Editor's Note: ASA will be putting out their Favorite Game of the Year this weekend. Don't miss out!
According to the Sports Books: Washington at Indianapolis (48.5 total).
In Reality: New York Giants at Dallas (45.5 total). This Monday Night Football NFC East battle has the potential to be a great one. Both teams are 3-2 and in a fight for both playoff positioning and the division crown. Look for New York and Dallas to both come out firing with a national audience looking on. The Cowboys are fourth in the league with 29.4 points per game while the Giants are sixth with 25.4 points a contest. That’s a combined 54.8 points a game. Both of these teams have players that reach another level when on the national stage. Manning, Barber and Plaxico Burress all seem to play better on that stage and everyone knows how much Owens likes the attention. Look for the offensive stars to put together an impressive highlight reel.
According to the Sports Books: Denver at Cleveland (31 total).
In Reality: Denver at Cleveland (31 total). The odds-makers nailed this one. This game has the potential to be one of the ugliest of the year so put the children to bed in order to avoid nightmares of wounded-duck passes and missed blocking assignments. Much has been made of Denver’s stellar defense that has allowed only one meaningless touchdown through five games. As good as the Bronco defense has been the Bronco offense has been equally bad. Denver is 30th in the league with just 12.4 points a game and starting QB Jake Plummer has been the primary reason. He is 31st in the league with a 63.1 quarterback rating and if not for the Bronco defense, his removal as starter would be the top story coming out of Denver. Plummer’s quarterback battle with Cleveland QB Charlie Frye, who is 27th in the league with a 67.5 rating, could be epically bad.
According to the Sports Books: Jacksonville (-9.5) at Houston
In Reality: Indianapolis (-9) vs. Washington. The Redskins have looked awful the last two weeks, totaling just 164 yards in losing 19-3 to the Giants and falling 25-22 at home to the previously winless Titans. Things won’t get any easier for the floundering Redskins with a road game at the unbeaten Colts. The Indianapolis running game is finally taking form with Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai combining for 150 yards the last two weeks. On defense, the Colts should receive a boost from this week’s addition of former Buccaneer defensive tackle Anthony McFarland. He played under Dungy in Tampa so he should be able to step in right away to help stop the Washington running game. And oh yeah, Peyton Manning should light up the Redskins’ 24th-ranked pass defense.
Most Impactful Injury
Carlos Rogers’ thumb: As if Washington’s pass defense wasn’t bad enough, starting cornerback Carlos Rogers is out with a broken thumb. Rogers teamed with Shawn Springs to form one of the top cornerback duos in the league in the preseason but with both of them now out with injuries, backups Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph – who was inactive last week – will be pushed into starting duty. The Redskins needed Rogers to be healthy if they had any chance of shutting down the Colt offense. Expect the eyes of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne to light up when they see Wright and Rumph lined up across from them.
Most Glaring Mismatch
Indianapolis passing attack vs. Washington secondary: There’s a pattern developing here. Manning will pick on the Redskin defensive backs from the opening snap and won’t stop until he’s satisfied. With both starting cornerbacks out with injuries, Washington will have a nearly impossible time containing the Indy passing attack. Look for Manning, Harrison, Wayne and company to all have big games.
Most Important Player(s)
Dallas offensive line: This week’s most important player isn’t just one individual but a collection of five individuals. The Dallas offensive line of tackles Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo, guards Kyle Kosier and Marco Rivera and center Andre Gurode will need to be at their finest if the Cowboys are to protect their home turf against the Giants. The New York pass rush struggled through the first four weeks of the season but came alive last week against Atlanta with seven sacks. If the Giants can get to the elusive Mike Vick seven times, they should have no problem getting to the stationary Drew Bledsoe … unless the offensive line blocks. If Bledsoe is pressured all night and can’t get the ball to stud wideouts Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, it’ll make for a long night for the Cowboys.
Potential Upset of the Week
Minnesota (+6.5) over Seattle: Seattle is coming off an emotionally draining road win over division rival St. Louis while Minnesota had a nice week off to study the Seahawk offense and defense. The injury to Shaun Alexander has made Seattle primarily a passing team, which allows Minnesota to concentrate on shutting down Seattle’s four wide receiver attack. The Vikings have just the personnel to do that as Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot are two of the best cover cornerbacks in the league. Viking QB Brad Johnson and the rest of the passing game haven’t had a lot of highlights this year but are due for some against a bad Seattle pass defense. The Seahawks are 28th in the league with nearly 240 passing yards per game. The Vikings are 4-1 ATS this season and played the Bears tough earlier this year. Minnesota nearly beat Chicago before falling 16-13 in the final minute. Seattle was blown out by that same Chicago team, losing 37-6. Minnesota lost the last meeting with Seattle 27-23 in 2004 so will have revenge on the mind, which works out well. As road dogs of six or more points, the Vikings are 8-3 ATS with revenge since 1981. The Vikings may not win outright but the extra preparation time will enable them to keep this game close throughout.