by Robert Ferringo - 10/06/2005
Even the oddsmakers don't know what the hell is going on in the National Football League. This week, 11 of the 14 lines started at either 3 or 3.5 points. That's the token line that bookies throw out to the home team, and it tells me that they're feeling a bit uncertain about this week's slate.
Seattle (2-2) at St. Louis (2-2), 1 p.m. on Sunday
St. Louis has the mental edge in this series and has taken nine of the last 13 meetings. In 2004 the Rams posted a 3-0 sweep, with two wins coming in Seattle. This week St. Louis fans have been calling for the head of Mike Martz, whose heart infection is still troubling him. However, Martz is 26-10 against divisional foes and 27-6 at home since 2001.
Seattle has lost both of its games by six points or less, but continues to struggle outside the Pacific Northwest. Look for a big game from Shaun Alexander. He has averaged 150 rushing yards in three games last year.
Philadelphia (3-1) at Dallas (2-2), 4 p.m. on Sunday
Philadelphia is coming off an emotional win and looking to continue its dominance against the Cowboys. The Eagles have won nine of the last ten meetings by an average of 22 points. Andy Reid is 10-2 versus Dallas, with the average score as 28-12.
The Cowboys let another opportunity for a win slip through their hands in Oakland last Sunday, and are in danger of falling even further off the pace in the NFC East. Drew Bledsoe is 8-3 in his last 11 games with 16 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and has the best third-down rating in the NFL (120.6).
Washington (3-0) at Denver (3-1), 4 p.m. on Sunday
Clinton Portis is returning to face the team that traded him just prior to the 2004 season. In 27 career games versus AFC opponents he's averaging 97 yards a game and has scored 29 touchdowns. The Redskins have held opponents under 18 points in nine straight games, and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in eight straight contests.
Last week the Broncos yielded just 12 rushing yards to Jacksonville, and that old Browns D-line has dominated at times in 2005. Mike Shanahan is 16-4 against the NFC at Mile High. In 16 games at home, Jake Plummer has a 94.8 rating with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Pittsburgh (2-1) at San Diego (2-2), 9 p.m. on Monday
Pittsburgh will be well-rested and quite ornery when they head out to San Diego. They've had 15 days to stew over their late collapse against the same New England team that the Chargers just throttled. Since 1995, Pittsburgh has been the league's best October team (29-10).
San Diego's offense has been clicking on all cylinders the past few weeks, putting up over 40 points in each game. LaDainian Tomlinson has been a huge reason for that. He is second in the NFL in scoring with 48 points.
Oh, and the Chargers will be in the Powder Blues on MNF.
And here are my Week 5 Power Rankings:
1) Indianapolis (3-0) - The Colts defense has fifteen sacks - all from lineman. Not having to blitz to get pressure has been the key to the defense's success.
2) Pittsburgh (2-1) - Willie Parker will start, but Duce Staley is healthy and Jerome Bettis will suit up.
3) Philadelphia (3-1) - Under Andy Reid the Eagles are 37-3 when they win the time-of-possession battle.
4) Atlanta (3-1) - They're averaging 206 rush yards per game. No team has averaged 200+ since the Bears in 1977.
5)Cincinnati (4-0) - Carson Palmer is now completing an absurd 72 percent of his passes.
6) Denver (3-1) - They've done this each of the last two seasons: look great early, tank it late.
7) Tampa Bay (4-0) - Cadillac Williams never stayed healthy in college, so why would anyone expect him to stay healthy in the pros?
8) New England (2-2) - Yes they're beat up, but they're still the best team in a tattered division.
9) Washington (3-0) - Mark Brunell leads the NFL in fourth-quarter quarterback rating (101.3).
10) Carolina (2-2) - This trip out to Arizona is a trap game. The Panthers better be wary.
11) Jacksonville (2-2) - They need this game Sunday night a lot worse than Cincinnati does.
12) San Diego (2-2) - The Chargers have converted 12 of 15 red-zone possessions (80 percent) into touchdowns.
13) Seattle (2-2) - Their two road losses came to good teams (a combined 5-2) by a total of nine points. But they're still road losses.
14) Kansas City (2-2) - The Chiefs gave up 37 points to Philly, but yielded only one drive of over 50 yards. So no, they're not as bad as last year's D.
15) New York Giants (2-2) - Wow. Do these guys look unstoppable on offense or what?
16) Dallas (2-2) - I would be really worried about the Dallas secondary if I were a Cowboy. In each of their last three games they've given up a pass play of over 70 yards.
17) Miami (2-1) - My friend Rich told me that the Fins would compete for the playoffs this year, and I laughed in his face. Maybe he'll laugh last.
18) Chicago (1-2) - Lovie Smith is shaking up the secondary - again. He moved Jerry Azumah to nickel back and inserted Nathan Vasher as the starter.
19) Baltimore (1-2) - The Ravens defense hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown yet in '05.
20) St. Louis (2-2) - Since 2001 the Rams have committed 179 turnovers in less than 70 games.
21) Detroit (1-2) - They've already had a tumultuous year and it's only been four weeks. A home win against a good Baltimore team could get them back on track.
22) New Orleans (2-2) - It was nice to see Donte Stallworth step up in Joe Horn's absence. Maybe he's maturing.
23) Oakland (1-3) - Eight teams have started 1-3 and made the playoffs since 2000. But the Raiders have to stop trying to give away games if they want to make it nine.
24) Buffalo (1-3) - The Bills have scored just three total points in the fourth quarter of their four games.
25) New York Jets (1-3) - Last year they could get by without consistent QB play because Curtis Martin was playing out of his head. Now his age is showing.
26) Cleveland (1-2) - Even with Rueben Droughns as the feature back they still refuse to trade either Willie Green or Lee Suggs. Why keep all three?
27) Tennessee (1-3) - At the beginning of last season, Chris Brown looked like a stud runner. This year, he's looked weak.
28) Minnesota (1-3) - Look on the bright side, they have the NFL's top punter (Chris Kluwe, 48.8 yards per punt.)
29) Arizona (1-3) - Kicker Neil Rackers is leading the NFL in scoring, and has scored 50 of the Cardinals' 74 points.
30) Houston (0-3) - They haven't allowed a fourth quarter touchdown in seven games, and opponents are only converting 31 percent of their third downs against them.
31) Green Bay (0-4) - That play on Monday where Deshaun Foster carried Earl Little on his back for 29 yards told us everything we need to know about the Packers defense.
32) San Francisco (1-3) - Left tackle Anthony Clement got abused by Bertrand Berry (1.5 sacks) last Sunday. Now he gets to face Dwight Freeney. Good luck Alex Smith.
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