Ryan Torain could have a big day against the Eagles' hapless run defense. (ZUMAPRESS.com)
Last Week: 4-4; Season: 18-21-1
I've developed a new nickname for myself that I'm going to try to get my SI.com coworkers to start using: "The Weatherman."
Why? Well, every week I trot out here with my prop picks for the NFL week -- and, thus far, every week I'm usually wrong. Yet, like your local meteorologist telling you there's a 100-percent chance of rain on what turns out to be a beautiful fall day, they keep letting me do this every Thursday.
So, here were go again. This week's forecast: Partly cloudy with a chance of getting a few picks right.
• The Redskins will rush for 150-plus yards
Perhaps the one factor contributing, more than anything else, to Philadelphia's shockingly slow start is the Eagles' inability to stop the run. Philly's allowing 140.2 yards rushing per game, the third-worst number in the league.
The Eagles are employing a "wide-nine" technique on the defense line -- basically, setting the ends up outside the offensive line in an effort to get upfield faster. However, that's leaving the gaps on the interior open to opposing running backs.
Washington should take full advantage of that. Mike Shanahan's one-cut scheme in the run game seems perfectly set up to blow through whatever holes the Redskins' offensive line can create, and Ryan Torain and Roy Helu could have big games, if Tim Hightower can't go.
• Cam Newton will throw for more than 300 yards ... again
Newton's passing numbers have fallen a bit back to earth lately -- not surprisingly, given that he threw for a combined 854 yards in Weeks 1 and 2.
But Carolina's rookie phenom had just 158 yards passing in Week 3, then 224 against the Saints in Week 5. Look for him to bump that stat back up in a big way Sunday.
Atlanta's defense continues to be a bit of a mystery -- the Falcons shut down Green Bay for a half, then became Aaron Rodgers' latest prey. Newton and the Panthers could find themselves in a hole in this one, meaning plenty of opportunities to throw the ball.
• Jacksonville will score three or fewer points in the first half
Poor Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars' rookie QB was thrown into the fire for a struggling team and, while he's played well, has not been able to turn things around. Now, he gets a Pittsburgh defense that found its stride against Tennessee last week and might just be back on track.
Because of the two losses they have on the board already, the Steelers can't afford to slip up against an underdog at home. They figure to get after Gabbert early and often and make his life miserable Sunday.
• Tony Romo will throw at least three TD passes
Dallas' bye week could not have come at a better time, and it looks like the Cowboys might have both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin on the field when they visit New England Sunday.
The Patriots are 4-1 but continue to have issues covering in the secondary. If Dallas can at least limit the New England pass rush, Romo should have plenty of time and his fair share of targets to pick out downfield.
This one could turn into a shootout, and a relatively healthy Dallas team has the potential to put up some points.
• Derrick Mason finishes with less than 25 yards receiving
Mason rapidly fell out of favor in New York, with the Jets dealing him to Houston, just in time for Mason to take on his former Baltimore teammates again (the Jets played the Ravens in Week 4).
That's not a great matchup, though, for a guy trying to learn a new offense. It's also not a great matchup for a receiver whose skills are declining by the day, which appears to be the case with Mason (he had 2 catches for 37 yards in the Jets-Ravens game). While his off-field comments probably expedited his relocation out of New York, the fact that Mason couldn't get on the field in Week 5 had just as much to do with it.
• Sebastian Janikowski will kick four field goals
Our first kicker prop of the season! Hooray!
The man known as "Seabass" has been nearly automatic this season, especially from long range -- Janikoski is 5-of-6 from 50 or beyond and has an NFL record-tying 63-yarder to his credit as well.
It figures to be emotional in Oakland Sunday, with the Raiders playing their first home game since Al Davis' passing. The fact that they're 3-2 could have Raider Nation even further riled up. But Cleveland has a better defense than most think -- the Browns are in the upper half in points allowed -- and could make finding the end zone a difficult chore.
• Minnesota and Chicago combine for six or more sacks
Chicago -- and I guess Minnesota too if, for some reason, you think the Vikings can get back in it -- faces a must-win Sunday night at Soldier Field.
The status of Julius Peppers is in doubt, but the Bears still have enough to get in Donovan McNabb's face, and McNabb is not exactly playing well these days. Minnesota, meanwhile, gets to run Jared Allen and its tough pass rush out against a Bears' offensive line that was a sieve in Detroit Monday.
Both McNabb and Jay Cutler will hit the turf plenty.
• Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress each catch a TD pass
The Jets may be reeling at 2-3, but they look like the '85 Bears compared to Miami. The Dolphins bring their backup QB, Matt Moore, and a defense that's allowing more than 300 yards passing per game into the Meadowlands Monday night.
Rex Ryan needs a statement victory -- just beating Miami won't do it, but clobbering the hapless Dolphins might reenergize everyone. Ryan will let Mark Sanchez
air it out against Miami's bumbling pass defense, and Holmes and Burress will get plenty of catches to make big plays.