Home > High Five, Picks > High Five: Week 5 picks

High Five: Week 5 picks

Another fascinating week of NFL action lies in wait, and the Neutral Zone sets about previewing five of the biggest games down for decision, starting with Philadelphia’s important trip to Buffalo.

Last week’s ‘High Five’ record: 3-2

Philadelphia Eagles at Buffalo Bills

A game to really look forward to here, so let’s take a quick recap on the respective records. 1-3 and 3-1. That seems about right. But wait, it’s the wrong way around. Yes, it’s true that at the start of the season, few would have considered this ordinary-looking week 5 clash to contain so much importance for the Philadelphia Eagles, but this might just be a season-defining game for Andy Reid’s men. A seemingly impossible meltdown last week against the 49ers underlined the problems the Eagles have had on defense, despite their pre-season spending. Add three turnovers on offense and their fate was sealed, as another careless game ended in defeat. But there were glimmers of hope. Mike Vick looked like something approaching his best, and the Eagles put up over 500 yards on offense. Cut out the mindless errors, and they’ll be in the playoff mix.

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The Buffalo Bills can already lay claims to being in the playoff mix. But they’ll have been disappointed by a letdown 3-point defeat last week to the Bengals. 14 points ahead at half-time, this was a game Buffalo should have won. They just couldn’t achieve the same offensive production that had lit up their win over the Patriots the previous week, and there is a feeling that Buffalo’s form is beginning to tail off. And if the offense isn’t producing then the Bills are in trouble. They’ve shipped an average of 29.7 points over their last three games. Vick, LeSean McCoy and co. might just be hurting enough -and desperate enough – to make hay.

The season hangs in the balance for this Philadelphia team, but let’s stick to the basics here… they’re a better football team than the Bills, and this week they will actually show it on the playing field. To paraphrase Michael Vick: the ‘dream team’ thing is over. It’s time to get real.

Neutral Zone prediction: Philadelphia 34 Buffalo 17

New York Jets at New England Patriots

For those of us who watch the NFL in Ireland and the UK, we’re getting spoilt this weekend with a great double-header on Sky Sports. After we watch Michael Vick’s Eagles at Buffalo, one of the NFL’s best modern day rivalries hits our screens as Tom Brady and the Patriots try and exact revenge on the New York Jets for last season’s divisional play-off defeat. The bookmakers reckon that there’s only one winner in this one, asking New England to cover a 9.5 point spread. It’s a reaction partly down to the numbers Tom Brady’s offense has put up this season, scoring almost 34 points per game, and partly down to the way the Patriots bounced back from the loss at Buffalo to win emphatically at Oakland. Add in the revenge motivation factor, and you can see where the layers are coming from.

And that’s without even mentioning the Jets. They’re in a terrible state of chassis altogether. Reduced to a comedic performance on offense last Sunday night against Baltimore, quarterback Mark Sanchez is getting little protection from his offensive line and even less help from the rushing corps. Tricky situation. So the Jets have to go back to what they do best. Brash, loud-mouth football, mixing it up on defense and trying to knock New England off their stride. The good news for Rex Ryan’s men is that the Patriots won’t really exploit a poor Jets rushing defense, so if New York can concentrate on the likes of Wes Welker and the Patriots tight ends then they can keep the score down. Then, if they keep the ball out of Mark Sanchez’s hands and take time off the clock, they will at least gain some control of the game and keep this one tight. However, it’s hard to see them getting enough things right to carry off the victory. Where’s Shaun Ellis when you need him?

Neutral Zone prediction: New York Jets 14 New England 20

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

If you haven’t had enough action following the earlier Sunday games, Channel 4 offers us another enticing clash to feast on late Sunday night.

It’s hard to give the Packers enough praise for how they have come out this season and eased their way to a 4-0 record. They’ve barely put a foot wrong. And it’s not to say they’ve had an easy slate thus far. New Orleans have been taken care of; the annual trip to Soldier Field was negotiated with alarming ease. Are they peaking too early? After last year’s perfectly timed run to the Super Bowl it’s tempting to say yes. But really they’re just playing like the champs they are. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has an option at every angle, and the defense can be a play-making machine. A recipe for big victories that almost negates the relative abilities of their weekly opposition. And there’s a strange feeling that they might get even better.

Then there’s the Falcons. The team many thought could be in Green Bay’s position around about now. They suffer from that which plagues a number of teams across the league: not being able to handle the pressure. Think the Eagles and the Jets. Think teams that are in trouble even at this early stage of the season. Tampa Bay and New Orleans are leading the way in the NFC South and they’ll be tough to shift. Atlanta need to get moving. Soon. A win over the Packers would be a perfect tonic, but it’s difficult to see it happen. Like New England this weekend, Atlanta are desperate for revenge, but it can only happen if they provide a better balance on offense and keep Rodgers off the field.

It seems that there’s an even wider gap between the performance levels of these teams right now than there was during Green Bay’s 48-21 play-off victory last January. So it follows that there’s only one pick that can be made here. Although it’s unlikely that Green Bay will make such an impact again on the Georgia Dome scoreboard.

Neutral Zone prediction: Green Bay 31 Atlanta 27

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

Only one winner in this one. And for a few reasons. Firstly, the Chargers have been known, in recent seasons under Norv Turner, as a team who get out of the blocks so slowly they’re almost going backwards. After four games it’s safe to say that the start of the season is over, and despite not impressing at all, San Diego are 3-1. The defense has been putting up the stops to get the wins, and the much vaunted Chargers offense has yet to catch fire. But the chances are that this Bolts outfit will get better. And there’s no team they’d rather do that against than the Broncos. The Chargers have put up at least 30 points against their AFC West foes in their last three meetings, and they’ve won all three games with a combined total of 55 points.

Denver are 1-3 for the season, and are struggling to find any sort of form. A fan-made quarterback controversy isn’t helping, as Kyle Orton continues to come under fire from Broncos supporters for not being Tim Tebow. Denver coach John Fox is unlikely to succumb to calls for a change however, and it’s difficult to see his team playing with enough confidence to put wins on the board. Orton is 6-20 in his last 26 games, and the defense has shown little either, conceding a total of 111 points in four games. It could be another long afternoon for Fox, Orton et al at Mile High. On the flip side, it might just be the catalyst for San Diego to get their offense up and running, and gain a stranglehold in the division.

Neutral Zone prediction: San Diego 30 Denver 14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers

A battle of two 3-1 teams in this game, so something is going to have to give at Candlestick Park. The bookmakers have installed the 49ers as 2.5 point favourites, but this is down to home field advantage and little else. Also playing into San Francisco’s favour is the fact that Tampa are coming off a short week following their Monday night exploits against the Colts, and now have to travel the full breadth of the country to play in this one. It might be a factor.

Both teams have went about their task and achieved a winning record thus far in a very quiet and unassuming manner. Despite an excellent comeback win over the Eagles, the 49ers do not appear to be getting any credit for their performances this season. Yet, barring an overtime defeat to the Dallas Cowboys, they’d be sitting at 4-0; so Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff must be doing something right. The stats don’t really give any answers. They’re pretty unspectacular. Quarterback Alex Smith has thrown for 795 yards and just four touchdowns. The defense has six interceptions. But what this San Francisco team does well is keep themselves in games. They have made very few mistakes and kept a fair share of possession time. The Bucs will not get too far ahead of them in Sunday’s game either.

Tampa Bay have been generally the more impressive of the two teams, though each of their wins have been tight contests also. On Monday night, LeGarrette Blount’s late fourth quarter touchdown saw them take the lead for the first time in the game. It all points to another close matchup this weekend. And when the sides are level going into the final quarter, which QB would you rather have on your side? Josh Freeman or Alex Smith. Freeman would be the easy choice. He has displayed a coolness and calm under pressure, and his ability to eek out first downs with his feet can make a massive difference at the business end of games. Expect Freeman and the Bucs, aided by the impressive form of running back Blount, to produce the goods late against the 49ers, and stretch their record to 4-1.

Neutral Zone prediction: Tampa Bay 17 San Francisco 14

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