With a quarter of the season down the chute, we expected trends to start developing and performances to begin normalizing. Did we see that in Week 5? Nope. That said, here’s the Week 5 FourCast …
#1. The Washington Redskins Are For Real (and in October, not March)
Being from the Washington area, I am accustomed to hearing fans celebrating … in the month of March whenever a free agent is signed or whenever the team trades for a high-profile player. For years, I would mock Redskins fans and dub them the “Super Bowl Champions … of March”. In the last couple of seasons, the Redskins organization has discovered this thing called continuity and see that there’s some value. In spite of a new offensive system brought by a new coach, Jason Campbell’s millionth (seventh, actually) since he earned his high school diploma, the organization kept many of its coaches and players in place. They even had draft picks, one of which – Chris Horton – was defensive rookie for the month of September. The only return to business as usual for the Redskins was a trade for perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor; however, many, including myself, would argue that it was necessitated by season-ending injuries to two defensive ends on the same day in training camp and that it was not a move made by Dan Snyder for the sake of catching headlines. Since the nationally televised debacle against the New York Giants, Washington has rattled off four straight victories – two in succession at Dallas and Philadelphia. More importantly, the Redskins #6 offense (351.2 yards per game) has not given away the ball over nearly a third through the season and the defense has forced seven turnovers. Moving forward, the onus will be on head coach Jim Zorn to prepare his team for the next three games, in which the Redskins are expected to be favorites.
#2. Please Relegate the Detroit Lions
I don’t even want to call it football. That’s not what the Lions play. This team (a contradiction in terms, I know) has zero pride. If they had any, they would not fold like a lawn chair every time they stopped onto the field. I have and will continue to call the 11 (and sometimes, 12) people who stand on the field at the same time as their opponents’ offense a “Pop Warner Defense”.
Knowing this, I humbly request that the NFL relegates the Detroit Lions organization to either NFL Europe or the Arena League (or even, the CFL – they are close enough to Canada to become the Windsor Lions). My only requests for the promoted team is (a) that they have a cool name and (b) play as close or closer to the north as the Arizona Cardinals were to the east.
#3. Not Sold on Pittsburgh as a Contender
If you had an opportunity to watch Pittsburgh’s 26-21 victory at Jacksonville, then you are more likely to consider Ben Roethlisberger as one of the game’s best. After throwing a pick six to … you guessed, Rashean Mathis, Roethlisberger was undeterred in his pursuit to win and made plays all throughout the season despite lacking his top three running backs and a cohesive offensive line. Though Big Ben had a gymnast’s dexterity whenever the game hinged on his performance and the defense was impenetrable for much of the game, I am not sold on Pittsburgh’s ability to make a sustained run in the AFC. Despite playing in what many thought was the NFL’s weakest division prior to the season, the Steelers have required heroics to win the last two weeks and are another Big Ben body blow away from missing valuable snaps. Additionally, Pittsburgh is only 20th in rushing yards per game, a far cry from their #3 rank last season.
#4. Awkward Games Are This Season’s Calling Card
Anyone who watched last night’s Minnesota/New Orleans game or watched the highlights know that this was an awkward. It’s not every day that you see a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, a halfback pass for a score and two punt returns taken to the house (Craig Kluwe is so cut and gets the “Durant Brooks Award” for kicking two low line drives to Reggie Bush in succession after one was already returned for a score).
However, awkward games have been this season’s calling card. Less than thirty hours before the Monday Night game, Indianapolis was down three scores to Houston with less than five minutes to go. I’ll spare you the highlights, because all of our readers have already seen the meltdown and know that Indy has been given a lifeline. As a rule of thumb moving forward, any game involving New Orleans, Denver, Reliant Stadium, Minnesota (against real NFL teams only), Ed Hochuli’s crew, the Wildcat formation and the desert have an elevated awkwardness rating. Let’s call it “Code Orange”.
The Code Orange games for Week 6 include the following:
* Oakland @ New Orleans. The Saints will either lose and give up a 1.5 yards per carry against the Raiders or win and give up 400+ yards of total offense.
* Miami @ Houston. This is actually Code Red due to two factors being satisfied. If Hochuli does this game, we have a trifecta.
* Jacksonville @ Denver. The Broncos can easily win despite giving up 8 yards per carry and 80 yards to three Jags backs. Good luck tackling David Garrard.
* Dallas @ Arizona. Bizarre things happen in the desert. The quicker you accept this fundamental verity, the better you can handle the consequences. Last week, no one knew why the Cardinals were 1-point favorites against then-undefeated Buffalo (I picked them only because I had to for my pick ‘em league) despite not having the services of top-flight wide receiver Anquan Boldin and they won by 24.