49ers (4-1) @ DET (5-0)
Preview: Both entering this game as the surprise teams of the season so far with the Lions 5-0 and the 49ers 4-1 who possibly could be 5-0 if they have beaten the Cowboys in regular time. 49ers have started this season well under first time head coach Jim Harbaugh especially with the lockout in place, the success has to go to Alex Smith who has looked more comfortable with one turnover to his name so far with the help of Harbaugh a former QB himself. The Lions offensively has been explosive with the offensive line able to keep Mathew Stafford upright and them able to get pressure from their front four forcing turnovers.
Jahvid Best: On MNF Jahvid Best had his best season statically as a Lion rushing for 163 Yards with 1 TD, Finally showing his skills and why the Lions were so high on with explosive plays coming out the backfield and able to run in the open space, with best looking healthy expect him to be more involved in the offense coming out the backfield a huge concern for the 49ers with Johnson, Pettigrew and Burleson involved in the offense.
Aldon Smith: 7th overall pick in the NFL Draft turned OLB from DE, starting to showcase his talents on why many people thought he could make the easy transition to OLB. Missed first 2 games of the season didn’t record any sacks/tacks in week 3 but the last 2 weeks he starting to get better and improve with 5 tackles and a sack in week 4, week 5 he record 2 tackles and 2 sacks.
Alex Smith: Playing great football this season and mistake free 965 yards 7 TD and 1 INT to his name not the big numbers you expect from the QB with the way you able to pass the ball this season but is able to take care of the football and do what’s necessary, but playing in a dome environment against the pass rush of the Lions old memories could come back to haunt him.
Prediction: Fascinating matchup on Sunday between two teams in form with both Quarterbacks playing extremely well especially Alex Smith who having his best start as a 49er. Lions are at home who were rocking Ford field on Sunday who forced the Bears into 9 false starts, 49ers must remain calm throughout the game and continue what they have been doing play good defense and take care of the ball on the offense side with Gore and Hunter becoming a 1-2 punch in the backfield biggest concern will be at the WR position with Josh Morgan going on IR and Edwards still out, they must get Davis involved early. Lions had Fairly back on MNF he showed what he can do with him and Suh bringing the pressure in the middle allowing their DE getting to the QB and hurrying the QB to get rid of the ball early. Final Score 24-28 Lions.
BUF (4-1) @ NYG (3-2)
Preview: The surprises keep on coming this season as the Bills who are 4-1 this season including wins over the Eagles and Patriots, defense made a huge contribution in both games combined 9 turnovers with a couple returned for a TD. Giants who are coming off a loss to the Seahawks with Eli Manning looking like the old Eli with 3 INT with one coming off a deflection. Bills continue to surprise everyone with their performances every week including how their defense continues to create turnovers in any way possible for the Giants who lost quite a few players to injury have played well this season with them looking like the favourites for the NFC East last week was a setback.
Stevie Johnson: Quickly becoming Ryan Fitzpatrick favorite target when the chains need moving, he recorded 343 yards so far this season including 3 TD. Giants must try and take him out the game early on and make Fitzpatrick go to his other targets as they like to spread things out, like Seahawks did late on with Doug Baldwin having 136 receiving yards against the Giants.
Jake Ballard: Kevin Boss left via FA, Ballard has taken over at the TE position steadily has increased his production over last 3 games he has been active, with 15, 33, 72 yards receiving with 2 TD in his last 2 games. Expect him to become a integral part of the offense as the season goes on, Bills must be vary of him a big body in the middle of the field who can catch the ball and not just block, he could break out with a 100 receiving yard game.
Fred Jackson: Continues to have success this season and teams aren’t able to stop him with the different formations they use to get him the football i.e screens, out the backfield, short and intermediate passes but primarily used out the backfield, Lynch was able run of this defense with 97 rushing yards expect same dosage by the bills.
Prediction: Bills have played exceptional so far this season, but the defense who is ranked 30th in total yardage allowed, but have scored the most points off turnovers which takes pressure off the offense when it can’t get going must continue to force mistakes of Manning who is prone to throw the odd INT in a game. Giants must continue with their run game which has been instrumental to their success over the last few seasons, Manning must not force throws and try and create something out of nothing wasted opportunities in the red zone take the FG if you have to with the Bills able to score points. Final Score 21-28 Giants.
HOU (3-2) @ BAL (3-1)
Preview: Every season it’s the same discussion it’s the Houston Texans time to make the playoff, so far they have been inconsistent with a great performance against the Steelers with Foster rushing for 155 yards but looked poor against the Raiders even with Schaub throwing for 416 yards but were unable to get it going on the ground rushing for 68 yards. Ravens coming off a bye having two weeks to prepare for the Texans, Ravens D have looked most ready after the lockout with a good performance against the Steelers, returning 3 INT for TD against the Jets with Suggs, Ngata looking the most impressive for the defense.
Brooks Reed: Mario Williams is out for this game and is a huge blow for this team as the transition to 3-4 continues but has looked more and more comfortable in that position. 2nd round pick in the 2011 Draft many draft experts were high on him and thought he could transition into an OLB, he will be expected to contribute greatly on Sunday against the Ravens who are a tough team to stop especially if they are able to run the ball successfully.
Matt Schaub: If this team wants to have success this season and makes the playoffs for the first time it will be on the shoulders of Schaub to get them there. They have the ground game but if they aren’t able to get that going and defenses bringing pressure Schaub seems to struggle a lot, the Ravens like to bring pressure with Ray Lewis and co. If must remain calm if possible throughout the game because if the Ravens stop the run game Schaub will be expected to through 40-45 times this game.
Owen Daniels/Joel Dreesson: Andre Johnson is out for this game and the Texans are trying finding different ways to distribute the ball mainly going to their 2 TE sets with Daniels and Dreesson on the field at the same time, expect them to be lined up against LB and on the outside to try and get them ball.
Prediction: It could be a long day for the Texans especially playing against the Ravens who are playing most effective on defense in terms of INT and protecting against the pass so far this season, if the Ravens are able to stop the Foster, it will be difficult for the Texans with Schaub struggling when pressured inside the pocket. I expect the Texans to deploy a similar game plan like they did against the Steelers where they ran the ball constantly with Foster getting 155 yards rushing and threw the ball when it was needed but with the likes of Suggs, Ngata creating pressure and Ed Reed in the secondary Schaub must play mistake free football. Final Score 21-3 Ravens.
MIN (1-4) @ CHI (2-3)
Preview: Chicago are coming off a horrendous loss on MNF with the offensive line continue to be questionable and the OC Mike Martz not changing personal and scheme to fit the team who aren’t able to keep Jay Cutler upright so far this season, the Bears had 9 false starts which further dented their hopes of a victory. The Vikings coming off a huge win over the Cardinals getting their first victory of the season after surrendering four first half leads, they finally decided it’s ok to use Adrian Peterson for most of the game recording 3 TD in the first half as well as over 100 rushing yards. A Loss for either team here could spell the end of a playoff spot with both Lions and Packers haven’t loss a divisional game so far this season.
Mike Martz: Coach Lowie Smith said there will be changes mainly across the O-Line which has been pretty poor this season and continue to struggle, but some of it is down to Martz who continues not to change anything to allow the team to have success and get Forte more involved as well as change schemes which will benefit Cutler and allow him to stand in the pocket to get rid of the ball on time to his receivers.
Jared Allen: Loves the bright lights and expect him to continue his dominance on SNF with 8.5 sacks already to his name after 5 games, going against a shaky o-line this is the sort of game for Allen to thrive in with him an exception of himself to get 2-3 sacks before the night is over against the Bears. If the bears want to slow down Allen they must try and double team him or do quick passes so he becomes a non feature in this game.
Jay Cutler: Toughest QB in the league or some would say he isn’t but he constantly getting beat up with the offensive line struggling to hold up and receivers failing to hold onto the ball, on MNF he looked frustrated and has looked frustrated so far this season, must try and remain calm if possible when the pocket breaks down and look for the open receiver.
Prediction: The Bears must figure out how stop the defensive front of the Vikings if they want any success with Robison and Allen coming off the ends it could be a difficult night all round. Lowie Smith must find a way to get his offense in tune and hitting quick passes and running the ball effectively to slow down the pass rush. Vikings must continue what they built on last week against the Cardinals which is run, run, run with Peterson and get McNabb to throw down field when it’s not expected but he could be featured more in this game with the Bears benching both starting safeties for this game. Final Score 21-13 Vikings.
Carolina Panthers (1-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (2-3)
This is an absolutely huge game for both teams, it is a potential defining game for the Panthers as they look to make a statement by winning on the road against the defending divisional champion Falcons. The Falcons themselves are in desperate need of a win if they have a chance of saving their season and making the playoffs. Cam Newton has put up sensational stats so far with the only thing eluding him being winning games, he has a great opportunity in this match-up as the Falcons are a team reeling after they’re meltdown against Green Bay. The Georgia Dome has been a fortress for Atlanta but they have lost three of their last five games at home and need to re-establish the dominance they used to have inside their dome.
What to watch:
Cam Newton vs Falcons secondary: Newton has shredded all but the Jaguars secondary this season and that was in monsoon like conditions and looks like he should continue his fine form against a Falcons secondary that was shredded by Aaron Rodgers in the second half last week. Dunta Robinson has struggled greatly since he signed his big money contract with Atlanta and going up against a rejuvenated Steve Smith will be a tough match-up for him. The Falcons safeties should have enough to cope with the Panthers threats from tight end so Newton will have to go deep if he is to have success in this one.
Michael Turner: Turner runs well and churns out the yards, the Falcons win. It is really that simple, that has been the formula since Mike Smith was appointed coach in 2008, if Turner rushes for over 100 yards the Falcons will win. The Panthers defensive line has been abject so far this season and they have been run all over by everyone they have faced, if they can take advantage of the Falcons banged up O line then they have a chance at shutting down Turner and thus the Falcons.
Prediction: Despite the Falcons struggles so far I think this is a game where they can turn the season around, the Falcons team do not lose back to back games under this coaching staff and a game at home against the Panthers is a nice one to bounce back with. Newton will keep the Panthers in it and make it a tough contest for Atlanta but the Panthers defense has been poor at best and will prevent the Panthers from winning this one. Atlanta 31 – Panthers 27
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2)
One of the weeks more lackluster match-ups between two teams with very different makeups. The Jaguars are a young team who are taking their lumps with the quarterback they hope can be their future. The Steelers on the other hand are a veteran laden team who need to keep winning if they are to contend in the AFC North against the impressive Ravens. At home the Steelers are a formidable force and they should dominate a struggling Jaguars team in this one. The Jags have shown so little thus far that there is talk of owner Wayne Weaver firing the coach Jack Del Rio before the season is done, being destroyed in Pittsburgh should keep those thoughts at the front of Weavers mind.
What to watch:
Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert is going against a team that is built to rush the passer and confuse signal callers. The major weakness that Gabbert has shown so far in his short career is the propensity to get happy feet in the pocket and scrambling at any sign of pressure. He will be under duress against the Steelers constantly and this will be a great learning curve for the rookie. If he can learn to stand in their against the likes of Lamar Woodley and Lawrence Timmons on the blitz then he can complete short passes to the unheralded Mike Thomas. Gabbert figures to struggle in this one but it will be a valuable lesson for him as he matures as a passer.
Steelers running game: In my previews of the Jags games so far this season I have not been convinced by their run D but they have continued to go against my prognostications and have actually been effective stopping the run. Rashard Mendenhall has struggled to get anything going at all so far this season and last week backups Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman impressed against the Titans. It will be intriguing to see what the Steelers do with their impressive stable of backs this week against a tough Jags D. If they can’t get anything going on the ground then look for Ben Roethlisberger to have a big day.
Prediction: This should not be close at all, the Steelers are the vastly superior side and they are at home where they are ever tougher.The Jaguars may be able to run the ball against a Steelers team that has not been its usual self against the run so far this year but they will have no passing game to speak of. Rookie quarterbacks struggle in Pittsburgh particularly those who are transitioning from the spread passing game. Pittsburgh 34 – Jaguars 6
New Orleans Saints (4-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
These two teams had very different weeks in week 5 with Tampa being destroyed on the road by the 49ers and the Saints holding strong against the force of Cam Newtons arm. If the Bucs are to right their season and contend for a playoff spot in the tough NFC South then a win here is imperative for them against the red hot Saints. The Saints are one yard away from being 5-0 and are one of the top three teams in the NFL in my opinion, their defense is back to its turnover forcing ways and that will pose problems for a Bucs team that is without its starting running back LeGarrette Blount.
What to watch:
Josh Freeman and the Bucs passing game: Freeman came into the season as a potential breakout player after a stellar 2010 campaign where he made big plays and barely turned the ball over. This year however Freeman has struggled to get much of anything going and has been turnover prone, already throwing more interceptions than he did in the whole of last season. He hasn’t been helped by the sophomore slump suffered by receiver Mike Williams. Williams was the best rookie receiver in the NFL last season and was a great red zone target for Freeman, this year he has struggled with separation and looked lackluster at best.
Mark Ingram: We are all still eagerly awaiting the performance from Ingram that justifies the Saints trading away next years first round pick to be able to draft him. He has been getting the carries from coach Sean Payton but he has yet to really do anything with them. The Bucs defense is banged up and could be missing both defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Mason Foster, if this is the case then look for Ingram to be fed the ball a lot and go over 100 yards rushing for the first time in his pro career.
Prediction: The Bucs are reeling and dealing with injuries but they will pose a tough test for the Saints at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs don’t roll over for anyone on their home turf and the Saints will have to be firing offensively to be able to put up points like they usually do. I think though that Drew Brees and his down field passing ability will be enough to get the Saints and early lead and then Ingram can be unleashed. I foresee a big game for the rookie in a Saints win. Saints 27 – Bucs 21
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) @ New England Patriots (4-1)
The Cowboys are coming off a bye week and are traveling to take on a Patriots team that is looking poised for a run at a fourth Super Bowl title. The Cowboys have had two weeks to get over their meltdown against the Lions and will be looking to bounce back against a Patriots defense that has been shredded through the air by everyone but the Jets. The Cowboys defense has been rejuvenated under the leadership of Rob Ryan and will be looking to stop the Patriots break the NFL record for consecutive games scoring over thirty points (The record is currently held by the Rams who did it in fourteen straight games.
What to watch:
Tony Romo: The man who all eyes will be on is the Cowboys signal caller, after putting America’s team in a great position to knock off the Lions he suffered his second fourth quarter meltdown of the season and again cost his team. It wouldn’t hurt Cowboys fans as much if Romo was generally poor with his play but he is superb in some games and in others he just capitulates and hurts his team. He should have a good day against a weak Patriots secondary and pass rush. The Pats offense will put up points though so it will be a question of whether Romo can keep up with Brady.
Patriots running game: The Cowboys have the number one rush defense in the NFL and will be facing a Pats ground game that got it going last week against the Jets. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is an injury doubt and if he can’t play the Patriots could have to throw the ball over fifty times. If BJGE is out then the burden of running the ball should fall on rookie Stevan Ridley who has been productive as a rookie so far. If he struggles then look for Tom Brady to complete lots of short passes to Danny Woodhead and his tight ends to compensate for the lack of a running game.
Prediction: This should be the game of the week in my opinion and there will be points aplenty. The Patriots have already shown that they are not unbeatable this season as they lost to the Bills. The Cowboys are getting play-maker Miles Austin back from injury and look poised to click offensively. If Tony Romo can keep his cool and make the plays we all know he can then the Cowboys have a chance. I can see the Cowboys defense having a big game and forcing the win for the Boys. Dallas 34- Patriots 31
Miami Dolphins (0-4) @ New York Jets (2-3)
Monday Night Football serves us up another match-up of teams that just aren’t playing that well. The Dolphins are coming off their bye and without their starting quarterback as Chad Henne is now on IR. The Jets themselves are on a three game losing streak and looking to right their season that was looking so promising in the first two weeks. The Fins will be starting Matt Moore at quarterback and cannot be hopeful of beating the Jets through the air in this contest. By comparison the Jets passing game should be firing on all cylinders against a Dolphins defense that has been abject so far this season.
What to watch:
Daniel Thomas: The rookie Dolphins running back will be thrust into the forefront of the NFL’s conscious in this game as he will be the whole Fins offense. The Jets once formidable defense has struggled so far this season and were gashed by the Patriots in their loss last week. If the Dolphins are to have any chance of getting their first win of the season then both Thomas and Reggie Bush will have to be successful running the ball and receiving out of the backfield.
Mark Sanchez: The Jets quarterback continues to split opinion as at times he looks like he can be a franchise quarterback and others he looks like he is merely a game manager carried by his running game and defence. Against the Dolphins he has the chance to have one of his better games as the Dolphins secondary has been torched by everyone so far this season. This comes after off-season boasts from Sean Smith that he and Vontae Davis were the best corner back duo in the NFL. Look for Sanchez to put up good stats in this one.
Prediction: The Dolphins are looking poised to finish with the worst record in the NFL with a lame duck head coach that knows he is not long for his job. For the Jets it is a must win game as they look to snap their losing streak and get back to winning games within their division. They will have too much for the Dolphins in this one and in all truth it shouldn’t even be a close game. Jets 27 – Dolphins 14