Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The Lineman’s NFL picks — Week 5

October 8, 2010

NFL/The Lineman is back baby, 5-1 in Week Four and if not for the Bengals’ surrender in the Battle of Ohio we would have pulled a Kansas City Chiefs – PERFECT. While the Chiefs’ perfect season ends this week in Indy the Lineman gets his shot at perfection in what is a head-scratching Week Five.

Record: 14-10. Last week 5-1. Pick of the Week: 2-2

PICK OF THE WEEK:

Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Washington Redskins (2-2) (Line Packers minus-2.5): After self-destructing against the Chicago Bears and hanging on to tame the winless Detroit Lions it is time for the Packers to step up and play like the Super Bowl contenders they claim to be.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was hearing plenty of MVP talk in the pre-season, has been more MIA in Green Bay’s opening four games (completing just 12 passes last week against the Lions) but will be licking his chops at the prospect of going up against the NFL’s second worst pass defense.

With running back Ryan Grant out for the season, Green Bay is averaging less than 100 yards a game on the ground but the Redskins ground attack also suffered a blow with Clinton Portis on the shelf with a groin injury.

Skins QB Donovan McNabb is still coming to grips with the Washington offense looking great one weekend and shaky the next.

McNabb had an even worse day than Rodgers last Sunday completing just eight passes against his old team the Eagles yet amazingly both quarterbacks managed to come away with wins.

The Packers pass rush, led by sack master Clay Matthews, will make life miserable for McNabb.

With the Vikings, Jets and Cowboys all on deck before hitting the bye week, the Pack will not want to let this one slip away.

Time to stand up and be counted.

Take the Pack and give up the 2.5.

Minnesota Vikings (1-2) at New York Jets (3-1) (Vikings plus +4.5): Brett Favre has not had much to smile about this season but the Vikings quarterback had his happy face on again after Minnesota acquired wide receiver Randy Moss in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Moss provides an instant up grade at wide receiver giving Favre the go-to-guy he had been missing and a deep threat opposing defenses will have to respect.

With the addition of Moss, Percy Harvin’s return to fitness and running back Adrian Peterson finding his stride, suddenly things are looking up in Minny.

But if the Vikings are to get into the NFC North mix, their future Hall of Fame quarterback must start playing like the Favre of old and not an old Favre.

In his first season in purple, Favre threw just seven interceptions. This season he has thrown up six in three games and just two touchdown passes – the fewest in the league.

Jets QB Mark Sanchez has been terrific tossing eight touchdowns and no interceptions and adds another weapon to his arsenal with the return of wide receiver Santonio Holmes from a four-game suspension.

But Sanchez will face a tenacious Vikings defense that will provide the Jets with their toughest test since a Week One loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Jets feisty cornerback Darrelle Revis is questionable for the Monday Night showdown.

Coming off a bye, the Vikings have had two weeks to prepare for a game that could decide their season.

Jets are 4-0 at home against Minnesota. Vikings are 17-4 coming out a bye week.

To quote Entourage’s Johnny Drama from Viking Quest – VICTORYYYYYYY.

Take the Vikings and the 4.5 points

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Buffalo Bills (0-4) (Line Jaguars mins-.5): Last week the Bills said “good-bye” to starting quarterback Trent Edwards. This week they said “so long” to running back Marshawn Lynch trading him to Seattle. Is it me, or is anyone else getting the impression the Bills have already said “Adios” to this season as well?

Edwards was not long on the QB unemployment line. He returns to the Ralph on Sunday as the backup for Jags starter David Garrard, who has been mediocre at best with six touchdown passes and five interceptions.

If Garrard struggles, you have to wonder if coach Jack Del Rio would give Edwards a shot at his former-team.

It seems a lot more players have shuffled out of Buffalo. The Bills bumbling offense (I’m still trying to figure out how they put up 30 points against the Patriots) ranks last in yards per game (237.2) and passing offense (131.8).

Bills’ defense isn’t any better surrendering 31.2 points and 174 yards rushing per game, both league worsts and have yet to record even a single interception in four games.

If there is any hope for the Bills it is that the Jacksonville defense has not shown much either, giving up 28 points or more their last three games.

But the Jags have displayed some bite getting to 2-2 with a tough schedule that included wins over Denver and the Colts with losses to the Eagles and Chargers sandwiched in-between.

This a game the Jaguars must win if they want to stay in the chase in the uber-competitive AFC South with the Colts, Texans and Titans.

Feel the Teal. Jaguars pounce on Bills.

Take the Panthers and give up the half-point.

New Orleans Saints (3-1) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2) (Line Saints minus-7.5): It has been a tough start to the season in the Big Easy. The Saints are 3-1 but have not earned many style points, their three wins coming by a combined 10 points, which barely covers this week’s spread.

I am really not sure what’s up with the Saints, who nearly allowed rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen and the punchless Carolina Panthers walk away from the Superdome last Sunday with a win.

Injuries can account for some of the Super Bowl champions offensive woes. With Reggie Bush sidelined with a broken leg and Pierre Thomas questionable with a wonky ankle the Saints are averaging just 73.2 rushing yards a game – third worst in the league.

But the Saints biggest weapon QB Drew Brees has been on target, his 1,131 passing yards among the league’s best.

If the Saints are a little hard to figure out, trying crunching these numbers.

The Cardinals are 2-2 and sit atop the NFC West but have surrendered 29.5 points a game (only the winless Bills have conceded more) while averaging 14.5 points on offense. They also have a bad case of fumble-itis turning over the ball a league high seven times.

QB Derek Anderson has been a such flop that Cards coach Ken Whisenhunt is expected to start undrafted rookie Max Hall against the Saints. You think maybe Whisenhunt is kicking himself for letting Matt Leinart get away.

Yes, things look gloomy in the Valley of the Sun.

No way, the Saints let a rookie quarterback have the spotlight two weeks in a row.

Saints march out of desert with a big win.

Take the Saints give up the 7.5.

Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (0-4) (Line 49ers minus-3.5): Only in the wacky NFC West can an 0-4 team like the Niners still be in the thick of the chase for a playoff spot.

But even in this dysfunctional division you have to win sometime and that time has come this weekend for Mike Singletary’s men.

Patience is running out in the Bay area for the glaring, snorting, ranting Singletary and quarterback Alex Smith and a Week Five failure could spell doom for both.

The Niners possess a bunch of talent, play hard and were tipped to be the class of the weak NFC West.

They lost by two points to Atlanta and three to the Saints and then get creamed by the lightweight Seahawks and Kansas City. Go figure.

The Niners seem to produce their best efforts when playing on the big stage and Sunday Night primetime clash will have them in the spotlight.

Smith must reward Singletary’s faith in him and prove once-and-for-all that he is the quarterback who can lead this team. But an NFL high seven interceptions and just three touchdowns are not inspiring stats.

The San Fran offense is averaging just 13 points a game, only the Panthers are worse.

Still the Niners have plenty of weapons.

Frank Gore is a punishing running back and also has 29 catches, fourth most in the league.

Brian Westbrook, who was the Eagles main man in the backfield for eight seasons, now carries the mail for the Niners and should provide an extra spark.

Injuries have forced yet another quarterbacking switch for the Eagles with Kevin Kolb getting his first start since Week One in place of Michael Vick, who is out with a rib injury.

This is game Niners must win.

San Francisco treat. Take the Niners and give up the 3.5.

Atlanta Falcons (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-3) (Line Falcons minus-2.5): I don’t know what it is about the Falcons but I have just not been feeling the love the last few seasons so have ignored the Dirty Bird.

But I have found myself drawn to this game this week despite my best efforts to look elsewhere.

There is no denying the Falcons are a quality team on both sides of the ball. Atlanta’s defense is among the tops in the league allowing just 15 points a game with an offense led by Matt Ryan that is also among the leaders averaging 378 yards per game.

Wide receiver Roddy White is tied for second in the league with 32 catches and Michael Turner is doing the business on the ground.

So why is it in each of the their last two games, the Falcons have needed a last second field goal to clinch wins over San Fran and New Orleans?

The Browns, who coughed up fourth quarter leads in their opening three games, losing all three by a total of 12 points finally held on to edge the Bengals in the Battle of Ohio last week.

QB Jake Delhomme, who sprained his ankle in the season-opener, is expected to be back calling plays taking over from Seneca Wallace.

Falcons have intercepted an NFL-best eight passes and Delhomme has been an interception machine in recent seasons, including two in the season opener.

Browns will try to establish a ground game behind bruising running back Peyton Hillis, who has scored a rushing touchdown in each of the first four games and rumbled for more than 100 yards the last two contests.

Falcons are 1-5 in Cleveland but Browns have their win already this season.

Falcons rock and roll in Cleveland.

Take the Birds and give up the 2.5.

PHOTO: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked for a five yard loss by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in third quarter of a NFL football game at Lambeau Field Green Bay, Wisconsin October 3, 2010. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •