Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 5 NFL Picks
Houston Texans and New York Jets seemed like a really great game when it was scheduled, didn't it!
Now, months later, the Jets are in a tailspin, and the Texans look like the best team in football. This game was one of our B/R experts' unanimous picks this week, and you can guess which way it went.
Still, if this NFL season has taught us anything, it's that literally anything can happen on "any given Sunday" (or, Monday nights in Seattle).
Other great games on the schedule: Peyton vs. Brady at Gillette; Matty Ice vs. RGIII in Washington and New Orleans looking for its first big win at home against the San Diego Chargers.
We pick them all, ahead.
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight-up.
Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams
B/R Consensus: Cardinals (7-4)
Vegas: Cardinals (-2.5)
Sam Bradford has zero protection, and the Cardinals have stymied better QBs with better lines this season. This win might not be pretty, but the Arizona D leads them to 5-0.
The Cardinals' luck has to run out sometime. Right? The Rams are tough at home, and they have the right mix of hard-hitting defense and efficient offense to get an early lead against Arizona and hold on for a win.
If it wasn't for the fact that it will be played in a dome, this game would resemble an old-school blood-and-guts battle. First one to 13 wins.
The Rams look relatively unbeatable at home, even when they don't score an offensive touchdown. This is the week Arizona's undefeated streak finally ends. The Cardinals defense took a step back last week without Darnell Dockett, and I expect that to be the case again if he's out for the second straight week.
Also Picking Against the Cardinals: Bardeen; Dunlevy
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus: Bengals (10-1)
Vegas: Bengals (-5)
If the Bengals can keep Andy Dalton clean, this one could become a laugher pretty quick. Even if Cameron Wake and company get consistent pressure, I have to pick the older, more experienced, better-coached team at home.
The Dolphins know how to lose close games, but this week won't be close. The Cincinnati offense will be able to contain Cameron Wake, allowing Andy Dalton time to find A.J. Green down the field.
The Dolphins aren't as bad as their record—but that won't matter when A.J. Green is standing in the end zone with the football.
The Dolphins defense will be the first true test the Bengals have seen since Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, when they were held to just one touchdown. Ryan Tannehill put a huge stick of Big League Chew in his mouth last week, and if the flavor lasts longer than the cheap gum, he could have a nice day against the Bengals.
With the Bengals having yet to play more than one potential playoff team, their goal, for now, is to dispatch the seemingly easy competition. They handled Jacksonville with ease last week and are a wholly better team than Miami. The Bengals win with few problems.
Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts
B/R Consensus: Packers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Packers (-7)
Andrew Luck wears Aaron Rodgers' underoos. It's that simple. All Pro/MVP vs. rookie isn't a matchup so much as it's a crime against the Geneva convention. I like the Colts' long-term plan, but they're bringing a bunch of knives to a gunfight.
An easier game comes at the perfect time for the Green Bay Packers. After the debacle in Seattle and the near-miss against the Saints, Mike McCarthy's team cannot overlook the Colts, but there's no way Indianapolis pulls off this upset.
The Colts will undoubtedly be playing for Chuck Pagano. That emotion, however, won't be enough to make up the talent difference.
The Green Bay offense has awakened, and the Colts are just the next unfortunate in the way. Indy just doesn’t have the talent to shut the receivers down here, and if Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers does one thing well, it’s hammer rookies and young quarterbacks, so expect a lot of pressure on Andrew Luck.
The Colts have injuries in the secondary, and even if they didn't, they'd get run over just the same. Green Bay has flaws, but the Colts will make them look good.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
B/R Consensus: Ravens (Unanimous)
Vegas: Ravens (-4.5)
The Ravens might be the second-best team in the AFC after the Houston Texans, and the Chiefs might be the worst. Romeo Crennel's defense hasn't stopped anyone this season, and they're not going to touch Joe Flacco and his new quick-tempo attack.
The Ravens just might put the nail in Matt Cassel's coffin in Week 5. The Baltimore defense hasn't been elite this year, but it's good enough to frustrate a Chiefs team that can't hold on to the ball.
The Chiefs can't keep falling behind big, early on in games, if they want to feature Jamaal Charles. That correction won't start this week.
Whether or not the Ravens offense runs the no-huddle in notoriously loud Arrowhead Stadium doesn't matter at all. The Ravens are going to pick apart the Chiefs in all phases of the game.
Kansas City is a mess on offense and defense. Although Baltimore's defense isn't what it used to be, the offense is rising, and the Chiefs haven't been able to stop anyone. Right now, the Chiefs are one of the worst teams in the NFL, and the Ravens should win this one easily.
Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings
B/R Consensus: Vikings (Unanimous)
Vegas: Vikings (-5.5)
Christian Ponder is on a redemption tour after many of his critics had a field day last season. With Jerome Simpson back in the fold, his yards per attempt should increase, and his touchdown numbers should be even better. Maybe Adrian Peterson helps Chris Johnson remember what a real running back looks like.
Jake Locker and Kenny Britt could make the difference this week, but as of Monday, both are likely to miss the game. The Vikings aren't winning pretty, but they are winning. That momentum will be enough to shut down the bipolar rushing attack of Chris Johnson.
The Vikings may not be as talented as some other first-place teams, but they play soundly. The Titans defense can't stop anyone.
The Titans need this game, but with Locker's health in question, there's no reason to expect them to get it. Minnesota wins another tight one.
In the immortal words of the '80s cop flick 48 Hours (paraphrased), "The Vikings ain’t fallin’ for no banana in no tailpipe." Expect no surprise special teams shenanigans to work for the Titans, and a fierce pass rush will make Matt Hasselbeck’s life a living h-e-double-hockey sticks. Add in a fully functioning Adrian Peterson, and it’s going to get ugly early.
Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins
B/R Consensus: Falcons (7-4)
Vegas: Falcons (-3)
Atlanta will be the best passing defense that RGIII has seen so far in his short career, and he'll need to be at his best. Meanwhile, the Redskins defense won't have a prayer stopping Matt Ryan and company. This one could get out of hand in a hurry.
This will be closer than you think. The Redskins defense will make life tough for Matt Ryan, but at the end of the day, the Atlanta defense is just too good. Robert Griffin III won't find friends in Thomas DeCoud and William Moore.
Matt Ryan is playing the best football of his career. The Falcons offense is on fire. But, RGIII steals the show in an upset.
The Redskins average 326.3 yards per game given up to opposing quarterbacks. Matt Ryan should have an absolute field day spreading the ball around to Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
Containing Robert Griffin III could prove troublesome for the Falcons defense, but I'm not certain the rookie passer—as great as he's been through four games—can keep up in this track meet with Ryan.
First, I think Atlanta is due for a loss. Beyond that broad assumption, I feel as though the Falcons will have as much trouble with Robert Griffin III as they did with Cam Newton. In Washington, I'm giving the 'Skins the upset in a shootout.
Also picking the Redskins: Dunlevy; Hansen
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants
B/R Consensus: Giants (Unanimous)
Vegas: Giants (-10.5)
Brandon Weeden might head back to baseball after facing off against the Giants defensive line. Expect the Giants to press his receivers all day and make him force the ball into coverage. Once a guy like Jason Pierre-Paul or Justin Tuck smells blood in the water, it's over.
Does this really need to be explained? The Browns defense has been good, but scoring will be impossible against the Giants defense. Sorry, Cleveland, 0-5 is happening.
This will be one of those games where the Browns hang around for a quarter or so. Then, the Giants will score four touchdowns.
With the Browns very much in every game thus far this season, it's frustrating to see that they are 0-4. If history is any indication, they'll keep things far closer with the Giants than anyone expected but again still fall.
This could have been a trap with the 49ers on deck, but Tom Coughlin will have his guys ready to bounce back after a tough loss in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers
B/R Consensus: Steelers (9-2)
Vegas: Steelers (-4)
I was very torn in this game, but I'm picking the Steelers for two reasons in what I think will be an offensive explosion for both teams.
First, the Steelers are at home. Secondly, the Steelers have four straight wins coming off their bye week. Look for the Steelers to hang around and win this one late.
So much depends on if the Steelers are healthy on defense, but early in the week, the favorites have to be the Eagles. Michael Vick has to play mistake-free again, and please, Andy Reid, give LeSean McCoy the ball early.
The Eagles are beat up after a tough division game. The Steelers are rested, coming off a bye week. Steelers roll.
Tough timing for the inconsistent Eagles, who land the well rested Steelers on the road. Not sure how Michael Vick will hold up against that defense, and we're still waiting to see what's up with Nnamdi Asomugha's injured eye.
An early bye is just what the Steelers needed as they continue to search for their 2012 identity, and it should give them a boost against Philly this week. The return of Rashard Mendenhall should be a shot in the arm to their run game, and their defense will have some fun with Michael Vick. Pittsburgh gets the hard-fought win.
Also picking the Eagles: Hansen
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
B/R Consensus: Panthers (8-3)
Vegas: Panthers (-3)
Cam Newton hasn't been as good as he was last year, and the Seahawks defense isn't going to do him any favors. However, Newton, on his worst day, is still better than Russell Wilson has been this season. The Panthers defense has disappointed, but I'm seeing a resurgence at home in this one.
It's a long trip for the Seahawks, but watching their defense play, it's hard to imagine them allowing Cam Newton and Co. to do much damage. This will be a low-scoring affair, but I like Marshawn Lynch against the Carolina defensive front.
The honeymoon is over for Russell Wilson in Seattle—but an injured Matt Flynn won't be riding to the rescue. Cam and the Panthers right the ship.
It's rare for a Pete Carroll-coached team to lose two in a row, so I have to go with Seattle—not to mention the fact Carolina's defense has looked atrocious. This is the week in which Russell Wilson and the passing game finally break out. Cam Newton is always a threat, but I think Gus Bradley's defense will set the tone and keep him well contained.
The Panthers entered the Georgia Dome with a sound game plan and a fantastic pass rush and could defend Bank of America Stadium with similar preparations for Seattle. The biggest question mark is Marshawn Lynch. Carolina has the 25th-ranked run defense in the league and can't stop Lynch. But can the Panthers slow him down enough?
Also picking the 'Hawks: Garda
Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars
B/R Consensus: Bears (Unanimous)
Vegas: Bears (-4)
The Jaguars are in a tailspin, and they're running into a very talented Bears team with plenty of pass-rushers to throw at Blaine Gabbert. On defense, the Jags don't have enough bodies to cover all of the weapons Chicago can throw at them.
Blaine Gabbert has a tendency to stare down receivers and worry too much about the pass rush. With Julius Peppers and Henry Melton coming after him, it's going to be a long day. Tim Jennings will shut down Justin Blackmon, and the Bears will roll to a road win.
The Jaguars are painful to watch on offense, and the Bears will eat Blaine Gabbert for breakfast. Jay Cutler keeps on slingin' it.
If I were Blaine Gabbert, I would consider lamming it, because going up against this front seven with no decent wide receivers, a shaky at best offensive line and Maurice Jones Drew sounds like a bad proposition. Jay Cutler found his offense as well, so the Jags will be in for a rough day on both sides of the ball.
The Jaguars may be the worst team in football—or at least in the bottom four. Even on the road coming off a Monday night game, Chicago should light them up.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
B/R Consensus: Patriots (10-1)
Vegas: Patriots (-7)
The Patriots defense has stepped up this season while that of the Broncos (although still quality) has taken a step back. Last week showed that the Patriots can put up crazy points when they're firing on all cylinders, and Tom Brady always relishes a game against Peyton Manning.
Peyton Manning is 2-6 all-time when playing the Patriots in Foxborough. Make that 2-7 after this week. Manning will have his chances against the Patriots secondary, but in a high-scoring game, Tom Brady and his chemistry with the offense wins out.
Peyton Manning will have some opportunities downfield. Unfortunately for Broncos fans, Tom Brady will have more.
Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning is the marquee game of the weekend. I give a slight edge to the more polished offense in New England that is also playing at home.
These two teams are evenly matched, with the four losses between the two teams coming to teams that are a combined 15-1 this season. This is a different Broncos team than it was in January, but I can't help remembering the 45-point shellacking Tom Brady and the Patriots put on these guys in the playoffs.
Picking the Broncos: Gagnon
Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers
B/R Consensus: 49ers (Unanimous)
Vegas: 49ers (-9)
Heading west will not be kind to the Bills, nor will a faceoff with such an attacking and talented defense. Look for the Niners to methodically wear down the Bills in all three phases of the game.
The Bills' best asset is their run offense. The 49ers' best asset is their run defense. Something's gotta give, and that something will be the Bills offensive line. The 49ers shouldn't break much of a sweat after warmups.
The Bills are beaten up and licking their wounds after being decimated by the Patriots. San Fran is not where you go to heal.
The 49ers get to face their second Jekyll-and-Hyde AFC East opponent in as many weeks. The Bills have proven nothing this year, if not that they can't even contend with teams that are anywhere near them in the talent department, much less beat those teams.
San Francisco finally returns to Candlestick after a long cross-country road trip.
After embarrassing the Jets, the 49ers look like their Week 3 wake-up call at Minnesota was all it took to get them back on the right track. The running game was cranked up in a big way against New York, so I expect that to be the plan of attack again this week. San Fran wins big at home.
San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints
B/R Consensus: Saints (8-3)
Vegas: Saints (-3)
Something has to break the Saints' way sooner of later. The Chargers look ripe for the pickings as they travel to New Orleans with all sorts of questions on offense, from Ryan Mathews to protection for Philip Rivers. Their defense has been solid this year, but Brees looked like he has been heating up, and I think he'll get the edge here.
It's almost impossible to imagine the Saints at 0-5, especially with a home game coming up. The Chargers have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Saints, but Drew Brees and the home crowd will deliver a win (finally).
Nobody saw an 0-4 start for the Saints, and no one sees them winning their first game this weekend—except maybe me. (Editor's note: Or, maybe not)
New Orleans can still score points, even if the defense can't stop anyone. In a high-scoring affair with a lot of passing, the game will come down to which quarterback makes fewer errors. Safe bet is Drew Brees will make fewer mistakes than Philip Rivers.
The Saints are improving, and Week 5 is the moment of 2012 when New Orleans gets its first win. Ryan Mathews and Jackie Battle will flourish against the Saints run defense, but Sunday's home game is where this winless team makes its stand.
Picking the Chargers: Dunlevy; Gagnon; Garda
Houston Texans at New York Jets
B/R Consensus: Texans (Unanimous)
Vegas: Texans (-7.5)
Without Revis, a decent pass rush or a quality safety to roll over the top, the Jets have no chance at stopping the Texans' passing game. The way they've been playing offense, they don't stand a chance against J.J. Watt and Company. What looked like a solid matchup when the schedule was made looks like an utter blowout now.
Remember what the 49ers did to the Jets in Week 4? That was a preview—and a blueprint—for what the Texans will do. But hey, at least we can all go to bed at halftime this week.
They should call this game. Someone is going to get hurt, and I can almost guarantee they'll be wearing a Jets jersey.
Houston is the best team in football right now, and the Jets are a complete mess. There's no reason to expect this game to be close.
The crash landing continues for the Jets against a Texans team that remains undefeated and looks as unstoppable as—dare I say it—the 2007 Patriots. Home-field advantage is worthless when J.J. Watt is wrecking nearly every offensive play in the backfield.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."