With the regular officials back (and wasn't it good to see Tony Corrente back after spending the last nine months battling throat and mouth cancer) we can concentrate on the actual games this week, without fear of a huge error changing the outcome of a game at the last moment.
Well, at least that's the theory. Proving that even the regular guys can mess up, the head linesman in the New Orleans-Green Bay game missed a potentially game-changing fumble on Sunday which, fortunately, had no long term effect. It does prove that at this level of the sport even the best officials are not infallible, but hopefully the days of complete disasters like the Seattle-Green Bay game of a week ago are long behind us.
Coming up to the fifth week of the season there are still three unbeaten teams in the league and two winless ones. One of those unbeaten sides, Arizona, features in tonight's game as they visit the St Louis Rams. The Cardinals have had to fight hard for that unbeaten record, having lost both starting quarterback John Skelton and star running back Beanie Wells for part of the season already, but they have proved themselves to be far more robust than most observers expected them to be and in Andre Roberts they at last have a downfield threat to take some of the heat from Larry Fitzgerald. They should be too strong for the Wembley-bound Rams, although they must beware rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein, who last week became the first to kick two field goals of more than fifty meters in one game. I have a sneaky feeling that the Rams could take this, so back them at odds of around [2.08]
The other two unbeaten records should be safe, too. Atlanta have a tricky game in Washington, but despite the feats of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III the Redskins don't look strong enough in any department to worry Matt Ryan and co. Houston also have a road trip, to New York for a Monday night game against the Jets. Coming off the back of a 34-0 home thrashing by San Francisco, the last thing the Jets will want is a game against a Texans side who have surprised everyone this year. Rex Ryan's side have already lost their best defensive player - cornerback Darrell Revis - and only real offensive weapon, Santonio Holmes, to season-ending injuries, whilst quarterback Mark Sanchez seems to have lost all confidence over the past couple of weeks, being barely able to complete a throw on Sunday. Look to lay the Jets at around [4.6]
Of the two 0-4 sides, New Orleans seems to have the best chance of ending that streak when they host San Diego. It will be a tough ask, though. Saints fans will point to the bans which have robbed them of their senior coaches for the start of the season, but that doesn't excuse the shoddy defensive play which cost them the game against Green Bay on Sunday. The Chargers look to have a potent offense this year and it could be another tough night for the host team. At [2.7] San Diego looks a good bet.
As for the other winless side, well, if Cleveland beats the Giants in New York it will be one of the biggest upsets of the last five seasons. The Browns have been pretty hopeless all year and whilst the Giants have not set the world on fire they are far too efficient and make too few errors to slip up in this game.
Finally, it would be wrong to end without a mention for Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts. Sadly, as the Colts were enjoying their bye week, Pagano was being diagnosed with leukaemia. It is a cruel twist for both parties. Pagano had just begun his first head coaching job after 28 years as an assistant. The Colts thought they had the man to turn them around after last seasons 2-14 disaster. Fate can be such a vicious thing and, to make matters worse, they return to the field against the Packers this weekend and can expect little sympathy from a side who are already a game behind divisional rivals Minnesota and Chicago. Laying the Colts at [3.9] looks a sensible move.
Back San Diego Chargers to win at 2.77/4