By Don Banks
October 03, 2013
Fresh off a loss to the Lions, Jay Cutler and the Bears will look to bounce back versus the Saints.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Last week: 9-6; Season 44-19
Thursday, Oct. 3
8:25 p.m. ET (NFL Network) Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2)
Welcome to the Long-suffering Bowl. One of these long-time AFC doormats is about to climb over .500 in October, which isn't exactly familiar territory in some quarters of the Rust Belt. Believe it or not, the Bills have the edge in starting quarterback experience, with rookie EJ Manuel's four career starts besting Brian Hoyer's three. But the Browns' roll is going to continue, and in prime time no less. The fans of Cleveland will get a little soothing balm to help them recover from that painful one-and-done Indians' wild-card playoff dismissal.
Sunday, Oct. 6
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) New England Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Picked against the Patriots last week and lived to regret it. The Bengals were my preseason AFC Super Bowl selection, but third-year quarterback Andy Dalton is not giving any indications he's about to take the necessary step up in weight class from the middleweight division. New England is going to sweat out another narrow victory and then it'll head home to prepare for a glamor showdown against Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints in Week 6.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Detroit Lions (3-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Having disposed of their 0-for-forever streak by winning at Washington earlier this season, the Lions set their sights on getting a W at Lambeau Field, where they haven't been victorious since 1991. For a little perspective, Brett Favre was a rookie that season. In Atlanta. I see plenty of points and offensive highlights forthcoming on Sunday. But I can't see a Detroit victory. Not with the Packers rested and ready to put that catastrophe in Cincinnati behind them.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
The Colts come home after winning consecutive road games in San Francisco and Jacksonville by a comfy combined margin of 54 points. Chuck Pagano's club is better than I anticipated and that spells trouble for Seattle's unblemished record. The Seahawks have squeaked by in their two road games this season, at Carolina and Houston, but they'll need their A game to drill the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. I don't think they'll get it, but the Andrew Luck-Russell Wilson Class of 2011 QB comparison should be a fun subplot to watch for in this one.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Both teams looked shaky in losing on the road last week, but at least the Dolphins had the excuse of running into the undefeated Saints in the Superdome on a Monday night. The locals in New Orleans tend to get up for such affairs, after they've had all day to, um, prepare for the festivities. Apropos of nothing, a friend of mine made the observation the other day that Miami's new stylized dolphin helmet logo reminded him of the USFL's long-gone Boston Breakers' logo, with the cresting wave. I looked it up to refresh my memory and I can see where he's coming from.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
This is the legitimate test for the Saints we've been waiting for, as Sean Payton's guys have enjoyed three home games and a trip to winless and unraveling Tampa Bay. I'm tempted to take good Jay Cutler over Drew Brees, but I don't see the Bears defense performing its takeaway magic against the Saints, so New Orleans stays among the ranks of the unbeatens.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at New York Giants (0-4)
The Giants have no business winning this game with a makeshift offensive line, but at some point Eli Manning and New York's passing game have to do some damage, and the Eagles' overmatched secondary seems like a likely target. Don't bury the Giants just yet, even though history says you're toast at 0-4. Not in this year's laughably bad NFC East you're not. A win over Philly combined with a Dallas loss at home to the juggernaut Broncos and New York is one game out of first place with 11 games remaining in the regular season. As for the Eagles, they suddenly look a lot like last year's club, minus the illusionary 3-1 start Andy Reid's final team got off to.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (3-1)
Ryan Fitzpatrick can play a little, as long as he only plays a little. Follow me? Too much of Fitzpatrick and his flaws and limitations get exposed. But in small doses, the Titans' new starting quarterback with Jake Locker sidelined for a few weeks by a hip injury, can play winning football. The Chiefs are tough to pick against right now, but the law of averages say they're due for a letdown and Tennessee's Chris Johnson has a breakthrough game in him.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) at St. Louis Rams (1-3)
Blaine Gabbert returns to Missouri, where he starred collegiately for the Tigers. But the Jaguars beleaguered quarterback will not have a happy homecoming. If he does, it's going to be an ugly Monday of aftermath for Jeff Fisher and his underachieving Rams. You can bet the Gateway Arch on that one.
4:05 p.m. ET (FOX) Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
Remember the last time Cam Newton played in Glendale? In his first regular-season game as a 2011 rookie, he had the NFL world buzzing with his record-breaking 422-yard passing day, which shattered Peyton Manning's one-game rookie mark, albeit in a loss. And that was after Newton ended his collegiate career in the same building the previous January, leading Auburn to a 22-19 BCS national championship game win over Oregon. Good times, good memories. But I'm pretty sure he'd settle for a win and getting the Panthers to .500 this time around.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) Denver Broncos (4-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
With another win, the Broncos will complete a perfect regular-season of sorts, winning their 16th consecutive game excluding playoffs dating to Week 6 of 2012 (if only that were possible for Peyton Manning in his otherwise sterling career). Speaking of Manning, what's in his Gatorade at halftime? Denver has outscored opponents 59-14 in the third quarter this season, and 107-45 in the second half. Against visiting Philadelphia last week, the Broncos didn't even require a third-down conversion on three 80-yard touchdown drives in the third quarter. Manning threw for three scores with just one incompletion in the quarter. The Cowboys are 2-0 in their house this season, but they have yet to face a foe averaging 44.8 points per game this year. So there's that. The Cowboys last week at San Diego had no second-half touchdown drives, and that makes twice this season that they've come up empty on the road in the final 30 minutes against an AFC West opponent.
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC) Houston Texans (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
The Texans are already 1-0 in California this season, having posted a sweet Week 1 comeback win at San Diego on the first Monday night of the season. But the 49ers got their mojo back in St. Louis last week and are eager to build a winning streak after enduring that two-game September slide. I would think Houston will try to win with defense and its superb two-headed running game, taking as much pressure as possible off pick-six-prone quarterback Matt Schaub. But that's the thing about struggling starters at that particular position. They're difficult to hide.
11:35 p.m. ET (NFL Network) San Diego Chargers (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Raiders running back Darren McFadden is hurt again, with a hamstring issue? Really? The Iron Horse, he's not. At least Oakland looks poised to get quarterback Terrelle Pryor back, and that should give the Raiders a fair chance at their second win. Can't help but think this game getting shifted to a Sunday-night time slot (to help buy time for the crew that has to switch the field over from A's playoff baseball on Saturday night) isn't what San Diego wanted to see. Seem to recall the Chargers have had their issues with blown second-half leads of late in night games.
Monday, Oct. 7
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Seems like only yesterday that I covered the first game in the history of the Georgia Dome, a 20-17 Falcons win over the Jets in the 1992 season-opener. (And now the 21-year-old stadium is said to be hopelessly out-dated?) The big story that day for the New Yorkers was new starting quarterback Browning Nagle, a second-round pick out of Louisville in '91 whose budding career I had chronicled while he was a high school star. Nagle didn't win that game, but he did throw for 366 yards and a pair of touchdowns without any interceptions, sparking a brief bout of Browning Fever. It turned out to be the high-water mark of Nagle's five-year, three-team NFL career. He threw only five more TDs that season, despite starting 12 more games, and totaled just eight as a pro. Oh, and by the way, before Nagle attended Louisville, he was a West Virginia Mountaineer, just like current Jets starter Geno Smith. I'm sure there's a cautionary tale in there somewhere for Geno.
COVER-TWO: Handing out awards at NFL's quarter mark
BURKE: Broncos remain on top in Power Rankings
FARRAR: Eli Manning among disappointments at quarter mark
BURKE: Surprises at quarter mark include Browns' Cameron, Raiders' Pryor
BELLER: Player-by-player fantasy projections for Week 5
GONOS: Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Week 5

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