NFL Week Five Thoughts and Predictions
This week is a big one with several teams having a chance to separate themselves in the divisional standings, which right now, several being wide open.
Look at the AFC South. All four teams at 2-2.
The Steelers got off to a reeeeeeeally bad start, yet are just a game back of the lead.
The Raiders are in second place in the AFC West.
The NFC North? Anyone's game.
Here's who we're looking at to separate themselves a little bit in week five.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-1.5)
Rams fans should start to worry a little bit. You can normally chalk up poor performances in the first two week of an NFL season to rust, but its starting to get bad in the city of Angels.
The Rams are looking like a shell of the team that burst out in 2017 and 2018. Todd Gurley, so far giving credence to my thought you should hand today's running backs with massive contract, is looking like a shell of his former self. Today's running backs are expendable, and teams now more than ever get by fine with a committee backfield. I'm not saying that Todd Gurley is done, but if this is the new norm, the Rams just wasted a lot of money. Whether it be because of his recent knee issues or defenses keeping up with him, its not looking great.
Yes, he got two touchdowns against the Bucs, but he literally only had five total carries for 16 yards. I get the Rams were playing from behind most of the game, thus a lot of passing, but he still should have gotten more than that.
The defense on the other hand is the bigger problem. The Rams were never a lockdown team, but they just look so beatable this year. Aaron Donald has gotten off to a slow start, the linebacking corps, even during the Rams dominat stretch the past few years, has been and is still the weak point, and the secondary, well, you saw what the Bucs did to them last week.
They are very beatable right now, and that's exactly what I think the Seahawks will do at home. Russell Wilson is the best quarterback in the NFC, and coming off an easy win over the Cardinals, have plenty of wind in the sails. The defense, while not the Legion of Boom, has been surprisingly solid. Pete Carroll is also the league's best defensive coach behind Bill Belichick.
Score: Seahawks 37, Rams 31
New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles (-14)
Sam Darnold is finally back in practice dealing with a bout of mono, but there's still question whether or not he will be ready in time to face the Eagles. My educated guess would be that he will sit out another week.
Last week's Thursday night win was huge for the Eagles to stop their downward spiral. A lot of that was due to injury and some particularly bad lapses in critical moments of games.
However, with the Eagles getting healthy again, I think we'll see that their play will steadily improve, and that they will really start to push the Cowboys for the NFC East.
That will all start with a victory against the Jets on Sunday.
Score: Eagles 31, Jets 13
Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers (-3,5)
Here we have a battle of two quarterbacks thrust into the starting role due to injury. Both have played well so far.
I'm going with the Jaguars in this one. Not because of Gardner Minshew though.
Dont get me wrong, this stretch he's had is fantastic, but he is slightly overrated. He's good, but not great, in any one particular area. While his stats are solid, they don't jump off the page. And yes, I get that he is funny, cool, and is an Uncle Rico doppleganger, but that doesn't mean you can "throw a football clear over them mountains"
The reason the Jags will win is because of Leonard Fournette, who is coming off a 200+ yard outburst against the Broncos.
The Panthers rank among the bottom of the league so far this year in rushing yards allowed. Last week may have been the jolt that Fournette needed to get some momentum going, and he has a chance to continue that this week. That will also take loads of pressure off Minshew so that he can sling the ball around.
For the Panthers, Kyle Allen has been a good fill-in for Cam Newton in the air so far, but I he succumbed to defensive pressure in a big way last week vs. the Texans, fumbling the ball three times. It won't get much easier against the Jags. Expect Calais Campbell to be ever-present in the Panthers pocket.
Score: Jaguars 18, Panthers 17
Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) at New York Giants
I think the Giants will go back to losing ways this week, but not in the same embarrassing fashion in which they lost the first two games this year.
Daniel Jones has been solid-to-great, but he did it against the Bucs and the Redskins, who outisde of the Bucs' Shaquil Barrett, have wet paper towels for defense.
The Vikings are a stout unit and will be his first real test. I'm seeing some slight growing pains for him there.
As for the Vikings, its been a rough few weeks, but now they face a poor Giants defense. Yes the defense looked great against the Redskins, but I think even I could hold the Redskins offense to under ten points.
I have serious reservations about Kirk Cousins (as does Cousins' own teammates it seems). He has got to stop fumbling the ball. Still I think Dalvin Cook will have a bounceback game and perform well.
Score: Vikings 21, Giants 17
Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans (-5)
The Falcons' season is starting to take a bit of a tumble down a flight of stairs.
Seriously, they got manhandled by the Titans. Tennessee is no slouch of a team, but they straight up got pantsed on their home field. How do you throw for nearly 400 yards and not get a single passing touchdown?
The defense was also manhandled by a Titan offense that has been sputtering as of late.
DeShaun Watson should have a field day going against this Falcon defense. The big question for them has been if he can get protection. If he can, expect a big game from him.
Score: Texans 27, Falcons 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Last week the Bucs racked up huge passing yards against a team with a suspect passing defense.
I don't think the Bucs are a for real team, but the current situation works in their favor. The Saints offense is rather limited with Teddy Bridgewater as quarterback. If the Bucs are able to put up numbers in the air, it will require a lot more of Teddy than has been so far..
I'm going to go out on a limb and pick the Saints to win, mainly because their roster is so stacked an talented, and I think they will shut down the Bucs rushing game, but It will be much closer than Saints fans would like.
Score: Saints 27, Bucs 24
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (-3)
A lot of which way this game prediction goes relies on if Josh Allen plays. As of writing its looking promising that he will, so lets assume for the sake of predicting this game that he plays.
As the point spread suggests, this will be a very close, low-scoring game.
As I mentioned in last week's predictions, the Bills' 3-0 start game against three poor teams with bad defenses. What we saw on display again when they played the Patriots is that Josh Allen sometimes makes some bad decisions with the ball. He plays well when against bad defenses, not so much against good defenses.
The Titans have a sneaky good defense with a talented group of pass rushers. I believe this will cause Allen to make some poor decisions with the ball.
On the other hand, the Titans too have an inconsistent quarterback going up against a stout defense. I wrote about this a few days ago, Mariota is wildly inconsistent, but he has taken care of the ball, being one of three quarterbacks to start all games so far to not throw a pick.
I think this game will be decided in the turnover column. As of right now, I trust Mariota slightly more than Allen.
Score: Titans 19, Bills 17
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5)
This game is going to be a stinker. Honestly I don't really know who is going to win this game, and I really don't have many thoughts on it.
I think I will go with the Cardinals because they look to have greater potential to get something going on offense.
The Bengals still don't have A.J. Green back after his training camp ankle injury, and now John Ross is on the injured reserve list, so the Bengals offense is absurdly limited offensively.
Score: Cardinals 24. Bengals 9
New England Patriots (-15.5) at Washington Redskins
Next up on Patriots death row are the Washington Redskins, a team now starting to approach Miami Dolphins levels of ineptitude.
Yes, the Pats barely made it out of Buffalo with a win, but the Bills defense is probably the best in the NFL behind the Bears right now, so I'm not too worried.
Make no mistake about it, the Patriots are still the team to beat in the NFL right now outside of the Chiefs, and their defense is absolutely fearsome, which hasn't been the case in a long time.
Do you know how many points per game the Patriots are allowing per game so far? Not even one touchdown per game. Let that sink in.
What can I say about the Redskins? They are just a mess. Dan Snyder is one of, if not the worst owner in football. Jay Gruden is way over his head as a coach. Dwayne Haskins is basically being fed to the wolves.
It's not going to get better any time soon in the nation's capital.
Score: Patriots 38, Redskins 6
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
Against the Bengals, the Steelers had Mason Rudolph complete lots of short passes early on. This was really smart as it then opened the door to more later in the game. It worked against the bottom feeder Bengals.
I'm not as sure it will work against the Ravens. With their secondary, the Steelers will likely only be able to rely on short passes to move the ball.
It appears we are finding out a little bit more about the true Ravens. Two big wins in weeks one and two against two teams that can barely tie their shoes let along play football.
In weeks three and four against legitimate competition, two losses. The Chiefs game is forgivable. They performed decent enough, but just couldn't out-gas Kansas City. Then they fell completely flat against Cleveland.
I'll go with the Ravens here. I think the Ravens have a higher ceiling here, and I have not seen anything to convince me that Mason Rudolph can carry the Steelers to victory. Although I do think it will be a relatively close, hard-fought game.
Score: Ravens 26, Steelers 21
Chicago Bears (-5) at Oakland Raiders
Raise your hand if you thought that the Raiders would be in second place in the AFC West at any point this season. Exactly.
Oakland has been somewhat of a pleasant surprise for me this season. No, they won't make the playoffs and their two wins have come against the Broncos and Colts.
They've shown they have some good pieces to build on. Derek Carr is still a talented quarterback, they have a few good receivers, and Josh Jacobs is a great rookie running back.
For perspective, three of the four teams the Bears have played don't exactly have the most potent offenses and their remaining schedule features some teams with serious firepower (Chiefs, Cowboys, Rams, Chargers).
This week though, the Raiders are on the schedule, so it should be another stonewall display.
Also, Chase Daniel ran the offense better last week than Mitch Trubisky. His ceiling is not high at all, but then again, neither is Trubisky's.
Score: Bears 19, Raiders 13
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)
What the heck is up with the Broncos defense? How does a team with such a recent reputation for a stingy defense and a head coach known for his defense have such a bad defense?
How does a team with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb take four weeks to register a sack as a team?
Then throw in that they allowed Leonard Fournette, who has bee extremely underwhelming since his rookie season, to run for more than 200 yards on you?
It doesn't get any easier against the Chargers this week. LA has not lived up to expectations, but I expect this to be a game where they start cooking a little bit and start up the offensive production.
Also, Melvin Gordon is back and expects to play, so this could end up being another rushing attack nightmare for the Broncos.
Score: Chargers 27, Broncos 12
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
I'm going to go with the Cowboys here in a close matchup.
Last week was rough for Dallas, losing to a team that only scored four field goals in a game. It doesn't get much easier, facing a much-improved Packers defense.
As mentioned earlier, I'm against giving today's running back stupid amounts of cash. Case in point: Ezekiel Elliot.
Immensely talented? Yes. Kind of a problem off the field? You bet.
He wanted loads of money, held out, and eventually got his way. Now his production has been no where near where it was when he was on his rookie contract.
I don't want to say yet that he has stopped trying once he got his money, because there's still lots of football left this season to be played, and I really hope that is not what's happening.
Back to the game, I really think Zeke needs to do well if the Cowboys expect to win against this Green Bay defense.
As for the Packers, Devante Adams will not play due to injury, a huge blow to the Packers offense. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison will have ot pick up the slack, but they can't fully replace Adams. I
think this will be close game all the way through, but the Cowboys will have a little more gas than the Packers
Score: Cowboys 31, Packers 27
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (-11)
So the Chiefs almost lost to the Lions... weird.
To be honest, the Chiefs were very lucky to leave Detroit unscathed. They would be 3-1 right now if not for some timely funbles by the Lions offense.
I'm not going to call the Lions game a fluke, but I'm also not going to let that game temper my expectations of the Chiefs. The Lions can hang with pretty much any team in the league for half the game and then throw the game away in the other half.
The Chiefs are still the best team in the league.
The Colts quite simply are limited with Jacoby Brissett. As I've said before Brissett is not a bad quarterback by any means, and he very well move the ball a lot on the Chiefs somewhat suspect secondary, but I don't see him outscoring the Chiefs here.
Score: Chiefs 33, Colts 19
Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)
.The 49ers have quietly put together one of the league's top defenses. They are second only to the Patriots in yards allowed per game. Mix that with an emerging offense, and I like their chances to compete for a playoff spot.
The Browns continue to be one of the most inconsistent teams in football following a big win over Baltimore.
When they aren't penalizing themselves into an oblivion, they have a chance in any game they play.
Which Browns will show up? I think it will be the good Browns. I think they'll get just enough offense and just enough defense to leave Levi's Stadium with a win.
Score: Browns 24, 49ers 20