By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Some very intriguing matchups in Week 5, none larger than the “2nd Place in the NFC North” bowl on Monday night. Did you know Rex Ryan was elected to the Hall of Fame this week? Here’s my take on how the NFL’s Week 5 will shake out with my predictions, my juggernaut games of the week, and my “juggernot lames of the weak”:
Juggernaut Games of the Week
LIONS 27, Bears 24 – Monday Night 7:30 PM
Are you ready for some… oh, wait, that’s gone. The Bears and Lions face off for bragging rights about who is truly second best to the Packers. This is a pivotal game, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the outcome will determine how the rest of the season goes for both teams. If the Bears win, they’ll get above .500, pick up a divisional win, and have some positive momentum heading into their Week 6 Sunday Night match-up against Minnesota. If they lose, they’ll be searching for answers and will be 0-2 in the division. If the Lions win, they’ll move to 5-0 and 2-0 in the division, and will be legitimate wild card contenders. This game is a toss-up, but I’ll give the nod to the more talented team, and that team is not the Bears.
PATRIOTS 34, Jets 24 – 3:15 PM
Jets head coach Rex Ryan is the Ozzie Guillen of football, just odder and fatter. Ryan held a bizarre press conference this week claiming he had been elected to the Hall of Fame of his alma mater, Southwestern Oklahoma State University (fairly certain this is where Lionel Hutz went to law school), so in turn, this weekend’s match-up against New England coach Bill Belichick would boil down to two Hall of Famers butting heads. Rex, here’s some advice you didn’t ask for: let the comedy thing go, and stick to amateur videography. If the winner of this game was determined by the cholesterol count of the head coach, it would be the Jets by an egg yolk, but it won’t be. I like the Patriots to exact revenge for last year’s playoff defeat against a Jets team that can’t run the ball or pass protect.
TEXANS 24, Raiders 20 – Noon
I really like what Oakland is building, but the irony is that they’re a shutdown corner away from being legit. Cough. Nnamdi Asmougha. Cough. Houston fans should be breathing a sigh of relief that the hamstring injury suffered by star wide receiver Andre Johnson wasn’t worse than it was, and will only shelve him for three weeks. Johnson awkwardly crumbled to the ground untouched, reminiscent of the injury suffered by New England’s Wes Welker on the same field a few seasons ago. The injury to Johnson will force Houston to run the rock even more, and what a great opponent to deploy a run-heavy game plan against. Oakland is surrendering 136 yards a game on the ground, so look for a heavy dose of Arion Foster for the win.
Juggernot Lames of the Weak
COLTS 17, Chiefs 13 – Noon
I would rather pay full price to see Adam Sandler’s upcoming disaster “Jack & Jill” than watch one minute of the “Andrew Luck” bowl for free. Who is Andrew Luck’s Ryan Leaf? Landry Jones? The winner of this game gets him. I wonder if Clyde Christensen ever thought he would actually have to do his job when he signed on to become the Colts offensive coordinator? To be fair, Indy has played inspired football the past two games, and they will pick up their first victory of 2011 against an awful Kansas City team.
VIKINGS 20, Cardinals 17 – Noon
Vikings head coach Leslie Frasier is in over his head. For those who thought the Vikings hit rock bottom after their inexplicable collapse at home against the Lions, they reached a new low last Sunday in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. I think LSU might be able to beat the Chiefs. Despite the fact that he played his best game of the season, Donovan McNabb is on borrowed time, as Christian Ponder will be the starting quarterback of this team sooner rather than later. All that said, I like what I’ve seen from the Vikings defensive line and expect them to feed Adrian Peterson the ball until his legs fall off, or at least until he runs into the end zone a few times against a mediocre Arizona outfit.
Bengals 17, JAGUARS 13 – Noon
Quick, without Googling, name the top rated defense in the NFL after four weeks. Nope. Wrong. Wrong again. The correct answer is…….your Cincinnati Bengals. I mentioned a few weeks back that it was worth noting the defense that was being played in the Queen City and they’ve kept it up, holding a Bills team that previously averaged 38 points a game to 20. I expect more of the same this weekend when they take their show on the road to face a dreadful Jacksonville team. Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert didn’t have the meltdown I anticipated last weekend in his first career start against the Saints, but he was a non-factor in the second half. Gabbert will have to search for his first career win another weekend, as it won’t come at the expense of the Bengals.
STEELERS 20, Titans 17 – Noon
Talk about a bizarro world game, the Titans can’t run the ball, and the Steelers can’t stop the run. I’m sure most experts out there thought that after four games Matt Hasselbeck would be a more effective quarterback than Mike Vick, and that Daniel Thomas would have more rushing yards than Chris Johnson. That’s why they play the games. As far as the Steelers go, their defense has always been the one thing you could take for granted, stout against the run, forcing turnovers, but so far this year they’ve looked old and slow. Losing James Harrison for a few weeks (orbital bone fracture) doesn’t help matters, nor does the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is practicing with a walking boot, and running back Rashard Mendenhall is dealing with a sore hammy. All that said, I like the Steelers to grind out a win at home.
Saints 34, PANTHERS 27 – Noon
Last week proved to me that Cam Newton is the real deal. Big, strong, deft footwork in the pocket to evade the pass rush while keeping his eyes downfield to find the open receiver. The sky is truly the limit for Newton. In a few years, he will pose a real challenge to Drew Brees’ Saints, but this week his team will fall short. The Saints have rebounded nicely from their loss in Week 1 to the Packers and have established themselves as the one true threat to take down the Packers in the playoffs. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams faces a rookie starting quarterback for the second straight week and will show Newton fronts he’s never seen before. This will be a competitive game, but I like the Saints.
BILLS 34, Eagles 31 – Noon
What’s up with the goal line call by Eagles head coach Andy Reid last week against the 49ers? Granted, Ronnie Brown suffered a massive brain cramp during the play, but the play call was ridiculous, yet typical for Reid. Are we reaching the point where Reid should be considered overrated? Your team is up by 20 points in the third quarter, and star running back LeSean McCoy only carries the ball nine times to end the game? It’s difficult to reconcile decisions like that. Everybody runs on the Eagles, so expect a monster day from Bills running back Fred Jackson. While I’m still not sold on the Bills, I am giving them a lukewarm endorsement this weekend against an Eagles team that just looks to be in a downward spiral.
GIANTS 27, Seahawks 13 – Noon
The Giants caught a huge break last weekend on a judgment call in the Arizona desert. Trailing by two late in the game, wide receiver Victor Cruz seemed to just drop the ball at the end of a catch without being touched by a Cardinal defender. The refs ruled that Cruz had “given himself up” and wasn’t attempting to advance the ball, so the Cardinals weren’t able to challenge their fumble recovery, and the Giants went on to score and win the game. Tough break, Cardinal fans. This week the Giants get another break when the atrocious Seattle Seahawks come to the Big Apple (well, really New Jersey) and give the Giants their fourth victory of the season.
Buccaneers 17, 49ERS 13 – 3:05 PM
It will be a Bay-area battle of teams with misleading records, as Tampa Bay travels to San Francisco. Even though one of these teams will be a four game winner by Sunday evening, I’m not buying either one of them. Tampa Bay eked out a win over a bad Indianapolis team at home, and the 49ers win against the Eagles last week had more to do with questionable play calling and two missed field goals, as they let the Eagles pile up over 500 yards of total offense. Four wins might be enough to win the NFC West, but the 49ers will have to wait at least another week to pick that up, as I like the Bucs to win this snooze-fest.
Chargers 27, BRONCOS 20 – 3:15
Is it Tebow time yet? Logical Bronco fans hope not, but billboard-buying Bronco fans hope it is. I have a suspicion that this is the week Tebow makes his first extended appearance, as the boos and chants of “We want Tebow!” resonate through Mile High Stadium after the Chargers take the lead in this game. Once it is Tebow time in Denver, enjoy that 4-12 thing you’ll be experiencing for the foreseeable future. Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson is nursing a sore hamstring, but I fully expect him to be in the lineup and effective against a shaky Broncos secondary.
Packers 41, FALCONS 31 – 7:20 PM
For all the Falcons’ fans who forgot about what Aaron Rodgers did to them in the first round of the playoffs last year, they’ll get a fresh set of memories on Sunday night, when the same guy quarterbacking the same team will do the same thing. It’s hard to come up with words to accurately describe the level that Rodgers is playing at this year, perhaps “prolific perfection” does the trick? The Packers are showing no mercy to opponents this season. Last week they successfully recovered an onside kick, and head coach Mike McCarthy challenged a fairly obvious Rodgers’ interception, letting his quarterback know he has his back. Everyone is focused on the amount of passing yards the Packers have given up this year, suggesting it is a chink in the armor. But if you think about it, the explanation is simple. The Packers build a huge lead early, forcing opponents to throw ball to move the chains and abandon any plans of a balanced attack. Same story this week as the Packers roll over the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
Last Week: 12-4 / Season Record: 45-19 (70%)
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.