Week 5 is already here! Do you know what to do with yourself? Another up and down week led us to some wacky games and crazy results. Taking chances on games hasn’t been my forte this year but you win some and you lose some. And in my case, you lose some and you lose some more. But that doesn’t make things a lost cause by a long shot. For whatever reason there are teams you stick with and think might actually pull it together. Sometimes those teams fire their coach after 4 games. Shit happens. This week provides a couple tricky matchups but nothing worth taking a big chance on.
Week 4- 8-7
Indianapolis at Houston. Somehow, some way the Colts have won their past two games. They have made you cringe a bit and sweat it out at the end of games. But a win is a win. And while Houston isn’t going to an easy place to win, the Texans haven’t shown much to tell us that this won’t go the way most of us think it will. For Houston to compete in this one, Brian Hoyer is going to need to produce the way he did at the end of last week’s game. Arian Foster is said to be healthy after last week, so hopefully he will get a bit more usage in this one. If the running game gets going then who knows. Then again, Andrew Luck has been a shell of his best self. With that said, watch out for when he actually starts playing well. Colts 28, Texans 24
Washington at Atlanta. This could actually be an interesting game. The Skins seem to pick and choose when they want to play well and when they want to sit back and let things happen. Various injuries to the defense (including the obnoxious DeAngelo Hall) will hurt any ability to make stops but Kirk Cousins seems to have found his groove and his way in an offense that he seemingly struggled to grasp a season ago. So now that they have a RBBC (running back by committee) it will be interesting to see whether they ride the hot hand or split the carries even no matter what, like last week. And has anyone been paying attention to Devonta Freeman? The guy was supposed to be last year’s Tevin Coleman and then he just never got it going. Part of that had to do with an offensive line that has since improved, but I’m not sure anyone saw this coming. Former Washington receiver Leonard Hankerson comes back to town on a roll, expect to see him in a role that upsets Roddy White. Falcons 34, Redskins 27
Buffalo at Tennessee. Marcus Mariota hasn’t been spectacular nor has he been terrible. But there’s literally no one to help him. Kendall Wright is okay but not a big-play guy and the group of tight ends/multi-purpose backs doesn’t make up for the lack of wide receivers (only 4 on the current roster). The Titans have a middle of the road defense but need more to get things going. The Bills on the other hand have had opportunities. Last week’s loss to the Giants may not look as bad at the end of the season as we may want to think it was right now. Still, it was a home game and one that they shouldn’t have lost. Two touchdowns that were called back don’t help. Rex Ryan is running out of excuses. And with a banged up backup (or is Karlos Williams the true starter?), who is going to carry the load? Bills 24, Titans 13
Chicago at Kansas City. The Chiefs ran into the recent buzz-saw that is the Bengal offense. But they had their opportunities and big plays were missed that could have changed the course of the game. Getting into the end zone also helps. Jeremy Maclin has started to turn it on and Jamaal Charles has been great so far. Justin Houston needs more help on that defensive line to provide pressure. Were you surprised that the Bears beat the Raiders? Is that surprising that you’d be surprised by that? Well last week had something to do with Jay Cutler being back. Matt Forte is a beast and when the Bears get some guys healthy they might win a few more games this year. Not this week. Chiefs 17, Bears 7
Seattle at Cincinnati. This is a tough one. This would have been a tough one before the season. No one thought Andy Dalton would be playing this well. But more importantly, no one thought that Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, Mohammed Sanu, and the white guy whose name isn’t Brian Leonard but that’s the only guy that comes to mind right now would play so well while having the ball spread around to people other than AJ Green. The first quarter was all AJ Green, but after that point we saw the aforementioned players plus Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill go off. And then there’s Seattle. They should have lost last week had it not been for a last-gasp swipe at the ball by Kam Chancellor. Russell Wilson is a great player who had a mediocre game. While rookie running back Thomas Rawls showed some flashes of potential he’s not ready to be featured and the sooner Marshawn Lynch comes back healthy the better. Seattle should have lost that game whether there was a gaffe in a no-call tap out of the end zone or not. It’s over now though, so stop your bitching. Seahawks 21, Bengals 17
Cleveland at Baltimore. Yes, the Ravens beat a team led by Michael Vick and not Ben Roethlisberger. But a win in enemy territory to whatever end (whether in overtime or by 40 in regulation) stil counts the same. The loss of Steve Smith is tough. Breshad Perriman has yet to play a snap in the NFL and Chris Givens might not be good for more than some go-routes on play-action for Joe Flacco. Baltimore needs Justin Forsett to follow up his season slump-ending big game with another good showing to keep this offense moving. Converting on 3rd downs was key the Raven attack as was pressuring the QB on the other side of the ball. Meanwhile, the Browns have suffered another late-game defeat this time at the hands of the Chargers. But that game was on the road and Josh McCown has really played well. It’s the defense that was supposed to be a strength and rather it has performed as a weakness thus far. Will the Browns be able to run with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. (likely catching passes) or will McCown be forced to come up with another great game this time around? Ravens 27, Browns 24
St. Louis at Green Bay. Todd Gurley was great in the second half last week. If he can do that every game for 4 quarters then the Rams might actually score some points this season. The problem is the same it’s always been. St. Louis just doesn’t have any weapons. And assuming you consider Tavon Austin a weapon, then there’s no go-to receiver outside Jared Cook that makes enough plays get him open. Luckily, the Rams’ defense is really good. They have had some poor moments here and there but the have the ability to win games that you wouldn’t expect (as well as lose games you’d expect a win). On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers and company are ridiculous. They could actually score every drive if they wanted to. It’s not even so much that they have the best players (similar to New England), but because of the way they get the job done. Packers 28, Rams 10
New Orleans at Philadelphia. Drew Brees came back last week to deliver a much-needed win against a Dallas team that had seemingly figured things out even without the best three players from last year. CJ Spiller had a nice game as a receiving back and Mark Ingram stepped up nicely as well. Still, the plethora of receivers the Saints seem to have on hand doesn’t have one great player and will struggle against teams the defend the pass better in the secondary. Fortunately for New Orleans the Eagles aren’t that team. Philly found a way to lose to a Redskins team that had all but given up hope for the season. And they did it by losing on a final drive that hammered home bad decision-making of head coach Chip Kelly. Can Sam Bradford have a good game for the second week in the row (at least stats-wise) or will the proposed pace slow down the Eagles’ offense?
Jacksonville at Tampa Bay. If the Buccaneers were due a good stretch it would come now. The offensive line is finally blocking for Doug Martin and there’s actually a little reason to have hope in Tampa (for a week anyways). Vincent Jackson isn’t old, nor is he washed up. So why was everyone surprised to see him put up monster numbers last week? Sure, Mike Evans has immense talent and may very well be better than Jackson but the two will eventually co-exist as the young offense settles in. It’s the defense that has slowly begun to pick it up and will be needed this week as they face a passing offense that excelled last week (albeit against a week Indy pass defense) while also started to find confidence in the running game. Buccaneers 31, Jaguars 13
Arizona at Detroit. Will the Lions ever get over this loss? Did it really matter? At 0-4 they have literally no chance, historically, to make the playoffs and even then they still have a relatively challenging schedule to finish the season. We can certainly expect them to come out ready to play this weekend but I’m still not convinced that Matthew Stafford is completely healthy. And when Golden Tate isn’t being used enough AND Calvin Johnson is held in check it’s tough to see Detroit doing much. The Cardinals are as good or possibly better than the Seattle defense. They took a tough loss to a St. Louis team that no one can figure out but are playing well enough that a win on the road doesn’t seem out of the question. Carson Palmer should have a few looks against a Detroit defense that just isn’t that good. Cardinals 30, Lions 20
New England at Dallas. Had all the pieces been in place and not in the injured list it’s possible this game might have had some more to it, but Dallas hobbles into this game without much to offer. The running game needs to come up big (and often) while Brandon Weeden has to keep up his seemingly impossible completion percentage (mostly to Jason Witten) to keep the offense on the field. The only way that Dallas can stop this Patriot offense, even with a tag-team duo of Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy, is by running the ball and playing keep-away. After a week off, Tom Brady will return to shut Greg Hardy up about his wife and wife’s sisters as well as the Cowboy fans that will likely be whining about how lucky he is in life. And their outcries will have merit, but it won’t matter when playing against a team that just continues to put up points. Rob Gronkowski will go off in this one. Patriots 38, Cowboys 28
Denver at Oakland. They were so close. Two straight road wins hadn’t happened for the Raiders in a while. But Oakland has hope. They have young receivers with a young QB and a young RB. The offensive line is a work in progress but you can rest assure they will improve into next year. The defense has some promise and there is really a chance that they can compete right now. But playing against divisional opponents is where it gets tough. Expect to see Derek Carr throw the balls near 50 times this week as the Broncos will score early (and possibly often) while the Raiders attempt to play catch (at least for one more year). Broncos 35, Raiders 24
San Francisco at NY Giants. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. are off to a nice start. Rueben Randle is filling in nicely at the opposite receiver spot and the Giants are working through missing pieces on defense to win games that they really have no business winning. So what’s to stop them from doing the exact same thing against a San Fran team that still boasts a good group of players on both sides of the ball. For the 49ers to get on track they need Carlos Hyde to produce. They also need Colin Kaepernick to play well (though his receivers had some drops last week that make you wonder what the problem really is). I’m interested to see if Wes Welker gets picked up by the G-Men this week. It’s never too late, right? Giants 28, 49ers 25
Pittsburgh at San Diego. There’s two ways to look at last week’s loss to the Ravens, Le’Veon Bell is tough to stop and the kicking game failed the Steelers and they STILL only lost by a field goal in overtime to a very good Baltimore team. OR that Michael Vick isn’t a good fit because his release is way too slow (and Antonio Brown is most effiective with Big Ben) and unless the Steelers score points their defense will have trouble matching their opponents. Well, it’s a bit of both. Bell is freakishly good and Brown needs a guy that knows where he is at all times not just what the play call is. And this week the Chargers play host. Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen have been in sync while others have managed to pick up the slack. Antonio Gates returns this week and should assume the starting role at tight end within the next week or two even though Ladarius Green has been pretty good. Melvin Gordon has been adequate even though he probably needs a bigger workload to really show off his potential. But it’s the play of Danny Woodhead that keeps that from happening due to his ability to find open spaces and make moves that you wouldn’t expect. Steelers 24, Chargers 20