At least Coltsmake sense

Oct 4, 2005 6:29 AM

Just four teams remain unbeaten in the NFL entering Week 5.

Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay started 4-0 and the Washington Redskins were off to a 3-0 start. Of this quartet only Indianapolis could have reasonably been forecast to win their first four contests.

Both Tampa Bay and Cincinnati have been pleasant surprises, as has Washington. The Skins have won by one, two and three points. A win is a win and a 3-0 start usually leads to a playoff berth. But beware of upgrading your opinion of the ”˜Skins just yet. They face a tough test in Denver this week and an upset over the Broncos would signal that coach Joe Gibbs has a legitimate team this season.

Houston and Green Bay (each 0-3) are the league’s only winless teams. The Texans were competitive in their 16-10 loss at Cincinnati following their bye week. Green Bay was 0-3 heading into Monday night’s game at Carolina.

Here’s a look at the 14 games to be played this weekend. Kansas City, Minnesota, the New York Giants and Oakland having byes.

Bears +3 at Browns (35): Both teams are off byes. The Bengals are a common opponent, defeating the Browns 27-13 to open the season and winning two weeks at Chicago 24-7. The Browns had better success on offense against the Bengals than did the Bears. The better defense and arguably the stronger ground attack makes a solid case for the underdog. CHICAGO.

Saints +3 at Packers (41): Both the Saints’ Aaron Brooks and the Packers’ Brett Favre are playmaking quarterbacks and neither defense has been especially stout. OVER.

Bucs -3 at Jets (32): As expected the Jets struggled at Baltimore behind third string QB Brooks Bollinger. Even if newly signed ex-Jet Vinny Testaverde gets the start this week, the task is tough. The running game has struggled and Tampa’s defense leads the league in allowing just 60 rushing yards per game. Tampa’s fine rookie RB "Cadillac" Williams was injured last week and his uncertain status has this game off the boards at many books. UNDER.

Seahawks +3 at Rams (48): Seattle managed the rare feat of losing three times last season to St. Louis. On paper, the Seahawks are the more well rounded, better balanced team on both sides of the ball and are healthy. Neither coach inspires much confidence. Seattle does have the better defense and was competitive in both road games this season. SEATTLE.

Patriots +2½ at Falcons 43½: Injured Falcons QB Michael Vick is expected to play against the Pats. Averaging 209 rushing yards per game, Atlanta has the league’s best ground attack. If any coach can game plan to take away a team’s strength, it is New England’s Bill Belichick. On offense we can expect a better effort from New England QB Tom Brady. NEW ENGLAND.

Dolphins +2½ at Bills (33): Miami is clearly a much improved team under first year coach Nick Saban. The Dolphins will be rested following last week’s bye. Buffalo has lost three straight after defeating Houston. Poor play by starting J.P. Losman led to his replacement by backup QB Kelly Holcomb late in the loss at New Orleans. Fundamentally the Bills are the more talented team. With backs to the wall, we can expect a solid effort. BUFFALO.

Ravens +2 at Lions (33): Two of the league’s weakest offenses meet with each team seeking their second win of the season. Horrible QB play has prevented Baltimore from establishing a supposedly potent running game behind RB Jamal Lewis. Detroit has not fared much better. UNDER.

Titans +3 at Texans (40½): Houston remains winless despite a much better effort in Cincinnati last week. Still, offensive line problems have yet to be resolved with QB David Carr suffering seven more sacks. The running game did show improvement, but not enough to suggest the woes are cured. Tennessee’s offense faces the weakest defense seen thus far. Expect Steve McNair to enjoy a big game against a defense yet to produce a takeaway this season. TENN.

Colts -13 at 49ers (48): The 49ers are a terrible football team and are competitive only when their foes make mistakes. After four games they are being outgained by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, averaging 229 yards of total offense while allowing 473. The Colts are pretty much statistically neutral, but that is more by design. The porous San Francisco secondary should allow the Colts to put up huge numbers. INDY.

Panthers -3 at Cards (42): Arizona got its initial win of the season in Mexico City on Sunday night and finally scored more than one touchdown. The Cards have not had problems moving the ball, ranking sixth in the league in total offense. Just that they’ve settled for too many field goals. QB Josh McCown seems to energize the Arizona offense. Carolina has been less effective on offense than expected and average on defense. Carolina’s poorest situation of late has been as a favorite. They failed in a similar spot two weeks ago in Miami. ARIZONA.

Eagles -3½ at Dallas (44): Philadelphia staged an impressive comeback last week in winning at Kansas City after trailing 24-6 just before halftime. Always a solid road team under coach Andy Reid, the Eagles again appear to be the class of the NFC. They lead the league in offense with 432 yards per game but most of those yards are through the air, averaging just 76 rushing yards per game. Dallas plays only its second home game. The preference is to look for an inspired effort from the Cowboys. DALLAS.

Redskins +7 at Broncos (34 ½): The teams have very similar statistics on both offense and defense. Washington’s lone defensive shortcoming has been in forcing just two turnovers. Washington’s ugly wins creates value with the underdog. Surprisingly to many, Denver has had only one winning pointspread record at home since winning their last Super Bowl in 2001. WASH.

Bengals +3 at Jaguars (37½): The Bengals lead the league with over four turnovers forced per game and the defense ranks tenth, allowing under 300 yards per game. Jacksonville’s defense has yielded even less. The Jaguars have struggled to run the ball on offense. which has caused their overall offense to be just ordinary. The odds makers expect the Jags’ defense to be effective in containing the Cincy offense. Similarly, the Jags figure to have their own problems getting comfortable against the much improved Cincinnati defense. UNDER.

Steelers +3 at Chargers (44½): We have seen the strength of the Chargers the past two weeks with their impressive wins over the Giants and at New England. Both offenses love to run the football and have been successful at doing so. Effective running opens up opportunities for the passing game. Pittsburgh is a strong defensive club, but vulnerable to the pass. San Diego’s offense has been underrated. Their two most recent meetings have each been very high scoring. OVER.

Last week: 8-5

Season: 35-22-2

they’ve settled for too many field goals. QB Josh McCown seems to energize the Arizona offense. Carolina has been less effective on offense than expected and average on defense. Carolina’s poorest situation of late has been as a favorite. They failed in a similar spot two weeks ago in Miami. ARIZONA.

Eagles -3½ at Dallas (44): Philadelphia staged an impressive comeback last week in winning at Kansas City after trailing 24-6 just before halftime. Always a solid road team under coach Andy Reid, the Eagles again appear to be the class of the NFC. They lead the league in offense with 432 yards per game but most of those yards are through the air, averaging just 76 rushing yards per game. Dallas plays only its second home game. The preference is to look for an inspired effort from the Cowboys. DALLAS.

Redskins +7 at Broncos (34 ½): The teams have very similar statistics on both offense and defense. Washington’s lone defensive shortcoming has been in forcing just two turnovers. Washington’s ugly wins creates value with the underdog. Surprisingly to many, Denver has had only one winning pointspread record at home since winning their last Super Bowl in 2001. WASH.

Bengals +3 at Jaguars (37 ½): The Bengals lead the league with over four turnovers forced per game and the defense ranks tenth, allowing under 300 yards per game. Jacksonville’s defense has yielded even less. The Jaguars have struggled to run the ball on offense. which has caused their overall offense to be just ordinary. The odds makers expect the Jags’ defense to be effective in containing the Cincy offense. Similarly, the Jags figure to have their own problems getting comfortable against the much improved Cincinnati defense. UNDER.

Steelers +3 at Chargers (44 ½): We have seen the strength of the Chargers the past two weeks with their impressive wins over the Giants and at New England. Both offenses love to run the football and have been successful at doing so. Effective running opens up opportunities for the passing game. Pittsburgh is a strong defensive club, but vulnerable to the pass. San Diego’s offense has been underrated. Their two most recent meetings have each been very high scoring. OVER.

Last week: 8-5.

Season: 35-22-2