– Jon Ramsey
We are a quarter of the way home as Week 5 begins and we can start to see who the surprise teams are (Minnesota, Philly) and who the disappointments are (Carolina, Arizona). Matt Ryan, is suddenly looking like an MVP, while Cam Newton is getting hit so much he might not make it through the season. Top 5 picks Ezekiel Elliott and Carson Wentz are looking like draft pick hits, while 1st overall pick Jared Goff still hasn’t even seen the field. Also some early season questions can begin to get answered. All of Buffalo wants to know if the Bills will keep up their 2 game winning streak or will the 7-9 forever Rams improve to 4-1? I want to know if teams will keep returning kickoff from 6 yards deep in the endzone to the 15-yard line instead of taking a knee and getting it at the 25? Finally, logic wants to know when two overmatched coaches named Chuck Pagano and Jim Caldwell will get fired? Enough of the questions, now onto the answers and my picks.
Houston at Minnesota (-6.5)
4 weeks ago, who would have guessed that this might be the game of the week as the 3-1 Texans come to the Twin Cities to play the undefeated Vikings. The Vikings look almost unbeatable right now, physically beating up the Giants on national tv last week. Sam Bradford looks like he has played in this offense for 10 years and Diggs seems to be a true #1 WR. Do the Texans even have a shot here? I think that if Houston hits some big plays to Hopkins and Fuller then they can keep it close, but I just don’t see Minnesota losing right now. They have beaten the Packers, Panthers, and Giants in consecutive weeks… I think you can add on the Texans as the Vikings go into their bye undefeated.
Tennessee at Miami (-3.5)
The 1-3 Titans come to Miami to take on the Dolphins in a game that most people would want to fast forward. The Titans fired their special teams coach this past week after 2 blunders cost the Titans 10 points in their loss to Houston. While the Dolphins are down to their 3rd string running back as Adam Gase has been unable to kick start the underperforming Miami offense. This should be a low scoring game, not because of the defenses but because the Dolphins and Titans rank 28th and 32nd in scoring respectively. Usually in matchups between bad teams I take the points, but I am going with Miami mainly due to the fact that I think Mike Mularkey is a terrible coach.
New England at Cleveland (+10.5)
The Patriots get a big return this week as Rob Ninkovich is back after a 4 game suspension to travel to factory of sadness in Cleveland, Ohio to take on the Browns. Of course, the biggest story this week is not will the Patriots win, but whether or not Tom Brady will be in “F you mode” and put up 50 points on the Browns. I don’t think that will happen as even though Brady is a living legend, he still will need a couple weeks of games and practices to get back to regular season form. Add that to the fact that the Browns have been surprisingly capable on offense with Pryor and Crowell, I think that the Browns lose but still cover.
NY Jets at Pittsburgh (-7)
The 1-3 Jets are on life support as they make the short trip to Pittsburgh to take on the high flying Steelers. This could be a “kitchen sink” for the Jets as starting out 1-4 pretty much eliminates any hope of a playoff berth and might have them take a trip to Geno-land. While the Steelers bounced back in a huge way just destroying the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football last week. A dynamic Pittsburgh passing game vs a hurting Jets secondary should make this an easy win for the Steelers, right? To quote one of my favorite announcers, “not so fast my friend” the Steelers offensive line is hurting and a really tough Jets DL could take advantage, so while the Steelers might still win, I bet that the Jets cover.
Washington at Baltimore (-4)
It is the battle of the Beltway as the fighting Grudens suffer through some terrible traffic and make the short trip north to Baltimore. The Ravens blew a lead late last week to lose to the Raiders, while the Redskins have won 2 in a row and hope to make it 3 despite allowing almost 425 yards per game on defense. In contrast, the Ravens are #1 in the league in yardage allowed, allowing only 271 yards per game. Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon is set to make his season debut for the Ravens and should provide an extra spark to a Ravens offense that could use one. I like the Ravens here, better defense, better QB, better coach.
Philadelphia at Detroit (+3) ***Best Bet***
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has his Eagles undefeated as they motor into the motor city to take on the struggling Detroit Lions. After an exciting win over the Colts week 1, the Lions have dropped 3 straight including last week to the lowly Bears who had to start Brian Hoyer at QB. While the Eagles are coming off their bye week and have had 2 weeks to enjoy their blowout win over the Steelers. I have seen all of the hype for Wentz and he is playing well for a rookie, but he also has yet to face a deficit in a game. I want to see the rookie when he is 10 or 14 points down and see what he can do. Lucky for him, Jim Schwartz’s defense has been top notch, allowing only 27 points in 3 games. I think that will continue this week as the Lions really aren’t going to put up much of a fight. Their season is over already and Jim Caldwell better start calling realtors. Fly Eagles fly into my best bet of the week.
Chicago at Indianapolis (-4.5)
The Colts return home from London to welcome the Bears to Indy in a matchup of 1-3 teams. What is interesting is that the Colts are the 1st team to play a game the very next week after playing over in the U.K. How much will the long trip with no bye week affect them is a question that NFL HQ will be watching closely as the London experiment continues. The London flight is about twice as long as any other flight the Colts will take this year and how they adjust will be as big of a deal as if they can keep their star QB Andrew Luck upright. The Colts again have failed to give Luck adequate protection and are in danger of wrecking their blue-chip QB. While I do not think much of the Bears talent, Hoyer and rookie Jordan Howard were at least respectable last week. Add that to the fact that Chuck Pagano is one of the worst coaches in the NFL, I will take da Bears and da points.
Atlanta at Denver (-5)
The high flying Falcons swoop into the mile-high city to take on the undefeated Broncos in a matchup of 2 teams off to hot starts. The Falcons offense has been nearly unstoppable averaging almost 500 yards per game! They have scored 35, 45, and 48 points in the last 3 weeks and Matt Ryan is the quarter pole MVP after throwing for almost 1500 yards and 11 TDs. The Broncos on the other hand rely on their dominant defense led by the unblockable Von Miller and 2 top notch cover corners in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.. Julio Jones will provide a tough test for those corners as he is on pace for almost 2000 yards receiving and is coming off of a career best 300 yards receiving last week. Trevor Siemian is expected to start, but even if he can’t go Paxton Lynch should be up to the task. Who to pick when a high-powered offense meets a dominant defense? I am going to go with the Falcons and the points. I am still not much of a believer in this Denver offense and a banged up QB isn’t going to help things.
Buffalo at Los Angeles (-2.5)
The Bills successfully have circled the wagons after an 0-2 start and are making the long cross country trip to the City of Angels to take on the Rams on Sunday. Both teams will have trouble scoring as both offenses rank in the bottom 5 for yards per game with the Rams checking in at dead last averaging only 269 yards per game. Compare that with the Bills at 307 and the league leading Falcons who average a whopping 478.8 yards per game. The Bills get their star DT Marcell Dareus back which isn’t what the sputtering Todd Gurley was hoping to hear. The young stud RB has struggled this year with only 216 yards rushing through 4 games. If the Bills weren’t coming off of a big win against New England, I would really love them here as I think their defense is really starting to hit a groove. So, my question is can they avoid the letdown game? I think that the Rams are bad enough that even a little let down is ok and getting points, I will take the Bills.
San Diego at Oakland (-3.5)
In a matchup of teams going in opposite directions, the Chargers who blew a big lead last week late vs the Saints take on the Raiders who staged a late comeback on the road to beat the stingy Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers, who actually have had the lead in the 4th quarter in all 4 of their games this year, got hit with another body blow as their top cornerback Jason Verrett was diagnosed with a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Against a high powered Raider passing attack that is the worst position to come down with injury troubles. The Raiders aren’t without their own injury problems as starting RB Latavius Murray might miss the game as well with a toe injury. While I think the Chargers are better than their record, I think that the mental toll of losing another one of their top players to injury will be a bit too much as the Raiders win this one at home.
Cincinnati at Dallas (+1)
A rare trip to Big D for the Bengals as they face the Dez Bryant-less Cowboys this Sunday at Jerry-world. As the Cowboys prepare for life without Dez, the Bengals are getting some great news as star TE Tyler Eifert is expect to play for the first time all season. The Bengals offense has put up yards but not points this year as they rank 10th in yardage but only 24th in scoring. While the Cowboys have been able to ride rookie Ezekiel Elliott to over 25 points per game. It is a bit of a confusing line to me as the Cowboys have played well all season and are 3-1 and at home. I would have thought the Cowboys would be the team to beat here… but it seems like Vegas is trying to tell me something, so I am going to listen and take the Bengals.
Sunday Night Football
NY Giants at Green Bay (-7.5)
Former Green Bay assistant Ben McAdoo is going to try and make do with his struggling Giants as they make the trip to Wisconsin to play the Packers on Sunday Night Football. This makes 2 straight national tv games for the GMen and they have a lot to make up for as they were beaten up badly by the Vikings. Star WR Odell Beckham has been held without a touchdown all year should be looking forward to playing against a Packer secondary that got torched by Marvin Jones the last time they played. Former MVP Aaron Rodgers has struggled the 1st 3 games of 2016 averaging just over 200 yards passing a game and has yet to put together a dominant performance. I really like the Giants here, I can’t see them putting up 2 stinkers on national tv in a row, and I don’t think the Packers are that good, especially to be favored by 7.5 over the Giants.
Monday Night Football
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-4.5)
The last game of the week is an NFC South battle as Jameis and the Bucs come to Charlotte to play the Panthers without NFL MVP Cam Newton. The Panthers have had a brutal start to the season having to play the Broncos, Vikings and Falcons in Atlanta in 3 of their first 4 games to start the season. While the Buccaneers have lost 3 straight after starting the season by beating those Falcons in a shootout in week 1. Since that week 1 game Jameis Winston has 4 TDs and 7 INTs, not exactly a formula for winning football games. However, at least Tampa will have their starting QB as Cam Newton is expected to miss the game due to a concussion. The question now becomes, is Derek Anderson good enough to get the Panthers back on track? I happen to think that he is, I think that Tampa Bay has really struggled without Doug Martin and will continue to do so until their star RB returns. So I will give the 4.5 points and take the Panthers at home on Monday Night.
Bills Games (2-2 YTD)
Best Bet (2-2 YTD)
Last Week (6-9)
– Jon Ramsey (@YardsPerPass)