The New Orleans Saints made a huge statement that they are the team to beat in the NFC with their dismantling of what had been the league’s top statistical defense when they shredded the New York Giants for nearly 500 yards while scoring 48 points in a three touchdown win. That makes three times in five games that the Saints have scored at least 45 points. One of the other two came in a road game at Philadelphia, another team considered in the class of the Giants as a leading NFC contender.
And let’s not write off the Giants on the basis of the one sided loss to New Orleans. We should get a pretty idea of the character of the G-Men this Sunday night when they try to bounce back against Arizona, the defending NFC Champs who themselves are off of a solid road win over a Division rival following their 27-3 rout of Seattle this past Sunday.
As we approach mid season, the annual stratification of teams into upper, middle and low class designations is becoming clearer. But even with so many teams in the NFL’s upper echelon and many others in the basement this is still the NFL and "on any given Sunday …" Just ask the Oakland Raiders or the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here’s a look at the bakers’ dozen of games that will be played.
San Diego at Kansas City (NL): San Diego hosted unbeaten Division rival Denver Monday night and now hits to the Division road after a short week of practice. K.C. should play with more confidence after finally breaking into the win column. Last season the Chargers won both meetings but both were by just a single point. Preference is for KANSAS CITY.
Indianapolis (-13) at St. Louis (Over/Under 46): The Colts are rested and bring their high powered offense to face the defensively challenged Rams. St. Louis blew a late lead at Jacksonville last week and ultimately lost in OT. Look for the Colts to strike early and force the Rams into mistakes as they play from behind. Preference is for INDIANAPOLIS.
Chicago (+2) at Cincinnati (42½): Both teams have been more consistent on defense than on offense this season. Both defenses have fared very well in stopping the run. Preference is for the UNDER.
Green Bay (-7) at Cleveland (42½): Green Bay has most of the edges in this game with their more potent offense facing a weak Cleveland defense. Cleveland has four double digit losses when stepping up in class this season while the Packers have a pair of double digit wins when facing this level of competition. Preference is for GREEN BAY.
Minnesota (+4) at Pittsburgh (45): Unbeaten Minnesota is an underdog for the first time this season. Pittsburgh has been favored in all 6 of their games but is just 1-5 against the spread. Pittsburgh’s offense has started to emerge, averaging 461 ypg in their current 3 game winning streak. Preference is for PITTSBURGH.
New England (-14) vs. Tampa Bay (45) at London, England: The third edition of the Tally-Ho Bowl features potent New England off of one of biggest routs in NFL history against one of three 0-6 teams. Preference is for NEW ENGLAND.
San Francisco (+3) at Houston (44): The 49ers have an extra week to stew over their home blowout loss to Atlanta before their Bye. Coach Singletary will have run a number of hard practices to get the 49ers refocused and RB Frank Gore is probable to return. Preference is for SAN FRANCISCO.
New York Jets (-6) at Oakland (35): In their OT loss to Buffalo ,the Jets ran for an outstanding 318 yards. That’s three straight losses for the Jets who are now 3-3. The Jets’ defense has struggled to stop the run in their last four games. Preference is for the UNDER.
Buffalo at Carolina (NL): Buffalo QB Trent Edwards was injured against the Jets and his questionable status keeps this game off the boards on Monday. QB Jake Delhomme is still completing too many passes to opponents but that may not be a problem here as the Bills have allowed an average of 240 rushing yards per game over their last 4 games. Preference is for CAROLINA.
New Orleans (-6) at Miami (46½): The Saints could have a bit of a letdown taking to the road after their key win over the Giants. Miami is rested following their Bye and are off of a pair of Divisional games in which they topped 30 points. Preference is for the OVER.
Atlanta (+3½) at Dallas (47): It’s arguable as to which team has more talent but there’s no question as to which team is better coached. Dallas is rested following their Bye yet they have underachieved under coach Wade Phillips. Dallas has a better overall statistical profile except in the key area of Turnover Differential (-4 vs +5). Often it’s the intangibles that determine a game’s outcome. Preference is for ATLANTA.
Arizona (+7) at New York Giants (46½): Arizona played brilliantly in routing Seattle last week while the Giants got a reality check with their one sided loss at New Orleans. The Saints exposed some of the Giants’ defensive vulnerability that the Cards would like to attack if QB Kurt Warner is given time. Preference is for GIANTS.
Philadelphia (-6½) at Washington (38): The Eagles will be in a foul mood following their upset loss at Oakland. Washington has yet to score more than 17 in a game. The defense has played well, holding 4 of 6 foes under 270 total yards. But for a late TD against the Giants, the ’Skins would have played 6 straight UNDER. Philly ended a streak of 4 straight OVERs with Sunday’s 13-9 loss. Preference is for the UNDER.
Watch every Tuesday for a brand new Pigskin Picks article.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe