It’s only 5-0, but Colts see ’72 Dolphins

Oct 11, 2005 5:27 AM

Just one team remains perfect and one team remains winless as the second quarter of the NFL season got underway for most teams this past weekend.

At 5-0 the Indianapolis Colts will be favored to win their next two games heading into their bye week. Their biggest test figures to be the following week as they host defending Super Bowl champion New England. The Colts are seeking to keep alive their quest to fashion the NFL’s first perfect season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

Meanwhile, The Houston Texans are off to an 0-4 start. Their best chance for a win won’t come for another two weeks when they host Cleveland on the final Sunday of October.

The biggest disappointments aside from Houston in the early part of the season include both Baltimore and Arizona, each of whom was projected as a playoff contender. To a lesser extent Minnesota and Oakland can also be called disappointments. The Vikings were expected to control the weakened NFC North, but their 1-3 start in which they have been outscored by an average of nearly 11 points per game suggests they miss departed WR Randy Moss immensely.

The most pleasant surprise thus far might be the NFC East, in which all four teams have winning records. Much football still has to be played, but the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys each seem greatly improved over last season in which the still formidable Eagles won the division by a whopping seven games.

Last week was most unusual in that 11 of the 14 games had pointspreads of a FG for most of the week. Only Denver and Indianapolis were favored by more than three points, while Detroit was a very short two-point favorite in their contest against Baltimore.

Of the seven home teams favored by three points, four of the six won with San Diego pending from its game this past Monday night. Not surprisingly there was at least one ”˜push’ amongst those FG favorites as Jacksonville pushed against Cincinnati. Both Houston and St. Louis each lost outright as three-point home favorites.

Of the four road teams favored by a FG or within a half point of a FG, both New England and Carolina each won. The Patriots triumphed by exactly three, though basically a 2½ point favorite following the line re-posting after QB Michael Vick was ruled out for Atlanta. Both Tampa Bay and Philadelphia lost outright.

Arizona, Green Bay, Philadelphia and San Francisco get byes this week. Returning from their week of rest are Kansas City, Minnesota, the New York Giants and Oakland.

Last week: 9-4 (minus SD-Pitt)

Season: 45-26-2 (63.4 percent)

Here’s a look at the 14 games for Week 6.

Giants +3½ at Cowboys (46½): The Giants are rested following their bye and have played well in the early going. QB Eli Manning has made huge strides from his rookie season and the Giants offense has been one of the best in the league. Dallas is off an impressive rout of Philadelphia and can be expected to face a tougher test against a second straight divisional rival. GIANTS.

Panthers -1 at Lions (42): Carolina passed a big test with the win at Arizona last week, playing a strong fourth quarter and finally getting a cover as a favorite. Detroit was hardly impressive in a 35-17 win over Baltimore, benefiting greatly from Ravens penalties. The Lions gained just 266 total yards, including just 97 net passing by Joey Harrington. Their defense allowed a struggling Baltimore ground game to average over five yards per carry. PANTHERS.

Falcons NL at Saints: The status of Atlanta QB Michael Vick kept this game off the board Monday, although backup Matt Schaub played very well in the FG loss to New England. New Orleans was embarrassed 52-3 by previously winless Green Bay and should respond well in the first game being played much closer to home, in Baton Rouge. Still, the Falcons are the better team so look for the offenses to outshine the defenses. OVER.

Vikings +2 at Bears (37): This game opened at pick, but sentiment quickly flowed towards the defensively strong hosts. Bears continue to play solid defense, but are poor on offense with rookie QB Kyle Orton struggling. Minnesota is rested and has the better balanced and more potent offense. The bye also will have helped even more with the continued improvement of the defense. VIKINGS.

Redskins +6 at Chiefs (42): Washington may have played its best game of the season in the first loss last week at Denver. Kansas City is rested and will be very focused following its back-to-back losses. Chiefs figure to force the pace and their big play capability should help them get an early lead that they should maintain. Redskins in a tough situation, making a second straight trip to a tough AFC West venue. CHIEFS.

Bengals -3 at Titans (44): Bengals suffered their first loss Sunday night in Jacksonville although they did play well and had success moving the ball against a solid Jaguars defense. Tennessee’s offense continues to improve weekly for offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Both quarterbacks could have success against vulnerable secondaries. OVER.

Jaguars +5 at Steelers (36): Pittsburgh is off the Monday night game in San Diego. This figures to be a much more defensively oriented contest. Both teams emphasize defense and each offense prefers the rush to the pass. Ball control and field position should be the theme in this contest, which suggests a low scoring contest. UNDER.

Browns +4 at Ravens (34): Things have fallen apart for Baltimore with its very sloppy effort (21 penalties) in last week’s loss at Detroit. Has coach Brian Billick "lost" his team with the continued problems on offense? Cleveland still playing hard and enters the game with a better record than the Ravens. This game is critical to Baltimore’s future this season. Much like Buffalo did last week, the Ravens should give their best effort of the season. RAVENS.

Dolphins +4½ at Bucs (33): Both teams prefer the increasingly popular approach of a conservative offense based on running the football combined with a top quality defense. Each side is playing much better than had been expected. The quarterbacks are at best serviceable, but not known for making many big plays. UNDER.

Patriots +3 at Broncos (45): Denver has reeled off four straight wins following their shocking opening week loss in Miami. The defense has played well and QB Jake Plummer has limited his mistakes. New England again bounced back from a loss with their win in Atlanta but the defense clearly is vulnerable. Denver will test that defense while New England’s pass game has been one of the best this season. OVER.

Jets +3 at Bills (33): The Jets got a huge lift from QB Vinny Testaverde in a 14-12 win over Tampa Bay last week. The rushing game still struggled, averaging under three yards per carry. Buffalo received a better effort from new starting QB Kelly Holcomb and a mixed result from the defense, which yielded more than five yards per rush but did force five turnovers. Both offenses again failed to gain over 250 yards and remain below that level for the season. The "under" is 4-1 in each team’s first five games. UNDER.

Chargers PK at Raiders (50½): San Diego was on a roll heading into Monday night’s game against Pittsburgh and faces its most bitter rival. The Chargers won both games against Oakland last season and have covered four straight and 8-of-11 in the series. Oakland is off a bye and its offense has yet to be as productive as expected. The Oakland defense has played much better than the experts had predicted. In fact, all four Oakland games have gone "under" the total. Expect both offenses to exploit the familiarity factor here. OVER.

Texans +9 at Seahawks (46): Seattle finally got their long desired win over St. Louis last week to grab the lead in the weak NFC West. Houston remains winless as the offense continues to struggle, affording QB David Carr little protection (seven more sacks!). After failing to cover their final eight home games in 2004 (all as favorites), the Seahawks are 2-0 in that role this season. So why is this line relatively low? Because this is the NFL and history says to take the underdogs when nobody wants them. TEXANS.

Rams +13 at Colts (51): Monday night special. A collision of cultures as newly defensive oriented Indianapolis has posted five straight "unders" this season. The offense has taken a conservative approach, emphasizing the running game and prolonged scoring drives. The approach has kept the defense fresh for later in the season. The Rams are 4-1 to the "over" with their still potent offense and porous defense. This will be the biggest test to date for the apparently improved Indy defense. St. Louis will look for the big play on offense, while Indy may have no choice but to have success against the poor tackling Rams defense. OVER.