Last-Minute Predictions for NFL Week 5
If you aren't excited for the menu of Week 5 NFL games, check your pulse. It's the best slate of early-season games in years.
Between Chiefs/Titans, Dolphins/Ravens, Patriots/Bengals, Saints/Bears, Lions/Packers, Seahawks/Colts, Broncos/Cowboys and Texans/49ers, there shouldn't be a dull moment all day.
And while it's a difficult prospect to make predictions about each of these titanic matchups, I'm taking my best shot.
Here are my last-minute predictions for NFL Week 5.
Aaron Rodgers Will Throw for Four Touchdowns in a Win over the Lions
Thus far, there's been a role reversal in the NFC North standings, with perennial doormat Detroit sitting at 3-1 and two-time defending division champion Green Bay at 1-2.
On Sunday, the teams meet at Lambeau Field, and the Lions will have the opportunity to prove to the world that they're a legitimate contender and need to be taken seriously as a threat to capture the division.
Unfortunately for Lions fans, that isn't going to happen.
The Packers might be 1-2, but they've lost road games at San Francisco and Cincinnati, two of the better teams in football. They still employ quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the best player in football regardless of position.
Plus, Detroit hasn't beaten Green Bay at Lambeau since George Bush was in office, and I'm not talking "Dubya." The Lions haven't gotten it done in Wisconsin since Dec. 15, 1991.
Rodgers will shred the Lions' 22nd-ranked pass defense and connect early and often with stud receivers Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones on the way to a four-touchdown performance. The Packers will restore normalcy to the NFC North with a double-digit victory over the Lions.
The Bengals Will Bounce Back and Beat the Patriots
Conventional wisdom says that the 4-0 Patriots should handle the 2-2 Bengals in the Queen City. Conventional wisdom says that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are a much better bet than Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton.
I laugh in the face of conventional wisdom. The Bengals will make a statement and beat the Patriots.
I know that Cincinnati looked awful last week in its loss at Cleveland, but over the past two years in which they qualified for the postseason, they've proven to be a resilient team.
New England's ground game won't be able to get going, and the Bengals will harass Brady throughout the contest. Expect a big game from defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
While Bengals star receiver A.J. Green will face a tough assignment in Patriots corner Aqib Talib, that will free up fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, allowing Dalton to throw for 300-plus yards.
Plus, it's impossible to overstate how much the loss of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for the season hurts the Patriots. Without Wilfork in the middle of New England's defensive line, Bengals running backs Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis should find success running the football.
All of that adds up to a Bengals victory over the Patriots.
The Chiefs Defense Will Suffocate the Titans Offense
Coach Mike Munchak's Titans have been one of the best stories in the NFL this season, riding an underrated defense and clutch offense to a 3-1 record.
But unfortunately for Tennessee, the club will be without starting quarterback Jake Locker for at least a month as he recovers from a hip injury suffered in last week's win over the Jets. While new signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick is an above-average backup, the loss of Locker is huge and a total momentum-killer for the Titans, who host the 4-0 Chiefs Sunday.
Kansas City's defense has been the centerpiece of its 4-0 start, ranking eighth overall and leading the league with 18 sacks. The unit will hold Titans running back Chris Johnson in check and swarm the turnover-prone Fitzpatrick, ultimately suffocating the Tennessee offense.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will make enough plays in the passing game, and the Kansas City defense will take care of the rest as the team will improve to 5-0.
Andrew Luck Will Outplay Russell Wilson, but the Seahawks Will Win
It's very possible that we'll look back at the 2012 draft class as one of the best ever for quarterbacks, and two of the main reasons for that are the franchise signal-callers for the Colts (Andrew Luck) and Seahawks (Russell Wilson).
On Sunday in Indianapolis, they'll go head to head for the first time in what's sure to be an entertaining contest between two of the better teams in football.
While I expect Luck to outplay Wilson, the Seahawks will still beat the Colts, and it's simply because they're a more talented team on both sides of the ball.
Wilson will make enough plays with his arm and legs to give Seattle the lead, and the defense will do the rest. Luck will have the better statistical game, but it'll be Wilson's team which gets the victory.
The Giants Offense Will Break Out in a Win over the Eagles
The 0-4 New York Giants have been nothing short of a dumpster fire, and the offense has been particularly abysmal over the last two games, scoring a grand total of seven points.
Thankfully for Big Blue, the Eagles and their 31st-ranked defense are coming to town.
This will be the game where Giants running back David Wilson breaks out. He'll go over 100 yards and score at least one touchdown, while Eli Manning will find success in the passing game and throw touchdown strikes to receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.
The Eagles offense will shred the Giants' porous defense, but New York is playing at home, and that will make the difference in a shootout victory.
Tony Romo and Peyton Manning Will Combine for 700 Yards Passing
While Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been praised (and rightly so) for his ridiculous 16-touchdown, zero-interception stat line through four games, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has been pretty good, too, with eight touchdowns against only one interception.
When Denver plays at Dallas Sunday, the gargantuan scoreboard at "Jerry World" will be lit up early and often, as both signal-callers are sure to have monster games.
The Broncos offense under Manning has been unstoppable, and that means Romo and Co. will be forced to air it out to stay in the game.
Expect both quarterbacks to throw for over 350 yards and multiple touchdowns and the Broncos to win by double digits, improving to 5-0.
The Dolphins Will Bottle Up Ray Rice
In last Sunday's shocking defeat at Buffalo, the Ravens only ran the ball twice in the second half, prompting coach John Harbaugh to acknowledge that the team must get running back Ray Rice more involved in the offense.
While Baltimore will certainly try to get Rice going on Sunday in Miami, the Dolphins' ferocious front provides a significant impediment to their quest.
Miami's run defense is ranked 10th overall and is coming off a game in which they held the Saints to under three yards per carry, albeit in defeat. The difference between last week and this week? Baltimore doesn't possess nearly the same aerial attack as New Orleans, meaning the Dolphins will have a much easier time shutting down the Ravens offense.
With Rice stymied, it'll be up to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to make enough plays to secure victory.
That will happen, and Miami will improve to 4-1.
The Bears Will Deliver the Saints Their First Loss
While the Saints have been a tremendous story, riding the return of coach Sean Payton to a 4-0 mark, their unbeaten run will come to an end Sunday at Soldier Field against the 3-1 Bears.
Chicago crashed and burned last week in Detroit, falling 40-32, but they'll bounce back Sunday. Quarterback Jay Cutler will have success throwing the ball to receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and running back Matt Forte will put up over 150 yards of total offense.
It's true that the Saints defense has been rejuvenated this season under the stewardship of coordinator Rob Ryan, but the unit will fall back to Earth against the Bears offense.
The Bears defense will turn the Saints offense over a few times, and Cutler will put enough points on the scoreboard for Chicago to improve to 4-1.
Texans/49ers Will Come Down to the Wire
Last week, Houston suffered a crushing overtime loss to Seattle, while San Francisco blew the doors off St. Louis.
On Sunday Night Football, the 49ers welcome the Texans to Candlestick Park, and scuttlebutt would seem to indicate that the Niners will easily handle Houston.
That won't happen. This game will come down to the wire.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has been the target of deserved criticism, as he's thrown a pick-six in each of the team's last three games, but he'll play efficiently against the Niners.
Houston receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins match up well against the 49ers cornerbacks, and the Texans will be able to move the ball effectively through the air.
While the 49ers should end up winning a close game, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone if Houston pulls off the upset.
The Falcons Will Crush the Jets on Monday Night
Last year, the Falcons earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and came within a few yards of reaching the Super Bowl.
2013 hasn't been as kind, as Atlanta has stumbled to a 1-3 record, a full three games behind the Saints in the NFC South.
The good news for Atlanta? The Falcons host the Jets and their living, breathing turnover-machine of a quarterback, Geno Smith, on Monday Night Football.
Let's face facts: Atlanta's players and coaches are too good for the team to fall to 1-4. This game is a mismatch at every level.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will dazzle, as will receiver Julio Jones, who will get the better of Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The defense will force at least two Smith turnovers in a double-digit victory for the Dirty Birds.