Week 5 NFL Cheat Sheet
Jay Cutler can’t win.
Well, he actually can win football games. A lot of them.
He just can’t win with America.
If Peyton Manning screams at an offensive tackle, he’s lauded for being an incredible leader and a “coach on the field.” If Tom Brady gets into it with his offensive coordinator, it’s OK. He’s just “fired up.” If Ben Roethlisberger keeps getting up after being sacked seven times in a game, he’s a warrior. When Eli Manning gives a dazed stare in the distance after throwing an interception, he’s just warming up.
He’s a gasbag. A blowhard. A loser.
There’s a difference between Cutler and all of those guys, of course. A difference I’m well aware of. They’ve all got Super Bowl rings. He doesn’t. Got it. Noted.
But Jay Cutler’s won some games in his career, too. He took the Bears to the NFC Championship Game in 2010, and had Chicago sitting pretty, in line for a wild-card spot, at 7-3 before an injury cost him the rest of his 2011 regular season.
Seemingly every time we get a Cutler game on national TV — whether it was vs. Detroit last season or against Dallas on Monday night — the media responds with shock when he actually plays well.
I defended Cutler when he got a media beatdown the morning after he shouted at teammate J’Marcus Webb in a Week 2 loss to the Packers. In my column, I asked why Cutler — a franchise quarterback who’s been under duress for three seasons now as the Bears starter — hasn’t gotten the reinforcements on the offensive line other franchise quarterbacks have? The reader response was epic.
I’d copy and paste some, but they’d violate numerous FOXSports.com guidelines. Put it this way — on the whole, it’s safe to say NFL fans don’t like Jay Cutler.
But sure enough, after Twitter went nuts over the way he reacted to offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the sideline, there was Cutler last night — encouraging Webb, embracing him and celebrating a late touchdown score with his beleaguered left tackle.
Tuesday morning? The only thing anyone wanted to talk about was Cutler and Tice. Former NFL player and current sports-radio guy Ross Tucker tweeted, “Must be so hard for Mike Tice to not just choke slam Jay Cutler. I bet 20 years ago he would’ve smoked him.”
I guess I’m a Cutler guy. Always have been. Great arm. Smart dude (he went to Vanderbilt). Still only 29 years old. Though he’s not always the most respectful guy to teammates, coaches and the media — he’s not trying to be something he’s not out there.
Minutes after I had a big laugh from this incredible Tumblr blog called “Smokin’ Jay Culter” (http://smokinjaycutler.tumblr.com), I heard him interviewed on the radio.
“If I yell on the sideline, I get killed. If I don’t say anything, I get killed,” Cutler said. “If I walk away, I get killed. It’s a no-win situation.”
Just keep doin’ your thing, Jay. Go get that Super Bowl ring and silence all your critics.
And then, when everyone least expects it, light that cigarette.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s dig into the Week 5 Cheat Sheet.
Week 4 record: 9-7
Overall season record: 35-28
WEEK 5 CHEAT SHEET TRIVIA QUESTION
During Johnny Unitas’ 47-game touchdown streak, his top touchdown target was receiver Raymond Berry (38 TD receptions). Which current or former Saints player has caught the most Drew Brees’ touchdown passes in Brees’ 47-game run?
See below for answer.
Week 5 fantasy football waiver-wire pickup: San Diego Chargers running back Jackie Battle
Arizona at St. Louis: The Rams are a very quiet 2-0 at home, with big wins over two teams (Washington, Seattle) that were riding high after victories the week before. Following Sunday’s 19-13 effort over the Seahawks, Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ executive VP of football operations, tweeted: “Dome Field Advantage helped us again, thanks to fans for your support. Rest up tonight we’ve got a short week, tailgating starts in 80 hrs.” It’s a big week for St. Louis sports. The Rams have this one Thursday and the Cardinals play in an MLB wild-card game on Friday. Call me the Grinch who stole October. I don’t see either St. Louis team coming out on top.
The Pick: Cardinals 21, Rams 16
Sunday early games
Miami at Cincinnati: The Bengals are 3-1 despite playing with a secondary held together by Scotch tape and chewing gum the past two weeks. Terence Newman and Adam Jones haven’t gotten much media attention this season, but the two former Cowboys have played admirably with starters Leon Hall and Nate Clements out of the lineup with injuries. Hall and Clements should be back in the lineup for this one. I like Cincinnati to improve to 4-1. A.J. Green should give Miami’s secondary fits.
The Pick: Bengals 31, Dolphins 14
Baltimore at Kansas City: At home and playing with some momentum after a big win in New Orleans, the Chiefs came out of the gates against the archrival Chargers last week and … found themselves down 20-0 midway through the second quarter. That was that. I can’t imagine a team laying two smellier stink bombs in front of a home crowd as good as Kansas City’s like the Chiefs have done vs. the Falcons and Chargers this season. I also can’t imagine them faring any better against the Ravens this Sunday.
The Pick: Ravens 38, Chiefs 17
Cleveland at New York Giants: Though they lost, I was very impressed with the way the Browns competed in the pouring rain out in Baltimore last Thursday night. With 10 days rest and a rookie quarterback showing more and more confidence each week, this one has “potential upset” written all over it. Key word: potential. It ain’t happening. It won’t be easy, but the Giants have too many veterans to let a bunch of kids beat them in their own building.
The Pick: Giants 27, Browns 23
Green Bay at Indianapolis: Coming off a bye week and being dealt some terrible news on Monday (coach Chuck Pagano’s leukemia diagnosis), there’s no doubt that the Indianapolis Colts will be playing with purpose on Sunday. The Packers found a way to beat New Orleans last week, but did not look all that impressive in doing so. The Pack was the very best team in the 2011 regular season, the Colts were the very worst. And I’m taking Indy to beat Green Bay. That’s the beauty of the NFL, right there. In a matter of one year, that much can change.
The Pick: Colts 34, Packers 27
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh: Just how crazy has the Eagles’ 2012 season been? Well, they’re in sole possession of first place in the loaded NFC East, despite having been outscored by 17 points this season. They’ve now won three games by a combined four points. The Eagles hadn’t won three games in an entire season by two points or fewer since 1990, and they’d never done it more than once under Andy Reid. This season, they did it before the start of October. Philly’s had a good run, but I can’t see it escaping Heinz Field with a victory. Pittsburgh’s home, coming off a bye and getting some key defenders back on the field. The Steelers didn’t look great in September, but I think they’ll get the best of Vick and the Eagles on Sunday.
The Pick: Steelers 27, Eagles 23
Atlanta at Washington: My FOXSports.com colleague Alex Marvez picked Robert Griffin III as his 2012 first quarter Offensive Rookie of the Year and Matt Ryan as his MVP. I can’t argue with either of those picks. Both quarterbacks have been outstanding. I expected this from Ryan. RG3? Well, I thought there’d be some big plays and some stats. But the late-game production and clutch play has been a pleasant surprise. In Sunday’s comeback victory in Tampa Bay, RG3’s headset wasn’t working on the final offensive drive, meaning he called all of the ‘Skins offensive plays. A rookie, on the road, playing against one of the league’s hardest-hitting defenses — and he’s calling the plays. I can’t lie — I love everything about this kid, right down to the endearing Subway ads. Give me Washington in the biggest upset of the week.
The Pick: Redskins 33, Falcons 27
Sunday afternoon games
Chicago at Jacksonville: Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are fun to watch. The rest of the football world may not appreciate their “bromance” as much as me, but as someone who once took a six-hour road trip with seven other dudes to the Snyder’s Pretzel factory in Hanover, Pa., just because I thought some good stories would come out of it, I appreciate a quarterback and a receiver who seem to genuinely really like being around each other. Maybe some time down the road, Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon will exhibit the same kind of thing. That some time won’t be Sunday.
The Pick: Bears 34, Jaguars 21
Seattle at Carolina: The general media tone surrounding Cam Newton this week is eerily reminiscent of the way reporters and writers wrote about the kid before he was drafted back in April of 2011. Newton proved those detractors wrong last year, and he’ll do the same this season. Don’t count the Panthers out just yet. Newton played incredibly well on Sunday. He’ll play even better this week. Russell Wilson may be the better feel-good story; the easier subject to write about. Newton’s the better quarterback.
The Pick: Panthers 24, Seahawks 13
Tennessee at Minnesota: The key to beating the Vikings is stopping Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately, it’s far easier said than done. The Vikes are for real, folks. Harvin, Peterson, punter Chris Kluwe and defenders Jared Allen, Jasper Brinkley and Chad Greenway would all make my 2012 first quarter all-star team. The Vikings — the third-worst team in the league in 2011 — will improve to 4-1 on Sunday.
The Pick: Vikings 27, Titans 13
Buffalo at San Francisco: Fresh off Sunday’s 34-0 shutout of the Jets, the 49ers have three home games up ahead. Battles with the Bills, Giants and Seahawks — all in Candlestick — could mean a 7-1 mark by the midway point. Another coach, another defense — maybe this would be a trap game. Not on Jim Harbaugh or Vic Fangio’s watch.
The Pick: 49ers 31, Bills 7
Denver at New England: There’s an obvious storyline that you’ll hear about all week in this one. Of course, when we’re talking Broncos-Patriots, you’ve got to talk about … the fact that Patriots second-year offensive tackle Nate Solder grew up a Broncos fan in Buena Vista, Col.!!! Oh, you thought I was headed somewhere else? Brady and Manning? Boring. This one’s all about Solder going against the team he rooted for as a kid. That’s storyline 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Take your Brady-Manning overanalysis elsewhere, give me Nate Solder’s third career game against his childhood team! And give me Solder improving to 3-0 against said team.
The Pick: Patriots 28, Broncos 24
San Diego at New Orleans: Here’s a fun little nugget from my buddy RJ Bell, a guy who just happens to live in Las Vegas and watch NFL games with a little more on his mind than just the winners and losers: “The Saints being favored by 3 points over the Chargers is the biggest spread for a winless Week 5 favorite over a team with winning record in 20-plus NFL seasons.” What’s that all mean? Well, I don’t know. I only care about the winners and losers. I’m not even sure what this “spread” thing he’s talking about is. All eyes will be on Drew Brees and his record-setting night (trying to pass Johnny Unitas for most consecutive games with a TD pass), but watch Darren Sproles go bonkers on the team that opted not to lock him up with a long-term deal last offseason. Big scoring, here. Big, big, big scoring.
The Pick: Saints 44, Chargers 37
Houston at New York Jets: This feels a bit like a Stephon bit from “Saturday Night Live,” but this one will have it all: first-quarter boo birds, Tebow, Sanchez, shots of a disgusted Fireman Ed, a grimacing Rex Ryan, and maybe even a little flashback to the Rich Kotite 1-15 season. This one’s got colossal disaster written all over it. Both Ben Tate and Arian Foster may go for 100 yards … in the first half.
The Pick: Texans 38, Jets 0
Reader email of the week
Big fan of “The Cheat Sheet.” Thanks for writing it each week and thanks for picking against the Eagles every single time. I don’t have it on me, but I’m fairly sure you’ve picked against Eagles in 29 of your last 30 columns, dating back to the 2010 season. Here in Philly, we’ve taken notice and we’re thoroughly enjoying it. I assume you’re picking against us again this weekend, too. Please do! Keep doing it. We beg of you. We’ll ride it all the way to New Orleans this February.
Greg C., Philadelphia
I asked the guys at the Elias Sports Bureau to look this up for me. The last time I picked the Eagles to win a game was actually Dec. 16, 1984. The Eagles lost 26-10 to the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, and I guess it left a bad taste in my mouth. I really thought they’d pull that one out and they let me down. I haven’t picked them to win a game since. So, you’re welcome! (I picked the Eagles to beat the Browns in Week 1 and the Cardinals in Week 3.)
Oh, and by the way …
1. I know he’s a big media favorite, but I’m not sold on Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. He’s got a feel-good story and is a great role model for quarterbacks under 6 feet, but I’m just not sure he’s an NFL quarterback. He looked lost on Sunday vs. a pedestrian Rams defense. Sorry. I know — for whatever reason — we’re not supposed to say anything negative about Russell Wilson, but I just don’t see what makes him an NFL starter. Not yet, at least.
2. Either Adam Sandler or Jud Apatow should be writing a screenplay about a “Replacement Refs 20 Year Reunion” by now. If they haven’t gotten started on one already, I really have no faith in Hollywood.
3. Peyton Manning casually referring to the Papa John’s guy as “Papa” just never seems to gets old.
4. The scary thing about the 49ers’ much-improved offense is that they still haven’t unleashed rookies A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James. Brandon Jacobs could make a difference in the cold weather months, too. Very deep offensive team.
5. I often wonder what’s on Rob Gronkowski’s DVR list. I’d really love it if the answer was — “Real Housewives of NY,” “Downtown Abbey” and “Antique Roadshow.”
WEEK 5 CHEAT SHEET TRIVIA ANSWER
Saints receiver Marques Colston has been Brees’ top touchdown target over the past 47 games, catching 22 scores during this historic run.