Today's absurd prediction:
After week 6, the Raiders will have a commanding lead in the AFC West, and the Redskins will have the second-best record in the NFC.
St. Louis at Baltimore - The Ravens are definitely without starters Trevor Pryce and Samari Rolle, and their list of questionables includes starters Jonathan Ogden, Derrick Mason, and Todd Heap. And in this matchup, they're the team whom the fates have treated well. The Rams have four linemen on IR, including the ever-important Orlando Pace, and will also be without Steven Jackson, Isaac Bruce, and several role players, with James Hall and Marc Bulger questionable (Gus Frerotte should start at QB). Yikes. However, the Rams' backups played very well last week and almost pulled off a win. The question is, will having gotten so close and fallen short demoralize the team more? I suggest yes. Besides, the Ravens aren't down any linebackers or safeties-this defense will still dominate. Rams 10, Ravens 26. Game MVP: Chris McAllister - 5 tackles, INT, FR, TD.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay - Twice in the new millennium, the NFC has won the Super Bowl. In this game, the loser of one of those championships faces the winner of the other. This has nothing to do with the outcome, it's just a bit of trivia. It's kind of a stretch to find something interesting about this game. Really, though, it should be a good game. Both teams have been overachieving this year, and one will get a fourth win in a year where most people didn't expect them in the playoffs. History says to go with the Titans, as does their road record of late and general principles of AFC dominance. But I never liked history much, and I'm picking the Bucs to get the upset. Why? Dunno. I just feel good about them. It'll take a lot of turnovers, which Tennessee will give them. I think Earnest Graham could turn a lot of heads in the near future, and he'll get a head start here by joining Joseph Addai as the only people to break 60 yards rushing against Tennessee. Titans 16, Bucs 21. Game MVP: Jeff Garcia - 24 for 37 passing, 211 yds, 1 TD, 0 INTs; rush TD.
See Josh and Dan debate the Tennessee-Tampa Bay game here.
Philadelphia at NY Jets - Now this is interesting: both teams are playing at the Meadowlands for the second straight game, having lost there to the Giants in week 4 and 5, respectively. This time, the fans will be wearing green, not blue, which will make both teams feel more at home, even though one of them won't be, and one was last week. Wrap your head around that one. This is also a matchup of the two teams whose fans I hate the most this year, because both are antsy for the backup QB to step in despite everything their starter has done for them. And I bet McNabb has something to say about all the K's involved in said backups' names: Kevin Kolb, Kellen Clemens. You get the idea. So, who wins this battle of the embattled? Well, the Eagles have never lost to the Jets, and Andy Reid has never lost after a bye. Futhermore, the Eagles have played good teams and lost, and the Jets...haven't. William Thomas might be back for the Eagles, and Brian Westbrook should be. That will push them to victory. Eagles 31, Jets 20. Game MVP: Donovan McNabb - 28 for 40 passing, 333 yds, 3 TDs, INT.
Cincinnati at Kansas City - On paper, this looks like a close game. An awful defense against an awful offense. A good offense against a good defense. But in truth, I don't expect this to be close at all. Yes, Arrowhead's a dangerous stadium to visit, but the Bengals are coming off of a bye week, so those advantages cancel each other out. And that leaves the simple fact that the Bengals are better. They give up a lot of points and yards, mostly on huge plays, of which the Chiefs aren't terribly capable. After finishing the New England game with two healthy linebackers on the entire roster, they signed Corey Mays, who played for the Patriots last season. They hope not to need him much. The Bengals will also be without Willie Anderson for the first time since 1999, and Rudi Johnson remains out with injury. While that's a whole lot to overcome, I still like them to beat an inferior team. Cincinnati becomes the first team to break 21 points against Kansas City. Bengals 24, Chiefs 14. Game MVP: T.J. Houshmandzadeh - 4 rec, 121 yds, 2 TDs.
Houston at Jacksonville - The AFC South may have the weakest rivalries of any division in the NFL, but that won't last long. Both teams have hinted that they belong among the AFC's top 5 teams, but haven't quite proven it yet. David Garrard has had a 109 or better passer rating in each of the past three games, and has done so relatively unnoticed. And it's not like he's been dinking and dunking - his 8.3 YPA is tied for fourth in the NFL among starting QBs. Who's he tied with? Upcoming opponent Matt Schaub, whose success HAS been noted. However, the Texans haven't really beaten anyone yet. Their wins over Carolina and Kansas City were impressive, but the loss to Atlanta and near-loss to Miami left a lot to be desired. Without Andre Johnson in the lineup, the offense has struggled to get points on the board - Schaub has only thrown two touchdowns in the three games Johnson has missed. Since Jacksonville is at home, I think they'll take this one. Houston just doesn't have the tools available to beat this great defense. But they're fighters, and they'll play them close. Texans 19, Jaguars 21. Game MVP: David Garrard - 19 for 24 passing, 208 yds, TD, 0 INTs. 5 rushes, 21 yds, TD.
Washington at Green Bay - Favre played his first subpar game of the season against the Bears, and with Favre, when it rains, it pours. I'm expecting a brilliant defensive gameplan from Gregg Williams, like the one he put together against Detroit last week and New Orleans last year. Without having to worry too much about the run, he'll figure out a way to shut down the pass with all his new tools in the secondary. The question will be: how to score enough points against a solid defense? After all, the Bears had to get five turnovers to win the game by a touchdown. Ah, but the Skins aren't counting on Brian Griese and Cedric "2 Yards" Benson to get the ball moving. There will be a lot of punting this game, but the Skins will put together just enough scoring drives to get the upset, as the Redskins beat Brett Favre for the first time ever. Redskins 20, Packers 16. Game MVP: Clinton Portis - 16 rushes, 104 yds, TD.
Miami at Cleveland - In weeks 1, 3, and 5, Miami lost by a field goal on the road. In weeks 2 and 4, they lost by a lot more than that at home. So the question is, are the big losses due to home games, or alternating weeks? We'll find out this week, since they're on the road but it's an even week. One trend has to be broken. I'm figuring they lose by a lot, going with the alternating weeks theory. They come close to winning a game, there's a letdown, and they play terribly the next week, then bounce back to almost win again. Cleveland has been playing well, though inconsistently, and considering they came closer to beating the Patriots than anyone else has yet, last week's loss isn't anything to fret about. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are starting a QB who shares a first name with a hack TV psychic, and the goldfish from Pinocchio. Dolphins 13, Browns 27. Game MVP: Derek Anderson - 21 for 33 passing, 287 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
Minnesota at Chicago - Cedric Benson, prepare for the worst game of your awful, awful season. You suck at running to the outside, and there won't be anything available up the middle. Really, the Bears would be smart to follow the Vikes' lead and start Adrian Peterson at running back. But they'll be all right and win the game anyway - the Vikings won't be able to get anything going on offense, and Griese will pass to Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen to sustain some steady drives, and pull out his second straight division victory. Vikings 9, Bears 24. Game MVP: Desmond Clark - 7 receptions, 99 yds, TD.
Carolina at Arizona - the two-headed monster QB approach is over, with Matt Leinart out for the season. And now Kurt Warner gets to show what he can do for a full game when he actually gets protection. The Panthers will play some decent defense, but an astounding 3rd-down conversion rate will get the Cardinals a commanding victory. Some big plays to Steve Smith will keep Carolina in the game, but they'll be tired in the fourth quarter and get killed by the run. Panthers 21, Cardinals 34. Game MVP: Edgerrin James - 26 rushes for 139 yds, TD.
Oakland at San Diego - One team was 2-14 last year; the other 14-2. Yet the former currently leads the division. We'll see if the Chargers can straighten the standings out here after finally showing up to play against Denver last week. I'm going out on a limb and saying, no, they won't. This is going to be a great game - both teams will be fired up and wanting to put a hurt on each other. Oakland wins the turnover battle and gets an overtime victory. Antonio Gates only gets 2 receptions, one of the biggest reasons the Raiders prevail. Raiders 33, Chargers 27 (OT). Game MVP: Kirk Morrison - 11 tackles, PD, INT.
New England at Dallas - To suggest that Indianapolis is excited that they're guaranteed to be one of two undefeated teams would be to suggest that they give a flying fork about what happens in the regular season. Tony Romo somehow turned the ball over 6 times last week, and still pulled out a victory. The Patriots won't let that happen - Romo will have to be perfect. I don't see the Cowboys being able to do anything other teams couldn't. They might get more yards than the Pats' other victims, but they won't do any better in the score department. Tom Brady has a fantastic game, even for Tom Brady. Patriots 38, Cowboys 16. Game MVP: Tom Brady - 29 for 32 passing, 318 yds, 4 TDs. (good enough for you, Tracy?)
New Orleans at Seattle - Remember that question I asked earlier about the Rams? "The question is, will having gotten so close and fallen short demoralize the team more?" Same question here, same answer. The Seahawks are going to eat Reggie Bush alive at home, and Brees will throw a few more interceptions. This had the makings of a great game at the start of the season, hence the Sunday night slot, but we know better now. Maurice Morris is expected to get some playing time, which will inspire Alexander to put on the best game of his season. He'll get pulled in the fourth to spare his health, but his YPC will be phenomenal. Saints 14, Seahawks 42. Game MVP: Shaun Alexander - 15 rushes, 112 yds, 2 TDs.
NY Giants at Atlanta - The Falcons have no business having come so close to wins in the past four weeks. They lost three games by a touchdown or less, and won the other. They can't run the ball after years of being one of the NFL's best in that department, and they've been killed by injuries. Their defense isn't getting a lot of credit, because their numbers are around the middle of the league everywhere, but someone's keeping them in games and it isn't Warrick Dunn. Expect more of the same, as they keep the Giants' score manageable, but fail to match those points. Giants 24, Falcons 17. Game MVP: Brandon Jacobs - 23 rushes for 106 yds, 2 TDs.
Here are Josh's picks. They're required reading for anyone who... wants to read Josh's picks.