I put together a solid week last week with a 10-5 record on my picks. I missed on St. Louis, Jacksonville, Miami, Detroit and Kansas City.
– St. Louis got a huge win over Seattle. I’m not sure if anyone thought that was going to happen.
– Jacksonville defeated Cleveland for their first win of the season. I did say Cleveland would have a harder matchup than they did against Pittsburgh the week prior. I didn’t think it would come to this though.
– Miami went into Chicago and beat the Bears. Miami is better than we seem to think and the Bears are now 0-3 at home. For a team with their talent, that is inexcusable and head-scratching.
– We can officially disregard the assumption that Detroit can only win shootouts this season due to a bad defense. The same can probably be said for New Orleans now too, but without the defense Detroit fields, New Orleans would much rather get into those shootouts.
– Kansas City played well against San Diego making you wonder if the awe surrounding the Chargers is more due to their team ability or their bad opponents thus far? We will learn more tonight in Denver.
The byes this week are the New York Giants and San Francisco. My gif this week is from St. Louis and their trick punt return. And yes… it has happened before courtesy of Devin Hester and the Bears in 2011, albeit with a penalty that called it back.
Thursday, 10/23 – 8:25 pm ET
San Diego Chargers 5-2 @ Denver Broncos 5-1
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Last year, Denver entered a Thursday night game as the clear favorite over the Chargers and Philip Rivers and company upended the Broncos. San Diego is a more complete team this time around, but what about Denver? The offense is just as good as last year’s model and the defense is creeping into dominant. San Diego and Rivers will move the ball against Denver, but I think this is a case where a close game is decided by pure talent and Denver has more of it on both sides of the ball.
Sunday, 10/26 – 9:30 pm ET
Detroit Lions 5-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 2-5
Prediction: Detroit Lions
Detroit is quietly winning huge games against top competition, even without Calvin Johnson healthy. That’s what a great defense will do for you in this day and age. Now, the Lions travel to London to play Atlanta. The Falcons offense is dynamic, yet their offensive line can’t get enough time for Matt Ryan to really utilize them effectively. Plus, the Atlanta defense is atrocious, particularly on the road. I can say from personal experience, as I have made that flight to London, that this will not feel like a home game in any way for either team. Advantage goes to the Lions who have a surprisingly balanced team.
Sunday, 10/26 – 1:00 pm ET
Minnesota Vikings 2-5 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-5
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
I’m taking Minnesota on the road because I actually think this will be a game where the Vikings offense looks explosive. Yes, you heard me correctly. The Tampa Bay defense is… bad, ranking last in the NFL in total yards allowed per game. Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie quarterback, but has the ceiling that should allow him to take advantage of this matchup. Fellow rookie Jerick McKinnon also figures to throw together a solid game at running back, so I think Minnesota will win this one. Tampa Bay’s offense is improved with Mike Glennon at quarterback, but they still aren’t trustworthy.
Buffalo Bills 4-3 @ New York Jets 1-6
Prediction: Buffalo Bills
I was impressed with the Jets play against the Patriots last week as Geno Smith didn’t look like the problem and reason for New York’s poor season. That said, I can’t pick the Jets this week. Buffalo’s defense is solid and their offense is capable of picking apart the Jets’ awful secondary through the air. The New York rushing defense has been poor as of late, which should be help Buffalo following the losses of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller at running back. Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon should do enough to create some balance, but they may not need to with the Jets issues stoping the passing attack. Should be close, but I’ll take Buffalo.
Chicago Bears 3-4 @ New England Patriots 5-2
Prediction: New England Patriots
This game will be close, but I’m taking New England. The Patriots, having played last Thursday, had a long week to prepare for a Bears team that appears to be reeling a bit. Chicago is 0-3 at home this season and is now dealing with frustration from within the locker room. I’m not buying into that “conflict” as being a distraction yet, but it’s worth noting. New England will be able to exploit Chicago’s defense, much like Ryan Tannehill did for Miami last week, and the Patriots defense should be able to contain Jay Cutler and the Bears attack, even if we see the “good” Cutler. I think we are more likely to see Cutler throw one or two interceptions and the Bears to fall by a possession.
Seattle Seahawks 3-3 @ Carolina Panthers 3-3-1
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
This is a my upset pick this week. Carolina has been bad defensively and their offense isn’t exactly explosive, as demonstrated – on both fronts – in last week’s blowout loss to Green Bay. So, why am I picking Carolina? Honestly, I would be leaning this way even if Seattle had beaten St. Louis last week because Seattle struggles with early games on the road, particularly when those games are on the east coast. After all, it is the equivalent of them playing a game at 9 a.m. at home. Seattle’s loss last week could either mean they come out swinging and play focused and composed, or they struggle to pull themselves out of the mud until they return home. In this case, I’m thinking they struggle. After all, Seattle is one of the most confident teams when they are winning and that “swagger” can be good or bad when things go downhill. It will be interesting to see if that confidence turns into frustration or if it turns into focus.
Miami Dolphins 3-3 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-6
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
Jacksonville got their first win of the season, beating Cleveland last week, which wasn’t too surprising (though I missed it in my predictions). Jacksonville plays tough and I still think Blake Bortles is a quarterback to watch as his career progresses. If he turn potential blowouts into interesting games with the talent on the Jaguars roster, what do you think he can do when he settles in as an NFL quarterback? Unfortunately for Jaguars fans, Bortles is still a rookie and isn’t enough to overcome a hot Dolphins team who should be able to move the ball at will and fields a solid defense that frustrated the Bears offense last week. I like Miami.
Baltimore Ravens 5-2 @ Cincinnati Bengals 3-2-1
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
I believe this game lies on the shoulders of A.J. Green. If he plays for Cincinnati, I like the Bengals to right the ship. They are too talented to struggle as they have the last three weeks and Green would be a huge addition to a struggling offense that, frankly, doesn’t have enough weapons due to injuries. I know Baltimore has been hot, but I caution people into thinking the Ravens will run away with this one. Beating Tampa Bay and Atlanta handily aren’t enough for me. The reason why Baltimore should be favorites is because Cincinnati’s defense has been woeful due to, again, injuries. At one point last week, they were playing with safety Taylor Mays at linebacker due to injury. Vontaze Burfict should be sitting this week, in my opinion (too many neck/head injuries), and that, again, leaves the Bengals weak at linebacker. If Green plays, I think Cincinnati can really make a game out of this at home as it would mean the world to their offense. If he doesn’t and the Bengals remain thin at linebacker, Baltimore should move the ball at will and simply shut down the Bengals run game and play man coverage on the Bengals receivers. Baltimore would win rather easily in that case.
Houston Texans 3-4 @ Tennessee Titans 2-5
Prediction: Tennessee Titans
This may be my upset pick part two this week. Tennessee is going with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger this week in his first NFL start. While rookie quarterbacks don’t always equate to team success, I like Mettenberger and what he brings to the table. If you need a comparison, think Joe Flacco. Big, tall, rocket arm and the agility of the current day Peyton Manning, albeit without Manning’s understanding of the game to avoid the pressure in the first place by moving around the pocket. Exciting, right? Tennessee’s offensive talent has a better chance to influence games with Mettenberger though. A strong arm can get Justin Hunter involved in the deep passing game (like he did in the preseason) and the threat of that arm could be enough to free up some space in the run game. Now, I don’t think Mettenberger is going to go out and throw for 300+ yards and three touchdowns, but I think he is talented enough to make this a game and at that point, all you need is a lucky spin of the ball. I really like Mettenberger’s long-term prospects and I think he could have one of those “take notice” debuts.
St. Louis Rams 2-4 @ Kansas City Chiefs 3-3
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Give credit to St. Louis for knocking off Seattle last week with gutsy plays and solid quarterback play from Austin Davis. That said, we can’t overlook that the Rams needed a glorious punt return, a fake punt and a controversial fumble to win the game at home. Again, they deserve credit for making those plays, but I highly doubt we will be seeing those things falling that way for St. Louis every week from here on out. So, I bring you to this week’s matchup with Kansas City. The Chiefs beat San Diego last week and looked impressive doing so. I have to take the Chiefs in this one for their dominant pass rush and their run game, to which, I don’t think the Rams have an answer for.
Sunday, 10/26 – 4:05 pm ET
Philadelphia Eagles 5-1 @ Arizona Cardinals 5-1
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
I’m taking Arizona. I’ve been talking up the Cardinals all season and now we are seeing the talent shine through. Philadelphia has demonstrated that they are a great team in their own regard, but traveling to Arizona is a challenge. Plus, Arizona’s rush defense is the best in the league and their pass defense is enough to contain the Eagles passing attack. With Carson Palmer returning for the Cardinals, I like the Arizona offense to move the ball well and get the win. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if this game isn’t as close as the records would suggest.
Sunday, 10/26 – 4:25 pm ET
Indianapolis Colts 5-2 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh is still a headache to try and predict, needing a ridiculous scoring stretch last Monday night to beat the Texans at home. Now, the Colts come to town on an absolute tear. The Colts defense is better than people thought they would be and Andrew Luck and that offense are clicking. I’m taking the Colts in this one.
Oakland Raiders 0-6 @ Cleveland Browns 3-3
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
It’s Oakland. I would expect a heavy dose of the run game against an Oakland team that has few bright spots this season. I still like Derek Carr at quarterback for the Raiders and that offense has been making some noise, but the cross-country road game is hard for any team, particularly a team that could use any help they can get.
Sunday, 10/26 – 8:30 pm ET
Green Bay Packers 5-2 @ New Orleans Saints 2-4
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
It’s New Orleans at home in a primetime game. I know New Orleans has been thoroughly disappointing this season, but if they are to figure it out, it has to be now, right? The stadium will be rocking and that offense should be able to move the ball on Green Bay. On the other side of the ball, you know Aaron Rodgers will be moving the ball. I think we see a desperate Saints team on Sunday night and they grab the key win.
Monday, 10/27 – 8:30 pm ET
Washington Redskins 2-5 @ Dallas Cowboys 6-1
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas is shaping up to be a complete and very dangerous team this season. The combination of their unstoppable run game, a great quarterback and a surprisingly stout defense makes this an exciting team to watch. They are playing some of the best football in the league at this point and the Redskins are likely throwing Colt McCoy out their as their quarterback. I’m taking the Cowboys.