NFL Picks Week 5: Predictions for Every Game
Week 4 in the NFL is in the books, and if there's one lesson we're learning in this 2011 season, it's that no lead is safe. The Buffalo Bills set an NFL record this year by being the first time to come back from 18 or more points down and win on consecutive weeks when they beat the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots in dramatic fashion.
That record lasted all of one week when the Detroit Lions one upped them, overcoming 20-plus point deficits on consecutive weeks, on the road no less. If you want to see how the Lions have transformed, look no further than this NFL record, considering this was a team that couldn't win a road game for nearly three years just a couple seasons ago.
As we look ahead to the fifth week of the season, we have a good mix of games between contenders and many other contests that you'd consider trap games. You also have a few matchups where you could argue it will make or break a team's season.
Let's take a look at what Week 5 will have to offer.
Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants (-10)
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Is it fair to say that the Giants are one of the better surprises of 2011? Despite being absolutely gutted by injuries before the season ever started, the Giants are 3-1 and have road wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles.
Coming to town are the Seattle Seahawks, who nearly shocked everyone but narrowly lost to the Atlanta Falcons, 30-28. It was the first time that the Seahawks' passing offense came to life this season, with Tarvaris Jackson throwing for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Still, while the Giants pass defense is decimated by injuries, they've held their own and in fact have a better rated pass defense (18th) than rush defense (21st). Considering Seattle has to make the dreaded coast-to-coast trip to New York, I don't see this game going very well for them. Expect the Giants offense to have a big game and the Seahawks not able to match up with them.
If Seahawk fans want to take any solace, they should realize that even at 1-4, the division may not be lost in the NFC West.
Giants 31, Seahawks 13
Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (-8)
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When I saw the betting line on this game my jaw almost dropped. The 2-2 Steelers an eight-point favorite over the 3-1 Titans? Really?
Before I go on, let me say that I think this spread will change. I cannot fathom that this line will stay the same until kickoff.
With that said, I'm going to be in the minority here, but not only do I believe the Titans will cover any spread, I think they're going to win this game outright.
The Steelers are a vastly overrated team right now that's given too much respect because of the reputation this team has as a winner. Pittsburgh's two wins have come against two of the worst teams in the NFL this year, the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts. In the Colts game, the Steelers barely won 23-20.
When Pittsburgh has played against better competition, they've struggled, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 35-7 in Week 1 and last week against the Houston Texans 17-10.
Meanwhile all Tennessee has done since their disappointing Week 1 loss to Jacksonville is win games and surprise many analysts. It's not just the fact they're winning but how, as the Titans have one of the best passing games in the league even though veteran Matt Hasselbeck was supposed to keep the seat warm for rookie Jake Locker. Meanwhile, their running game led by Chris Johnson ranks dead last in the NFL.
This game will be what the doctor ordered for Johnson as the Steelers run defense is hardly impressive. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger is going to be hobbling around with an injured foot while running for his life behind a porus Steeler offensive line.
While everyone is falling in love with the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, The Titans have gone under the radar to emerge as a nice surprise as well. If they can beat the Steelers on Sunday, they might not be going under the radar much longer.
Titans 23, Steelers 16
New Orleans Saints (-6) at Carolina Panthers
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This game should be a lot of fun!
Though many people are going to be talking about other games this week, this one in fact may be one of the more entertaining ones on the schedule.
Cam Newton has shocked us all thus far with his tremendous ability to throw the ball. Considering many analysts said Newton wasn't ready to be an NFL quarterback, it's absolutely shocking that right now he's on a pace to throw for over 5,500 yards.
The interesting predicament though is the games in which Newton has thrown for these awe inspiring numbers, the Panthers have lost. Ironically, the one game in which he struggled in which they played the Jacksonville Jaguars in monsoon conditions, his team won.
The other predicament is the Panthers will be playing a team with a quarterback in Drew Brees who is on pace to throw for an even more incredible 5648 yards. Yes my friends, the NFL truly is turning into a pass happy league and these two certainly exemplify that.
What's funny is both teams have a cupboard full of running backs, and this is a game the Saints may fully utilize them as Carolina has the second worst rushing defense in the NFL. Perhaps this will be a game Mark Ingram finally breaks out.
Unlike last year in which Carolina had a historically bad offense, they will score points against the Saints. If you take out the one game against Jacksonville, they're averaging 24 points per game.
The problem is, it won't be enough against Brees and the Saints.
New Orleans 34, Carolina 24.
Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5)
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Considering a lot of people felt the Bengals were going to be an NFL doormat this year, they've done quite well thus far starting the year 2-2. What should be even more encouraging is they're heading to Jacksonville to play a team that's one of the NFL's worst.
This should be a game in which the Bengals take care of business and impress everyone by starting this season 3-2, when many thought Cincy would only win three games all year.
The issue is this game is one where you can just picture this Cincinnati Bengal team underachieving which, lets be honest, is quite common.
On paper, this is a game the Bengals should win. While their offense hasn't been stellar, they've been adequate behind rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and veteran running back Cedric Benson. Their defense however has been one of the best in the league as it shut down the high powered Bills last week en route to a 23-20 win.
Jacksonville meanwhile has been their invisible selves, which many will argue they've been that way for years now. They did beat the Titans the first week of the season but do many people truly remember that? If you think Jacksonville you remember their dreadful performance against the Jets, the monsoon game at Carolina and the occasional big run by Maurice Jones-Drew.
Rookie Blaine Gabbert is now the quarterback of this team but he's looked neither stellar nor horrible. His performance has kind of epitomized the team as a whole.
With all of that said, I see this game being a sloppy one in which the Bengals find a way to beat themselves with a combination of bad plays, penalties and bad luck.
Jacksonville 17, Cincinnati 13.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3) at Buffalo Bills
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And here we have the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL...your 2011 Buffalo Bills.
Despite being 3-1, with a win against the mighty New England Patriots, they're a three point underdog despite being at home against a 1-3 Eagles team that blew a 20 point lead last week against the San Francisco 49'ers.
You'd think I'd find this outrageous, but I think the oddsmakers are right with this one. One thing for sure though is fantasy owners that have players in this game should be very happy.
Both team defenses look like swiss cheese. The Philadelphia Eagles have the third worst rushing defense in the NFL. Considering the Bills have the fifth best rushing offense, Fred Jackson is going to run all through this team.
Consider the fact the Bills consistently run four wide receiver sets, which is going to force Philly to run nickel and dime packages all game. Fred Jackson could run for over 200 yards.
The problem for Buffalo is they can't stop anyone either. Both their run and pass defenses rank 25th in the league. They also have a league worst four sacks. While they did beat Brady and the Patriots, they did allow nearly 400 yards passing including over 200 yards alone to receiver Wes Welker.
How will they be able to contain Michael Vick if they can't get any pressure? The answer is, they probably won't be able to. Additionally, the season may well be on the line for the Eagles. If they go 1-4, their season may in fact be over.
The Bills my in fact be a playoff team in an all of a sudden unpredictable AFC. But they are facing the Eagles at the wrong time.
Eagles 44, Bills 37.
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans (-8)
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Another Vegas line I expect to see go down with the injury to Andre Johnson.
I expect this game to be similar to what I said about the Bengals. At 3-1, the Texans should be very happy considering they beat the perennial AFC power Steelers last Sunday. Arian Foster is back and they should be on top of the world.
Which means they're likely going to blow this game if you look at the past history of the Texans.
The Oakland Raiders are a very interesting team this year. They have an impressive win over the Jets, barely lost to the Bills and while they lost to the Patriots, still gained over 500 yards of offense. Without Andre Johnson, I think this is a team the Raiders will win.
Neither team is good against the rush, with the Raiders ranked the fourth worst in the NFL, and the Texans in the bottom half. It could be big games for Foster and Darren McFadden.
However, while the stats may say otherwise, I think the Raiders team as a whole in my eyes is just flat out tougher than Houston. If they punch the Texans in the mouth on Sunday, I just don't see Houston recovering seeing their best receiver now is Kevin Walter who had exactly zero catches last week despite Andre Johnson missing most of the game.
What's funny in the AFC is it isn't impossible to believe this could be a playoff match-up in a few months. For now though, I see Oakland pulling off the upset.
Oakland 23, Houston 20.
Arizona Cardinals at Minnesota Vikings (-3)
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You have to believe both teams thought they'd be in better positions after four weeks. The Cardinals are 1-3 and have had three consecutive disappointing defeats including blowing a ten point lead with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter last week against the New York Giants.
The Minnesota Vikings meanwhile blew fourth quarter leads in their first three games and then managed to make the Kansas City Chiefs look good last week. This is the same Chiefs team that gave up 109 points in the first three games.
So you have two teams that don't know how to handle leads. Something has to give this week right? Or will Donovan McNabb have to be re-educated on overtime?
There is nothing particularly good or bad about Arizona except for Larry Fitzgerald who is one of the best receivers in the league. Their biggest surprise is Beanie Wells this year. The problem is while their defense isn't awful, they just cannot close games.
I think that's going to be different this time around though. The Vikings look like a team on the brink of collapse and the Christian Ponder watch is officially on. In the end, I see another Viking collapse happening in the Metrodome.
Arizona 24, Minnesota 21.
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts (-2)
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After seeing the Colts nearly beat the Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on consecutive weeks, Indy fans have to be asking why Kerry Collins even came to this team. Curtis Painter has looked very competent the past two weeks, throwing for 284 yards and two touchdowns on the road.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs are coming off a fairly surprising win in Minnesota last week and have tried to redeem themselves after an absolutely embarrassing first two games in which they were outscored 89-10. What's impressive for them is even without Jamaal Charles, the team is still ranked 14th in the NFL in rushing.
Neither team has a very good defense, and both are still struggling to throw the ball. However, seeing the improvement from the Colts the past few games, I think this is where they finally end their winless streak.
If there is one thing you've seen the past two weeks, it's that the Colts are still playing with a great amount of pride. That's not to say KC is throwing in the towel because you can see they're not from their past two games as well.
But between an improved passing attack from Indy and add to the fact that ultimately, KC is a shell of the team from 2010, I don't see them winning two games in a row.
Look for Painter to have another strong game against a Chiefs defense that's one of the worst in the league.
Colts 20, Chiefs 14.
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-8.5)
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This game is my pick for blowout of the week.
There is no worse time for the Jets to be meeting the Patriots than right now.
Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan and the Jets are licking their wounds after being man handled by the Baltimore Ravens. Now they have to go to Foxboro to take on a Patriots team that is foaming at the mouth to exact revenge for their playoff disappointment of a year ago.
This is a tricky time for the Jets right now and it's entirely possible we're about to witness this team fall apart. For a team that is supposedly built around pushing people around, well you can say the bully is now being bullied. The Jets have the third worst rushing offense and sixth worst rushing defense. The only good news is they do have the second best best pass defense.
Here come the Patriots though and their prolific passing attack. While the Jets may be able to contain Brady (if by contain he throws less than 300 yards), the question is can they stop the Patriot running game. Brady takes all the headlines but the Pats actually have the ninth ranked running game in football as well.
Considering the Patriots are allowing the most yards per game in the NFL, you'd think this would be a game Mark Sanchez can redeem himself after his poor performance at Baltimore. But seeing how injured his offensive line is and how motivated New England will be, I don't see it happening.
I think this game gets ugly early and we'll have to start questioning if the Jets are going to be a playoff team this year.
Patriots 38, Jets 13.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (-1)
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This is a curious game between two 3-1 football teams.
The 49ers shocked us all last week coming back from 23-3 down to shock the Eagles on the road. At 3-1, they are in complete control of the NFC West, and with another win could take a stranglehold on the division.
However, I don't expect San Francisco to win here. Yes, I know the Bucs have to travel cross country, but they're more talented than the Niners, and I don't see this team giving up a big lead if they get one.
When you look at San Francisco's stats, nothing inspires a ton of confidence. They are very good at stopping the run, but they rank in the bottom half of the league in virtually every offensive statistic and they can't stop the pass.
Meanwhile Tampa Bay is a solid if not unspectacular team. They won't dazzle you with an aerial show like New England, or run past you with blazing speed like Darren McFadden, but the Bucs know how to grind out wins.
Both teams in fact have done this well so far in 2011 which is why they both are 3-1. But I feel that while both can grind, the Bucs have more talent which will be seen in this game.
Josh Freeman should be able to have a solid game here and I think the Bucs will be keeping pace with the Saints in the NFC South. For the Niners, they still could very well win the NFC West, but they will likely be 3-2 at the end of this contest.
Tampa Bay 23, San Francisco 21.
San Diego Chargers (-5.5) at Denver Broncos
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Here is a case why I'm surprised the betting line is so low.
Has Denver done anything this year to make you think it can beat the 3-1 Chargers?
Yes it's true, the Chargers aren't putting up the kind of offensive numbers we saw in 2010. No, their defense doesn't look as dominant either. But guess what? They're 3-1 this year and winning games as opposed to losing them.
The Broncos meanwhile are seeing their season sabotaged by a fan created quarterback controversy. Certainly, the Broncos are the first team in NFL history having a controversy with the fourth string quarterback.
It's been made clear by the Broncos they are not comfortable starting Tim Tebow. If the franchise was smart, they would have traded or even cut him to avoid this the situation they're in now. Every loss they incur and ever mistake Kyle Orton makes makes Denver fans cheer louder for Tebow.
It's a situation that is going to derail this team if it hasn't already. Denver right now has one of the worst offenses in football, and their defense is no prize either. One could hope Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd re-establish their connection from 2010 that led to Lloyd leading the NFL in reception yards last year.
More likely though is the Chargers coming into the Mile High City, outplaying their rival, and leaving the area with a 4-1 record.
San Diego 30, Denver 14.
Green Bay Packers (-3.5) at Atlanta Falcons
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Last season, the sixth seeded Green Bay Packers came to Atlanta and proceeded to give them a beat down of such great proportions, that some argue the Falcons have still not recovered from. Instead of trying to improve their defense, the Falcons spent half their draft on wide receiver Julio Jones to make the offense more dynamic.
It's highly debatable if that move has thus far worked. The offense ranks 11th and 19th in pass and rush yards respectively. Certainly not bad numbers, but also not good enough to be truly dynamic. The pass defense is ranked 24th, one of the worst in football while the rush defense is 10th.
These rankings illustrate the Falcons inconsistent play. They've beaten the Eagles, but laid eggs against the Bears and Buccaneers and nearly lost to the Seahawks last week. While the Falcons are trying to find who they are this year, the Packers are coming in just rolling along.
The Packers are one of only two undefeated teams left and are leaving opponents in their wake. They have one of the best offenses in the league, and are great at stopping the run, ranking 2nd best. Their biggest weakness is they have the second worst pass defense in the NFL.
If you think about it, this is why the Falcons drafted Julio Jones. They hoped they could get in a track meet with Green Bay and exploit the Packers weakness. The problems is, I don't see it happening.
Atlanta will score points, but I don't see how the Falcons are going to stop Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are too good on offense and I expect their defense will do enough to see Green Bay enjoy another solid win.
Green Bay 31, Atlanta 20.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-6)
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I know Ford Field is made of artificial turf, but the grounds crew may still want to try and dig a six foot deep hole around the Bears sidelines. Jay Cutler may need to be rolled into it by the time this game is over.
What happens when one of the best defensive lines in football take on one of the worst offensive lines? It usually ends up with the quarterback writhing in pain.
A lot of people are criticizing Jay Cutler for failing to live up to expectations. But it's hard to succeed when you've been sacked 15 times in four games and have been knocked down dozens of other times. Consider the fact that in Cutler's 2008 season in Denver he was sacked 12 times all season.
Chicago is heading to take on a Detroit buzzsaw that's seen the Lions win two straight road games in incredible fashion. At 4-0, they're the new darlings of the NFL and if they continue to play the way they are now, they could very well go deep in the playoffs.
Though the Bears beat Carolina last week, they have the look of a team with no identity. Their defense gave up 29 points and over 500 yards of offense to Cam Newton, and the team has no offensive balance. For two weeks the Bears called 91 pass plays to just 20 pass plays, yet last week they called 31 rushes and 17 passes.
The Bears rank in the bottom half of almost every statistical rating on both offense and defense. Does this sound like a team ready to go against a team that's motivated and confident?
It's the first Monday Night game in years for the Lions and I think they win this one in style.
Detroit 31, Chicago 16