Bet On It: Week 5 NFL predictions
Last week: 3-5; Season: 14-17-1
After another subpar week of predictions, I called in the big guns for a serious pep talk. Mark it down as the turning point of the "Bet On It" season.
Of course, my picks are hitting at about a 44-percent clip so far this year -- so, trust my prediction that I will get more predictions right at your own risk.
But enough about me. The NFL season is a quarter done, and it looks like we're set up for a wildly entertaining remainder of the 2011 season. This weekend shouldn't do anything to ruin the fun, with a host of intriguing games, starting with several solid games in Sunday's early slot and ending with Detroit's first "Monday Night Football" appearance in a decade.
This week's best guesses:
• Jacoby Jones will top 100 yards receiving
The Houston wide receiver has just 91 yards on receptions this season and has topped the 100-yard mark just once in his NFL career.
That lone triple-digit day, though, came in December of last season, when Andre Johnson was out of Houston's lineup. The Texans figure to be without Johnson again Sunday against Oakland. Johnson's absence will mean a lot of attention paid to Houston's run game and to tight end Owen Daniels.
Jones will have to be a legitimate option in the aerial attack.
• Tarvaris Jackson will take at least four sacks
Jackson's scrambling ability was supposed to limit the amount of damage opposing pass rushes did against Seattle, but the Seahawks are actually tied for third-worst in the NFL with 13 sacks allowed.
Sunday, they have to deal with New York's attacking front, which could include a banged-up Justin Tuck. Either way, the Giants figure to get after Jackson. And if New York runs out to an early lead, like it should against an overmatched Seattle team, the Seahawks will have no choice but to keep going to the air.
Jackson came into this season as one of the more underrated running backs in the league, but he's slowly creeping into the national consciousness with a strong start.
He'll need to stay hot Sunday against Philadelphia for the Bills to get back on the winning track. The good news for Jackson is that Philly's defensive front has been a disappointment this season, allowing nearly 140 rush yards per game. Buffalo's giving up just shy of 130 yards per game, so McCoy will get his opportunities as well.
But Buffalo needs to keep Michael Vick off the field and it needs to get the ball in Jackson's hands, be it on run plays or passes out of the backfield. The combination of the two, plus the Eagles' struggles stopping the run, add up to a big day for Jackson.
• Dallas Clark will catch a touchdown pass
Peyton Manning's injury has firebombed the fantasy value of Clark, long one of the league's most reliable pass-catchers. So far this season, Clark has just 13 catches for 129 yards and one lousy TD.
On the plus side, Curtis Painter started looking for him a bit more Monday night in Tampa Bay -- Clark finished with three grabs for 46 yards, a season-best 15.3 average. Assuming Painter is in the lineup again Sunday against the Chiefs (and he should be), Clark can continue to develop that rapport with his new QB.
Given the Chiefs' defensive struggles, the Painter-led Colts have a chance to break out a bit offensively and Clark stands to be a beneficiary.
• Mark Sanchez will top 300 yards passing
The Jets' offensive line was manhandled in Baltimore Sunday night, with Sanchez barely able to get snaps from Nick Mangold's fill-ins at center. A less-than-100-percent Mangold should return to the lineup in Week 5 at New England.
The Patriots still figure to generate a decent amount of pressure up front, which should result in some Sanchez takedowns and a turnover or three.
But Sanchez will be able to throw against the Patriots' thus-far porous pass defense, and he may not have any choice but to put the ball in the air 40 or more times to keep up with the Patriots' offense.
• Tampa Bay won't score a TD before halftime
The Bucs have developed a reputation as a slow-starting team this season, something that played out again Monday night, as they took a 10-7 deficit into halftime against Indianapolis.
The schedule this week won't help -- after playing in that Monday nighter, Tampa Bay had to turn around and venture cross-country to visit a confident, 3-1 San Francisco team.
It's not a good fit for a team that struggles early in games. Expect Tampa Bay to be sluggish for a while. That doesn't mean the Bucs can't or won't win Sunday, just that it'll take Josh Freeman's offense a while to get warmed up.
• Six or more different players will score touchdowns in Sunday night's Green Bay-Atlanta game
This is my not-so-subtle way of saying I don't necessarily trust the defenses in this one. The Packers routed Atlanta in the playoffs last year, 48-21. Green Bay's out to a 4-0 start in 2011, while the Falcons are in need of a win at 2-2.
Both offenses are loaded and figure to find paydirt over and over again. And, just as importantly, both defenses have been shaky thus far -- Green Bay is actually giving up more than 400 yards per game, a number offset by the team's incredible ability to force turnovers.
• Matt Forte totals at least 150 yards
Part of the reason they're not there, however, is that teams have utilized a lot of quick patters, misdirection and screens to counter Detroit's rush. Dallas did it particularly well in the first half of Week 4, and Chicago figures to follow that blueprint. That plan will likely included plenty of passes flying Forte's way, in addition to whatever the Bears RB gets on the ground. Chicago might not have a ton of offense outside of its starting running back, but Forte figures to find some openings here and there.