By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Five weeks in the books and two undefeated teams remain, one in each conference, Atlanta and Houston. Week 6 features a few intriguing match-ups, none larger than the an NFC Championship rematch in San Francisco. Here’s how I think this weekend’s action is going to shake out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
Game of the Week: 49ERS 23, Giants 20 – 3:25 PM
The Giants head west to battle the 49ers in a back to the future game. These two squared off last season for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and may very well do it again this year. The 49ers are the most complete team in the NFC, playing suffocating defense, efficient offense, and stellar special teams. The Giants have had a rash of early season injuries, but are staying afloat. Even with Alex Smith’s injury on his throwing hand, I like the 49ers front seven to carry them to victory.
BROWNS 23, Bengals 21 – Noon
The Battle of Ohio, part deux. I find it odd that these teams will have played each other twice, yet neither has played the Steelers. Alas, I don’t make the schedule. Just four weeks ago, the Bengals beat the Browns in Cincinnati 34-27. The Browns’ Trent Richardson broke out that game, looking like the back everyone anticipated him to be. With AJ Green in town, it is perfect timing for Browns cornerback Joe Haden to return from suspension. Despite the fact the Browns run defense was trampled last weekend by the Giants, I think they’re going to pull this one out.
JETS 20, Colts 17 – Noon
Hats off to the Colts for their “Chuckstrong” victory last week against the Packers. Rookie signal-caller Andrew Luck and wide receiver Reggie Wayne rallied the Colts from an 18-point halftime deficit, connecting five times for 64 yards on the Colts final drive, including the game-winning touchdown. As heartwarming as this game and story was, and as bad as the Jets are, I’m still taking the home team here. The Colts won’t exploit the Jets’ soft run defense (especially now without Donald Brown), and playing on the road isn’t an easy task for a rookie quarterback.
BUCS 23, Chiefs 17 – Noon
Surprisingly interesting matchup in this game between the stout Bucs run defense and the Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles. Charles put up 453 rushing yards the past three weeks, erasing any doubts about him being 100 percent recovered from his knee surgery. Charles’ explosiveness is back, averaging a whopping 5.4 yards per carry. The Chiefs have some uncertainty at quarterback. Matt Cassel was concussed against the Ravens and Brady Quinn will get the start. The Chiefs offense is a mess, so I’m going with the Bucs at home.
FALCONS 31, Raiders 16 – Noon
Fresh off a bye week, will the Raiders put the first blemish on the Falcons’ 2012 season? No, no they won’t. The Falcons have it going on both sides of the ball, and Matt Ryan is playing more efficiently than any quarterback in the NFL. The Raiders’ defense can’t stop anyone, giving up 30+ points in three of their four games. Start all your Falcons in fantasy football this week, it could get ugly.
RAVENS 24, Cowboys 20 – Noon
How ‘bout them Cowboys? Well, since you asked, they’re bad. I think Tony Romo just threw another interception. To be fair, three of those interceptions weren’t Romo’s fault. However, there’s really no reason to be looking where to assign blame in a five-interception game, as it’s simply inexcusable. Considering the Ravens haven’t lost at home since Week 13 of the 2010 season, Baltimore isn’t the ideal place for the Cowboys to try and get things back on track.
EAGLES 26, Lions 23 – Noon
The Eagles and Lions meet in Philadelphia to play the preseason hype bowl. Granted, I still think the Eagles are a playoff team, but the Lions? I’ve called the Lions “paper champions” for years now, which is exactly what they are. Despite the Lions having an extra week to heal and prepare, I like the Eagles at home in a close game.
Rams 20, DOLPHINS 17 – Noon
I’ve been talking about how dominant the Rams defense could be in a few seasons, but perhaps I’m a little off in my timeline. This defense is legit. Now. Their off-season acquisitions of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins are paying immediate dividends, allowing only two receiving touchdowns through five games. Baby mama drama aside, Jenkins could end up being the steal of the 2012 draft. Jeff “Winston Wolf” Fisher has this team playing hard, and they’ll neutralize the Dolphins offense.
New England 27, SEAHAWKS 17 – 3:05 PM
The Patriots amassed 35 first downs last weekend. That’s almost more than the Seahawks have in their last two games combined. If Cam Newton didn’t do his best Tim Tebow impression last weekend, it might have been Matt Flynn time in Seattle. The Patriots will build a lead and put the game in Russell Wilson’s hands, which spells bad things for the Seahawks offense.
CARDINALS 23, Bills 20 – 3:05 PM
I can’t wait to hear all the excuses from “experts” at the end of the season when the Cardinals are a .500 team. Tremendous defense, toothless offense. The Cardinals offensive line is one of, if not the worst in all of football, allowing 127 sacks since the 2010 season. News broke this week that they’ve lost running back Ryan Williams for the year, adding insult to injury. The Bills know about false hope, starting 5-0 in 2011, only to watch the playoffs on the couch. I like the Cardinals’ physical defense in this game to disrupt the Bills timing on offense.
Vikings 21, REDSKINS 20 – 3:25 PM
Hopefully RGIII learns that getting an extra yard isn’t worth taking the hellacious hit he took last week. I admire the desire to make a play, but live to play another down. The Vikings just keep winning games. Christian Ponder went 145 passes before throwing an interception, Adrian Peterson keeps running over defenses, and the Vikings defense is stingy. The last time Peterson played in Washington, he tore his ACL. I like Peterson and the Vikings to make some better memories this Sunday on their way to 5-1.
TEXANS 27, Packers 24 – 7:20 PM
The Packers can’t blame last week’s loss on the replacement refs. In previous seasons, an 18 point halftime lead for the Packers was money in the bank, but this isn’t the same team. The offensive line is porous, they miss Greg Jennings in the vertical passing game, and now Cedric Benson is gone for two months. Bad week to be out of sorts when you’re playing the best team in the AFC. The Texans front seven is going to feast.
Broncos 31, CHARGERS 28 – Monday Night 7:30 PM
The NFL schedule makers did the Broncos no favors this season. Four of the Broncos five games have been against 2011 playoff teams. Granted, I never bought into the Broncos Super Bowl hype (and still don’t), but that’s a rough stretch. The Chargers came up short against the Saints, no thanks to some questionable penalties on their last offensive drive. I think the winner of this game will win the AFC West, and that will be the Broncos.
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.