The Dolphins, Vikings, Panthers & Jets get 2 weeks to prepare for their Week 6 opponents. Is there any angle to exploit by including teams coming off byes in our NFL picks?
Miami Dolphins (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS)
Ain't no sunshine down in Miami as the first domino to fall in their early season of discontent was head coach Joe Philbin who saw his employment terminated after the Dolphins, installed as three-point underdogs by the NFL odds makers, were throttled 27-14 by divisional rivals the New York Jets in London's Wembley Stadium. The final score was not indicative of the lopsided mismatch that occurred and the Dolphins enter their bye week having lost three consecutive games and getting outscored 91-48 during that period.
You know things are rough when the tight ends coach is selected to take over as opposed to the offensive or defensive coordinator. While Joe Philbin has been universally hailed as a class act and one of the truly good guys in the business his successor Dan Campbell, all 6'5" of him, looks like he could put on a uniform and look right at home cracking heads with the best of them. Campbell has insisted that while he respects and admires Philbin he believed there was plenty of talent but not enough intensity during practice which led to complacency on game day.
"I feel there's a lot more we can get out of these guys. We need to change the culture to where it is so competitive on Wednesday, Thursday, maybe even Friday, that it's intense and heated. We may have to break up a few [fights] -- that's when things get good. You can't go through the motions Wednesday and Thursday and turn it up on Sunday. It doesn't work that way.''
Campbell's rigid philosophy and stricter accountability will be tested in Week 6 when the Dolphins travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans.
Minnesota Vikings (2-2 SU, 3-1 ATS)
The Vikings have rewarded those bold enough to include them in their NFL picks week after week by going 3-1 against the spread including their narrow 23-20 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos in Mile High as seven-point road dogs. Adrian Peterson reminded everyone that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank when he jetted 48 yards down the field and into the endzone on fourth and inches. Peterson leads the team with three touchdowns and is averaging five yards per carry. AP is currently on pace to rush for 1488 yards, which would be the eighth most in NFL history by a running back in his thirties and if he wins the rushing title he would be the first running back 30-years-old or older to do it since Curtis Martin accomplished the feat in 2004.
Middle linebacker Gerald Hodges is a Viking no more thanks to a trade on Tuesday that sent the third year veteran out of Penn State to the San Francisco 49'ers for center Nicholas Easton and a sixth-round pick. The trade raised more than a few eyebrows but the play of rookie Eric Kendricks emboldened general manager Rick Spielman to make the move in return for depth on the offensive line. The seven sacks that the Broncos earned on Sunday apparently sent a signal to the front office that Teddy Bridgewater needs protection and maybe Nicholas is just the man to help in that department.
Carolina Panthers (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS)
The Panthers traveled to Tampa and plundered the Bucs 37-23 courtesy of a pair of Cam Newton touchdowns and the opportunistic play of cornerback Josh Norman who ran 46 yards for a pick-six and then got his second interception of the game when he scampered 34 yards setting up what would eventually be another Panthers touchdown. The Panthers sit at 4-0 for the first time since the 2003 season when they made a Super Bowl appearance only to fall to the eventual champions the New England Patriots.
Cam Newton has been the sizzle behind this office but you wouldn't know it based on his passing statistics. The Panthers are ranked 30th in the league averaging only 189 yards per contest but 4th in rushing yards averaging over 132. The obvious concern for Panthers fans is just how long can Newton continue to carry the ball without getting injured? Rushing quarterbacks have an historically short shelf life in the NFL but with his options at wide receiver limited it will be Newton carrying the rock until someone other than tight end Greg Olsen proves they can get open consistently.
All eyes are on two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly to get back on the field after sustaining a concussion in the first half of Carolina's final preseason game. Reports are favorable that Kuechly will be in uniform when the team travels to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Kuechly has been a mainstay of the Panthers' linebacking corps since he graduated from Boston College and chosen by Carolina with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
New York Jets (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS)
Gang Green is proving all the naysayers wrong at least for now. The Jets drubbed the Dolphins in London and are now resting comfortably until their date with Washington at MetLife Stadium. There is no mistaking the impact that Darrelle Revis has had on the Jets defense which is why they rank tops in the league in scoring allowed surrendering an average of only 13.8 points per game. Revis has been involved in five of the Jets 13 takeaways including two picks and three fumble recoveries. The schemes concocted by defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers and the presence of another ferocious member of New York's secondary in Antonio Cromartie have put the Jets on the map defensively and nipping at the heels of perennial AFC East champions the New England Patriots. But let's not overlook the contributions of former Brown and newly minted blitzmaster Buster Skrine. Though Skrine has modest statistical numbers he is being set loose by Rodgers and his presence is felt all over the field. The numbers will come if he continues to play like he has in the early going.
Offensively the Jets have been good enough to win but not spectacular as evidenced by their middling 23.8 points per game average. However, that does not mean that all their offensive players have been merely serviceable as running back Chris Ivory has come into his own this season. After showing flashes of brilliance in New Orleans but plagued by injuries throughout his college and professional careers, he has found a home in New York and is currently the third leading rusher in the league despite missing the game against Philadelphia with a quad/groin injury. Not shocking then that New York's only loss this season came when Ivory was not chewing up real estate but instead sat helplessly on the sidelines in the Jets 24-17 defeat to the Eagles.
Head coach Todd Bowles has surprisingly given his team plenty of time off during the bye week. Surprising because former coach Rex Ryan was notorious for giving his troops an extended vacation and the results were abysmal. The Jets were 1-5 straight up in the week after their bye and have been outscored 103-24 over the past three seasons in those contests. However, taking into consideration the Jets were in London in the week before their bye and had to fly back to the States, readjust their internal clocks and get settled it may make much more sense for Bowles to go easy than it had for Ryan. Stay tuned for Week 6 when the Jets host the Redskins to see if this strategy worked.