Related FeaturesWhatIfSports NFL Season-to-Date
FOXSports.com - NFL
Each Tuesday morning, we will preview every NFL game of the upcoming week. All of our NFL content, including our most recent power rankings and links to the pre-season preview are located here.
The inputs to the 10,001 simulations of each upcoming game are based on a rigorous analysis of each team that considers strength-of-schedule-adjusted team and player ratings and then makes modifications for injuries and depth at each position. To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date performance, click here.
Game of the Week: #17 Atlanta 17 @ #7 San Francisco 23
Week Five of the NFL season provides quite the interesting schedule. More than one-third of our 14 projected games see the favorite winning by more than 80% of the time and three of our four closest projected matchups lack teams with winning records. Atlanta @ San Francisco is a exception to that trend. Bolstered by a defense that scored three touchdowns last week, the San Francisco 49ers bounced back from another Brett Favre miracle toss to shut out the St. Louis Rams. Atlanta has had an extra week to forget about a loss to New England - its only blemish of the young season - and to prepare for the 49ers, while the Falcons begin what is probably the toughest four-week stretch on their schedule (@SF, vs. CHI, @DAL, @NO).
The shutout boosted San Francisco's defense to second in the NFL in points allowed, giving up less than 14 points a game. Both the 49ers and Falcons have each given up 53 points, but Atlanta has played one less game. Led by linebacker Patrick Willis, who had eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, an interception returned for a touchdown and three QB hurries in Week 4, the 49ers are giving up just 5.9 yards-per-pass-attempt, just 3.1 yards-per-rush and just 4.4 yards-per-play. The defense has more than made up for a mostly stagnant offense quarterbacked by Shaun Hill. Most impressively, San Francisco has put up those defensive numbers, which also includes five INTs to just four passing TDs, against veteran quarterbacks Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck and Brett Favre. Now the 49ers defense will be tested by second-year quarterback Matt Ryan. In a schedule that has included Miami and Carolina prior to New England, Ryan has completed 65.9% of his passes and is averaging more than seven yards-per-pass-attempt, while throwing 5 TDs to just a single INT. Ryan has done his best to make up for a lackluster running game - Michael Turner is going just 3.5 yards per carry - and a run-of-the-mill defense that is giving up 5.6 yards per play.
In what should be an fantastic clash of offense vs. defense, the defensive-minded home 49ers win 61.5% of the time by an average score of 23-17. As can be noted in the projected boxscore, the 49ers just a 2.5 point favorite, they cover that spread 59.1% of the time. The total line is 41, giving the under the edge - but it's a very weak one. The under wins just 55.5% of the time and the teams score exactly 41 4.3% of the time.
San Francisco may win - on average, by a pair of field goals - but the statistical numbers come out eerily similar right down to kick and punt returns. The 49ers average just one more first down, four more rushing yards and six more passing yards than the Falcons. The computer likes Atlanta to take care of the ball against San Francisco's menacing defense. The group that scored on all three takeaways one week ago is not likely to force a single turnover.
Still, it's that defense that wins out in a battle that could certainly have playoff implications three months from now.
To see other picks like our Upset and Locks of the Week, as well as our season-to-date accuracy, click here. Click on the Boxscores below to see detailed team and player stat projections for every game.
NFL Week 5
|Matchup||Home Win%||Avg Score|
|Oakland @ New York Giants||89.4||10-27||Boxscore|
|Tampa Bay @ Philadelphia||82.0||12-25||Boxscore|
|Houston @ Arizona||65.6||22-29||Boxscore|
|Cincinnati @ Baltimore||63.6||17-23||Boxscore|
|Atlanta @ San Francisco||61.5||17-23||Boxscore|
|Washington @ Carolina||59.0||18-22||Boxscore|
|Cleveland @ Buffalo||54.8||20-24||Boxscore|
|Jacksonville @ Seattle||39.8||23-21||Boxscore|
|New England @ Denver||37.6||18-17||Boxscore|
|New York Jets @ Miami||34.2||21-17||Boxscore|
|Dallas @ Kansas City||21.6||23-15||Boxscore|
|Indianapolis @ Tennessee||18.7||27-18||Boxscore|
|Pittsburgh @ Detroit||17.5||26-16||Boxscore|
|Minnesota @ St. Louis||14.8||24-14||Boxscore|
Other Notable Games in Week 5
Few thought that the Denver Broncos could start the season 4-0. Many did not expect them to win five games overall (we had them at 2-2 through four weeks and 5-11 overall in our pre-season AFC West preview). But do not put it past the Broncos to reach that five-win mark this week when Josh McDaniel faces his former New England Patriots team for the first time. The host Broncos certainly aren't the favorites in Vegas or the computer, but the latter has Denver moving to 5-0 37.6% of the time, losing on average just 18-17 and the underdogs beating the three-point spread more than half the time. In a low-scoring struggle, the teams go under the total of 41.5 nearly 75% of the time.
The team that has seemingly been "on the verge" of making the playoffs for the past few years? Or the team that was not only a surprise in making it there but advanced all the way to the Super Bowl a year ago? Houston, at 2-2, and Arizona, 1-2, each need to win this week's game badly. The host Cardinals get back in the playoff chase by winning 65.6% of the time by an average score of 29-22. Matt Schaub edges Warner, but the 2008 runners-up win out thanks to a big day from the rushing duo of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells and from prolific receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the highest-scoring game of the week.
Other Notable Names in Week 5
After just four rushing yards in his 2009 debut last week, the computer expects a solid breakout game from previously-suspended Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch. He gets fewer carries than Fred Jackson, but Lynch averages nearly 40 rushing yards and 30 receiving yards in a game against the winless Cleveland Browns. For the Bills, this game may look easier at first glance than the numbers suggest. The host Bills win less than 55% of the time and beat the 6-point spread at just a 36.4% clip.
The computer is not completely sold on Peyton Manning to advance his streak of 300-yard passing games to five straight contests, but it does like a big game from the Colts' QB. Manning, our top overall fantasy football performer for Week 5, averages nearly 275 yards and more than two touchdowns in 10,000 simulations against winless Tennessee. The Titans get their first win of the year just 18.7% of the time and beat the 3.5 point spread less than 31% of the time.
Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in fantasy football simulation analysis and football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!