Week 5 in the NFL saw some bubbles burst; even the teams who dodged bullets were left looking a little more vulnerable than before. The previously unbeaten duo Seattle and New England both suffered defeats. New England’s battered offense couldn’t even muster a touchdown as they were downed by the inconsistent Bengals and their excellent defense. The Seahawks meanwhile found the improving Colts too hot to handle, Seattle remain a team who look invincible at home but vulnerable on the road. Kansas City’s kind schedule saw them advance again unbeaten, the Saints also continued unblemished thanks to a victory over the Bears. Denver were another story, a crazy 51-48 win in Dallas showed the irresistible force of their offense but exposed frailty in their defense.
This week’s bye week teams are Miami who lost their second straight after three wins in a gruelling encounter against the Ravens and Atlanta who lost again to fall to 1-4. That record is amongst the league’s most surprising thus far but in fairness no team has been worse affected by injuries and a week to recoup is certainly needed although it won’t help star receiver Julio Jones who is out for the season.
New York Giants @ Chicago Bears
The Bears have lost their last two and the NFC North is now wide open. The Giants themselves play in the open looking NFC East although at 0-5 it probably isn’t open to them. For Chicago this is a must win, at home against a winless team they will expect to get the W and keep their noses ahead of their arch rivals Green Bay and keep the pressure on Detroit. The Giants don’t seem to be acknowledging the crisis that they are in and instead keep making statements about how they can go on a winning streak and turn things around. There is no evidence of this in their performances. Losing to the struggling Eagles last week by 15 was their worst performance since being shutout in Carolina. Eli Manning threw three more interceptions to take his tally to a dozen for the season, to put that into perspective his brother has one. The Giants don’t trust David Wilson and can’t get any consistent pass rush to help their shaky secondary so however you look at it they are a mess.
The Bears held Drew Brees to under 300 yards and two touchdowns in the Superdome but couldn’t capitalise, scoring just eighteen and uncharacteristically failing to get any turnovers. Their defense which had leaked 40 to the Lions in week four looked far more organised and against the Giants they will hope to return to 2012 form where they led the league in scoring defense. Jay Cutler should have plenty of time to pick his passes and with Alshon Jeffery stepping up last week he now has two legitimate targets.
ATPF Prediction– The Bears are better in all departments and win by ten or more.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills
The Bengals are still a tough team to predict. Sandwiched between wins over New England and Green Bay was a loss to the Browns. They are 3-0 at home, 0-2 on the road so the Bills who are at 2-3 have plenty of hope here, the Bills themselves are far better at home, 2-1 their record at Ralph Wilson stadium. So the figures point to the Bills but you can’t get away from the superior talent of the Bengals who defensively can be virtually unplayable at times, Tom Brady completed less than half of his passes, had less than 200 yards passing and no touchdowns against them last week. Offensively Andy Dalton needs to know his limitations as an accurate short and intermediate passer, when he has to force it errors quickly creep in.
The Bills defeat in Cleveland last week was pretty comprehensive, they rushed for 3 touchdowns but rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel was completely ineffective. Cleveland didn’t turn the ball over and just played a smart if cautious game to beat the Bills. If Dalton and his offense can duplicate that effort here the Bengals defense should cause Manuel all kinds of problems to win the Bengals the game.
ATPF Prediction– Cincinnati win a low scoring game by a touchdown.
Detroit Lions @ Cleveland Browns
The Browns three game streak has shocked everyone; they are contenders in the AFC North at last. They don’t have anything like the talent of the Lions but Detroit’s offense looked a shadow of its usual self without Megatron Calvin Johnson a week ago, with his participation in doubt again the Browns underrated defense will fancy their chances of doing a job on Matthew Stafford and co. Brandon Weeden returned to the starting lineup for the Browns and led them to a comfortable win, he acted more as a game manager on a team who seemed to have found their identity at last as a defense first, no risks on offense kind of football team.
The Lions are virtually polar opposites from a philosophy standpoint; their dynamic vertical passing offense virtually always finds itself in a dogfight due to the porous nature of the Lions defense. There are too many underachievers on this Lions defense and leadership looks a critical issue from the outside. So this game looks like the Lions offense trying to figure out a strong Browns defense and the Browns looking to manage just enough offense to win out. It’s a tough one and Calvin Johnson’s participation or not may ultimately decide it.
ATPF Prediction– The Browns lack of firepower cost them, the Lions scramble home thanks to Stafford.
St. Louis Rams @ Houston Texans
The Rams got a much needed win against the league’s worst team Jacksonville last week, that jumped them to 2-3 and just about alive, the Texans were annihilated by San Francisco and at 2-3 look the third best team in the AFC South which they were favoured to win for a third straight year before the season. Houston’s offense and particularly struggling quarterback Matt Schaub are toiling. Star running back Arian Foster has never really gotten going and receiver Andre Johnson is having the quietest year of his hugely productive career. The Texans defense however continue to play very solidly, they have given up the fewest yards of any team in the league.
The Rams had given up thirty plus points in three straight weeks until they bumped into the Jags, allowing them twenty was little to shout about. The offense of St. Louis is way down the rankings also, they have virtually no running game since Steven Jackson left and although quarterback Sam Bradford is playing well he is still short of weapons and none of his support cast are likely to scare Houston. In summary unless the Texans and Matt Schaub have a final ultimate meltdown they should have too much for St. Louis.
ATPF Prediction– Texans defense breathe new life into their campaign, Houston win by 10 plus.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Jets
The Steelers return from their bye week in desperate need of a morale boosting win to regain some respectability. The Jets second ranked defense has been all important to their 3-2 record, rookie quarterback Geno Smith has also had his moments including his game winning drive against Atlanta on Monday Night. An important factor here could be the six days that the Jets have had to prepare for this game compared to the Steelers fourteen since their London defeat.
The porous offensive line of the Steelers and their lack of a running game has been the killer for Pittsburgh; Ben Roethlisberger can’t do it on his own. The Jets offense rank mid table but in defeats to the Patriots and Titans the Jets found their opponents strong defenses almost inpenetratable. With an extra week to prepare the Steelers strong defense will hope to stifle Smith and the Jets and their defense is still an above average unit. If Pittsburgh can just give Big Ben some time he can guide the Steelers to a road upset.
ATPF Prediction– Pittsburgh get the win, edging out the Jets by a field goal.
Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens
The Superbowl champions Baltimore are gradually getting their season going after the shock of their week one humiliation. A road win against the Dolphins who had been going well was a strong showing by the Ravens last week. Green Bay returned from their bye week with a win over Detroit to get to 2-2 and climbed right back into the NFC North race. The Packers offense led by all-pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a whole battery of talented receivers has been slowed at times by their substandard offensive line. Defensively Green Bay rank 19th in the league but holding the dynamic Lions to just three field goals a week ago was a much improved effort.
Baltimore’s defense which struggled until the postseason a year ago has come back to old form this year at least since they played the mighty Broncos. The offense has been bitten by the injury bug but nevertheless their performances have been inconsistent. Superbowl MVP Joe Flacco got his huge contract but has responded with eight picks to five scoring strikes, not franchise quarterback play. If Baltimore turn up to this game struggling on offense they won’t have a chance, the Packers offense always has success, even against the toughest defenses.
ATPF Prediction– Green Bay get a massive road win, a touchdown is the approximate margin.
Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings
The Panthers returned from their bye week with a miserable performance against the Cardinals. Their record is 1-3 and Coach Ron Rivera’s seat is getting hotter by the week. Minnesota beat Pittsburgh at Wembley before their bye and know that a win at home here would keep them just about in touch in the wide open NFC North. The Panthers don’t have such luck, the Saints are 5-0 and in total control of the NFC South.
The Panthers defense has by and large played well thus far but their offense has been awful. They rank 30th in passing and Cam Newton is still more dynamic with his legs than his arm. Minnesota got better play from backup Matt Cassel than they have from Christian Ponder so far at quarterback at Wembley and the league MVP Adrian Peterson found top gear also to drive them to the win. The Vikings defense ranks 30th in the league and simply must play better if they are to get into a winning habit. The Vikings have the better offense, the Panthers the better defense in what looks a close one on paper. The raucous Metrodome crowd and Adrian Peterson are the two factors which make Minnesota favourites.
ATPF Prediction– Not likely to be a classic but the Vikings can outlast the Panthers.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs continue to ride one of the league’s more friendly schedules; they are 5-0 and overwhelming favourites again at home to their arch rivals Oakland. The Raiders upset divisional rivals San Diego for their second win of the season a week ago but know repeating the feat here will be far tougher.
New head coach Andy Reid has proved his worth to the Chiefs organisation already. He has brought new discipline to the team and has the players playing smart football in all three phases. They make very few mistakes and do all the fundamentals well. The Chiefs rank twelfth overall offensively, seventh defensively. Their rivals are playing more disciplined themselves but are hamstrung by a roster seriously low on top end talent. Rookie quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been a pleasant surprise but star running back Darren McFadden hasn’t been effective and is once again battling injuries.
At home the Chiefs look very strong favourites here, they still haven’t played a contender so their playoff claims remain a mystery but they are doing a great job of beating what’s in front of them. Their defense should stifle the Raiders offense pretty quickly and the Raiders defense will really struggle with Jamaal Charles.
ATPF Prediction– The Chiefs bandwagon rolls on, they win by around ten.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Eagles got back to winning ways last week and at 2-3 are tied for the lead in the desperate NFC East. The Bucs return from their bye still searching for that elusive first win but have thrown away two games they should have won already. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been given the reins for the rest of this campaign at least with Josh Freeman now gone. Philadelphia themselves have questions to answer at quarterback. Mike Vick was knocked out of the game against the Giants but Nick Foles took over and steered the ship to victory. He doesn’t have Vick’s talents but is a steady presence and is pushing for the start this week.
The strength of the Eagles, whoever plays under center is their offense. Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson are both having bounce back years and the Eagles have the league’s second best offense in yardage gained. Turnovers have been their achilles heel and the debate which Chip Kelly must answer is does Foles improved ball security makeup for his lack of playmaking ability compared to Vick? Defensively the Eagles are pretty woeful; they have given up the second most yards in the league and ship big points every week.
Tampa are opposites to Philly, their defense ranks around mid table but their offense is the league’s second least effective. Mike Glennon should be able to improve that, in Vincent Jackson he has a dynamic receiver and in Doug Martin a talented runner. Tampa will know that this is a great chance to get going at last but if they can’t control McCoy things will get tough. The Eagles know a win keeps them bang in contention in the NFC East. In a stout run defense (league’s best last year) and Darrelle Revis the Bucs have the antidote to Philadelphia’s best players and this helps them to their first win.
ATPF Prediction– Tampa Bay prevail narrowly.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Denver Broncos
The Jaguars could just be the team to upset Denver. No obviously they couldn’t. They are set to be given a record start by Vegas, maybe up to 30 points on the handicap. Denver have been irresistible on offense through their 5 wins but their defense can be gotten at and they gave up 48 points to Dallas last week but still won.
The Jaguars are winless and hopeless, they would probably settle for 1-15 right now because where that win is coming from is anyone’s guess. We could sledge the Jaguars endlessly or eulogise even more about Peyton Manning but we will simply say this, the worst team in the league are away at the best team in the league.
ATPF Prediction– Can Denver cover their huge handicap? Maybe not, we see the margin as 20-25.
New Orleans Saints @ New England Patriots
The unbeaten Saints visit the Patriots who suffered their first loss last week in Cincinnati. This should be a hotly contested game between two of the league’s best head coaches and best quarterbacks. The Saints start has of course been driven by Drew Brees and the Saints always dangerous offense but their defense are hugely improved and have been a huge factor in that start. New England due to injuries and players lost have struggled on offense but instead leant on their defense heavily so far.
The Saints have the fourth best offense in the league and twelfth best defense, they are able to win sensible games now without basically getting in shootouts every week. The Patriots are hoping to get some weapons back for Tom Brady but all of Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley, Aaron Dobson and Leon Washington are in serious doubt once more and Brady needs at least a couple of them back to compete here. New England have been winning by being smart and using their inexperience. Most of their wins they have allowed teams to beat themselves but here they look overmatched. With Vince Wilfork lost for the season on defense and their offense still ravaged by injuries we don’t see New England being able to keep up with the Saints.
ATPF Prediction– Saints win again, by seven to ten.
Tennessee Titans @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s unbeaten record went last week but we don’t see their unbeaten home record going any time soon. Tennessee lost to the Chiefs to fall to 3-2 but remain in contention in the AFC South. The Seahawks have allowed San Francisco to creep within one again and still have to go to Candlestick Park so they need to quickly regain the winning thread.
We are treated to two solid defenses here but at home Seattle’s all star unit may be the league’s most feared. Inspired by arguably the loudest crowd in football they usually raise hell to whoever visits. Tennessee themselves rank ninth defensively and are stout enough to stop Seattle running away with it but can their offense have any joy? The league’s 26th best offense led by a backup quarterback with a penchant for turnovers does not bode well for the Titans here.
Seattle’s offense remains their secondary unit but with Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson they have two productive players although the explosive Percy Harvin was missed last week. Nevertheless it’s hard to see Tennessee scoring more than one touchdown here and also hard to envisage the Seahawks not creating at least a couple of turnovers.
ATPF Prediction– Seahawks are too strong, win by double figures.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are getting better week by week and at 3-2 are just a game back on the Seahawks but their divisional rivals Arizona are totally outplaying expectations and also arrive here at 3-2. A 34-3 whipping of the talented Texans served notice to the league that the 49ers remain a top team but the Cardinals themselves didn’t concede a touchdown either in a sixteen point win over Carolina.
The Cardinals have found ways to win football games this year despite having no major strengths. New quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown nine picks to five touchdowns for Arizona’s 30th ranked offense and they only rank middle of the road defensively. San Francisco’s stats are starting to recover from their pounding in Seattle, their defense is ranked 5th in the league but the offense still lags behind in 25th overall although the return to form of their rushing attack certainly helps and offers improvement to come.
This game may be between two 3-2 teams but San Francisco are a much more well rounded team and have more talent and depth throughout their roster than Arizona does. At home the 49ers look like strong favourites.
ATPF Prediction– San Francisco’s defense creates the big plays en route to a ten point win.
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are a different proposition at home it appears. Two comfortable wins followed by pushing the unbeaten Broncos oh so close in that 51-48 slugfest a week ago shows the Cowboys strength at AT&T Stadium. Washington have had a fortnight to prepare for this game after getting their first win in week four. They beat the Cowboys home and away last year but haven’t looked the same proposition this year with Robert Griffin III still feeling his way back to 100%.
The weakness of both teams is their defenses, Dallas gave up 51 points last week and averages over 400 yards per game conceded whilst Washington have the league’s worst defense, they average a staggering 440 yards per game conceded. The Redskins have the eighth best offense in the league despite their rushing attack not playing on a par with last year but only average 22 points per game. Dallas are just behind the Redskins in yardage per game but average over 30 points per game as the league’s second highest scorers.
The Redskins need this game pretty badly, falling two behind and losing a tie-breaker would give them plenty to do but winning could see them top of the NFC East by Monday. The Cowboys are the consensus best of a bad bunch but need to start winning games and this one is one they will expect to win. Tony Romo is playing as well as any quarterback in the league and against the Redskins woeful defense figures to have another big day. The Redskins themselves will put up plenty on the scoreboard but as a pure passer RG3 can’t compete with Romo.
ATPF Prediction– Another big score in big D, Cowboys win by a touchdown.
Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers
The Colts are suddenly looking one of the best teams in the AFC, beating both Seattle and San Francisco has catapulted them to 4-1. San Diego were going pretty well but defeat to the lowly Raiders last week has killed any momentum there. Behind the Colts impressive performances has been their run heavy offense which has already put in seven scores on the ground and the mature beyond his years quarterbacking of golden boy Andrew Luck teamed with an improved defense which has already forced ten turnovers.
San Diego’s resurgence led by quarterback Phillip Rivers was halted at the Coliseum where Rivers threw three interceptions. The Chargers 27th ranked defense has leant on Rivers excellent play to outscore opponents in shootouts but if he returns to his errant ways things could look bleak again in San Diego, for now we will give him the benefit of the doubt and call it a blip.
In a game which should be both entertaining and pretty close we have to favour the Colts even on the road. They are pretty hot right now and have already won out west this season; their opportunistic defense will fancy this matchup whereas San Diego’s defense will have its work cut out against Indianapolis’s balanced offense.
ATPF Prediction– Colts win a close one; maybe a game winning drive does it.