Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 9:43 AM
And than there were two ...
There's just a pair of undefeated teams that remain in this here-and-now NFL now that the Arizona Cardinals have been zapped in St. Loo and so the sidebar story here is which team - the Atlanta Falcons or the Houston Texans - will stay perfect longer?
Well, the Falcs get their crack at 5-and-oh come Sunday's Week 5 game in D.C. - the Texans will be the star attraction in this week's Monday Night Football game against the battered/beleaguered New York Jets - but check it out:
Atlanta will host Oakland next week before getting its bye week and so there's a strong possibility that Mike Smith's squad will be unbeaten when we all get to the weekend before Halloween and than up next is a road game (Oct. 28th) at Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now wouldn't that make for great theatre if it is the former Falcon who is trying to KO this NFC South squad ... wow!
Meanwhile, you know the Texans are heavy-duty favorites against the J-E-T-S this Monday Night (it's 8 points and seemingly growing at press time) and than Gary Kubiak's crew will follow up that prime-timer in Jersey with four straight weeks at home: Games against Green Bay, Baltimore and Buffalo with a Week 8 bye jammed in there too.
Are we looking at a Houston team that could bang out eight wins to start the year before a Nov. 11th road tilt in Chicago?
Hey, maybe those 1972 Miami Dolphins - celebrating their 40th anniversary of their perfect season - will have reason to fret after all!
Okay, so we'll get to our Jim Sez NFL Week 5 Key Previews in just a moment but let's update you all on the NFL Favorites vs. Underdogs battle:
Last week NFL Betting Favorites flopped again - they went 5-9-1 ATS (against the spread) -- and so that means following the outright win by the St. Louis Rams over 2 ½-point fav Arizona this past Thursday Night, NFL Favorites are a collective 22-39-3 spreadwise for a dismal .361 winning rate. Yup, it's been a dog-loving year so far in the NFL - we'll see if that trend continues in Week 5.
One other note: NFL Totals players should be advised that "Overs" now barely trail the "Unders" 32-31-1 following the aforementioned Cardinals-Rams game the other night.
Here's a look at the NFL Week 4 Key Sunday afternoon previews:
ATLANTA (4-0) at WASHINGTON (2-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Okay, so how does an NFL team go about trying to beat the Falcons?
For starters, these Washington Redskins must hammer out a minimum of 150 rushing yards against the league's 27th-ranked rush defense (allowing 146.2 ypg) and the 'Skin secondary must get physical - and than stay physical - against this Atlanta receiving corps that right now stars WR Roddy White (27 receptions, 15.3 ypc average and 3 TDs) who's our quarter-pole league MVP.
You can bet the Carolina Panthers are still beating themselves up for not jamming White at the line of scrimmage on that monstrous 59-yard pass completion from QB Matt Ryan late in last week's 30-28 Falcons win but - now with the regular on-field officials back in tow for a second straight week - will they be flagging DBs more on all their chucks? Stay tuned.
One key item for the Redskins and rookie sensation QB Robert Griffin III (see 1,070 yards passing and only one pick):
They must get more "chunk plays" in the passing game after averaging only 12.4 yards-per-catch so far this year - how about a bomb (or two) to WR Leonard Hankerson who caught a 68-yard finger-tip scoring strike a few weeks back.
Spread Notes - Atlanta has covered three of its first four games this year but the Falcons are just 1-4-1 ATS when playing fellow NFC teams since late last season. Washington's split its first four spread decisions this year but the 'Skins are a lousy 11-19-3 ATS as home the past four-plus seasons.
PHILADELPHIA (3-1) at PITTSBURGH (1-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Why do you get the feeling that the Steelers have a winning record (they don't, of course) and the Eagles are the ones with the sub-.500 mark?
In this strange-but-so-far-true NFL season the Steelers have squandered a pair of games at AFC West foes (see Denver and Oakland) but Mike Tomlin's club now hangs its collective hat on the following items:
The Steelers are 13-1 SU (straight-up) in home games against NFC foes in the QB Ben Roethlisberger Era and note the hard-to-take-down signal-caller enters this Week 5 game as the league's second highest-rated quarterback (109.2).
Toss into the mix that following last week's bye, the Steelers say S Troy Polamalu, LB James Harrison and RB Rashard Mendenhall all are expected back from injuries here.
On the flip side, the Eagles have been kings of the close call with those now well-documented 1-, 1 and 2-point wins the past few weeks but to pull the road upset here QB Vick must make some plays with his legs here (see season-high 49 yards rushing in last Sunday Night's 19-17 win against the NY Giants) and PK Alex Henery must figure out the Heinz Field environs and make his 40-plus yard attempts ... or else!
Spread Notes - Philadelphia's a money-cooking 0-3-1 against the odds so far this year but the Birds are 32-23 ATS away since the start of the 2006 campaign. Note that Pittsburgh heads into this interconference clash with two spread setbacks in three tries this year but the Steelers are a haughty 13-6 vig-wise at home while dating back to the start of 2010.
DENVER (2-2) at NEW ENGLAND (2-2) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
All the headlines - of course - will be about this being the latest Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady Showdown and just for the record note that Brady owns an 8-4 SU mark against the elder Manning brother through the years.
However, the here-and-now story is this: Last week Manning didn't throw a single interception and wasn't sacked either in the Broncos' 37-6 rocking-chair win against 6 ½-point underdog Oakland as he continues to find his groove/rhythm after missing all of last season with neck woes.
Meanwhile, it wasn't like Brady was a slouch in Week 4 play either: The three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback threw for 340 yards and 3 TDs in that 52-28 blowout win in Buffalo when the Pats exploded for 45 points in the second half.
No doubt both veteran slingers will be looking to find their groove from the get-go here but gotta believe Brady "goes after" Denver's under-siege CB Tracy Porter and so look for his downfield coverage (or lack thereof) to be a real key here.
Spread Notes - Denver has split its first four pointspread verdicts in this new Manning Era but did you realize the Broncos are just 9-15-1 versus the vig in their last 25 non-AFC West tilts? Meanwhile, New England's 3-1 juice-wise so far this season and the Patriots are a rotten 3-6 spreadwise as home favorites dating back to early last season.
HERE'S OUR SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL PREVIEW AS CHARGERS-SAINTS COLLIDE IN THE BIG EASY
Please don't ask us about everything that's gone wrong for these 2012 N'Orleans Saints ... we simply don't have all day, you know!
Let's just say the club's 0-4 SU (straight-up) start - the worst since that 2007 season that began oh-and-five - has been a myriad of on- and off-the-field problems but for some hard-core statistical evidence, how 'bout the fact that this NFC South squad ranks 26th in the NFL in rushing offense, 23rd in pass defense and 30th in rush defense plus QB Drew Brees already has thrown a handful of interceptions.
Ugh, indeed! Now here's our Sunday Night Football Preview ...
SAN DIEGO (3-1) at NEW ORLEANS (0-4) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Maybe the aforementioned Brees will break this famed Johnny Unitas 52-year-old record of throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games with a scoring strike in a Saints win ... now that would be novel, right?
Brees and this Saints offense has been out of whack for much of this here-and-now season but last week in that bitter 28-27 loss-but-cover at Green Bay there was the one-time Super Bowl MVP connecting with favorite target WR Marques Colston for nine pass splays worth 153 yards and a touchdown and that combo must be front-and-center here against a Chargers squad that last week forced six Kansas City turnovers in a walk-in-the-park 37-20 win at Arrowhead.
If Colston can out-leap the rangy San Diego secondary folks here, than the Saints could finally strike up a winning tune - and it would be nice if the non-existent ground game "starring" RB Pierre Thomas (152 yards rushing through the first four games) received a wake-up call.
One key for Norv Turner's Bolts: Keep feeding RB Jackie Battle who's averaging a hefty 5.1 yards a rush this year. Right now he's the best back in the league that nobody knows!
Spread Notes - New Orleans has failed to cover three of its first four out-of-the-chute games this season but note the Saints did cover all four of their games against AFC competition a year ago. San Diego, meanwhile, is 3-1 ATS (against the spread) this year and the Chargers are 7-2 spreadwise overall since late last season.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL QUICK-HITTERS
Hey, with all those high-profile showdowns on yesterday's card the College Football junkie out there -- and we mean you! -- was sure hopin' for lots of drama but instead South Carolina spanked Georgia 35-7, Notre Dame punked Miami 41-3 and Ohio State walloped Nebraska 63-38 - so who knew that much of the drama would come via upset wins by West Virginia (over Texas), Florida (over LSU) and N.C. State (over 17-point fav Fla. State)?
No doubt there were some crazy games in College Football-land but the question everyone wants to know now is how high in the polls will the SC Gamecocks go after that thrashing against the Georgia Dawgs?
Steve Spurrier's team did just want "Hootie" said they would on the ESPN Game Day show - they dominated 'em and how about Georgia's big-deal frosh RBs Todd Gurley (13 carries for 39 yards) and Keith Marshall (12 totes for 37 yards) basically getting the barn door slammed in their faces by that super-quick and super-strong South Carolina defense starring DE Jadeveon Clowney who was merely everywhere in this SEC prime-time game (yes, he's gonna have a spot on our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy short list this week!).
NOTE: Get the Monday Night Football Preview - that's the San Diego Chargers at the New Orleans Saints -- plus lots of post-NFL Week 5 News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.