The round table weighs in on dismal organizations with hope for the future, struggling teams with a 2-3 record and sure-thing matchups. After watching all the film, Scouts Inc.'s pro scouts debate the hot topics heading into Week 6.
Which organization will be successful first -- Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals or St. Louis Rams?
Jeremy Green: Two of these teams have a chance to build foreseeable long-term success. Can you guess which? Hint: It isn't the Raiders or Bengals. Oakland might have the best overall talent among these teams, but owner Al Davis needs to take a step back -- and that isn't in his nature. Until Davis turns over the organization to a head coach who can run the entire operation or hires a quality general manager who can co-exist with the coach, the Raiders will continue to underachieve. Cincinnati's ownership is similarly meddlesome on the field, and a small scouting department and shoestring free-agent budget limit any Bengals coach. The Rams still have enough good football people within the organization to turn things around, but they are one of the league's oldest teams. The Lions have more youth and playmakers at the skill positions. The Fords have shown a willingness to spend on a GM, coach and players; they just need help making better decisions. The odds are in their favor that they'll get it right sooner than the others.
Gary Horton: St. Louis still is a good organization, with enough people around who remember the good old days when the team was a playoff contender every year. The Rams are in the process of an ownership change, but they have an excellent fan base and a good scouting department. The talent level on hand is better than the team's record indicates, which should convince a new owner to open up the pocketbook. This team can turn it around in a hurry.
Keith Kidd: Without a doubt, all four teams need a new program. History shows us that the luck won't change in Cincinnati, Oakland and St. Louis (unless the Rams are sold or promote Billy Devaney to GM) when it comes to hiring a general manager or structuring a personnel department. To me, Detroit is very attractive because of the Ford family and the team's awesome new facilities, but even the Lions are far from being fixed. That said, teams win with great quarterbacks in this league, which is why I'm taking the Bengals. QB Carson Palmer can help get that team turned around quicker than any of the others.
Doug Kretz: I'd look at the ownership and top management to determine which franchise will be most willing to make massive changes to overhaul not just their team's personnel base but its mental makeup. The Lions are a mess, but the owner has shown a willingness to hire someone to run the team and let him do his job with minimum interference. Granted, many believe that Matt Millen was given too much rope, but that's actually a positive sign moving forward. One of the biggest hurdles in program-building is the knee-jerk reactions of ownership. Teams that frequently change general managers and coaches simply don't stay among the league's upper echelon for long. Stability is huge in the NFL, and the Ford family appears willing to (1) allow their hires to do their jobs and (2) give them time to see it through.
Ken Moll: I have to go with Detroit. As dismal as things appear in the Motor City, at least ownership tries to give its coach and GM enough time and resources to build a successful club. Most teams would have canned Millen two or three years sooner, but he was retained long enough to prove without a doubt that he wasn't the man for the job. Changing coaches and personnel directors every two or three years is no way to build an organization. The Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Giants and Eagles are great examples of clubs that have made few changes during the tenure of current ownership, even in the tough times. Turning the page and starting over with fresh ideas and faces can help an organization from time to time, though. Assuming they make better decisions this time around, the Lions have the best chance among those teams to quickly reverse their fortunes on the field.
Tag Ribary: There are no certainties, but I have a feeling St. Louis will respond to the coaching change and show some life under Jim Haslett. I'm going to assume that he and offensive coordinator Al Saunders will find a way to get QB Marc Bulger, RB Steven Jackson and WR Torry Holt back on track. The Rams have some good young players on both sides of the ball, and the team simply should be performing better. If St. Louis can find some leadership in the locker room, this franchise will have success sooner than later.
Matt Williamson: Detroit is furthest away from contention. The talent just isn't there. The other three franchises all have a few crucial pieces in place, but I like the Rams' situation best. The culture of losing isn't as embedded in the organization as it is in the others, and the NFC West is a less-than-daunting division. With the right leadership and decision-makers, St. Louis conceivably could get back to respectability as soon as next season.
Philadelphia, Green Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans and Jacksonville were expected to be playoff contenders, but now all are 2-3. Which team is in the most danger of missing the playoffs?
Green: I have to go with the Eagles for the simple fact that they play in the NFC East. Right now they are looking up at the Giants (4-0), Redskins (4-1) and Cowboys (4-1) in the standings. Plus, two of Philadelphia's three losses were to division rivals (at Dallas and vs. Washington). When I look at the current playoff picture it looks like both wild cards will come from the NFC East. On top of that, this team has been bitten by the injury bug and I worry about the long-term health of RB Brian Westbrook (ribs). The Eagles also lack a consistent running game and even though veteran QB Donovan McNabb is at the top of his game, they lack of a bona-fide No. 1 receiver. which will haunt this team down the stretch.
Horton: The Eagles are in the toughest division in the NFL and they already have two losses in the division. In all likelihood, three NFC East teams will go to the playoffs -- and right now it's tough to see Philadelphia overtaking Washington, Dallas or New York. The Eagles don't have a consistent run game that allows them to close a game by running out the clock and they can't expect to win in shootout every week. Plus, with questionable depth, their margin for error is smaller than the others.
Kretz: At this point, I'd have to say the Eagles. They are in the unenviable position of being in the NFC East, which is arguably the toughest division in the NFL. A case could be made for any of the four teams to make the playoffs this year. The Eagles have four more divisional games to play, two at home (New York and Washington), two away (Dallas and Giants) and two cross-country trips (San Francisco and Seattle). No other team in this division has more than one loss, so it will be difficult for the Eagles to get back into the race.
Williamson: The Jaguars are in the most danger because they aren't very good. This team is a shell of what it was a year ago and no longer has a power running game to rely on, due to a rebuilt interior offensive line. The defense is on the field too much and the foundation of what that defense was built on last year -- two disruptive Pro Bowl defensive tackles -- is no longer in place. Throw in the fact that they play in a very tough division and I am certain that the Jaguars will be watching the playoffs from their living room this year.
Based on matchups, who do you expect to have a big game in Week 6?
Green: Portis has the second most rushing yards in the NFL and he is coming off his best game of the season -- 145 yards and one touchdown versus the Eagles' No. 1 ranked defense at the time. This week he faces a Rams defense that is No. 31 overall and No. 28 versus the run. I think the 'Skins will come out throwing the ball this week to build a quick lead versus the nonexplosive Rams offense and then ride Portis the rest of the way. I look for another 125-plus yards and two touchdowns this week because the interior of the Rams' run defense with Adam Carriker out of position and an aging La'Roi Glover are just not good enough up the middle to protect LBs Will Witherspoon and Pisa Tinoisamoa. This one has rout written all over it and Portis will lead the way.
Horton: The Giants have the second-ranked pass defense in the league and can play zone or man-to-man schemes. Their back end is helped by the best pass rush in the NFL (15 sacks). Cleveland is ranked last in pass offense and is last in average gain per pass play. QB Derek Anderson struggles in his progression reads and he has nervous feet, while his receivers drop a lot of balls and do not always work to get in and out of their routes. These are not good trends when facing the Giants' pass defense.
Kidd: Defensively, the Lions are horrible. They are one of the worst tackling teams I've seen in a long time in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Vikings' rushing attack was shutdown last week against the Saints. RB Adrian Peterson is averaging 94.4 yards rushing per game since entering NFL in 2007, which is the best in the NFL. Look for Peterson and backup RB Chester Taylor to get back on track this week in a big way within the Vikings' power-zone running schemes.
Kretz: I went with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson last week and he was held to 32 yards on 21 carries. I can't help but go with him again this week, though. The Lions can't seem to stop anybody, whether it be through the air or on the ground. The Vikings need to get their ground game on track and are apt to force feed Peterson in an attempt to get him rolling. The home-field crowd will get behind Peterson and spur him on to a big game.
Moll: There are a couple of matchups that I would choose, but I'll go with Jets QB Brett Favre. He should have a big day coming out of a bye week at home versus a struggling Bengals team. With Favre coming off one of his best outings of his career and having two weeks to prepare for a club that has only generated three sacks in five games this should be a chance for the future Hall of Famer to light up the scoreboard. The Bengals have been poor stopping the run and may mix in some eight-man fronts or gamble some to make Favre and the Jets one dimensional, which lends itself to a big day for the veteran quarterback. Favre doesn't have explosive targets to throw to, but still leads the league in touchdown passes with 12. I believe that Favre wants to win games, but also would like to make a statement. He still has it and will take every opportunity to torment his former club with outstanding performances.
Ribary: I like Vikings' Peterson against the Lions' defense. The Lions are giving up a lot of yards on the ground and Minnesota will more than likely look to get Peterson back on track after a sub-par performance against the Saints. Peterson hasn't run for more than a 100 yards since Week 2 against Indianapolis, but I don't see that trend continuing much longer.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.