FC Rowdy Week 5 Picks:Contenders and pretenders, It’s shakedown time

Baltimore vs. Cincinnati battle for the AFC North lead. New England tries to preserve its elite status against surprising 4-0 Denver. Atlanta travels to San Francisco, both teams trying to prove they belong in that upper tier.
And Houston at Arizona. The latter hoping to be regarded as more than a one-year wonder, the former still seeking a defense to match its flashy offense.
That’s about it for good matchups this week. And there are more of those prohibitive favorites, tempting us to take double-digit dogs in an effort to avoid following the crowd. But so many wretched teams, it’s tough to do.
Chicago, Green Bay, New Orleans and San Diego don’t play this week.
Last week 3-11 vs. spread (ouch), 27-35 overall. 10-4 straight up, 40-22 overall. It can only get better.
Minnesota 9 1/2 over ST. LOUIS: Let’s try to make a case for the Rams. Vikings coming off that emotional Favre Bowl victory over Pack on Monday night, can’t be fired up for this one, face tough Ravens next week. And the Rams…sorry, I got nothing, just like the Rams. Minnesota 27-10.

Dallas 9 over KANSAS CITY: Six more home underdogs this week. KC, like St. Louis, still winless and logic dictates they will win some time. Meanwhile, natives getting restless in Big D and Romo raising more questions than answers with his shaky play. But the Boys need this one and Chiefs not likely to prevent it. Dallas 24-7.

CAROLINA 3 1/2 over Washington: Skins got their much-needed victory a week ago against Tampa Bay, now face 0-3 Panthers coming off a bye in desperate quest to salvage a season going south. Delhomme’s frequent giveaways have hamstrung offense so far. Williams/Stewart tandem need to take control on ground. Carolina 17-9.
PHILADELPHIA 15 over Tampa Bay: Bucs breaking in new QB Johnson, while McNabb expected to return for Eagles following last week’s bye. Again, try to make a case for underdog here, even with hefty points being offered. Still waiting. Philadelphia 31-10.

NEW YORK GIANTS 15 1/2 over Oakland: At least Raiders won’t have a goose egg in their win column with Week 2 triumph over Chiefs. Still, they might be most dysfunctional group of all with coach facing possible legal/suspension problems for punching out one of his assistants, and QB Russell quicking turning into Ryan Leaf-sized bust. Giants 28-6.
BUFFALO 6 over Cleveland: Braylon Edwards gone, Brady Quinn benched. What other changes could be in store for Browns? Anderson gave a spark to offense in five-quarter loss to Bengals. Could this be the last chance to win in foreseeable future? Bills scuffling on offense and not a good favorite here. Buffalo 16-14.

BALTIMORE 8 1/2 over Cincinnati: Ravens surly after tough loss to Patriots. Bengals did just enough to win last week but will need to do a lot more here and have little success in Baltimore over years. Flacco continues to improve for home team. Baltimore 27-13.

Pittsburgh 11 over DETROIT: Culpepper might get nod at QB for Lions with Stafford hurting. Not that it matters, since their defense can’t slow down any decent attack. Coming-out party for RB Mendenhall last week and he should build on it for at least one more game. The spread? Give those big points if you must. Pittsburgh 30-14.

SAN FRANCISCO 3 over Atlanta: Falcons return from bye, Frisco played Rams…kind of the same thing. One of the week’s better matchups between two young and improving squads. Only 49ers loss resulted from a Favre last-second miracle pass. Still, just a hunch and a cautious nod to the visitor. Atlanta 21-20.

New England 3 1/2 over DENVER: Broncos allowing just 6.5 points per game and unbeaten. Have they suddenly transformed from one of the worst defensive teams to the very best? I’m guessing not, and they might get exposed here as their Orton-led offense not equipped to win a shootout. Patriots 24-14.

ARIZONA 5 1/2 over Houston: Probably the week’s highest scoring game, for you totals bettors. Lots of fireworks, two prolific offenses. At least you would think, but what to make of Cards so far. We all know about that Super Bowl loser jinx, and so far they have not disproved it. Possible upset. Houston 27-23.

SEATTLE off vs. Jacksonville: Still no line on this one because of Seahawk QB uncertainty, though it’s starting to look like Hasselbeck may return. Jags showing signs of life, becoming the latest to beat up on Tennessee, and doing it mostly through the air with Garrard. Hawks also beat up on O-line and not earning our support. Jacksonville 20-14.

Indianapolis 4 over TENNESSEE: This one surely seemed worthy when the schedule-maker gave it the prime Sunday night slot. Now, not so much. So what about the Titans, probably already past the point of salvaging their season at 0-4? Changes, like at QB, could be in the air. Meanwhile, the Colts living up to their lofty standards. Indianapolis 28-20.

New York Jets 2 over MIAMI: Braylon to the rescue? The Jets have done just fine without him, thank you, despite last week’s loss to Saints. But hey, maybe he’ll recapture his ’07 form and make Gang Green’s offense dynamic. Or not. Dolphins rushing attack looking strong but inexperienced Henne now at QB. Flip a coin. Jets 20-17.

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