Thursday, October 8, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 5 Picks

Week 4 Monday Night Review

Drama!!....Drama!! ...n then some...

Packs Vs Vikings is usually a high energy game. With No.4 dressed up in purple and facing the green and gold it obviously was can't miss drama. To us Packer fans (and to Viking fans) its in epic proportions; kind of like Gandalf the White suddenly fighting for Sauron the evil one instead of the good guys (Sorry about the Lord of the Rings analogy ...... but it really is that big). Favre faced his old team for the first time after their bitter divorce more than a year ago. Even though he denies it, he really wanted to stick it to Ted Thompson and McCarthy that they made the wrong call. You could see Favre was really pumped up emotionally before the game, which actually sent goosebumps under my skin because it reminded me of another Monday Night in 2003 after the death of his dad, Favre came out and looked invincible throwing for TDs in double and triple coverages. Turns out he did play with that energy. But the reasons the Vikings won had to do more than just Favre's awesome throws.

What went wrong? (or right for the Vikes)

As the saying goes, in football the game is won in the trenches. How the offensive and defensive lines of each team plays goes a long way in determining the winner of a game. When the Vikings were on offense, their line dominated the GB defensive line. The new 3-4 defense still has not found its ground. There were too many plays where there were fewer than 4 defensive players rushing the passer, which meant Aaron Kampman and others were in coverage for those plays. That is definitely not a winning formula for the defense. You want guys like Kampman to be rushing in most plays. And Favre had eternity to make all his throws. Talking about GB defense, they did a good job of keeping Adrian Peterson in check for the most part, but their secondary had a lot of problems. Derick Martin (signed just 3 weeks ago) was starting at Safety due to injuries to Atari Bigby and the sudden release of Aaron Rouse. There were some mental errors by him causing a couple of big plays including a long TD throw from Favre (where Al Harris obviously played under Berrian expecting help from the Safety up top).

Where do I start talking about the GB offensive line? Coming in, they obviously were in shambles because of injuries. But its no excuse for the miserable showing by the guys who eventually played on the field. Rodgers was knocked around in the backfield and sacked 8 times, making it 20 sacks in 4 games. To be fair, on some of the sacks, it was Aaron holding on to the ball too long. But it is a problem they will have to fix to fare better against quality defenses. Even with all these setbacks, the Packers were a failed 4th and Goal from the 1 yard line TD attempt and couple of failed onside recoveries away from making it close towards the end.

"Favre the Almighty!!"

If you were tired of all the hoopla about Favre for a week before Monday Night, you can only imagine the hyperbole and eulogy about the great one on ESPN Monday Night. The pre-game was all about him, with very little coverage about the actual game and factors that may contribute to the outcome. The only one on the ESPN crew to (of like a dozen people) to show some amount of perspective to the actual matchup was Steve Young, who at point said "Enough with all the Favre Favre, Favre....and let's talk about the actual game tonight".

Even when the game was on, the guys in the booth were drooling about Favre's "fantastic" throws. To say Gruden and Jaws were exposing their "man-crush" on national TV would have been an understatement. A couple of deep completions of Favre (including a TD) were opportunities for these Favre-bots to extoll his arm strength and greatness. They did not even mention the defensive breakdown of the packers secondary during those plays.

Quick Fix??

The bye week cannot come at a better time for the Packers. Hopefully they will have Chad Clifton RT back from his injury, letting Daryl Colledge go back to RG and Splitz to C (their original positions). Also, they are about to re-sign Mark Tauscher back to compete with Allen Barbre for the LT position. Tauscher, although 33 is a veteran at the position and has a reputation in the league to know how to use his body and leverages. If the O line as a whole manages to hold up pass rushes a tad bit, and if Aaron can release the ball quicker it will help in reducing the sacks and hits on him too. Also the offensive play calling has to include more draw plays and quick screens to slow down the pass rush.

On defense, as far as the secondary is concerned, it gives more time for Derick Martin to learn the new scheme at GB, so that he doesn't have more break downs like against the Vikings. Moreover, if Bigby comes back from his injury as expected, it will move Derick Martin to the bench. And that in turn strengthens the secondary. Overall, Dom Capers also has to tune up the heat in his play calling too, with more blitzes.

The icing in the cake is that after the bye week the packers have a soft schedule against the Browns and the Lions. So they essentially have 3 weeks to get things on track before they host Favre and the Vikes in Lambeau. Revenge will be sweet!

Week 5 picks:

Browns (+6) at Bills
The Bills are coming off a disappointing loss to the Dolphins and would like to make amends by taking care of the Browns at home. Trent Edwards to TO should happen more often than the first quarter of the season.
My Pick: Bills

Steelers (-10.5) at Lions
The Steelers got off to a fast start last week against the Chargers, but coughed up most of that lead in the end. The Lions are no way as talented as the Chargers. And Stafford might not even play. I predict an "over" in the spread.
My Pick: Steelers

Cowboys (-9) at Chiefs
The Cowboys had a tough loss against the Broncos, and would like to redeem themselves against the Chiefs. The Chiefs have been sailing in rough seas themselves, but may not have enough to beat the Cowboys, who finally are running the ball more as they should.
My Pick: Cowboys

Vikings (-9.5) at Rams
The Vikings are soaring and would probably come back to Earth real soon, but not against the Rams. Expect Adrian Peterson to run all over the Rams after his poor outing against the Packers.
My Pick: Vikings

Raiders (+15) at Giants
How contrasting are these teams. Giants are an epitome of professionalism on how they play the game, the Raiders on the contrary have a crude way of running the team.
My Pick: Giants (even if Eli does not play)

Bucs (+14.5) at Eagles
McNaab is returning to the lineup, but is he going to be more effective than Kolb. That's what the Eagles are hoping. But its definitely gonna be enough to beat out the Bucs.
My Pick: Eagles

Redskins (+3.5) at Panthers
the Panthers are coming off a bye week and should be reset to start fresh and get their train on tracks. The Redskins could give them the perfect chance they need.
My Pick: Panthers

Bengals (+9) at Ravens
Welcome to the another of those AFC North rivalries. Only this time the Bengals and Ravens are both 3-1 and are pretty good. The Ravens would play harder to come back from the their heart breaking loss to the Patriots last week and moreover they play at home.
My Pick: Ravens

Falcons (+2.5) at 49ers
The Niners are gonna be without Frank Gore for another week at least. But Glen Coffee will want to do a better job replacing him this week than he did last. The Niners managed to beat the Rams with their Defense and Special teams. They will need more of an offense to beat the Falcons. Also the Niners are going to be excited to have Crabtree signed (although he is not playing this week). I Think the Falcons will struggle against the Niners D line because of their under size.
My Pick: 49ers

Patriots (-2) at Broncos
The Broncos are one of the most surprising teams this season going 4-0 so far. One might tend to think they were lucky with a fairly soft schedule and some luck. But their defense is for real. But this week, they are going against one of those elite teams and I do not see their winning streak continue.
My Pick: Patriots

Texans (+5.5) at Cardinals
The Texans and Cardinals are similar in the sense that they are both so unpredictable. They can burn you on offense when they are in a zone. Or could look real bad at times too. I think the Cardinals have an advantage playing at home here.
My Pick: Cardinals

Jaguars (NL) at Seahawks
The Jaguars are coming off an impressive win against the Titans. But the Seahawks have their own motivational aspects too, including the return of some of their injured starters, and none more important than the return of Matt Hasselbeck. I think that will be enough to put them over the Jaguars at home.
My Pick: Seahawks

Colts (-3.5) at Titans
I know the Titans usually play the Colts real close, but the line of 3.5 is a joke. I expect the Colts to dominate the Titans and maybe we see a little bit of Vince Young by the end of the game.
My Pick: Colts

Jets (-1) at Dolphins
The Jets have enough defense to stop all the variations of the Wildcat offense that Miami might throw at them. Sanchez gets back to being a rookie, not having to do too much, but just enough to score more than the Fish
My Pick: Jets

Last Week: 11-3
Year to date: 46-16

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