Looking Ahead – Week 4/5

Worst NFL Game of the Week – This is harder to spot than most weeks – the matchups mostly have at least a little interest. That means that, more than any week so far, there really isn’t a truly bad game here. That means we have to pick the worst of a decent bunch. In my mind that’s going to be Cincinnati at Dallas. The Bengals are truly, absolutely awful, and they may not have Carson Palmer in action. Even if they do he won’t be healthy. The Cowboys had an off game, and I expect them to come back hungry and angry. This one should be a dull, lopsided mess.

Best NFL Game of the Week
– As I said before, there are a lot of good games this week, but none that are true and obvious classics, so this is a tight competition. There are a couple or runner-ups. Tennessee at Baltimore is a battle of two teams that are better than they were probably expected to be, and it should be a classic defensive battle. Buffalo at Arizona is a good test of a team that has been an upstart and wants to prove that they are for real. For my winner, though, I have to go to the most consistently excellent division in the league so far this year – the NFC East. Washington and Philly are both promising teams that don’t quite have their acts completely together, but they both have obvious promise. It should be good.

Game With Teams With the Most to Prove
– Indianapolis and Houston. Coming into the season the Colts were favored to win their division, and a lot of people had Houston picked as a wild card team. They have combined to go 1-5 so far. They both have a world of problems, but both present just enough points of optimism to keep fans interested. A loss here will be a huge blow to either team.

Ridiculously Over-hyped
– Terrell Owens has assured that we are going to hear about the Cowboys way, way more than we need to. Thanks, buddy.

Oddest Line – Though I don’t have a real problem with it given what has happened this year, it would have seemed truly bizarre to see San Diego favored by less than a touchdown against Miami before the season started. The Chargers were supposed to be much, much better than they are, and Miami has looked pleasantly solid on their rebuilding path.

Best College Game – It’s a strange week in college – lots of interesting games, but again none that stand out as instant classics. My pick has to be Oregon at USC. The Trojans were inexplicably bad last time out, and they have a lot to prove against a team with troubles of their own, but which can cause all sorts of problems nonetheless. The Trojans are heavy favorites at 16.5 points, but that won’t be a lock if they haven’t recovered dramatically from last week.

Filling Me With Dread – Last week, my beloved Michigan Wolverines played the worst first half of any team all year (21 total yards, five turnovers), yet when the dust had settled they had somehow posted a miraculous comeback to beat the number eight Wisconsin Badgers by two. I certainly didn’t see that one coming, and I liked it a lot. Now, when we play Illinois, I have to worry that that one was just a fluke, and that we’ll go back to playing just like I thought we were going to last week. That won’t be pretty. As strange as it seems, Michigan is favored in the game. Though just by 2.5 at home, so it’s less than the home field advantage.

Four Interesting Games Between Unranked Teams
– Duke (+14.5) at Georgia Tech. Duke won their first ACC game since about before their players were born last week, and they are clearly improved. Paul Johnson has made quite the impact in a short time at Georgia Tech. This is a way more interesting game than it would have been last year. Stanford (+7.5) at Notre Dame. The battle of the eggheads deatures two teams which are playing better than expected, and certainly better than last year. UConn (+6.5) at UNC. This would be one heck of a basketball game, but surprisingly it’s not a bad football game, either. UConn is ranked and on the rise, while Butch Davis is showing the world he is the real deal in Tar Heel country. Texas A&M (+25) at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are ranked and looking good, but the realĀ  interest here is how bizarre it is to see a team with a reasonable legacy like the Aggies be this badly respected.

Biggest Line – The biggest we have this week is a relativey modest 28.5, and that mark is shared by two games. BYU travels to terribly outmatched Utah State, while the independent Western Kentucky travels to the frustratingly inconsistent Hokies of Virginia Tech. Neither will be worth watching in any way.

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