Last week: 10-6, pushing the season forecast to 35-29
Injuries played a big role at the start of the season. Here’s hoping your favorite team can keep the virulent injury bug from biting harder this weekend.
– Indianapolis Colts against Denver Broncos (-3.5): Indianapolis has been one of the most snake-bitten teams on the injury front, and it’s not getting better Thursday night. Already facing a struggling offense, Indy will play this game without RB Jonathan Taylor. As in, the returning race champion and pretty much the only positive to come from Matt Ryan’s failed start. Denver isn’t exactly flying high per se, but they have more than enough to fly past the unlucky Colts at Mile High.
Broncos 20, Foals 13
– New York Giants against Green Bay Packers (-7.5) in London: Travel abroad has a habit of playing tricks on teams. For Green Bay, the trick is not to overlook the Giants and their 3-1 record. Of course, the wins are not of high quality. But New York has an impressive young defense that’s learning to win, and it fits well with a Packers offense that’s struggling to get the ball. Alas, it’s hard to trust the Giants’ run-down receiving corps per se. It should be a nice watch to kick off Sunday morning viewing.
Packers 24, Giants 17
– Pittsburgh Steelers against Buffalo Bills (-14.5): I can’t remember the last time the Steelers were such big underdogs. And it turns out that my inability to remember is well founded. Pittsburgh hasn’t been a 14-point underdog since the 1969 season. I was born in 1972, the same year as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. Even with Kenny Pickett taking over at QB, I can’t imagine Pittsburgh keeping this one close for long.
Bills 37, Steelers 15
– Miami Dolphins against New York Jets (+4): Miami’s main health focus is on Tua Tagovailoa’s brain injury, but the Dolphins have far more foot injuries than their concussed QB. A full 17 players were on Wednesday’s injured list, and that includes some big names who will be restricted if they play at all. The Jets are quietly playing improved football this year. The return of Zack Wilson provided a nice comeback in Week 4 and that should lead them to a home win in Week 5.
Jets 23, Dolphins 20
– Atlanta Falcons against Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7.5): Two unlikely two-win teams go head-to-head in a weirdly important NFC South showdown. The Falcons were one of the worst consensus teams in the league a month ago, but two wins and a generally fun offense have quelled the hate. Tampa Bay was widely expected to challenge the NFL’s best record, but the Bucs have been oddly disappointing on offense. I feel like this is a “well done” game for Tampa and a “water finds its level” game for Atlanta, but I’m not convinced enough to use the Bucs as a fantastic survivor choice. Good second option though…
Buccaneers 21, Falcons 17
– Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns (+3.5): It looks like Myles Garrett will be able to play after missing Week 4 with minor injuries from his scary Porsche accident. Cleveland needs him. That game produced six touchdowns in the fourth quarter last season, a quarter where Chargers QB Justin Herbert threw for more completions, yards and touchdowns than Bears QB Justin Fields in any complete game this year. With Cleveland’s oddly underperforming secondary, Herbert could do it again. But the Browns and Jacoby Brissett can match it against the Bolts without Bosa.
Browns 37, Chargers 33
– Chicago Bears against Minnesota Vikings (-7): As noted in the blurb above, the Bears aren’t throwing the ball. They barely try. Maybe rookie coach Matt Eberflus could learn from his Vikings counterpart Kevin O’Connell and attempt an aerial attack that scares something more than an eighth-year team from North Dakota. Until that happens, these bears don’t outmatch these Vikings.
Vikings 24, Bears 15
– Detroit Lions vs. New England Patriots (-3.5): Detroit gets its first shot at revenge against former coach Matt Patricia, who led the descent into rebuilding hell Dan Campbell is trying to extricate the Lions from, with mixed results. The Lions have the best offense in the NFL, but the worst defense in the league. I expect the stoned Lions to drop in points and runs allowed, and Jared Goff to find Tom Kennedy for a late 2-point winning conversion.
Lions 27, Patriots 26
– Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints (-5): The way Geno Smith continues to light up the Seattle skies, it’s easy to see why the visiting Seahawks are the fashionable upset choice. It may be the opposite in me, but I like that the Saints slow down Smith and Rashaad Penny enough to outplay the seabird visitors in Pelican Land.
Saints 30, Seahawks 28
– Tennessee Titans at Washington Commanders (+2.5): We are fast approaching the status of Commanders games as being decided by one question: Does Carson Wentz play QB? The answer is yes, but it means bad things for Washington. If there’s a critical mistake to make, you can bet Cooper Rush the Lesser to make it.
Titans 27, Commanders 22
– Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (-7.5): Houston remains the only team without a win. Going to Jacksonville to face a much-improved Jaguars team isn’t a promising prospect for that first victory. Trust in Davis Mills continues to fall.
Jaguars 32, Texans 21
– San Francisco 49ers against Carolina Panthers (+4.5): Baker Mayfield and the most anemic offense in the NFL by yards per game against the 49ers defense, which top analyst compared the 2000 Ravens this week? Yeah, it’s not difficult. San Francisco is the fantastic pick for survivors this week.
49ers 20, Panthers 12
– Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams (-4.5): Gut-checking game for the defending champions, who haven’t seemed in sync all season except in some places. Matthew Stafford and his rebellious elbow turning into the version of Jared Goff that coach Sean McVay exiled to Detroit is concerning enough. LA’s supporting cast can’t do enough to help Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. The Cowboys are aggressively proficient on defense and that’s a very dangerous knife edge for the faltering Rams.
Cowboys 27, Rams 24
– Philadelphia Eagles vs. Arizona Cardinals (+5): This game is a good lesson in quantitative statistics versus qualitative numbers. Overall, the Cardinals’ run defense looks good allowing just 87 yards per game, fifth-best in the NFL. But that’s largely because no one is trying to run over it — because Arizona’s pass defense is in the back five of almost everything. Why run when you can keep throwing? However, teams are successful when attacking maps from the ground; they’re giving up 4.3 yards per carry, tied for 16th. That’s not bad, but it’s not the scary number that the total footage would have you believe.
Now shuffle the Eagles, the NFL’s heaviest offense with 38+ runs per game. The qualitative figure of 4.3 YPC brings this down to earth a bit, but consider that 14 of those attempts were knees that lost a yard. Take them out and it’s a YPC of 4.5 for the Philadelphia offense. Race for the hills with the undefeated Eagles in this one.
Eagles 33, Cardinals 22
Bengals to Ravens (-3.5): The Bengals hung 41 points in the two meetings a year ago, with huge factors in Cincinnati asserting divisional supremacy. Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense are starting to warm up after a few tough first outings, but 41 points is a bigger dream than an end to the negative political ads. I see it takes 30 for the Bengals to beat Lamar Jackson and his friends. Can they do it? Sure. Will they do it? Probably not.
Ravens 29, Bengals 27
– Los Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-7): This prediction is brought to you by Dokken, my favorite hard rock band of the 80s. This long-distance shoutout is for my friend Jay, a die-hard Raiders fan who celebrated Las Vegas’ first win last week a little too vigorously. . Sing along to “Just Got Lucky” if you know the lyrics and point it to your favorite Raiders fan,
Should have known better
I should have seen through
Again and again fall in love with you
Wanting you for me- my first mistake
Finding out the hard way
Was all I could take
You were just using someone
And I was the one
Don’t forget to play guitar on George Lynch’s impeccable solo!
Chiefs 37, Raiders 24
Ohio State 48, Michigan State 16
TCU 38, Kansas 31 in an unbeaten battle no one saw coming
LSU 30, Tennessee 28
Utah 26, UCLA 21
Ferris State 46, Saginaw Valley State 30 in a GLIAC showdown. D-II counts too!
Ohio 32, Akron 24. OUR Bobcats give the homecoming crowd a victory over Zippy. Cheers to all my former colleagues in Athens, enjoy an aquarium at the Pub for me!