Last week: 10-6, pushing the season forecast to 35-29
Injuries have played a significant role in the early season. Here’s hoping your favorite team can avoid the virulent injury bug from biting any harder this weekend.
- Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-3.5): Indianapolis has been one of the most snakebitten teams on the injury front, and it doesn’t get better on Thursday night. Already faced with a struggling offense, Indy will play this game without RB Jonathan Taylor. As in, the returning rushing champ and about the only positive balance to the washed-up start by Matt Ryan. Denver isn’t exactly flying high itself, but they have more than enough to soar above the luckless Colts at Mile High.
Broncos 20, Colts 13
- New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers (-7.5) in London: The overseas trips have a way of playing tricks on teams. For Green Bay, the trick is to not overlook the Giants and their 3-1 record. Sure, the wins aren’t high-quality. But New York has an impressive young defense that is learning how to win, and they match up well with a Packers offense that struggles to catch the ball. Alas, the Giants’ dilapidated receiving corps is hard to trust in and of itself. It should be an enjoyable watch to kick off the Sunday morning viewing.
Packers 24, Giants 17
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-14.5): I can’t remember the last time the Steelers were such heavy underdogs. And it turns out my inability to recall is well-founded. Pittsburgh has not 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 envision Pittsburgh keeping this one close for long.
Bills 37, Steelers 15
- Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (+4): The primary health focus on Miami involves the brain injury to Tua Tagovailoa, but the Dolphins have a lot more walking wounded than just their concussed QB. A full 17 players were on Wednesday’s injury list, and that includes some prominent names who will be limited if they play at all. The Jets are quietly playing some improved football this year. Zack Wilson’s return provided a nice lift in Week 4 and it should carry them to a home win in Week 5.
Jets 23, Dolphins 20
- Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7.5): Two improbable two-win teams face off in a weirdly important NFC South showdown. The Falcons were one of the consensus worst teams in the league a month ago, but two wins and a generally fun offense have quelled the hate. Tampa Bay was generally expected to challenge for the NFL’s best record, but the Bucs have been oddly underwhelming on offense. I sense this is a “get-right” game for Tampa and a “water finds its level” game for Atlanta, but I’m not convinced of that enough to use the Bucs as a survivor fantasy pick. 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-as-hell Porsche accident. Cleveland needs him. This matchup produced six fourth-quarter TDs last season, a quarter where Chargers QB Justin Herbert threw for more completions, yards and TDs than Bears QB Justin Fields has in any full game this year. With Cleveland’s weirdly underperforming secondary, Herbert could do it again. But the Browns and Jacoby Brissett can match it against the Bosa-less Bolts.
Browns 37, Chargers 33
- Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-7): As noted in the blurb above, the Bears don’t throw the ball. They barely even try. Maybe rookie coach Matt Eberflus could learn from Vikings counterpart Kevin O’Connell and effort an aerial attack that scares something more than an eighth-grade team from North Dakota. Until that happens, these Bears are not outscoring these Vikings.
Vikings 24, Bears 15
- Detroit Lions at New England Patriots (-3.5): Detroit gets its first shot at vengeance against former coach Matt Patricia, who spearheaded the descent into rebuilding hell that Dan Campbell is trying to lead the Lions out of, with mixed results. The Lions have the NFL’s best scoring offense but the league’s worst scoring defense. I expect declines from the banged-up Lions in both points and points allowed, and for Jared Goff to find Tom Kennedy for a game-winning 2-point conversion late.
Lions 27, Patriots 26
- Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints (-5): The way Geno Smith keeps lighting up the sky for Seattle, it’s easy to see why the visiting Seahawks are the trendy upset pick. Maybe it’s the contrarian in me, but I like the Saints to slow down Smith and Rashaad Penny enough to outscore the seabird visitors to Pelicans' land.
Saints 30, Seahawks 28
- Tennessee Titans at Washington Commanders (+2.5): We're rapidly approaching the status of Commanders games as being decided by one question: is Carson Wentz playing QB? The answer is yes, but that means bad things for Washington. If there’s a critical mistake to be made, you can bet on Cooper Rush the Lesser to make it.
Titans 27, Commanders 22
- Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7.5): Houston remains the only team without a victory. Heading to Jacksonville to play a much-improved Jaguars team is not a promising prospect to pick up that first win. Confidence in Davis Mills keeps dropping.
Jaguars 32, Texans 21
- San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+4.5): Baker Mayfield and the NFL’s most anemic offense in terms of yards per game against the 49ers defense, which one prominent analyst compared to the 2000 Ravens this week? Yeah, this is not a tough one. San Francisco is this week’s survivor fantasy pick.
49ers 20, Panthers 12
- Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (-4.5): Gut-check game for the defending champs, who have not looked in sync all season other than in select spots. Matthew Stafford and his balky elbow morphing into the version of Jared Goff that coach Sean McVay exiled to Detroit is quite concerning. L.A.’s supporting cast isn’t doing enough to help Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. The Cowboys are aggressively competent on defense and that’s a very dangerous knife blade for the reeling Rams.
Cowboys 27, Rams 24
- Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals (+5): This game is a good lesson in quantitative stats versus qualitative figures. In total, the Cardinals' run defense looks good in allowing just 87 yards per game, fifth-best in the NFL. But that’s in no small part because nobody tries to run on them--because the Arizona pass defense is in the bottom five of just about everything. Why run when you can keep throwing? Teams do find success when attacking the Cards via the ground, however; they give up 4.3 yards per carry, tied for 16th. It’s not bad, but it’s not the fearsome figure the total yardage would have you believe.
Now mix in the Eagles, the NFL’s most run-heavy offense at over 38 carries per game. The qualitative figure of 4.3 YPC brings that back to earth a bit, but consider that 14 of those attempts have been kneel-downs that lost a yard. Take those out and it’s a 4.5 YPC for the Philly offense. Run to the hills with the unbeaten Eagles in this one.
Eagles 33, Cardinals 22
Bengals at Ravens (-3.5): The Bengals hung 41 points in both meetings a year ago, huge factors in Cincinnati asserting its divisional supremacy. Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense are starting to heat up after some rough early outings, but 41 points is a bigger dream than the end of negative political ads. I see it taking 30 for the Bengals to outscore Lamar Jackson and friends. Can they do it? Sure. Will they do it? Probably not.
Ravens 29, Bengals 27
- Los Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-7): This forecast is brought to you by Dokken, my favorite 80s hard rock band. This long-distance dedication 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 direct them at your own personal favorite Raiders fan,
Should have known better
Should have seen right through
Over and over falling in love with you
Wanting you for myself- my first mistake
Finding out the hard way
Was all that I could take
You were just using someone
And I was the one
Don’t forget to air guitar to George Lynch’s impeccable solo!
Chiefs 37, Raiders 24
Ohio State 48, Michigan State 16
TCU 38, Kansas 31 in a battle of unbeatens that nobody saw coming
LSU 30, Tennessee 28
Utah 26, UCLA 21
Ferris State 46, Saginaw Valley State 30 in a GLIAC showdown. D-II matters too!
Ohio 32, Akron 24. OUr Bobcats treat the homecoming crowd to a win over Zippy. Cheers to all my fellow alums back in Athens, enjoy an aquarium at The Pub for me!