The New England Patriots have significant problems on the defensive side of the ball.
Not only did they lose their second home game of the year against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, they made one of the league's most troubled and inefficient offenses look vibrant and healthy.
The Pats had the top-scoring defense in the league a year ago, but they are giving up a league-worst 32 points per game through four weeks. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia may not get this fixed overnight, but he has to start coming up with solutions that begin to get the situation turned around.
The Patriots don't have much time to think about their latest defeat as they go on the road to take on Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.
Tampa Bay is coming off a narrow 25-23 victory over the winless New York Giants. Winston did enough to help the Bucs find the win column, but he is still searching for the consistency that will allow him to join the ranks of elite quarterbacks.
This game will be a true test for the Bucs, and the pressure will be on Winston to show he can engage the Patriots defense and get the best of a unit that has been vulnerable this season. If the QB does not get off to a good start, he needs to stay patient because New England's defense will give him excellent opportunities.
The Patriots are 5.5-point road favorites during a short week, according to OddsShark. While we expect them to figure out their defensive issues eventually, it may not be this week. We expect the Bucs to keep this game close and get the cover.
Week 5 point spreads and predictions
(Matchup, line, prediction)
New England at Tampa Bay, NE -5.5, Tampa Bay*
Buffalo at Cincinnati, Cin. -3, Buffalo
New York Jets at Cleveland, Cle. -1.5, NYJ
Carolina at Detroit, Det. -3, Detroit
San Francisco at Indianapolis, Ind. -1.5, Indianapolis
Tennessee at Miami, Tenn. -3, Tennessee
L.A. Chargers at N.Y. Giants, NYG -4, LAC*
Arizona at Philadelphia, Phil. -6.5, Philadelphia
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, Pitt. -8.5, Pittsburgh
Seattle at L.A. Rams, LAR -2.5, Seattle
Baltimore at Oakland, NL, Baltimore
Green Bay at Dallas, Dall. -2, Green Bay
Kansas City at Houston, Hou. -1.5, Houston
Minnesota at Chicago, Minn. -3, Chicago
*-will cover spread but fail to win the game.
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions
The Panthers were struggling badly on offense through the first three games of the season, and quarterback Cam Newton looked like a shell of the player who dominated during the 2015 campaign.
However, Newton and the Carolina offense came to life against the generous Patriots defense, and Carolina earned an important road victory.
While that win should be encouraging, the Panthers still have plenty of offensive issues that may come to light against the hard-hitting Detroit Lions.
The offense is somewhat predictable, and offensive line problems that dogged the team in the first three games have not gone away.
Detroit bounced back from a hard-luck defeat in Week 3 when they were stopped inches from recording a game-winning touchdown against the Falcons. The Lions recorded a hard-nosed road victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and there is a certain maturity to the team that was missing in years past.
Head coach Jim Caldwell's side knows how to react to and overcome adversity on both sides of the ball. QB Matthew Fitzpatrick has the arm strength and release needed to make big plays, and he has learned how to avoid key mistakes.
The Detroit defense is led by safety Glover Quin, and this unit should be able to slow down Newton.
The Lions are three-point home favorites, and they should be able to win the game by at least a touchdown.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
This will be a Monday night game to watch, at least for Chicago fans. Head coach John Fox has decided to insert rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into the starting lineup in place of ineffective free-agent signee Mike Glennon.
Chicago Bears @ChicagoBears
Mitchell Trubisky will start Monday night vs. Vikings. 📰: https://t.co/rrjZjnTfQ4 https://t.co/Kba97NtW0J2017-10-2 17:12:35
The Bears selected Trubisky with the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, and he looked good in the preseason when he had a chance to play. The Bears were hoping Glennon could give them at least one good season, but his frequent errors and poor decision-making have forced Fox's hand.
The Vikings come into Chicago off of a tough home loss to the Lions, and they also lost star rookie RB Dalvin Cook to a season-ending ACL injury. While they have veteran running back Latavius Murray, he does not have Cook's quick-strike ability.
The Vikings are hoping Sam Bradford can return to the lineup this week from an early-season knee injury. He looked like a star in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, but he has not been in the lineup since then. Case Keenum has been decent, but Bradford is the much better leader.
The Bears should be fired up to play their best game with their rookie quarterback in the lineup, while the Vikings may be somewhat depressed after losing Cook.
The Vikings are three-point road favorites, but look for the Bears to come up with the home upset.