Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Here are the early games I like for week 5.  I'll have write-ups posted soon.  Check here for the latest odds.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Indianapolis Colts: IND -7

With IND opening up at a whopping 9 point favorite in week 5 despite getting upset against JAX speaks volumes about what Vegas think of KC's undefeated streak.  Many jumped on the early line and took KC with the points so I've waited for a friendlier number and it finally came down to -7.   I love the Colts at this number.  KC has been a nice story after one month of the season, but put up your hand if you thought KC would be the last undefeated team in the NFL.  

No one has any illusions about how these teams matchup.  With a dynamic run game, KC will try to pound the ball and keep Peyton off the field.  They will have a big advantage here, but will it be enough?  How are they going to keep up after Manning puts up three TDs in the first half?  The problem for KC is their secondary can't hang with the force that is the IND passing game.  So far KC is near the top of the league in 3rd down defense, but IND ranks just as high for 3rd down offense.  Up until this point KC has relied mostly on good coaching, inspired defense, and big plays.  This is reflected in their inability to come away with sustained drives or drive points.  They also have a horrible 3rd down offense.   How will they control the clock if they can't stay on the field?  The bye came at the worst possible time for the Chiefs and that warm and fuzzy feeling from September disappears after Sunday afternoon.  Prediction: Bank IND -7.


Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills: JAX PK

I like the Jags this week despite the fact that they are coming off a huge divisional upset over the Colts.  I expect them to be flat to start the game, but JAX have enough of an advantage to come away with a win.  At this point in the season, mismatches are much easier to identify and MJD will cause huge problems for the BUF run D.  If you have MJD on your fantasy team you are in for a big day.  JAX will have trouble in the air against an underrated pass D, but their number one corner McGee is out this week.  Thus far, JAX has been average in most categories with the exception of drive points.  That should continue to improve against the Bills.  

 BUF has been pathetic on third down on both sides of the ball this year and there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.   They started the year without T.O., have traded their starting QB, and now shipped Lynch off to the Seahawks.  The players must be thinking who is next.  Morale is low as this organization lacks direction on almost every level.   No one wants to sign with, coach, or watch this club.   They rank near the bottom of the league in almost every important statistical category.   This is not to say that JAX will blow them out because they haven't been world-beaters either, but they have enough pieces in place to be a mediocre team.   On Sunday, that will be more than enough to beat what could be the worst team in the NFL.   Prediction: Bank JAX.


 Green Bay Packers vs Washington Redskins: GB -2.5

Full disclosure. The Packers are my pick to go to the Super Bowl.   However, they have not lived up to the hype after four weeks of the 2010 season.   It seems like they are lacking focus at the moment.  They can move the ball at will and when the defense needs a play they step up more times than not.  They are near the top of the league in 3rd down offense and defense, but penalties and turnovers are killing them.  Right now they are their own worst enemies, but it's only cost them one game to the point. This week they will be playing a WSH team that could be flat coming off a very emotional division win against the Eagles.

WSH's win has masked a number of problems with this team.  Portis isn't healthy so they are turning to an unknown in Torain.  He has ran the ball well, but he's not reliable in blitz pickup so they take him out on most third downs.   Their pass defense has been horrendous so far and that is not good news with Rodgers coming to town.   The strength of the D is stopping the run, but that won't help them against the Pack.   To hang with GB they will need to do a lot better on third down.   Most drives are stalling and they have just as much trouble getting off the field defensively.   The smoke and mirrors are useful against mediocre teams, but GB is not one of them.   Prediction: Bank GB -2.5


Atlanta Falcons vs Cleveland Browns: ATL -3

I was high on ATL coming into the season and picked them to win over the 9.5 games Vegas had set for them.  So far they haven't disappointed.  I was waiting for them to win a big game because they lost 6 out of 8 of them in 2009.   Things looked like they might be more of the same after a tough OT loss to PIT to start the year, but prevailing over the defending champs was a huge psychological boost for this organization.   They dominated play the last two weeks, but barely squeaked out wins in both outings.   Having said this, the most important thing is they are winning and coming up with big plays in the clutch.

ATL will enter CLE with huge advantage on the ground and the air.  It's not that the Browns have been that bad this year, it's that ATL has been that good.   They will continue to sustain drives and shouldn't have too much trouble keeping CLE's offense on the sidelines.   ATL ranks near the top of the league in drive points, the rule of 50 category (completions/rush attempts), turnover differential, and penalties.   Both sides of the ball are playing sound, fundamental, and disciplined ball.  Whitherspoon is on track to return this week which will only bolster an already stout defense.

Things are not as peachy for the Browns.  They pulled off the upset against state-rivals CIN, but they were fortunate to come away with a win after letting Palmer put up great numbers all afternoon long.   There is not a lot to like about CLE other than their effort level.   They might have found a RB in Hillis, but he will come back down to earth this week against ATL.   If Delhomme plays, it won't make much of a difference.  It could even be a liability after missing so much time.  Jake isn't exactly known as the most consistent of QB's in the league.   I'll be surprised if this game stays within one score.  Prediction: Bank ATL -3.


San Diego Chargers vs Oakland Raiders: SD -6

The Chargers completely annihilated the Cardinals last week as expected.  A lot of people have backed off SD after their disappointing losses on the road, but a closer look reveals just how good this team is.  Rivers is playing out of his mind this year and they have a full compliment of capable running backs to keep defenses off balance.   Mathews could finally have the breakout game that he's been waiting for.   The special teams showed dramatic improvement against one the leagues best return-man. 

This week OAK is in serious trouble because they don't have a hope in hell in stopping the run and won't be able to pass effectively if they get down 10 points.  McFadden's hamstring has tightened up so they will likely be without one of their only bright spots of the season.   OAK continue to lead the NFL in penalties which should come as a surprise to no one.  They are having trouble sustaining drives which means their defense is getting left out on the field too long.   They had big problems with HOU's offense last week and that was without Andre Johnson.   SD have had very few problems coming out with wins when they travel to OAK and that trend will continue on Sunday.  In fact, they haven't even defeated SD since 2002.   Prediction: Bank SD -6.


New Orleans Saints vs Arizona Cardinals: UNDER 45.5

Last week I got back on track with my over/unders by hitting on the NO/CAR game.  The Saints games continue to have high totals, but their offense hasn't been what it was last season.   Losing Bush really hurt their schemes and having Thomas banged up did nothing to help matters.  Ivory got the call last week, but the coaches are concerned with his fumbling.   This week they travel to ARI to take on one of the worst teams in the league.  Brees is still nursing an MCL sprain on his knee, but the team is maintaining that his brace is only 'precautionary'.   They continue to have big questions at kicker which only helps those playing the under.

ARI might be starting an undrafted rookie at QB, but will it really make any difference for the offense?  QB is not the only position the coaches are considering changing because the team is in complete disarray.   ARI will be lucky to score 10 points in this game and there is a strong possibility of getting shutout.   They are bottom-feeders in every statistical category.   Drive points, 3rd down conversions, penalties, turnovers, and ball possession.   The Saints will score some points, but they will need to suddenly become the high-flying Saints of yester-year to go over the 45.5.  Prediction: Bank UNDER.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Indianapolis Colts: OVER 44

The Indianapolis Colts are the other team I expect to see in the Super Bowl this season.   After four weeks into the season, my opinion hasn't changed.  The defensive woes might be getting all the headlines, but Peyton Manning is actually getting better as a QB.  He has been flat-out unstoppable this year which means the defense only needs to marginally improve for them to go deep into the playoffs.  They will get back to their winning ways when the Chiefs come to town on Sunday.   Peyton will have a huge advantage in the air which translates into a lot of points.   He will face a young secondary that is still finding their way.   Peyton has made a career on exposing young players and he could put up four touchdowns in the air this week.   The Colts are averaging 18 points per game on drives of 60 yards or more.   Throw in some big plays and IND should put up 30+ points against KC.   IND has gone over the total in 8 of their last 11 games, 6 of their last 8 at home, and 3 of their 4 games this season.  

The Chiefs are downplaying the timing of their bye week, but for a team that was off to a hot start I think the bye came at the worst possible time.   It will be hard to build on their early season momentum when they travel to IND to play the high-flying Colts.   However, I do like them to put up some points on a defense that is susceptible to the run.  Charles and Jones are a dynamic one-two punch and I expect their strong coaching staff to put them in a position to break off some big runs.   I also expect them to have great field position all day with McCluster and Arenas returning kicks.   Even if they struggle on offense early in the game, they will get some easy garbage points as the defense will go soft if IND is up big.  Prediction: Bank OVER.