by Robert Ferringo - 10/13/2005
New England at Denver (-3)
Both of these teams are coming off last-second wins. Those who got the New England line early earned a dog win, but anyone who had the Pats after it was announced that Mike Vick wasn't playing had to settle for a push. The Broncos didn't cover at home against Washington (21-19), and in a bit of a scheduling quirk are playing their third straight road game. They've won the first two.
The Pats injury report has 18 listings on it - by far the most in the league. But, as we've learned over the last four years, you can't count the Patriots out. They're an absolutely amazing 22-1 (96 percent) when facing teams with a record over .500.
This is the fourth consecutive year Denver has started 4-1, but they were a combined 17-16 after that point from 2002-2004. Under Mike Shanahan the Broncos are an outstanding 65-18 at home. Jake the Snake is making his first ever start against New England, and is 14-3 with a 93.3 rating in his 17 home starts since 2003. Since 1995, the club has allowed a meager 87 rushing yards per game in Mile High Stadium.
Miami at Tampa Bay (-4.5)
Two teams, four running backs, one winner. Ricky's return, the squaring off of college teammates, and a battle for home state bragging rights will be on the line in Tampa.
Ricky Williams will suit up for the first time since fleeing to Southeast Asia to rip tubes. He's served his four-game suspension for substance abuse, and a very interested public will be waiting to see what he has in the tank. However, that means the NFL's former leading rusher is taking carries away from rookie Ronnie Brown.
Tampa Bay is coming off its first loss of the season, but will be benefited by the home crowd and the return of Cadillac Williams. Even without their Caddy, Michael Pittman is a strong runner and one of the best backups in the league. The Bucs defense is allowing only 20.25 yards per drive so far this season - tops in the NFL.
New York Giants at Dallas (-3.5)
The Giants are just 2-5 ATS in their last five trips to Big D, and are 2-4 in their last six road games. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home contests. Dallas is 2-4 ATS in both their last six overall and their last six against the G-men.
The Giants are coming off a bye week, which is the only thing that has been able to stop their offense. New York swept this series in 2004, winning by double-digits in each game. The totals in those games were 52 and 36, respectively. Hopefully the Giants worked to shore up a defenses that's ceded 425 yards per game and only forcing punts on 30 percent of opponents' drives.
The Dallas offense has been nearly as potent as New York's. They're averaging 370 yards to New York's 353. The difference is that the Cowboys D gives up just 297 yards per game. Another part of the Cowboys' success has been their 44 percent third-down conversion rate, which is fifth best in the league. Drew Bledsoe is now 9-3 in his last 12 starts. Dat Nguyen will be out this week for Dallas with a chronic stinger.
Carolina at Detroit (-1)
Carolina is an astounding 11-2-1 ATS in its last 14 away games. They barely covered last week, using a late rally to top Arizona 24-20. Detroit is 4-1 ATS in its last five home games, and 6-3 ATS in their last nine games overall. The Lions have won three straight at home.
The Panthers converted 12 of their 15 red-zone attempts into TD's, the top rate in the league. Their secondary is still banged up (Chris Gamble is questionable), but they're squaring off against a decimated Detroit receiving corps.
Dre Bly getting into Joey Harrington's face in the Lions' game against the Ravens last week showed everyone just how much respect the QB has among his teammates. Harrington fired back, but the defense has been pulling its weight. Detroit's defense has allowed only a 40 percent TD conversion rate in the red zone (4th best in the league), and have ended opponents possessions with an INT 5 percent of the time (4th best).
Here are my Week 5 Power Rankings:
1) Indianapolis (5-0) - Edgerrin James has rushed for over 100 yards in exactly half of his 86 career games. The Colts are 37-6 when he hits the century mark.
2) Pittsburgh (3-1) - It would be ignorant to play Big Ben against the Jags and jeopardize their season. The offense is averaging 38 yards per drive this season, tops in the league.
3) Denver (4-1) - Only 32 percent of the Broncos offensive drives have ended in punts, the best ratio in the NFL. That proves that Plummer isn't turning it over.
4) New England (3-2) - Pats have a minus 6 turnover differential thus far. If they don't value the rock in Denver it could be over quickly.
5) Atlanta (3-2) - Mora is 9-1 when the Falcons rush for over 200 yards, and they face a New Orleans team that yields 122 on the ground.
6) Cincinnati (4-1) - Chad Johnson is whining about not getting the ball enough, but he's first in the AFC with 31 catches (for 426 yards).
7) Philadelphia (3-2) - The week off came at a good time for the Eagles, who need to regroup and realize their divisional foes are no longer their valets.
8) Carolina (3-2) - The Panthers are above .500 for the first time since the 2003 Super Bowl run.
9) Jacksonville (3-2) - Keep an eye on Ernest Wilford. He's only made 26 catches in his brief career, but three of them were game-winning TDs. The Jags are 4-0 when he scores.
10) Tampa Bay (4-1) - The Tampa Bay defense has faced 44 drives this season and only yielded three TDs.
11) Washington (3-1) - The offense is converting on 47 percent of their third downs, second in the NFL. They've had six straight games decided by less than three points - an NFL record.
12) Seattle (3-2) - Look for a big game out of Shaun Alexander. In five prime-time contests he averages 110.4 yards and a 5.6 per carry and tallied seven touchdowns.
13) Kansas City (2-2) - Since 1990, Kansas City is 90-32 (.738) at home, and are 10-6 following the bye week.
14) New York Giants (3-1) - Alex Rodriquez has a new nickname - The Cooler. That's why New York fans are the best.
15) Dallas (3-2) - Julius Jones is questionable against the Giants this week. That's too bad since the Boys rushed for over 150 yards a game against NY last season.
16) San Diego (2-3) - Their three losses are by an average of three points. They took a lead into the fourth quarter each of the losses.
17) Detroit (2-2) - Ironic that with their vaunted receiver depth, rookie Mike Williams and castoff Kevin Johnson will be the go-to guys this weekend.
18) Miami (2-2) - Miami averaged 59.8 yards rushing after four games last year. This year they're gaining 118.5 yards a week on the ground.
19) Tennessee (2-3) - They've won nine of their last 10 against Cincinnati, and McNair has 20 TD's and 3 INT's against them in his career.
20) Oakland (1-3) - Incredibly, the Raiders aren't turning the ball over on offense (3). But their defense isn't forcing any turnovers (4) either.
21) Buffalo (2-3) - I'm calling it right now - Kelly Holcomb will be injured within four games. The Bills have scored a mere six fourth-quarter points, and only 7 percent of their drives have ended in touchdowns.
22) New York Jets (2-3) - 59 percent of Jet drives have ended in a punt in 2005.
23) Cleveland (2-2) - The Browns defense is surrendering 41 yards per possession, worst in the NFL.
24) Chicago (1-3) - Thomas Jones endured a Grad 1+ sprain of the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. He may not play on Sunday, but it shouldn't hamper him past that.
25) Baltimore (1-3) - The Ravens are yielding an average of 22 points per game. However, they're forcing punts on 68 percent of opponents drives.
26) St. Louis (2-3) - This week the Indy defense finally gets tested, facing a Rams team that averages 384 yards per game.
27) New Orleans (2-3) - The Saints have won three of their last four against the Falcons.
28) Minnesota (1-3) - So, what does a team that's 1-3 and has been a phenomenal disappointment do with its week off? How about a wild orgy on a Bang Barge!
29) Green Bay (1-4) - They started 1-4 last season and ended up winning the division.
30) Arizona (1-4) - Kurt Warner will be ready to go soon, but I think Denny would be foolish to go away from McCown's hot hand.
31) Houston (0-4) - I can't even tell how big a bust David Carr and Andre Johnson are because they're not even getting a chance. Carr has a 99.1 passer rating in his four starts against NFC teams.
32) San Francisco (1-4) - Starting Alex Smith is a foolish, prideful move by Mike Nolan. Behind that offensive line the kid is going to get killed.
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