It has not happened yet, and the unenviable task now falls on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
Is it possible to keep pace with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos? The list of quarterbacks who have tried and failed miserably this season includes Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Terrelle Pryor and Michael Vick.
Manning is setting a record-breaking pace, completing 75 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards and 16 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Broncos (4-0) are averaging 44.8 points and outscoring opponents by 22 points per game.
The numbers add up to the Broncos being 7½-point road favorites over the Cowboys today. The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall is riding the trends, siding with Manning and looking over the total of 57½.
“There’s no reason to jump off of the Denver bandwagon, at least until further notice, or until the Broncos are forced to use Brock Osweiler at quarterback,” Marshall said. “This price is not too prohibitive to abandon supporting the Broncos, who have not only won and covered their first four this season, but now nine straight and 13 of their past 15 against the spread in regular-season play while winning all of those 15 by seven points or more.
“This does not look to be the foe that slows Denver’s extended ascent. If Dallas couldn’t hold a lead last week at San Diego, allowing the Chargers to score the last 20 points of the game, it’s hard to see the Cowboys keeping pace with the Broncos.”
With just two games scheduled in the 1 p.m. slot today, Las Vegas sports books already saddled with a load of Broncos money figure to take a bundle more.
The Dallas defense, with a Tampa-2 scheme installed by new coordinator Monte Kiffin, has little shot of suffocating Manning. The Cowboys’ hope is that Romo, who has eight touchdown passes, and DeMarco Murray, third in the NFL with 356 yards rushing, can do their part.
The Cowboys are 7-4 ATS in their past 11 games as home ’dogs, 3-1 under coach Jason Garrett. But most numbers point to the Broncos.
“Garrett’s status grows shakier by the week,” Marshall said. “Evidence continues to mount that Kiffin is past his sell-by date as a coordinator. If his stale schemes were carved up by Philip Rivers last week, imagine the damage Manning and his arsenal can cause.”
Marshall (Goldsheet.com) scouts the rest of today’s Week 5 matchups:
■ Kansas City (-3) at Tennessee: Life is good for Chiefs coach Andy Reid, far away from the crazies in Philly. But his 4-0 team has played almost every stiff save the Kansas Jayhawks. The Titans are a pleasant surprise themselves, yet to commit a turnover in four games, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is a serviceable short-term alternative to injured quarterback Jake Locker. The few points the Titans are receiving look to be a nice bonus in an expected tight affair in Nashville.
■ Baltimore at Miami (-3): The Dolphins were one of the NFL flavors of September, but they were somewhat exposed Monday at New Orleans. After the offensive imbalance (50 passes/nine rushes) and five interceptions from Flacco at Buffalo, expect a more characteristic effort from the resilient Ravens. I will recommend going against Miami and its 11-23 mark in its past 34 games as home chalk.
■ Jacksonville at St. Louis (-11½): The Jaguars are lucky this isn’t European soccer, or else they would be in danger of relegation to the Atlantic Coast Conference. I don’t much like the thought of laying points with the Rams, but because of the opposition, I’ll make an exception. Did St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher really think Daryl Richardson could fill Steven Jackson’s shoes at running back? I cannot support the Jaguars under any circumstances, at least until further notice.
■ New England at Cincinnati (Pick): The Patriots are 4-0 even with Tom Brady adjusting to a new set of receiving targets, and the pending returns of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola only will enhance New England’s arsenal. But the Bengals are capable and desperate to avoid falling beneath .500. I instead might shade the total over 45, especially after the Patriots returned to their long-established “over” form at Atlanta.
■ Seattle (-3) at Indianapolis: The last time Andrew Luck faced Pete Carroll, Stanford put 55 points on Southern California in 2009. Don’t think Carroll has forgotten, and he has a Seattle defense to do something about it. Even considering the Colts’ 4-0 home ’dog mark since last season, I’m reluctant to buck the chemistry-rich Seahawks, who are 10-1 straight up and ATS in their past 11. Carroll gets his long-awaited revenge on Luck.
■ Detroit at Green Bay (-7): The Lions have not won at Lambeau Field since the Wayne Fontes regime in 1991. That might not change now, but Dom Capers’ Green Bay defense has been springing a few leaks. It’s tempting to buck those series trends, but I rather would go over 54, especially with running back Reggie Bush back in the fold for Detroit and adding a new and exciting dimension to Matthew Stafford’s strike force.
■ New Orleans (-1) at Chicago: This looks like the sort of spot where the Saints could suffer their first loss. New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s new 3-4 looks thus far have succeeded in disrupting the opposition. But coach Marc Trestman’s new-look Bears offense, stressing shorter drops and quicker releases from Jay Cutler, looks to be a good elixir. Chicago’s defensive schemes, which haven’t changed much despite the coaching change, have disrupted Drew Brees in the past.
■ Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (-1½): It’s hard to make a case for either of these stragglers, so I won’t pick a side. Instead, looking over the total (54) is a good idea when the Eagles step on the field these days. Philadelphia is 3-1 “over” for coach Chip Kelly and 9-2 “over” in the past 11 games.
■ Carolina (-2) at Arizona: New offensive coordinator Mike Shula has added read-option looks for Cam Newton into the Panthers’ offense, but foes can prepare accordingly and no longer are likely to be caught off-guard as the Giants were two weeks ago. The Cardinals still are a work in progress, and the team seems invested for coach Bruce Arians. Even with choppy offensive work, Arizona remains a semi go-with in my book.
■ San Diego (-5) at Oakland: There’s not much to like in Oakland. The offense has resembled the early-’70s Chicago Bears’ fire drill with Bobby Douglass at quarterback when Pryor has been available, and it looked even worse with Matt Flynn at the controls last week. I’m a lot more confident that Rivers can fire the majority of scoring shots. Raiders coach Dennis Allen looks to be in trouble.
■ Houston at San Francisco (-6½): Matt Schaub’s continuing struggles make it hard to support a Texans side that surprisingly has yet to cover a game this season and could fall beneath .500 with another loss. Note that the 49ers are 14-5-1 ATS at Candlestick Park for coach Jim Harbaugh, but price inflation has taken a bit of the value away from San Francisco. The total is 42½, and another Schaub pick-for-TD would help continue the 49ers’ recent 12-3 “over” trend since the middle of last season.
COMPILED BY MATT YOUMANS