Before we take a look at Friday’s Week 5 opener between the Arizona Cardinals and the St Louis Rams, here are a few knee-jerk reactions from Week 4…

It’s almost Tebow time in New York. Jets fans hope that Gang Green will soon morph into last year’s Denver Broncos. Quarterback Mark Sanchez is struggling (insert your own Eva Longoria joke here). Since scoring 48 points against the Bills in Week 1, the Jets have mustered just 33 points in their last three games.

The knee-jerk reaction is that the Jets are in a mess. That’s partly true, especially without cornerback Darelle Revis. But they were not very good to start with (they failed to score a touchdown in four pre-season games) and they have faced three of the toughest defences in the NFL in the Steelers, Dolphins and 49ers. And on Monday they take on Houston, who look the strongest team in the NFL right now.

They should start 1-4. Sound familiar?

Tim Tebow, the most famous back-up quarterback since Steve Young, was made starter last season in Denver after the Broncos had gone 1-4 – and he led them to the playoffs.

The Jets’ schedule gets easier after Houston, with Indianapolis, New England (where Tebow will face coordinator Josh McDaniels, who instigated the draft trade with Baltimore that took him to Denver), Miami, Seattle and St Louis on the slate.

Still, without Santonio Holmes (injured), whoever is pulling the trigger is going to have a tough time. Especially any quarterback who can’t throw the ball with consistent accuracy. As I said weeks ago, my guess is Tebow will start against Miami on October 28. But the future lies with third-stringer Greg McElroy.

Green Bay’s defence is better than it looks. The Packers gave up 474 yards to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and looked remarkably like last season’s limp offering.

Yet the Packers are not going to see anyone whose release is quicker than that of Drew Brees this season and while they only recorded two sacks, they do have a pass rush. Expect them to get things fixed this week against the Colts.

One game does not define a football team. That’s a dandy motivational line from Richard Seymour and I’m not about to argue with that particular defensive lineman. But heavy defeats by the Dolphins and the Broncos denotes the Oakland Raiders of 2012 a very ordinary team. The Raiders converted one third down attempt in 12 and their defence allowed Peyton Manning enough time to sit in the pocket, sip tea and thumb through a copy of Horse & Hound. Manning has rarely had such an easy afternoon. But spare a thought for Thunder, the team’s white horse mascot, who had to gallop after each touchdown and would probably have had less of a workout than if he’d run in the Grand National. The Raiders have a bye this week – and an awful lot of problems to solve.

Matt Birk enters moral debate: Deal with it. Just two days after firing off an editorial column to a newspaper in favour of “preserving” traditional marriage, six-time Pro Bowl centre Matt Birk reiterated his opposition to same-sex couples tying the knot in a video for the Minnesota Catholic Conference. Birk was responding to Baltimore Ravens teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo’s pro-gay marriage stance.

“People who are simply acknowledging the basic reality of marriage between one man and one woman are being labelled as ‘bigots’ and ‘homophobic’. Aren’t we past that as a society?” asks Birk.

Sadly not.

Personally, I’m pleased he’s stood up for what he believes in, but really I’m just intrigued as to how this pans out between two teammates and role models, and would love to see more NFL stars talking about the elephant in the room. They are intelligent men – most are far more intelligent than English soccer players – and there’s nothing wrong with intelligent debate, especially where the moral breakdown in society is concerned.

It’s time for Matt Flynn to earn his money. Russell Wilson is the current starter in Seattle, but he is still a rookie and it will be a surprise if Flynn is not been given his chance soon. While they are a run-first team, Wilson’s longest pass is 41 yards – the dubious Hail Mary that beat Green Bay – and they are simply not scoring enough (failing to reach 17 points in three of their four games) to be a thought of as a playoff team.

Will the Super Bowl champions make the playoffs? Losing to Philadelphia dropped the New York Giants to 0-2 against NFC East rivals. The Giants, of course, are a championship-calibre team, but they still have road games against the likes of San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and Baltimore, and their remaining home schedule includes Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Philadelphia. A 9-7 record may not be enough this time round.

Will Pittsburgh make the post-season? Another intriguing question, given that the 1-2 Steelers don’t appear to be able to run the ball. No Pittsburgh player has rushed for more than 43 yards this season and they used to be able to lean on the run to close out games. Perhaps the expected return of Rashard Mendenhall on Sunday will help.

Flag on the play. Regarding the NFL’s use of amateur referees and the controversial ending to the Green Bay/Seattle game, in his Telegraph column Matthew Norman actually wrote this. Seriously.

“If something similar afflicted English football, and amateurs were pressed into service, it would not take a sceptical public long to appreciate how excellent referees have become”.

Somewhere, Demba Ba smiles in agreement.

Nate Solder clearing a path. Though no stats to back it up, the eyes don’t lie (I am not a Premier League ref). Nate Solder is a big reason why the New England Patriots found their running game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. He is becoming a real force on the left side of the Patriots’ line and you needed Google earth to see how far he was pushing offensive linemen backwards to plough a road for his running backs.

There are cool goatees… and there’s Kevin Kolb’s. Kolb is well known for hunting wild hogs in his spare time, ripping them to bits with his 12-inch Bowie knife.

Fortunately, he hasn’t quite mastered ripping opposing defences to shreds with his passing ability, or found out how to trim the ridiculous whiskers on his chin. Arizona are 4-0 but living on their defence. As Baltimore and San Francisco fans will tell you, defence isn’t all you need to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The betting is that we will be laughing at Kolb’s goatee far longer than we will be talking about the Cards as Super Bowl contenders. So just for Kevin, who admittedly responded well after being sacked eight times against Miami – and for all the dead hogs out there – this edition of the Musical Interlude is dedicated to you. Serj Tankian knows how to look goatee cool…

Arizona Cardinals @ St Louis Rams

So the ‘Goatee’ takes on the ‘Tash’ as Thursday Night Football kicks off Week 5, as Kolb faces Jeff Fisher, head coach of the St Louis Rams.

But before we get into the main event, here’s a large asterisk. For whatever reason, Week 5 has always been very unkind to this pigskin prognosticator. Despite a 10-3 tipping record last week, over the years the NFL Gods have a nasty Week 5 habit of blitzing while I throw to metaphorical ghosts. So excuse me if I feel like a Jets lineman about to face Houston. Week 5 should be renamed Weak 5.

So here we go, facing third down-and-forever at my own one-yard line…

Arizona are unbeaten and should remain that way as they take advantage of the Rams’ offensive line problems.

While Wayne Hunter and Barry Richardson dealt well with Seattle’s pass rushers – especially Chris Clemons – they have yet to play back-to-back solid games. The loss of centre Scott Wells and left tackle Roger Saffold really hasn’t helped their cause and a season-ending injury to rookie guard Rok Watkins has also added to their woes. Through four games, the Rams offensive line has allowed 52 quarterback pressures and they are the 30th-ranked in pass blocking efficiency. Quinn Ojinnaka has really struggled at left tackle and is accountable for three sacks and 14 pressures.

St Louis have won both home games by narrow margins. If you didn’t know better, you’d say they were the Cardinals.

They also beat Seattle with special teams play; kicker Greg Zuerlein hit four field goals, with one from 58 yards and another from 60 yards and they also snuffed out an onside kick.

The Rams were facing a rookie quarterback in Russell Wilson, whom the Seahawks don’t ultimately trust just yet. Wilson wasn’t given time to go through his progressions and somehow the Rams earned an unlikely win.

Though Arizona’s Kevin Kolb was sacked eight times by the Miami Dolphins, the difference here is that he was able to find his big-play receivers when it mattered. In comparison, Seattle simply do not have any top-level pass catchers, making this very young and inexperienced Rams team vulnerable (providing Kolb plays largely mistake-free football) to Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet.

Given that Rams’ running back Steven Jackson is playing through a groin injury which is restricting him to get past his offensive line, never mind reaching the second level, and it looks implausible that the Cardinals are mere one-point favourites on the BETDAQ handicap.

It would not do to take these new Rams lightly. But there is a possibility that the Cardinals could do that, since they have beaten them on each of their last seven trips to St Louis – and only lost once in the last 11 to the Rams.

Road teams are 17-27 under the Thursday night lights since 2006 and the Cardinals have covered the handicap on four of their last five against the Rams.

Usually off a short week, teams tend to get conservative, with basic playbooks installed and as a result, points totals are often low. However, this line is set at 38.5 points which does seem a shade too low.

Having looked at the A-Z of each team’s merits, AZ is the only real conclusion, so take the Cards to win and for the total to go over.

Lay – St Louis +1
Back – Over 38.5 points

Milham’s 2012 record:
Week 1: 7-5
Week 2: 7-6-1
Week 3: 5-8
Week 4: 10-3

Twitter: @simonmilham

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