Three times in league history there have been four teams to reach 0-5 in the standings in one season. With a little luck, we’ll get to see another quartet this season if the Giants (0-4), Jaguars (0-4), Bucs (0-4) and Steelers (0-4) continue to play to form. New York and Jacksonville play Sunday, while Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay are catching their breath on a bye week.
The consequences of going to 0-5 are immense. Whereas there have been success stories of teams that have gone 0-4, not so for the Big Oh-Five. There have been 137 teams to reach those gloomy depths dating to the 1920 Columbus Panhandles, an underachieving bunch that played only road games.
Of those 137, none reached the postseason, if there was one at the time. In fact, only one even managed to scrape out a winning season – the legendary 1962 Buffalo Bills of QB Jack Kemp.
And the best thing of all is that the four teams don’t play each other, meaning there could be four 0-16 teams.
Just throwing that out there.
Anyway, now on to Week 5’s games:
SUNDAY – PRO FOOTBALL OCT. 6
New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Saints by 1 (50 over/under)
Facts: Flashback: When these teams met in a scab game in 1987 at Soldier Field, current New Orleans boss Sean Payton was one of the Bears’ replacement QBs… In the Saints’ 30-13 victory over Chicago in the Superdome in 2011, the Bears rushed only 12 times, matching their fewest the past four seasons… New Orleans is the first team to go from 0-4 to 4-0 since the 2010-2011 Lions. Tampa Bay’s roller coaster was rockier in 2004-06, going from 0-4 to 4-0 and back to 0-4... Whereas the Saints are 12-0 ATS and SU at home with Payton as boss in 2011 and 2013, on the road they are 4-6 ATS/6-4 SU.
Analysis: The Saints looked dominant against previously unbeaten Miami last week, it was helpful that they faced a self-destructing QB who’s a sack magnet and fumble prone. Actually, that’s what Chicago’s Jay Cutler is too, but at least he’s playing at home and has a running game behind him in Matt Forte. And the Bears’ best pass rusher won’t be on the sideline, as it was the Dolphins’ Cameron Wake last week. Plus, the Bears’ continue to get return scores – three on defense this year. That gives them a runaway league best of 23 overall non-offensive TDs the past two-plus seasons. Let’s see if New Orleans is the real deal and can show off its passing game against this ball-hawking crew.
Forecast: Bears 31, Saints 24
New England Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Patriots by 1 (45½)
Facts: The last time the Bengals beat the Patriots was at home in the 2001 opener, 23-17, the week before QB Tom Brady took over from injured Drew Bledsoe… New England has since won four in a row vs. Cincinnati, scoring at least 34 points each time with an average margin of victory of 18 points – but none since QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green were on board for the Bengals… The Patriots will be without run-stuffing nose tackle Vince Wilfork (Achilles tendon)… New England is 2-for-7 scoring TDs on first-and-goal situations this year, the worst rate in the league… Cincinnati is coming off a dreary 17-6 loss in Cleveland, in which the Browns had five drives of 10-plus plays, tied for most in a game in the league this year.
Analysis: Both teams could be vulnerable on defense. New England should already be soft in the middle of the defensive line because of Wilfork’s absence, and Cincinnati will be short DB Leon Hall. But on the plus side for the Patriots, prolific veteran receiver Danny Amendola (probable) is expected back after sitting out almost a month with a groin injury. Plus, LeGarrette Blount showed last week he’s able to provide some muscle and speed in New England’s usually pedestrian ground game. In a pick-em type game, taking Brady’s team is usually a wise choice.
Forecast: Patriots 23, Bengals 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) at St. Louis Rams (1-3)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Rams by 11½ (41)
Facts: This marks the 21st straight game the Jaguars are an underdog. The Rams know the feeling, going 43 in a row from 2007-2010… St. Louis is fresh off its 35-11 home loss to San Fran last Thursday. The good news is that teams that benefited from the post-Thursday rest are 5-1 ATS their next time out… In both of Blaine Gabbert’s starts at QB for Jacksonville, he’s had a passer rating below 39.6, the number you’d get if you threw the ball over the Jumbotron each play… The Jaguars still are on pace to have more punts than points (32/31), something that hasn’t been done since World War II.
Analysis: With the Jaguars’ fire-sale trade of starting left tackle Eugene Monroe to the Ravens earlier this week for midround draft choices, that leaves the league’s worst quarterback without his best bodyguard. And Jacksonville already was tied for most sacks yielded with 18. Oh, the humanity! Can it get any worse for an offense that averages 2.3 yards a rush? If St. Louis just gives its running game a chance, it should be able to grind out a win here.
Forecast: Rams 26, Jaguars 6
Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Dolphins by 3 (43)
Facts: The Dolphins played last week without DE Cameron Wake (questionable, knee), who had 15 sacks last season… In 2007, the Dolphins were 0-13 when they beat the Ravens 23-17 in overtime in Miami, hastening ex-Baltimore coach Brian Billick’s exit… Baltimore’s nine running plays last week at Buffalo matched the fewest by any team since the Chargers had eight in a 28-13 loss to the Raiders in 2010… Miami QB Ryan Tannehill has a league-high six fumbles, but he’s getting better. He had three in Week 2, two his next game and one last week in New Orleans... Miami is an impressive 6-for-6 scoring TDs on first-and-goal possessions. However, foes are a depressing 7-for-7 against its defense.
Analysis: Baltimore surely will return to a more balanced offense after their freakish loss in Buffalo last week in which it had 50 passes and the nine runs. Coach John Harbaugh, a man of his word, said RB Ray Rice will be far more involved in the Ravens’ offense this week. One player who hasn’t been too involved in his team’s attack is Miami WR Mike Wallace, who’s evolved into a no-trick pony for Miami, with only one catch longer than 25 yards after signing his mega-deal. A lot probably has to do with Tannehill not having time to gaze down field. Or maybe it’s because he keeps fumbling the ball away.
Forecast: Ravens 27, Dolphins 16
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at New York Giants (0-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Giants by 1½ (54½)
Facts: The Giants had four 80-yard TD drives in their opener at Dallas. In their past three games, they’ve had one total… New York ranks worst in stopping third-down conversions (50 percent) and worst at converting (22.9)… These teams have combined to yield 71 points a week, so the total seems low… The Eagles gave up 35 first downs to Denver last week, eclipsing the 33 they yielded to the Chargers in Week 2 – the highest totals in the league this year… Philly leads the NFL with a 16.6-yard norm per reception and 6.1 yards a rush. The bad is that the defense is giving up 446.8 yards a game. Only the 1950 Colts did worse over a full season (450)… Eagles RB Shady McCoy has a league-high 468 rushing yards, more than double the Giants’ total of 231...
Analysis: In addition to not having a pass rush – the Giants are tied for the league low with four sacks, compared with their total of 48 two years ago when they were Super – New York’s offensive line is nicked badly and this week will be without center David Baas (neck). That’s surely not going to make scatter-armed QB Eli Manning more secure in the pocket. A key for the Eagles is that the Giants’ defensive line is banged up, too, meaning McCoy should be able to cut and swerve to another 100-plus yards on play-action, which ultimately sets up big gains for even speedier WR DeSean Jackson.
Forecast: Eagles 35, Giants 28
Detroit Lions (3-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Packers by 7 (54)
Facts: Detroit’s average starting field position in its 40-32 victory over Chicago last week was its 43, tied for best by anyone this season… Green Bay opened as a 5-9 choice to win the NFC North and remains the choice to win despite a slow start. The Pack is 10-11… GB coach Mike McCarthy’s teams are 7-0 ATS after byes… Detroit has gone 0-22 in Wisconsin the previous 21 years, including playoffs (6-15-1 ATS)… Flashback: On Oct. 6, 1957, in the second game ever at present-day Lambeau Field, the Lions won 24-14 en route to their last NFL title… Rookie RB Eddie Lacy (probable) is back for the Packers after a suffering a concussion.
Analysis: Detroit is taking a significant step up in class by going against Aaron Rodgers, the third-rated passer in the league. That’s because through four weeks, the Lions have faced QBs rated 32nd, 26th, 17th and 19th. And in addition to Lacy, another rookie runner, Johnathan Franklin (foot), also is expected to be available after healing over the bye week. Imagine how well the Packers will do with them at or near 100 percent after getting 27 first downs in their fluky 34-30 loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago. Green Bay no doubt has been stewing over that. And one last note on Detroit: The Lions lost to Arizona? Really?
Forecast: Packers 34, Lions 21
Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (3-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Chiefs by 3 (38½)
Facts: Tennessee QB Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over for injured Jake Locker (hip). Fitzpatrick, from Hahvud, pitched 39 INTs as Buffalo’s top dog the previous two seasons... Kansas City is off to a roaring start after going 2-14 last season, but it has conquered foes with a cumulative 3-13 record, the worst mark in the league through four weeks. Two of the Chiefs’ victories have come vs. the winless Giants and Jaguars…KC quarterback Alex Smith is credited with much of the Chiefs’ revival, but his completion percentage is down almost 10 percent from last year when he was with San Fran.
Analysis: The Chiefs clearly deserve to be 4-0, considering their opposition and the fact they’ve played only one road game. But the Titans are the only team not to commit a turnover this year, and since they’re playing at home, maybe Fitzpatrick will be comfortable enough in his new surroundings to lead an efficient offense. And since Tennessee is tied for 10th with only nine sacks allowed, maybe KC’s prolific pass-rush unit – tops in the league entering Week 5 with 18 sacks – can be somewhat neutralized. The home team getting points looks good.
Forecast: Titans 17, Chiefs 14
Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PST
Line: Seahawks by 3 (43½)
Facts: The Seahawks’ will be playing in their second jet-lag game of the year, going from the West Coast to the Eastern time zone for the early Sunday game. Teams in that spot are 3-0 ATS this season, including Seattle’s 12-7 victory over Carolina in Week 1, but from 2006-2012 were 23-401-1 ATS... Veteran Colt OLB Robert Mathis has vaulted into for the league sack lead with 7.5. He had eight in 12 games last season… Seattle’s defense was on the field for 88 plays in its 23-20 overtime win in Houston, 30 more snaps than its offense had. That margin is the greatest in any game this year.
Analysis: Indianapolis didn’t have a letdown last week after its Week 3 upset of host San Fran and was able to drum hapless Jacksonville 37-3. The Colts have a new sense of worth since getting RB Trent Richardson from Cleveland and have more of a balanced offense. Its defense, meanwhile, is underrated. Holding QB Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers to seven points in Week 3 was sensational. Could that happen again this week against Seattle and Russell Wilson? Well, the Seahawks already are without their starting offensive tackles. And now their standout center, Max Unger, is questionable with an arm injury. The wrong team is favored.
Forecast: Colts 28, Seahawks 21
Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (1-3)
Time: 1:05 p.m. PST
Line: Panthers by 2 (42½)
Facts: In the Cardinals’ 31-7 loss in New Orleans two weeks ago, it had a seven first downs on an opening 80-yard TD drive. On their ensuing 19 drives, including last week’s 13-10 win at Tampa Bay, they went scoreless, finishing possessions with 14 punts, four INTs and a fumble... Carolina third-year QB Cam Newton opened his career by throwing for 422 yards in a 28-21 loss at Arizona in 2011. In fact, he had three games of 374-plus yards his first four outings. But over the rest of his career, covering 31 games, he’s never surpassed 314… Cardinals QB Carson Palmer once threw for 32 TDs while with the Bengals (2005). He has four this year, tied for fewest among QBs with four starts.
Analysis: If not for the three fourth-quarter turnovers committed by Tampa Bay first-time QB Mike Glennon last week, the Cardinals would have been smothered in Tampa, but now they are 2-2 and feeling swell. But the Panthers are feeling better, especially after a bye week that followed a 38-0 pasting of the Giants in front of the home crowd. Carolina has too much firepower to not be able to handily outscore Arizona’s stale offense.
Forecast: Panthers 24, Cardinals 13
Denver Broncos (4-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PST
Line: Broncos by 7 (57½)
Facts: The last time Peyton Manning faced the Cowboys in Texas, in 2006, he was with the Colts during their Super season. Indy was 9-0 but came away a 21-14 loser... Dallas’ last four wins in this series came in their Super seasons of 1977, 1992 and 1995, including the 1977 Super Bowl in New Orleans… Aha! Denver isn’t great at everything, ranking 31st in yards allowed per completion at 13.4. But Dallas is 32nd on offense, with 9.2 a connection rate behind Tony Romo… Manning’s passer rating is 138.0. All the other QBs combined have had only two games that good (Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers)... Coach Josh McDaniels’ 2009 Broncos started out 6-0 before going into a 2-8 death spiral… Denver has 183 points through four games, which is more than the 2009 Rams had their entire season.
Analysis: This could be a toxic matchup for a Dallas defense that has yielded a league-worst eight TD drives of 80-plus yards, especially since the Broncos have a league-best 11. Denver had its big day against Philadelphia in a 52-20 victory despite not having a short field. Dallas’ defense, meanwhile, had a late meltdown against San Diego last week, allowing three consecutive 80-plus-yard TD drives in blowing an 11-point lead. Chance are, too, that Manning is well-versed with the defense being thrown at him by coordinator Monte Kiffin, who worked for Manning’s old boss Tony Dungy while in Tampa.
Forecast: Broncos 42, Cowboys 28
Houston Texans (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Time: 5:30 p.m. PST
Line: 49ers by 6½ (42½)
Facts: The 49ers are coming off their 35-11 Thursday night rout of St. Louis… Houston has been involved in the two biggest comebacks of the season. In Week 1, the Texans overcame a 21-point second-half deficit to beat San Diego 31-28. Last week the Texans squandered a 17-point second-half lead in a 23-20 loss to Seattle in OT… Houston’s Matt Schaub averages 10.8 yards a completion, the lowest rate for any QB in the league. His norm is 39.3 yards on three pick-6s… In three of the 49ers’ four games, 10 or more infractions were marched off against them, most in the league.
Analysis: All signs point toward the well-rested 49ers enjoying a beatdown of the emotionally distraught Texans. But those signs might be wrong. Last week, before their meltdown, the Texans had 324 yards of total offense in the first half against the highly touted Seattle defense. Houston’s defense, meanwhile, held Seattle to 91 air yards all game, the second-lowest total by a team in a game this season. So, it’s not like Houston doesn’t have the talent. Plus, San Fran is still playing short-handed defensively (LB Aldon Smith, suspended). And, of course, remember that SF’s Colin Kaepernick isn’t foolproof. His 20.1 passer rating at Seattle in Week 2 is the worst for any starting QB in a game this year.
Forecast: Texans 24, 49ers 14
San Diego Chargers (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Time: 9:25 p.m. PST
Line: Chargers by 4 (45)
Facts: The Chargers have won eight of the past nine in Oakland, including last year’s season opener 22-14 as a 1-point underdog… Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor will be back in the starting lineup at QB after Matt Flynn’s seven-sack, two-fumble performance last week vs. Washington when he piloted the Raiders to seven offensive points… San Diego TE Antonio Gates was 10-for-10 catching targeted throws last week against Dallas… Oakland is one of two teams (Pittsburgh) without an interception and has the league’s third-worst defensive passer rating… San Diego will be without LB Dwight Freeney (quad), its leading quarterback chaser.
Analysis: This game has been pushed back to prime time, which may well bring out the best (worst?) in Raiders fan and make for an even more difficult evening for the Chargers to get their signals straight. Although QB Philip Rivers’ Chargers have the No. 8-rated offense in the league, they also have the third-worst defense. Pryor and versatile RB Rashad Jennings should be able to keep San Diego off balance. One more thing: Raiders RB Darren “Whirlpool” McFadden is doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Forecast: Raiders 34, Chargers 31
MONDAY – PRO FOOTBALL OCT. 7
New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Time: 5:40 p.m. PST
Line: Falcons by 10 (44)
Facts: Atlanta has blown two double-digit leads in losses this season – to the Saints and Miami… The Jets, already averaging a league-low 14 first downs a game, will be without leading receiver Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and likely without WR Stephen Hill (concussion)… New York has had 30 penalties its past two games, which is more than 23 teams have had all year… Atlanta’s Steven Jackson is expected to miss his third straight game at RB for the Falcons, who have lost two straight without him… Geno Smith and the Jets have had a minus-4 turnover differential in their two road games, losses at New England and Tennessee.
Analysis: Atlanta easily could be 3-1, if not for their ineffectiveness inside their opponents’ 20. Against the New Orleans and New England, two unbeaten teams, incompletions in the final moments were costly. Smith, meanwhile, has 11 turnovers through four games and seemed to thrive only against the Bills’ depleted secondary in Week 2. Smith is going to have nowhere to hide this week without his top targets.
Forecast: Falcons 27, Jets 13
Last week: 6-9 ATS; 8-7 SU
Season total: 25-36-2 (.410) ATS; 32-31 (.508) SU
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].