Wow! Week four was filled with a lot of upsets and excitement; it was probably the “best” week of the year so far. Consequently, it was a struggle for our predictions; I went just 8-7 last week. It’s time for a bounce-back, however; let’s take a look at all the matchups and predict winners for week five!
TNF: Rams (3-1) at Seahawks (3-1)
Spread Pick: LAR (+1)
Over/Under Pick: Under (49.5)
Score Prediction: Rams 23 Seahawks 20
Week five will get off to a great start right away; the Rams and Seahawks will face off in a very important divisional matchup; the difference between 4-1 and 3-2 in the very competitive NFC West is monumental. It’s always difficult to pick against the Seahawks in a primetime home game, especially given Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s struggles on the road, but still, I like Los Angeles to win this game. The Seahawks are off to a strong start, but that’s come against a very easy schedule, which includes close wins against the Bengals and the Steelers. Furthermore, their weak secondary struggled against Cincinnati’s very similar offensive scheme, and facing three elite receivers without the pass rush to take advantage of the Rams’ poor offensive line, Seattle’s defensive issues will be exposed. On the other side of the ball, Los Angeles does have the talent with Aaron Donald on the interior and Dante Fowler on the edge to play against the Seahawks’ weak offensive line, and the corner duo of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib could help limit the receiver duo of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Add in the fact that the Rams have won their last three games against the Seahawks, including two in Seattle, and they definitely seem like the better pick, especially since they’ll likely come out hungry after an embarrassing home loss last week.
Jaguars (2-2) at Panthers (2-2)
Spread Pick: CAR (-3.5)
Over/Under: Over (41)
Score Prediction: Jags 17 Panthers 27
A pair of feisty 2-2 teams will face off this weekend in a very intriguing matchup; the Jags and Panthers will each look to advance to 3-2. The Jaguars are a very popular upset pick, this week, but in my opinion, that’s rather far-fetched. Gardner Minshew may be playing well for Jacksonville, but Carolina has been very strong in coverage this season, and just shut down a much more explosive Texans offense. Furthermore, the Jaguars aren’t getting reliable play from their tackles right now, which will allow first-round rookie edge rusher Brian Burns to continue to flourish. On the other side of the ball, Jacksonville’s secondary without Jalen Ramsey struggled against the Broncos last week, and this week, they’re facing a far better offensive line and much more athletic playmakers, which doesn’t bode well for their tackling problems. This just isn’t a good matchup for the Jags, who’ll fall short while Kyle Allen remains undefeated as the Panthers’ starting quarterback.
Cardinals (0-3-1) at Bengals (0-4)
Spread Pick: CIN (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 16 Bengals 24
In the classic battle of winless teams, deciding between the Cardinals and Bengals is more about picking how you trust least to lose than actual picking a winner. In that regard, I’ll opt to not side with a rookie quarterback who, despite playing 3 home games, has seen his team regress in every game. Right now, Arizona is banged up at receivers, and considering they run their offense through four-receiver sets, that’s an issue. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s pass rush is the clear strength of this team, and they’ll have their way against a pretty bad Arizona offensive line. Also, the Bengals have yet to establish their identity on offense as a zone-running team, but against a Cardinals team that’s weak upfront, rather than another strong defensive line (Seahawks, 49ers, Bills, Steelers), I like Joe Mixon’s chances to have a huge game. This will be a weird, boring game, but even on a short week, the Bengals seem like the better pick; they’re at home, have a coaching/schematic advantage, and are facing a rookie quarterback in just his second career road start and a Cardinals team with no identity nor talent whatsoever.
Falcons (1-3) at Texans (2-2)
Spread Pick: HOU (-5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (49)
Score Prediction: Falcons 24 Texans 34
In some ways, it’s ironic how similar the Falcons and Texans are. They’re both extremely inconsistent, rack up a lot of yards but fail to convert where it matters most, have very flawed defenses, and rely significantly on their superstar receivers. Because of that, predicting this game would be hard in theory, yet it’s actually pretty clear; the Texans will win this game. The Falcons pass rush has been surprisingly strong this season, but a majority of their pressure comes from the interior with Grady Jarrett, and Houston’s best pass protector is their center, Nick Martin. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s secondary has struggled, particularly allowing explosive plays, which is where Houston’s offense thrives. This is also one of the few games in which the Texans won’t be severely outcoached nor outmatched in the trenches, which improves their odds of winning. Additionally, we’re all well aware of Matt Ryan’s struggles on the road, and with shaky pass protection against an elite Houston pass rush, those problems could continue, albeit with a lot of yards against a poor secondary. The Texans may not be the better team in this game, but they match up really well with Atlanta, and are at home; they’ll get back on track with a two-score victory.
Buccanneers (2-2) at Saints (3-1)
Spread Pick: TB (+3)
Over/Under Pick: Over (45.5)
Score Prediction: Bucs 38 Saints 23
In an important NFC South matchup, the Bucs will travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. Both teams are coming off of upset victories against assumed NFC powerhouses; they’ll both be looking to feed off of that with a win in this game. Yet, the Bucs look to have a more sustainable approach to success right now, and should dominate this game. New Orleans had a solid game in pass coverage last game, but that’s because the Cowboys didn’t challenge them in the vertical passing game, which is where they’re weak at. Any Bruce Arians offense will do that, and as a result, expect Jameis Winston to frequently connect with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin for huge yardage. Plus, the Saints offensive line has regressed since Teddy Bridgewater stepped in for Drew Brees under center, and now, they’ll face an underatted pass rush led by Shaquil Barrett and Vita Vea. Right now, New Orleans’ offense is completely predicated on Alvin Kamara, but since Tampa Bay has the top run defense, two talented linebackers (Lavonte David, Devin White), and have had success against the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Todd Gurley, it’ll likely be another quiet game for the dual-threat running back. The Bucs clearly have the upper-hand in this game, and as a result, I expect them to quiet the home crowd and win by multiple scores.
Vikings (2-2) at Giants (2-2)
Spread Pick: MIN (-5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (43.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 24 Giants 6
Who would’ve thought that a matchup between the Vikings and Giants would be a face-off between 2-2 teams? Guessing by Minnesota’s tough opening schedule, it was easy to see them in this scenario, but the Giants? They’re 2-0 in the Daniel Jones era after a pair of wins over the Bucs and Redskins, and will be looking to make it three straight here. However, they’re clearly overmatched for the Vikings, who are due for a bounceback after a disappointing loss in Chicago last week. They’ve struggled against the Packers and Bears, but against the Falcons and Raiders (more favorable matchups), they’ve outscored them by 36 points. With the frustrations of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, they’ll also likely need to make some plays through the air, and luckily for them, they’re facing a weak secondary, as well as a poor pass rush that won’t expose their awful offensive line. Meanwhile, Jones was mediocre despite playing a hapless Redskind defense, but now, he’ll face a Vikings defense that is amongst the league’s best units. Minnesota is built to beat inferior teams like the Giants, which is what they’ll do this Sunday.
Bears (3-1) at Raiders (2-2) (LONDON)
Spread Pick: CHI (-5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (40.5)
Score Prediction: Bears 20 Raiders 0
This may be their second straight year in London, making them likely a popular presence there, but by no means is the location of this game the storyline for the Raiders. This is the much-anticipated Khalil Mack revenge game. Head coach Jon Gruden opted to trade the franchise-changing edge rusher, rather than offer him a fair contract, and also publically made statements that likely did not please Mack. In this game, that’ll come back to bite Gruden. Oakland does have a solid tackle in Trent Brown to block Mack, but obviously, more attention will be placed his way in order to neutralize him. That’ll open up passing rushing lanes for other pass rushers, especially interior defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, who not only should generate pressure on Derek Carr, but also should limit running back Josh Jacobs, who is arguably the focal point of the Raiders offense. Meanwhile, Chase Daniel may be an upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky under center for the Bears, and with an abundance of playmakers, he’ll be able to exploit an unathletic, struggling defense. Said defense has been vulnerable against running backs this season, and Chicago has one of the better tandems at the position with scatback Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery. With all the emotion with Mack’s revenge game, as well as the major talent gap between these two teams, the outcome of this game should be rather predictable, despite the location of the game.
Jets (0-3) at Eagles (2-2)
Spread Pick: PHI (-14.5)
Over/Under Pick: Over (43.5)
Score Prediction: Jets 7 Eagles 41
Right now, the Jets are a trainwreck. It’s not exactly their fault; Sam Darnold is still out with mono, which means New York will turn to third-string quarterback Luke Falk in Philadelphia this weekend. To put it nicely, Falk lacks any of the physical traits that a quality quarterback possesses, and as a result, New York would be lucky to score any points in this game. The Eagles may be challenged in the secondary, but there’s no way Falk will be able to test them, while their elite front seven should be able to limit running back Le’Veon Bell, since he’s the only player to be concerned about with this offense. Meanwhile, the Jets have a deficient secondary and pass rush, and they’ll have to try to stop an elite offense with one of the best offensive lines, an MVP front-runner at quarterback, two tremendous tight ends, and sufficient talent at receiver. It’ll be a long day for the Jets, and honestly, if they can keep this within four scores, I’ll be surprised; the line should be much greater for this game.
Ravens (2-2) at Steelers (1-3)
Spread Pick: BAL (-3.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under (44)
Score Prediction: Ravens 23 Steelers 17
One of the league’s best rivalries will be restored this Sunday when the Ravens and Steelers do battle in Pittsburgh. This is actually a game with major ramifications for both teams, as barring a Browns win on Monday Night Football, the winner of this game will be in first place in the AFC North. The Steelers may be coming off a much-needed win on Monday Night Football and theoretically have a solid chance at knocking off a team that they’re pretty close to in terms of talent, but still, I don’t see them winning in this divisional matchup. The offense found some success using wildcat and relying on the short passing game, and considering the Ravens are weak at linebacker, that could work again this week. Still, Baltimore runs a hybrid defensive scheme that’s difficult for young quarterbacks to get a read on, and as a result, Mason Rudolph may be turnover prone this week; the Ravens’ issues with their cornerback depth certainly won’t be tested by him. Furthermore, although the Steelers have the defensive line necessary to limit Baltimore’s power rushing attack, they aren’t very athletic, which is an issue against a Ravens offense that was almost too much speed. Lamar Jackson could have a huge game running the ball, but don’t discount him as a passer as well, as they have the weapons to take advantage of Pittsburgh vulnerabilities over the top (Marquise Brown) and against tight ends (Mark Andrews). Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Ravens have a severe coaching advantage in this game, and when you add all the possible mismatches they can exploit, they definitely look to have the significant upper-hand in this game.
Bills (3-1) at Titans (2-2)
Spread Pick: TEN (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (38.5)
Score Prediction: Bills 9 Titans 13
Say what you want about this Bills-Titans matchup, but one thing is for certain: points will be at a premium in this game. Both teams are run-first offenses with inconsistent quarterbacks, and because of that, we don’t know what to expect from either unit. However, each team possesses a top-ten defense, with the Bills even having arguably a top-three defense; since they won’t be tested this week, each defense should completely limit the opposing offense. That turns this game into the race to score the first touchdown, and it’s likely that the team that loses the turnover battle will lose, which doesn’t bode well for Buffalo. Josh Allen has already thrown six interceptions this weekend and played miserably against New England’s heavy man coverage. Well, the Titans are very deep at corner, play stingy coverage, and are very opportunistic on defense; they’ll make plays defensively, even if the offense doesn’t. Plus, if there’s one area where the Bills are weak at defensively, it’s their run defense up the middle, as defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is out for the year with a knee injury. Considering Tennesee is one of the few teams that still want to run the ball inside with a power running back (Derrick Henry), this is a favorable matchup for them, especially since they’ll be stronger in the trenches with left tackle Taylor Lewan back from his four-game suspension. By no means will this be a fun-to-watch game, but in a close game between two well-coached defense, the Titans will actually reap the benefits of having a more conservative quarterback in Marcus Mariota.
Patriots (4-0) at Redskins (0-4)
Spread Pick: NE (-16)
Over/Under Pick: Over (42)
Score Prediction: Pats 35 Redskins 10
This week, we’ll the most stable franchise and the most dysfunctional franchise face-off when the Pats travel to Washington to take on the Redskins. Based on the state of the two franchises, it’s pretty clear what the outcome will be in this game. Washington is a mess, and will start their third different quarterback in Colt McCoy. Getting receiver Terry McLaurin back will help, but there’s no talent on this offense besides him, and as a result, they’ll be lucky to score a point against undoubtedly the league’s best defense. Meanwhile, the Redskins defense was better upfront in run defense last game, but their secondary has struggled, and their linebackers are too stiff to keep up with receiving back James White. Essentially, they’re the polar opposite of the Bills defense, who are the only team to slow down New England this year; there’s a chance the Patriots could score over 30 points in just the first half, even with some of their recent offensive issues. There’s honestly no reason to overthink or dive too much into this game; it’s the league’s best team against arguably the team with the least amount of hope. The real question is, will this be Redskins head coach Jay Gruden’s last game?
Broncos (0-4) at Chargers (2-2)
Spread Pick: DEN (+5.5)
Over/Under Pick: Under/PUSH (44.5)
Score Prediction: Broncos 23 Chargers 21
Upset alert! Had it not been for two roughing the passer penalties that sparked two game-winning drives, the Broncos would be 2-2, and the vibe around them would be completely different. Alas, they’re 0-4, and are now being practically disregarded by the NFL world. Even worse, edge rusher Bradley Chubb is out for the year with a torn ACL, which hurts a pass rush that has already been a major disappointment. Still, there are some positives for Denver. They’ll get right tackle Jawaan James back in this game, which helps them protect against a Chargers pass rush that’s without Melvin Ingram, and on defense, they’ll get corner Kareem Jackson back. Those are two major reinforcements for a team that has been competitive in all their games, but the case for Denver goes beyond that. Los Angeles isn’t healthy right now, as their offensive line, secondary, and receiving corps has been decimated by injuries. The latter is a concern for the Chargers since cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has consistently limited star receiver Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will play injured in this game, meaning that the likes of Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis, and Andre Patton to produce; they’re forced to run 11-personnel with tight end Hunter Henry still injured. Meanwhile, their secondary has been a major issue, to the point that even the Dolphins had some success through the air. Joe Flacco may not be a world-beater, but he’s been decent this season despite facing the Bears, Packers, and Jaguars, and the lack of cornerback depth will be exposed since Denver has two terrific receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton. Los Angeles is also weak on the defensive trenches and has struggled to stop the run against 11-personnel, which is where most of the Broncos’ run plays come from; running back Phillip Lindsay is yet another player in line for a huge game. Heck, we haven’t even talked about the fact that star edge rusher Von Miller will match up against one of the worst tackles in Sam Tevi! So, not only does Denver look like a tremendous bet to cover this game, but they should be able to win this game outright against a decimated Chargers team that hasn’t impressed this season.
Packers (3-1) at Cowboys (3-1)
Spread Pick: DAL (-3)
Over/Under Pick: Under (47)
Score Prediction: Packers 10 Cowboys 24
Both the Packers and Cowboys are coming off of tough losses as favorites in primetime, which makes this game extremely important. These two franchises have a long history doing battle, with Aaron Rodgers notoriously having a lot of success against Dallas. Both teams also are missing a key piece of their offense; Green Bay will be without star receiver Davante Adams and the Cowboys will be without tackle Tyron Smith. Both are huge losses, but without Adams, the Packers appear to face more adversity. Their depth at receiver outside of Adams is extremely suspect, with receivers such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison that show flashes, but are more of #3 or #4 receivers than true #1 or #2 options. They’ll likely struggle against a very talented Cowboys secondary, and with Dallas’ linebackers likely to limit Green Bay’s current top weapon in running back Aaron Jones, this figures to be a very rough day for the Packers offense. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay’s pass rush figures to have success with Smith injured, and their secondary is very capable of limiting the Cowboys’ passing attack. However, the Packers run defense has been extremely bad, and although that’s not the main factor in the outcome of games, it can be when your offense is stagnant and you struggle so much defending the run that you’re allowing 5-6 yards per carry. Well, Dallas has yet to be able to get a productive game from running back Ezekiel Elliot, but this figures to be the game where that happens. These two teams are relatively evenly matched, but the Cowboys’ likely dominance in the trenches figures to be too much for the Packers, even with Rodgers’ long-time dominance in this matchup.
SNF: Colts (2-2) at Chiefs (4-0)
Spread Pick: KC (-11)
Over/Under Pick: Under (56)
Score Prediction: Colts 13 Chiefs 30
When the NFL decided to put the Colts and Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, they anticipated a very entertaining clash between Andrew Luck and Patrick Mahomes. Well, the excitement of Mahomes and the Chiefs offense will still be present, but unfortunately for the Colts, this looks to be an extremely one-sided matchup. Indianapolis is coming off a loss to the Raiders, of all teams, and is trying to establish an identity in the post-Luck era. They’ve been trying to be a run-heavy team that relies on their offensive line, but that strategy only works when they have a lead, and due to their shaky defense, they often don’t. Said defense is vulnerable at the back-end without safety Malik Hooker, and also has been miserable defending the run this year; they’re not very strong in the defensive trenches. Well, Kansas City’s passing attack is tremendous, and has yet to even realize its full potential; Patrick Mahomes is still missing some throws. Eventually, the unit’s mistakes will be cleaned up, and there’s no better way to do so than against this defense. It’s very likely that the Chiefs will get out to an early lead as a result, and because of that, Jacoby Brissett will be forced to be more than a game-manager for Indianapolis. The problem is, he proved to be incapable of being that against the Raiders at home, so one can only wonder how much more difficult it will be in a ruckus environment in primetime. The Colts will be competitive with many teams this season, but they’re not equipped to do so against a talented team like the Chiefs; this should be a game decided by at least three scores.
MNF: Browns (2-2) at 49ers (3-0)
Spread Pick: SF (-4)
Over/Under Pick: Under (46.5)
Score Prediction: Browns 13 49ers 20
If you were to say three years ago that a Browns-49ers game would be on Monday Night Football, and would arguably the game of the week, you would’ve been thought of as insane. Well, here we are; both of these teams are currently in first place of their respective divisions. There’s reason to be concerned with the 49ers in this game, as they’ll be without left tackle Joe Staley and corner Akhelo Witherspoon, and could be rusty coming off of a by. Still, I like their chances of winning this game. By using more heavy personnel, Cleveland had a lot of success against the Ravens last week, but that was against a very lackluster defense with a poor pass rush, and although San Francisco is a little thin in the secondary, their pass rush is elite. Expect Baker Mayfield to be under a lot of pressure and to be out of the pocket a lot, which is a major concern because when he has to do so, he’s been much worse. Meanwhile, the Browns defense has struggled at times both versus the run and giving up chunk plays, which makes sense since their linebackers aren’t great and they’ve been without corners Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. That’s not ideal facing the 49ers, who run a lot of outside zone runs that target the linebackers specifically, and unless Ward and Williams miraculously play in this game, Kyle Shanahan’s offense should take advantage of this decimated secondary. This Browns defense is too similar to the Steelers defense, who allowed six red-zone trips to San Francisco in week three, and extra time to prepare, Shanahan should be able to expose Cleveland’s deficiencies the same way he did to Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the Browns pull off a mini-upset in this game, but the coaching advantage the 49ers have should allow them to better exploit their opponents’ weaknesses than Freddie Kitchens, who is still an unknown as a head coach.