Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins face their biggest test of the year in Week 5 of the NFL season when they host the Atlanta Falcons—one of many excellent matchups happening around the league.
We're already a quarter of the way through this season, and while some teams, like the Houston Texans, have separated themselves from the pack as dominant teams, parity is still alive and well in the NFL.
Here are my Week 5 picks, along with my reasoning for choosing one team over the other.
Prediction: Rams win 23-17
The Rams will eke out another win against a divisional rival at home in Week 5 after beating the Seattle Seahawks last week.
Only one team in the NFL (Chicago Bears) has more interceptions this season than the St. Louis Rams.
The Rams are averaging two picks per contest, and given the fact that Kevin Kolb reverted back to form (three interceptions in the preseason, and eight in nines starts in 2011) in last week's contest against the Miami Dolphins (two interceptions), I'm counting on the Rams to continue their strong secondary play in this upcoming game.
Furthermore, Steven Jackson is back at practice for the Rams, albeit in limited fashion, and I expect him to finally get back into the full swing of things this week (h/t St. Louis Rams).
Seeing how the Miami Dolphins were able to rack up the passing yards against the Cardinals also leads me to believe that Sam Bradford and company will be able to do just enough in the passing game to keep the chains moving on offense and win the time-of-possession battle.
Prediction: Bengals win 31-21
The Cincinnati Bengals are too potent on offense for the Miami Dolphins to keep up with them, and given the fact that the Dolphins are on the road for the second-straight week, this game could turn into a blowout.
That said, the Dolphins have showed some tremendous pluck the past two weeks against the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals—only to lose in overtime in both those games.
The bottom line is this: The Dolphins don't have anyone in their secondary who can compete with A.J. Green when the ball is in the air. I expect Green to have another monster game, and the Bengals will break away with a big lead in the first half.
Prediction: Packers win 27-21
Given the sad state of both teams' offensive lines, and given the fact that both teams feature elite pass-rushes, this game could resemble the contest the Green Bay Packers won against the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers are both smart, athletic quarterbacks that can make plays under duress, and I expect both offenses to produce a few highlight-reel-worthy completions down the field.
Still, I'll be shocked if the Indianapolis Colts win this game, even though they are at home. Clay Matthews and company will be in the Colts' backfield more often than Donald Brown, and Rodgers trumps Luck nine times out of ten at this point in their careers.
Oh, and don't forget about this little stat: According to Pro Football Focus, Colts starting cornerback Vontae Davis is allowing opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 155.4 through four weeks.
Prediction: Ravens win 37-17
Joe Flacco vs. any of the Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks...I'm taking Flacco every time.
The Chiefs defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 114.7 through four games this season—second-worst in the NFL behind only the Tennessee Titans. The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand, have allowed quarterbacks a rating of 78.4.
Whether Matt Cassel starts or not, the Chiefs have no chance in this game.
Prediction: Falcons win 31-30
There isn't a quarterback in the NFL playing better right now than Matt Ryan. Through four games, he's thrown 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and given the sad state of affairs in the Washington Redskins secondary (No. 31 in the NFL against the pass), Ryan's early-season success will continue in Week 5.
Robert Griffin III isn't exactly a slouch, though, and I expect him to keep the Redskins in the game with his arm and with his legs, just like he's been doing all season long.
In the end, this boils down to one undeniable fact: The Atlanta Falcons are a better team than the Redskins.
Prediction: Giants win 27-21
Eli Manning is likely to be without Hakeem Nicks once again this week, since he has yet to practice, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano, but Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon have proven to be adequate replacements to this point in the season.
Brandon Weeden showed a lot of progress against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, and I expect him to continue improving this week against the porous secondary of the New York Giants.
In the end, though, the Giants will prevail at home against the Browns—a young team with much to learn about winning football games, especially on the road.
Prediction: Steelers win 33-24
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin expects Troy Polamalu and James Harrison to play this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles (h/t AP)—news that doesn't bode well for Michael Vick and his turnover problem (nine in four games).
Vick had an excellent showing on Sunday Night Football against the New York Giants, but the Steelers secondary presents a significantly tougher challenge.
The Eagles have been steadily improving on defense this year, but Ben Roethlisberger is one of the premier quarterbacks at avoiding pressure and making secondaries pay when he stretches the play.
The home team will win this one, as Vick reverts back to his turnover-happy ways.
Prediction: Seahawks win 28-24
Cam Newton thrives when teams allow him to run wild—something that's not going to happen against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have one of the fastest defenses from sideline to sideline in the NFL and their front four is adept at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks (12 sacks in four games).
The Carolina Panthers feature one of the worst defenses in the NFL; on the other hand, I expect Russell Wilson to have a nice bounce-back game after throwing three picks last week.
Marshawn Lynch will also have a big game, and his ability to pound the rock will keep Newton and company off the field long enough to secure the victory.
Prediction: Bears win 31-17
Given the way the Chicago Bears are playing on defense right now, I don't believe it matters which Jay Cutler shows up to this game—the Bears will win big.
Blaine Gabbert is doomed.
Prediction: Vikings win 27-13
After burying my head in the sand about the Minnesota Vikings for the first few weeks on the season, I'm man enough to admit I was dead wrong about this team.
Christian Ponder is playing better than any second-year quarterback except perhaps Andy Dalton, and Adrian Peterson's knee looks like it's 100 percent. Throw in Percy Harvin—one of the NFL's most explosive offensive weapons—and the Tennessee Titans have no chance to stop this offense.
Heck, it's not like this team has stopped anyone's offense this season. The Titans have the league's worst defense. Sure, the New Orleans Saints are giving up more yards, but no defense has given up as many points as the Titans.
Throw in the fact that the Titans are anemic on offense, and you have a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
This game is going to be a blowout.
Prediction: Patriots win 34-30
Brady woke up in the second half to drop 45 points on the Buffalo Bills. He and his offense are finally starting to get on the same kind of roll they were on all of last season, and they'll stay on track this week in front of the home crowd.
Manning and company will do their best to keep up, but the Patriots improved front seven will do just enough to disrupt Manning's timing to force him into one or two key turnovers.
Prediction: 49ers win 37-13
The San Francisco 49ers lost to the Minnesota Vikings in embarrassing fashion in Week 3, but that loss only served to sharpen the team's resolve.
The Buffalo Bills have been a hot mess on defense, and their struggles are only going to get worse on the road at Candlestick Park against the 49ers—a team that plays exceptionally well at home.
Furthermore, the strength of the Bills' offensive attack is their running game, and as we all know, the 49ers have one of the best—if not the best—run defenses in the NFL.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson will be shut down, and Ryan Fitzpatrick will toss at least two interceptions in defeat.
Prediction: Texans win 35-6
If last week's embarrassment to the San Francisco 49ers wasn't bad enough, the New York Jets now face the Houston Texans—the NFL's most complete team.
The chants for Tim Tebow will only get louder as this game wears on.
Matt Schaub won't miss on his deep passes the way Alex Smith did in Week 4, and Arian Foster will run rampant.
This game will be over before halftime.
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