Will Sunday night's big win in Washington e a springboard for the Philadelphia Phillies offense?  When are Chase Utley and Ryan Howard going to finally be ready to play?  And what's up with Roy Halladay who is coming off one of the worst starts in his career?

A club thought to have all of the answers when the 2012 MLB campaign opened instead has a lot of questions as the schedule heads into its fifth full week.  Philadelphia stands 14-15 to this point, the only team in the NL East under .500, and has cost its backers around 5.5 units while underachieving.

Charlie Manuel's men will try to build on the momentum from Sunday's 9-3 win in DC when they open an 8-game homestand vs. the New York MetsSan Diego and Houston follow the Mets into Philly, giving the Phils an excellent opportunity to put the slow start behind them.

ESPN will have its cameras on Monday's matchup (7 PM ET), and the focus will no doubt be on Halladay who is opposed by New York's Jonathan Niese.  To nobody's surprise, the Philadelphia ace is a pronounced favorite on the MLB odds with the Phillies laying -180 to -200 just as the sun rises of the City of Brotherly Love.  The contest is carrying a 6.5 run total that is priced to the UNDER and many sports books.

There's plenty of time for the Phillies to get it all turned around, though it will take some doing if the club is going to meet John Ryan's expectations of a 96-win seasonPhiladelphia would have to play over .600 the rest of the way (82-51) to hit that number, but that's very doable for a squad with such talent, especially if Howard and Utley make it back sooner rather than later.

Winning at least 82 games the rest of the way will also require Halladay to start reeling off victories.  Philadelphia has dropped his last three starts, and he's coming off his worst game as a Phillie in last Wednesday's performance in Atlanta.  Halladay surrendered 12 hits and eight runs in 5.1 innings, his worst showing since about five years ago when he endured back-to-back rough starts for the Blue Jays in May 2007 (10.1 IP, 16 ER vs. Rangers and Red Sox).

Roy HalladayPrior to that slugfest with the Braves, Halladay pitched well enough to win but the offense failed to provide much help in consecutive 5-1 setbacks to the Padres and Cubs.  He didn't see his turn come up when the Mets came through Philadelphia about three weeks ago and surprised the Phils by taking two of three.  Halladay was darn near perfect in three starts against New York last season, winning all three and allowing just a single run in 22 innings of work.

Halladay may have missed the Mets in April, but Niese sure didn't miss Philadelphia.  The poor kid never seems to miss the Phillies, in fact, with this his seventh start against them since the beginning of 2011.  To his credit, New York has split the previous six, including a dandy effort on April 14 when Niese worked 6.2 scoreless innings to pace the Mets' 5-0 shutout as +120 dogs.

He has suffered some ugly outings at Citizens Bank Park, however, and Niese hasn't had any luck when facing Halladay.  The two squared off against each other twice in Philly last April, with Halladay getting the wins both times while laying better than $2.00 and Niese allowing eight runs and 14 hits in 10.1 IP.

After being swept in Houston last week and then losing the weekend opener at home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Mets have bounced back to win their last two as they begin this road trip through Philly and Miami.  At 15-13, New York has turned a modest 3.4 units of profit bettors so far, but is just 5-7 away from Queens and 11-20 in Philadelphia since the start of play in 2009.

Taking a Chance: The Mets have very little offense and the Phillies have an outstanding starting rotation, so we expect a low-scoring game, right?  Well, two of the three played here in April went OVER with totals running in the 6.5-7.5 range.  Both clubs are playing slight to the OVER this season as well, and that tells me the oddsmakers have been pretty sharp setting that number.

Niese did pitch very well here in mid-April, but has looked much more human in his three starts since (5.62 ERA).  The Phillies, meanwhile, have never lost four consecutive starts by Halladay, and I don't expect that to change now. I'm grabbing a seat on the Chalk Express and making my MLB pick Philadelphia -185.