Sunday's NFL Picks
The 2008 NFL Season is just starting to heat up with action heading into Week 5. Our team of writers and handicappers hand out predictions for Sunday and Monday’s games.
Minnesota Vikings (1-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-2), 8:30 PM ET
The New Orleans Saints turned in their best defensive performance of the season last weekend, thanks to a particularly effective effort against the run. They're sure to be challenged in their next game as they try to contain one of the NFL's top running backs.
The Saints will have to contend with second-year star Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings when the teams meet at the Superdome in a Monday night matchup.
Though New Orleans (2-2) has surrendered 1,488 yards - the fifth-highest total in the league - through its first four contests, it has been better against the run, limiting opponents to 122.8 per game.
The Saints held San Francisco to a season-low 312 yards - 91 on the ground - in a 31-17 home victory on Sunday.
A matchup with Minnesota (1-3), though, presents a very different set of challenges because of Peterson, who has established himself as one of the league's top backs very quickly.
He carried 238 times for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie last season, and is showing no signs of a sophomore slump, ranking second in the NFL with 420 yards, two fewer than Atlanta's Michael Turner.
Peterson rushed 18 times for 80 yards in a 30-17 loss at Tennessee on Sunday, the second straight game he was held under 100 yards.
The Vikings have won their last two visits to New Orleans, including a 38-31 win on Oct. 17, 2004 in their most recent appearance.
Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Houston Texans (0-3), 1:05 PM ET
A shaky start through the first few weeks of the season has the Indianapolis Colts in an unfamiliar position in the AFC South. Another disappointing beginning for the Houston Texans has again relegated them to the division's cellar.
The Colts will try to turn things around and even their record on Sunday afternoon as they seek their 12th win in 13 tries against the winless Texans, who will finally play their first home game of the season.
Slow starts are very uncommon for Indianapolis (1-2), which has opened each of the last three seasons 7-0 or better. The Colts, winners of five straight AFC South titles, haven't finished lower than second in the division since 2001, when a 6-10 mark left them in fourth place.
Although they bounced back from a season-opening home loss to Chicago with an 18-15 road victory at Minnesota in Week 2, the Colts couldn't keep their momentum going as they fell 23-21 at home to division foe Jacksonville on Sept. 21.
Currently in third place in the division, Indianapolis sees no reason to panic yet despite sitting ahead of only the lowly Texans (0-3).
Sunday will mark the first game of the season at Reliant Stadium for the Texans, who were forced to play their first three contests on the road due to the effects of Hurricane Ike. They finished that stretch with a 30-27 overtime loss Sunday at Jacksonville.
Houston has won eight of its last 10 home games, and is slated to play its next four at Reliant Stadium.
Seattle Seahawks (1-2) at New York Giants (3-0), 4:15 PM ET
The Seattle Seahawks have been waiting all season to get their top receivers back on the field. This week, meanwhile, the New York Giants want their No. 1 target to stay away.
With Plaxico Burress set to serve a one-game suspension, the Giants look to remain undefeated Sunday when they host a Seahawks team expecting Deion Branch and Bobby Engram to make their season debuts.
Branch (knee) and Engram (shoulder) should play Sunday, according to Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren. That would be a major boost for Seattle (1-2), coming off a bye and hoping to bounce back from a poor start as it faces a stout Giants' defense.
New York (3-0), meanwhile, is one of three undefeated teams remaining. But the Giants, who also had their bye last week, won't have their top offensive threat in this contest.
Burress was suspended last week for a game and told to stay away from the team until Oct. 5, a punishment handed down for missing a practice and not calling to explain his absence. With Burress out, Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss and rookie Mario Manningham will get more playing time.
Hixon, a surprise in training camp, is expected to start for Burress, opposite Amani Toomer.
This will be the first meeting between the Seahawks and Giants since Sept. 24, 2006, when New York lost 42-30 at Seattle. Seattle and New York have the two longest playoff streaks in the NFC, with the Seahawks having been to five straight postseasons and the Giants three in a row.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (3-1), 4:15 PM ET
The Denver Broncos' offense carried the team to wins in its first three games, but wasn't enough to overcome an ugly defensive effort last week. The Broncos will try to bounce back against a team coming off its best defensive performance of the season.
The Broncos hope to find some answers defensively as they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in a matchup of teams trying to maintain their spots on top of their respective divisions.
Denver (3-1) gave up 28.0 points and 421.7 yards per game in its first three contests, but averaged 38.0 points and 432.0 yards to go undefeated in that stretch. The Broncos, though, couldn't extend that streak last Sunday, when their offense totaled 446 yards but failed to bail out the defense in a 33-19 road loss to lowly Kansas City.
Cutler's counterpart will be 33-year-old veteran Brian Griese, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Broncos and played behind John Elway as a rookie during Denver's Super Bowl championship season in 1998.
Griese has never faced the Broncos, who have won two of three meetings with the Buccaneers under Shanahan. Gruden, who coached Denver's AFC West rival Oakland for four years before taking over Tampa Bay in 2002, is 1-8 against the Broncos.
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