Sanchez out there. Over the last four games, Sanchez is 58-for-132 (44 percent) with only three touchdown passes and five interceptions. His rating hasn’t exceeded 66.6 (let the devil jokes begin) in a game since the fluke opener vs. Buffalo. If the Jets lose this one at home to a rookie quarterback, albeit a great one, it’s “Tebow Time”.
Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City: The Chiefs apparently will go with Brady Quinn this week as he gets what is likely his final shot to prove he can be a starter in the NFL. He’s facing the NFL’s worst pass defense. K.C. is lousy, but maybe this is addition by subtraction, and Quinn did play pretty well when Cassel was injured last week. Bucs had Week 5 off to prepare. No clue who wins this one and really don’t care.
I generally hate taking teams I know everyone else will – it bit me in Week 2 when New England lost to Arizona. But I trust the Falcons more than the Eagles or Cards in their home matchups.
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