The Early Games
New England (4-2) at Tampa Bay (0-6): Tom Brady threw for six touchdown passes last week, five in one quarter alone. And to be honest, it gets easier for him this week in London against the Bucs. Expect fireworks from the Patriots offense, as Brady is beginning to click with Randy Moss, and he's extremely happy that Wes Welker is back in action.
On defense, the Buccaneers don't have the speed or skill at the cornerback position to defend against Brady and the Patriots' aerial attack. On offense, the Bucs are young and inexperienced -- especially at the quarterback position where Josh Johnson is already looking in the rear-view mirror at competition from Josh Freeman.
Pick: New England
Indianapolis (5-0) at St. Louis (0-6): Peyton Manning hasn't been sacked in over a month, and that kind of protection has allowed him to throw for 300-plus yards in each of his five games. Only four teams have given up more yards through the air than St. Louis, so Manning should prosper on Sunday.
St. Louis is having all kinds of trouble on offense. Their pass protection is poor, which directly effects how much time Marc Bulger has to throw the ball. His receivers are also having trouble getting open. Put those two issues together and the offense will have loads of trouble moving the ball.
Minnesota (6-0) at Pittsburgh (4-2): With the news that Adrian Peterson will play on Sunday, Brett Favre can relax and know that the Steelers must protect against the run and pass. Pittsburgh blitzes a lot, and they do it well, but Favre has seen just about everything -- and is thinking with the wisdom of a 40-year-old but playing like he's in his late twenties.
Nobody in the league has thrown for more passing yards then the Pittsburgh Steelers and that's a new offensive philosophy. Whether or not their pass-first mentality is by choice or out of necessity remains to be seen. The Ravens scored 21 points in the final 10 minutes of their game against Minnesota last week and Ben Roethlisberger will look to tear apart the Vikings defense in the same manner.
San Diego (2-3) at Kansas City (1-5): In each of the last two seasons, the Chargers have started 2-3. They've also bounced back nicely from this low point each time. The Chargers have to love their chances for getting a start on three years in a row since Kansas City is their opponent. Shawne Merriman hasn't registered a sack yet in 2009 -- look for that to change as the Chiefs have given up an AFC worst 22 sacks.
Kansas City notched its first win last week against Washington. Before spirits get too high, remember that the Chiefs have tons of trouble with missed tackles in their secondary. They also rank 27th against the pass -- which does not bode well against a San Diego offense that throws downfield very well.
Pick: San Diego
San Francisco (3-2) at Houston (3-3): The 49ers will see a return to action and a debut this week as they travel to Texas -- Frank Gore says he's healthy, and will be a welcome return addition to the rushing attack; Michael Crabtree, who ended his holdout less than a month ago, will make his NFL debut and has looked very impressive in practice this week.
No passer in the NFL has thrown for more touchdown passes than Matt Schaub. And he's so successful because he and Steve Slaton set up the pass so well with superb play-action fakes. Andre Johnson has been the benefactor of four of Schaub's 14 touchdown passes, and when the quarterbacks' favorite target is covered, Jacoby Jones can step right in seamlessly.
Green Bay (3-2) at Cleveland (1-5): The Green Bay Packers have given up 25 sacks this season, which is a stat that Aaron Rodgers surely feels. His offensive line should take most of the blame, but not all. Rodgers must do a better job of syncing with his receivers so he avoids the coverage sacks that he's taking.
Last week, the Browns gave up nine pass plays of 20 yards or more in their game against Pittsburgh. Green Bay comes to town with the third-best passing attack in the NFL based on yards per passing attempt. If Cleveland wants to avoid another week of giving up big pass plays, it'll have to shut down routes and stop the yards after the catch by tackling well.
Pick: Green Bay
The Late Games
New York Jets (3-3) at Oakland (2-4): For the first three weeks of the season, the Jets looked unstoppable and Mark Sanchez was already being deemed Offensive Rookie of the Year. But the last three weeks haven't been kind to the New York team that's taken three losses, or to their rookie quarterback who threw five interceptions last week.
JaMarcus Russell has 10 turnovers through six games this season and that kind of inconsistency and poor decision-making should be taken advantage of by this Rex Ryan defense. With Darren McFadden still out with an injury, Justin Fargas has taken over as the main back and will likely carry the ball much more than Michael Bush this week.
Pick: New York Jets
Buffalo (2-4) at Carolina (2-3): Buffalo is one of two teams in the NFL that has already allowed 1,000-plus yards rushing against them. The Bills can't seem to stop the run, even if they stack nine defenders in the box. This is bad news as Carolina has two running backs in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams that can really run.
After starting the season with three losses, Carolina is on a two-game winning streak. It's not a coincidence that Julius Peppers has four sacks in the Panthers' two wins, but only one in their three losses
New Orleans (5-0) at Miami (2-3): The Saints have been a prolific passing team for a while now. Last season, they ranked 28th with their rushing attack, but this season they rank 4th. When a team can run and pass like New Orleans, not much can stop it.
The Dolphins rank third against the run and will probably be able to slow the duo of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell. But they're going to have to pack linebackers into the box to fill running lanes, which will open up the middle of the field for Drew Brees and Jeremy Shockey.
Pick: New Orleans
Atlanta (4-1) at Dallas (3-2): When Brian Williams went down in Sunday night's victory over the Bears, it marked the second starting defensive player to fall with a season-ending injury this year. Chevis Jackson knows the defense and will step in without a hitch, but he's going to have his hands full with tight end Jason Witten.
Dallas is 9th in the NFL in total yards on offense but almost half of those 2,102 yards have come at the expense of Kansas City and Tampa Bay. Tony Romo works well when he gets the ball out quickly to his receivers and he'll have his fair share of success on Sunday. The real battle will be to see if Dallas' massive offensive line can combat Atlanta's smaller, faster defensive front.
Chicago (3-2) at Cincinnati (4-2): When your running back has more fumbles then touchdowns through five games, you may be in trouble. Matt Forte is only averaging 3.4 yards per carry and needs to get on track and help his team like he did last season. Cincinnati gives up less than 100 yards per game on the ground so Forte has his work cut out for him.
Chad Ochocinco, through Twitter, and Cedric Benson, through the media, have made Sunday's matchup a battle of words as well as an on-the-field contest. The Bears have struggled against top-notch receivers this season, but their run defense is ranked fourth in the NFL -- they won't need to use Benson's words as motivation to stop him.
Arizona (3-2) at New York Giants (5-1): The last two times Kurt Warner has played in the Meadowlands, he's come away empty-handed. It's been a task every week just to make sure his receiving corps is healthy, and he'll need all hands on deck to beat the Giants. Arizona's defense is the best in the NFL against the run. Before you get up for a chest-bump look at the fact that they're 31st against the pass. Teams don't run against Arizona because it is extremely easy to throw the ball.
You already know that Eli Manning is going to throw the ball this week. The fact that Brandon Jacobs is starting to find his rhythm and Ahmad Bradshaw is healthier than he's been in a while may mean that the Giants can run a bit, too. The Giants should also feel good at home on defense where they have nine sacks in two games versus just five sacks in four games on the road.
Pick: New York
Philadelphia (3-2) at Washington (2-4): The Eagles may have trouble passing the ball on Monday night as the Redskins have the 6th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. That means they may rely on Brian Westbrook to score some points. In two meetings last season Westbrook only rushed for a combined 78 yards and a touchdown. But, he caught 12 passes for 122 yards. His ability to be a dual-threat out of the backfield could make all the difference this week.
The Redskins offense has not been able to score points. And even though they can move the ball at home, they've only been able to muster two touchdowns and six field goals in three games at home. To make matters even more sad, those home games were against three teams (St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Kansas City) they should have been able to score on much more frequently.