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2023 NFL Game Picks: Week 5

Last week: 11-5

Season: 41-23


CHI (0-4) @ WAS (2-2)

Thursday, October 5 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


Last year’s primetime matchup between Chicago and Washington was a 12-7 win by the Commanders, and the rematch should feature more scoring with Justin Fields hopefully building on last week’s performance and Sam Howell—sacked 14 times over the past two games—getting more time to throw with the Bears recording a league-low two sacks this season. Chicago not having Jaylon Johnson (hamstring), Eddie Jackson (foot), and potentially Jaquan Brisker (hamstring) as their three best players on the backend might be difficult to overcome, so Fields will need to play like he did against Denver, and Washington can be attacked through the air with rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes perhaps coming in with shaky confidence. The Commanders having a clear edge in the trenches on defense and the rare edge in pass protection for their offensive line has me leaning towards them at home, but Fields can’t be allowed to get hot through the air and be a game-breaker on the ground.


Winner: Washington Commanders


JAX (2-2) @ BUF (3-1)

Sunday, October 8 | 9:30 PM ET (London) | NFL Network


The Jaguars staying in London could have them adjusted for another early game with Buffalo possibly in line for a letdown after a huge win over Miami, but Trevor Lawrence and the offense has yet to click—while the Bills have been on fire with 41.0 points per game since losing the opener. The three-game stretch of dominance for Josh Allen has been largely centered around throwing to Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, so first-round tight end Dalton Kincaid eventually being a bigger factor could take the passing attack to new heights, and it could happen this week after Jacksonville allowed 95 yards to Jonnu Smith last weekend. On defense, the Bills will unfortunately be without Tre’Davious White (Achilles) the rest of the year, but Von Miller (knee) is set to make his debut on Sunday to provide a boost to the emerging pass rush, and we’ll see if second-year cornerback Kaiir Elam goes from a healthy scratch to playing a key role for the Super Bowl-hopeful squad starting this week against Calvin Ridley.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


HOU (2-2) @ ATL (2-2)

Sunday, October 8 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Because he is still a young player in his first year as the starter, I understand the Falcons want to see what they have in Desmond Ridder ahead of a stacked 2024 quarterback class; but the struggles have been highlighted with back-to-back losses where Atlanta has been held to single-digit points, and calls for a change under center will only get louder if Ridder doesn’t play better at home. Of course, Kyle Pitts not quite being himself following offseason knee surgery is an issue right now, so the Falcons need to play more through Bijan Robinson (less than 15 carries in all but one game this season), and a trade for a wide receiver might be something to consider as an option to complement Drake London’s skillset on the perimeter. On the other side of the field, Houston has shown what having speed can do for an offense with rookie Tank Dell opening up coverage for others, and pass protection playing like it has over the past two weeks with zero sacks allowed can lead to C.J. Stroud dicing up the Falcons on the road. Still, I’ll go with Atlanta to keep up strong defense and Jessie Bates III (three interceptions and two forced fumbles this year) to force a takeaway at some point.


Winner: Atlanta Falcons


CAR (0-4) @ DET (3-1)

Sunday, October 8 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


My concern about the situation in Carolina not giving Bryce Young the best chance to be successful has been brought up multiple times, and talk about the Panthers wanting to acquire a No. 1-caliber wide receiver further worries me as a potential band-aid to a larger problem. There is understandably urgency from general manager Scott Fitterer after he said the team doesn’t anticipate picking in the top ten anytime soon in comments made after they traded up for Young, but the Panthers could end up giving away the first-overall pick in a draft class with USC superstar Caleb Williams, which should put everyone on the hot seat; I’d just hope they don’t get desperate by giving away another valuable asset for 2024 in order to pick up a rental wideout that would have maximum leverage in extension talks. Detroit has zero questions about management being up to the task of building a championship team, and getting speedster Jameson Williams back early from his six-game suspension will allow us to see the young core all together for the first time. It might take some time for Williams to get rolling, but good luck trying to contain him and Jahmyr Gibbs when they aren’t even the featured options on offense.


Winner: Detroit Lions


TEN (2-2) @ IND (2-2)

Sunday, October 8 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Jonathan Taylor is set to make his season debut this weekend, and I wonder if the decision to suit up after it seemed he would never play for the Colts again is due to the impressiveness of Anthony Richardson and head coach Shane Steichen. There might be some growing pains for Richardson, but he looks like a future superstar with a natural feel for the quarterback position in addition to high-end traits, and Taylor probably knows Steichen is a top offensive mind that could make Indianapolis a contender sooner rather than later. The former All-Pro runner also sees an offensive line that is significantly improved compared to a season ago, but Sunday will be a tough matchup—and good measuring stick—versus a Tennessee defense allowing the fewest yards per carry (2.9) in the league. Due to the recent dominance for Derrick Henry in this matchup (120.2 rushing yards per game during the five-game winning streak), I like the Titans to win the battle up front, but it should be very close.


Winner: Tennessee Titans


NYG (1-3) @ MIA (3-1)

Sunday, October 8 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Staying in the trenches for Giants-Dolphins, Daniel Jones does not have much of a chance with immediate pressure on seemingly every snap, and there is no easy fix until top-tier left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) is healthy. Miami has surprisingly struggled on defense to begin 2023, but Vic Fangio will get the unit on track, and Christian Wilkins should be determined to have a big day—facing an injured interior for New York—after he was neutralized by rookie guard O’Cyrus Torrence last week in Buffalo. If the Giants don’t tackle better against De’Von Achane, Raheem Mostert, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle, things could get really ugly by forcing Jones and the offense into a one-dimensional, pass-happy approach.


Winner: Miami Dolphins


NO (2-2) @ NE (1-3)

Sunday, October 8 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Week 5 was arguably the low point of the Bill Belichick era in New England with the Cowboys handing him the worst loss of his coaching career, and Defensive Rookie of the Year contender Christian Gonzalez (shoulder) was lost for the season on top of it—along with star pass rusher Matthew Judon (biceps) out indefinitely. That said, now is about the time where the Patriots typically round into form, and New Orleans has had struggles of their own with mounting frustration by Alvin Kamara and others. The trade for J.C. Jackson at least brings added playmaking ability to the New England defense, but he’s admitted to not being 100%, so Christian Barmore and Josh Uche need to step up to take the pressure off the cornerback group with Chris Olave and Michael Thomas coming to town. Overall, I think the Pats will find something offensively by leaning on the running backs and Kendrick Bourne this week, but Mac Jones taking care of the ball is crucial to avoid 1-4.


Winner: New England Patriots


BAL (3-1) @ PIT (2-2)

Sunday, October 8 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Ravens-Steelers is the toughest game of the week to pick for me, and comments by Roquan Smith (about not being a Raven until they beat Pittsburgh) and Najee Harris (about the players taking full accountability for struggles rather than listening to outside noise that places the blame on coaching) show each side has the right mentality. Last year’s matchups were both slugfests that the road team won, and Smith immediately made an impact in the rivalry with a sack and interception as Mitchell Trubisky replaced an injured Kenny Pickett in the first meeting. For Round 1 in 2023, it sounds like Pittsburgh’s starter will be under center as he deals with a bone bruise in his knee, but I’d expect a run-focused game plan with Najee featured and rookie tight end Darnell Washington seeing more action as a devasting blocker with Pat Freiermuth (hamstring) out. The game will likely be decided by how effective Lamar Jackson can be in a new system with six interceptions in three career starts against Pittsburgh (1-2 record).


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


CIN (1-3) @ ARI (1-3)

Sunday, October 8 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


Last week was a massive step back for the Cincinnati offense, but Joe Burrow has deemed himself healthy as he continues to manage his calf injury—so the question is whether he’s being sincere or simply trying to no longer make his health the story. Based on how aggressive the Cardinals have been at times under Jonathan Gannon, we will probably find out on Sunday, as Arizona will be doing what they can to create pressure and move Burrow off the spot. Plus, the general philosophy of Gannon is to play shell coverage on the backend, so it’ll be interesting to see if Ja’Marr Chase’s desire to push the ball vertically is tested. For the Cardinals offense, Joshua Doubs has been a steady hand at quarterback to complement James Conner behind a very good offensive line, but another factor to consider is them having just played the 49ers because of how teams often struggle the week following that matchup. So, with the Seahawks, Niners, and Bills up next on the schedule, Cincinnati is the more desperate team and should get the victory.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


PHI (4-0) @ LAR (2-2)

Sunday, October 8 | 4:05 PM ET | FOX


The Eagles have not been at their best this season, so it speaks volumes about their talent to be 4-0 as new coordinators Brian Johnson and Sean Desai put their fingerprints on each side of the ball. If there is one area of concern that might be a long-term problem for Philly’s chances of getting back to the Super Bowl, it might be the pass rush from the edge being very quiet, but perhaps Hasson Reddick will turn it on as he gets further removed from thumb surgery that impacted him last month. On the interior, Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter continue to remain disruptors in the middle, and Nakobe Dean (foot) should be back soon to provide added playmaking ability behind them with Nicholas Morrow—with 3.0 sacks last week—coming on strong at the other off-ball linebacker spot. This week, the coverage will be challenged with Matthew Stafford getting Cooper Kupp (hamstring) back to pair with rookie Puka Nacua, and there is still concern about James Bradberry manning the slot in my opinion; perhaps the signing of Bradley Roby to the practice squad will eventually get the All-Pro back on the outside, especially if Kupp goes off in his season debut.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


NYJ (1-3) @ DEN (1-3)

Sunday, October 8 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


Jets-Broncos was a matchup that was circled on the calendar when Sean Payton made some unnecessary comments about the job Nathaniel Hackett did as Denver’s head coach last year, but Aaron Rodgers (Achilles) being out and the Broncos barely avoiding an 0-4 start takes some of the appeal away. Still, each team had definite playoff expectations this season, and it is almost certainly do-or-die time with the Jets taking on the Eagles before a bye week and the Broncos facing the Chiefs twice in October. Denver is getting healthier on defense with a few key players returning to practice this week, but Zach Wilson had the passing attack moving on Sunday night, and Breece Hall is set to play without limitations against a unit that is—by far—allowing the most yards per game (461.5) in the league. One major consideration is Russell Wilson often playing well against Robert Saleh’s defense when he was with San Francisco, but the combination of Wilson’s rising confidence and extra motivation from Payton’s comments gives the edge to New York.


Winner: New York Jets


KC (3-1) @ MIN (1-3)

Sunday, October 8 | 4:25 PM ET | CBS


It went overlooked because of other headlining performances last week, but Harrison Smith had a monster game to lead the win over Carolina—recording 14 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and a forced fumble that was returned for a go-ahead touchdown. Brian Flores turning up the pressure was possible because the Vikings didn’t have any fear about the passing attack of the Panthers, but Kansas City will be a different story, and Minnesota has the potential to get burnt if Patrick Mahomes and his guys can connect on downfield shots. The modest spread for a 1-3 team hosting the defending Super Bowl champions is notable, though, and Kirk Cousins has the weapons to go toe-to-toe in a shootout; first-round pick Jordan Addison in particular is the name I could see stepping up alongside Justin Jefferson this week. However, coming out as the victor in a high-scoring game against Andy Reid’s squad is rare, and Mahomes is 8-0 with 320.8 passing yards per game and a 19-2 touchdown-interception ratio in dome games.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


DAL (3-1) @ SF (4-0)

Sunday, October 8 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


Cowboys-49ers is one of the most anticipated matchups of the season, but is Dallas the same level of contender with Trevon Diggs (knee) done for the year? In general, I don’t believe they’re close to as scary of an opponent without their superstar cornerback’s playmaking ability in the secondary, and Micah Parsons—dealing with a couple of minor injuries—has slowed down a bit in the past couple of weeks. At the same time, San Francisco’s offense has scored 30+ points in all four games to begin 2023, and Brock Purdy is now 11-0 in games that he’s started and finished. Outside of a surprising loss to Arizona, Dallas has also been a scoring machine with point totals of 40, 30, and 38, but Dak Prescott must take care of the ball if it turns into a higher-scoring game than the 19-12 playoff loss. To win on the road, the Cowboys may need “perfect” games from Leighton Vander Esch and Damone Clark at linebacker to prevent Christian McCaffrey from taking over.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


GB (2-2) @ LV (1-3)

Monday, October 9 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN/ABC/ESPN2


Davante Adams won’t have a Green Bay homecoming on Monday night, but he will get a shot to take on his former team—not that there is any bad blood—in what is almost a must-win game for Las Vegas. While there was hope that the Raiders would take a step forward in Year 2 under Josh McDaniels, the team has gotten almost no contributions from the rookie class, which includes No. 7 overall pick Tyree Wilson failing to generate pressure across from Maxx Crosby and quarterback Aidan O’Connell absorbing seven sacks in his first career start. I have a difficult time seeing the Silver and Black winning in primetime if Jimmy Garoppolo (concussion) isn’t back, but even then, the Las Vegas defense might not be able to stop a healthy collection of playmakers for Jordan Love. If I were a Raiders fan, I’d especially be worried about the beatable Marcus Peters trying to jump a route on Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs and getting hit by a double move; the Packers are simply in a better spot as a team and roster.


Winner: Green Bay Packers