Joe-Pinions: Sports

9 Oct 2010 – NFL Pick ’em, Week 5

Posted in Football (NFL) by txtmstrjoe on 09/10/2010

NFL Pick ’em picks for Week 5, 2010:

Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears were riding high going into Week 4.  They were 3-0, including a hugely impressive win on Monday Night Football in Week 3 over long-time rival Green Bay.  They could be forgiven for feeling quite flush with confidence.

Then they ran into the buzz saw that was the New York Giants defense.  Big Blue‘s defensive unit made an emphatic statement by sacking Bears quarterback Jay Cutler NINE times in less than a complete half of football.  In fact, Cutler was knocked out of the game with a concussion; this concussion has also necessitated to his being officially listed as unavailable for Chicago’s Week 5 showdown with the Carolina Panthers.  Relative unknown Todd Collins starts in his place.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are dealing with quarterback issues of their own.  Matt Moore, who ended last season with a solid string of games, earned the nominal starting spot at quarterback at the beginning of the year, but struggled mightily in the first four games.  Head coach John Fox, who is trying to secure his next coaching contract, grabbed the hook and yanked Moore out and inserted highly-touted rookie Jimmy Clausen into the starting role for this Week 5 matchup.

The Panthers have other big injuries to deal with.  Specifically, standout WR Steve Smith is out for at least the game against Chicago, which means Clausen will have precious little weaponry in his arsenal.  The Panthers have three rookies in their receiving corps, and most of their other skill position players are unknown role players at best.

Da BEARS, then, take this game despite being the road team.  The Panthers simply don’t have anything left in the cupboard.

Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers

This game has all the potential of being a so-called “trap” game for the San Diego Chargers.  They crushed the hapless Arizona Cardinals last week, 41-10, and enter Oakland feeling mightily confident, even cocky.

On the surface, this looks like a lopsided match up.  For sure the Chargers have the more potent offense, with playmakers at every position.  The Raiders, meanwhile, will have to deal with the absence of their top two running backs, Darren McFadden and Michael Bennett, from the game against the Chargers.  Third stringer Michael Bush gets the start.  Defensively, the comparison is closer.  Oakland’s unit is young but very well-coached and effective, led by shutdown cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

A part of me wants to believe the Raiders have enough potential to beat San Diego this weekend; my best friend Rick’s birthday is next weekend, and a win by his Raiders will prove to be an excellent early birthday gift, wouldn’t it?  But his lovely wife Monette is a die-hard San Diego fan, and she’s expecting their first child (she’s due next year), so I don’t want to pick against her either.

So I pick the Chargers to win this game, right?

Not so fast.  I swore an oath to not pick the Chargers again after I branded them bums because they let me down in Week 3 in Seattle.

What am I supposed to do, then?

Aw, what the heck.

RAIDERS for the win.  (Happy birthday, Rick!  And sorry, Mo!  It’s your Chargers’ fault!  They let me down in Seattle!)

New York Jets vs. Minnesota Vikings

Brett Favre returns to New York amidst a scandal that seems a bit muted in the American sports press (considering 1) who’s involved, and 2) the fact that it’s quite salacious) for a Monday Night Football tussle against the Jets.

Favre, of course, was a New York Jet for one year before retiring, then un-retiring, for the fifteen thousandth time in his career.  Apparently, during his time with the Jets, he was slinging not just footballs around, but a certain body part as well (I love what Jason Whitlock calls him on Twitter).

Okay.  No more Brett Favre slagging.  Frankly, my hatred for this man and for everything he stands for is near limitless, and I don’t want this blog entry to be poisoned with more Favre hate-o-rade.

The Vikings are reeling due to Favre being out of sync with his receiving corps.  Sidney Rice, Favre’s favorite target last year, is still out with a hip injury, and Percy Harvin remains sidelined with migraine-related symptoms.  Because Favre opted not to participate in most of the pre-season training camp, he hasn’t built up enough confidence with the other receivers.

But Favre does get a new toy to play with.  WR Randy Moss is now a Viking, thanks to a stunning mid-season trade by the New England Patriots.

Favre and Moss are likely to be in the NFL Hall of Fame someday, but will they have enough chemistry together in their first game together to beat the Jets in New Jersey?

The Jets are no slouches, though, and they are playing at home.  After a bit of a shaky start against the Baltimore Ravens, the Jets seem to have found their rhythm on offense.  Quarterback Mark Sanchez seems to be getting more comfortable by the week and isn’t pressing as much as he did earlier in the season, playing well within his limits and making mostly good decisions.  WR Braylon Edwards has emerged as the go-to receiver, and LaDainian Tomlinson seems to have found the Fountain of Youth lately.  Defensively, outstanding cornerback Darrelle Revis continues to heal his injured hamstring and has deemed himself ready for Moss and the Vikings.

The Jets of 2010 vintage seem to be going out of their way to cultivate controversy.  (Proof?  Their appearance in the now-annual HBO NFL mini-series Hard Knocks, the Inez Sainz situation, and Rex Ryan’s massive excess of personality.)  This week, though, the focal point of controversy is squarely on Brett Favre.

The question now is:  Can the Vikings win in New York despite the growing storm of scandal surrounding their quarterback?

My pick is the J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! for this week.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

An indicator of the expectations heaped upon the San Francisco 49ers this year, this is their second game in front of a national audience this season.  This week they face the Philadelphia Eagles in a home game on Sunday Night Football.  In their first nationally-televised game, a Week 2 Monday Night Football showdown against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, they almost beat the reigning champs with mostly effective offensive attacks and a defense that limited the explosive Saints.  Except for four costly turnovers (most of which when they were deep in the scoring zone) and, ultimately, the defense’s inability to contain Drew Brees one last time, the 49ers could have escaped that game with a victory at home after getting destroyed the previous week in a very hostile Seattle road game.

The Niners are sitting on an 0-4 record, coming off a very disappointing, potentially soul-destroying, last second loss to the Atlanta Falcons.  Once again, turnovers and a defensive breakdown at the very end of the game spelled doom for the 49ers.  The Week 4 loss to the Falcons was gut-wrenching, especially since they seemed to have had the game locked up when cornerback Nate Clements intercepted Atlanta QB Matt Ryan deep in Atlanta territory with about 90 seconds left in the game.  All Clements needed to do was kill the play, either by falling down or by stepping out of bounds.  Either way would have been the smart football play to make.

Instead, instincts apparently over-ruled logic, and Clements tried to take the pick back to the end zone.  He was throttling down on his INT return, obviously trying to work his blocks in front of him, when Atlanta WR Roddy White zoomed in from behind and punched the ball out of Clements’ grasp.  Not only that, but White also actually recovered the fumble he caused, giving the Falcons one final shot at stealing the game from the 49ers.  Clements’ apparently lackadaisical ball security technique as well as his lack of situational awareness (as soon as he made the interception, I started yelling “Get down!  Get out of bounds! Kill the play!”) highlights a basic deficiency in the 49ers as a whole:

This team is in desperate need of teachers in the coaching staff.

Clements’ fumble was inexcusable, in my opinion.  A lack of situational awareness is something that players on a professional sports team ought to never be accused of having.  But I think the coaching staff should also be held accountable for something like this, since ball security and knowing what the game situation is at all times are but two of the most basic fundamentals that good coaches and coaching staffs drill into their teams from Day 1.

Now, onto this game’s specifically.

Philadelphia is experiencing a bit of a mini-crisis of their own at the moment, with the electric Michael Vick sidelined for this game.  Kevin Kolb thus returns to the starter’s role, a role given to him by head coach Andy Reid.  Vick had been riding a streak of very good performances, making plays with both his arm and his legs, and making very few mistakes.  Kolb, meanwhile, has looked confused as he tries to take over from Donovan McNabb.

Defensively, the Eagles are also not as great as they used to be.  They don’t seem to be making as many of the pressure plays (dogs, DB blitzes) count for as much as they always seemed to, and they look vulnerable to the run as well.

The Eagles may not say so, but theirs is a team in transition at the moment.

What does all this mean for the 49ers?  In my opinion, they have their best opportunity to win and stop a further slide into the morass right now.  Alex Smith should get adequate protection from his offensive line, and if he does, he should be able to make throws to his skill position teammates, specifically wideouts Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree, as well as tight end Vernon Davis.  Frank Gore is due for an explosive performance as well, so I expect him to go off like dynamite against the Eagles.  Defensively speaking, the 49ers defense ought to be able to get to Kevin Kolb and disrupt the Eagles offense’s timing.  Look for new starter at strong safety, rookie Taylor Mays, to make a couple of huge plays.  Mays looks like he’s got great ball instincts as well as superb athletic ability which helps to get him where the ball is going to be just before it gets there.

The game is in San Francisco, and Philadelphia has had to travel across the country to get there.  I pick the 49ers to finally get on the win column.

NFL

Opportunity is knocking, not just for the 49ers, but for me as well.  I’m sitting on an 8-8 record so far after four weeks.

Will I end up above .500 after this week’s games?

We’ll learn by the end of Monday Night Football.

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