IND (1-3) @ NE (2-2) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon
The Patriots bounced back from two losses in a row with a 38-7 victory over the previously 3-0 Dolphins last week, which probably shouldn’t have been a surprise at Foxborough. Now, they will stay home to face the 1-3 Colts—who just played 91 offensive snaps and 86 defensive snaps in an overtime loss to the Texans—on a short week, and Indy is without starting running back Marlon Mack, Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, starting tight end Jack Doyle, starting right tackle Denzelle Good, and defenders Kenny Moore II, Quincy Wilson, and Hassan Ridgeway; plus, star rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (ankle) is questionable, and left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) isn’t certain to make his season debut. Looking back at previous matchups can be pointless in some cases, but since Andrew Luck was drafted, New England is 5-0 against the Colts, including two playoffs wins and a staggering point differential of 24.6 points per game. I thought the Lions didn’t have much of a chance against the Pats a couple weeks ago, and anything can happen, but it’s hard to see Tom Brady not playing well with Julian Edelman returning and Rob Gronkowski (ankle) sounding like he’s good to go, too. Hopefully the Colts can at least keep it competitive.
Winner: New England Patriots
TEN (3-1) @ BUF (1-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Eagles-Titans might be the game of the year so far, as Tennessee overcame a 17-3 deficit behind the playmaking ability of Marcus Mariota in a 26-23 overtime victory that included three fourth-down conversions, with the highlight being a fourth-and-15 throw to Taywan Taylor. I know people still aren’t sold on Tennessee, but they’ve already beaten the defending Super Bowl champs and another “Final Four” team in Jacksonville despite injuries at quarterback, left tackle, and right tackle, so Mike Vrabel’s squad is for real in my opinion. On Sunday, the Titans’ underrated defense will be a difficult challenge for rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who has absorbed 15 sacks over his first three starts and simply doesn’t have the supporting cast—both up front and at the skill positions—to consistently move the ball. If the Bills aren’t able to play opportunistic defense and stop Derrick Henry (3.0 YPC and no touchdowns this season) from breaking out, they probably don’t have much of a chance against a confident, contending team.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
ATL (1-3) @ PIT (1-2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I never thought this October matchup would be between a couple one-win teams, but the inability to cover on the backend has been the fatal flaw for both the Falcons and Steelers through four games. Injuries have done Atlanta in more than anything, as the absence of starting safeties Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) leaves them extremely vulnerable to opposing passing attacks, and that will be a problem against Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and James Washington this weekend—especially if Ben Roethlisberger spreads the ball around instead of locking onto AB. As for Pittsburgh’s secondary, they just don’t have the personnel to hold up in a predominantly zone scheme, and it feels like this is a game that Julio Jones could completely takeover by finding the soft spots on intermediate routes all day with Calvin Ridley now demanding the attention of defenses and Devonta Freeman returning to team up with Tevin Coleman out of the backfield. In a game that could get into the 40s, it might come down to whoever gets the ball last, but I think the Falcons are a little more desperate.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
DEN (2-2) @ NYJ (1-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Jets were shutout last December against the Broncos in Denver, as Josh McCown and Bryce Petty combined to complete just eight passes for 60 yards in a 23-0 loss. New York was held to 100 total yards in that game, but the opposing offense wasn’t much better with 4.0 yards per play and 48 rushing yards on 22 attempts by starter C.J. Anderson. Things will look significantly different on Sunday, though, as the Jets will have No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold under center, while the Broncos are hoping Case Keenum can catch a spark after three straight games with zero touchdowns. I expect a low-scoring matchup between two defensive coaches/teams, so taking care of the football will be key for Darnold (five interceptions) and Keenum (six interceptions). Denver is apparently going to feed third-round pick Royce Freeman (5.0 YPC) after failing to do so on Monday night against the Chiefs with a chance to ice the game, but coaches lie all the time, and I have more faith in Todd Bowles to get his team headed in the right direction at home than I do Vance Joseph on the road.
Winner: New York Jets
JAX (3-1) @ KC (4-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
I’m not trying to be a “Negative Nelly” by any means, and Patrick Mahomes played great late in Monday night’s win over Denver, but Kansas City entered their matchup with a 4-0 record and 29+ points in each of their previous four meetings with the Broncos when Alex Smith was under center, and that was against a better defense with a lesser supporting cast. Basically, I want people to know how good Smith is/was, and Mahomes looked less than invincible in Week 4 before orchestrating two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to stay unbeaten. That said, I think the 23-year-old gunslinger is ready for the Jaguars coming to Arrowhead Stadium, and the concern for the Chiefs should be on the defensive side of the ball; against Denver, the linebackers were routinely missing with arm tackles, so Jacksonville’s offensive line might be able to set the tone to keep Mahomes off the field, which I expect will be the game plan. Tackling T.J. Yeldon is a lot easier than tackling Leonard Fournette (hamstring), though, and the home crowd will be rowdy on Sunday afternoon.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
GB (2-1-1) @ DET (1-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Lions were able to sweep Green Bay for the first time since 1991 last season, but of course, there’s the little caveat that Aaron Rodgers didn’t play in either game. Rodgers (knee) will be out there on this week, but he could be missing his top-three receivers with Davante Adams (calf), Randall Cobb (hamstring), and Geronimo Allison (concussion) all looking shaky for a matchup against the league’s second-best pass defense, which means rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J’Mon Moore, and Equanimeous St. Brown—none of which are names from Key & Peele—may need to step into significant roles. The Lions weren’t able to carry the momentum of their huge SNF victory over the Patriots into a win last week against Dallas, and that was largely due to their inability to stop the run or commit to Kerryon Johnson (nine carries) to establish the run themselves. If you told me Johnson was assured of handling 18-20 touches, I would pick the Lions; but that’s not the case, so Green Bay’s emerging defense gets the edge with the rookie cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson hopefully having more luck against Marvin Jones (101.4 YPG in five matchups), Golden Tate (seven receptions and 100+ yards in both games last season), and Kenny Golladay (80 yards and a touchdown in only matchup) than in previous years.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
BAL (3-1) @ CLE (1-2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Baltimore gets top cornerback Jimmy Smith back from a four-game suspension this week, and he bolsters what already was an elite secondary with Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr, and Tavon Young holding down the fort over the first month of the season. Being at home will help, but Baker Mayfield gets a very formidable opponent for his first career start in front of the Dawg Pound, and the Ravens aren’t going to overlook a rookie after defensive coordinator “Wink” Martindale called Mayfield “this generation’s Brett Favre or John Elway,” continuing, “this guy knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he’s very accurate.” On Sunday, the No. 1 overall pick will probably have to make some tight-window throws—a slight concern for him coming out of the Big 12—but at least Baltimore’s pass rush hasn’t gotten going so far this year, which could afford Baker the time he needs to find his playmakers. It will be a fun first of many matchups between Mayfield and the always-stout Ravens, and I’m taking defense to win out in Week 6.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
NYG (1-3) @ CAR (2-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The last time the Panthers faced the Giants, Cam Newton had arguably the best performance of his career with 340 yards and five touchdowns through the air, also adding eight carries for 100 yards on the ground in a 38-35 victory. That happened to be the Josh Norman v. Odell Beckham Jr. game, but tempers should be held in check this weekend with even-keeled running backs Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey installed as the new offensive centerpieces for New York and Carolina, respectively. A meltdown for OBJ on the sideline wouldn’t be shocking, though, as the superstar wideout has had a perpetual look of frustration on his face for a lack of targets and/or touchdowns (zero) through four games. And while I obviously have no inside information, I’m pretty sure that “Twitter talk” about Eli Manning not being capable of getting Beckham the ball is helping fuel the fire of the 25-year-old’s discontent. Winning—or perhaps in Beckham’s case: numbers—would be a cure, but I think this is a really good spot for both Cam and McCaffrey to produce against a Giants defense that lacks juice. I’m taking Carolina off the bye.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
MIA (3-1) @ CIN (3-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
I don’t think a 38-7 loss in New England last week will end up being a season-killer for Miami, but they need to rebound quickly with four games in 19 days, starting with a matchup against the explosive Bengals. I think whoever runs the ball better will come out on top this weekend, and it’s good news for Cincinnati to get rising superstar Joe Mixon back as they look to build a lead in the AFC North. On the other side of the field, the Dolphins haven’t shown the willingness to feed Kenyan Drake, who has combined for a ridiculous eight carries over the past two games, and until that gets corrected, they probably need to play stingy defense, including this week with shutdown boundary corner Xavien Howard expected to shadow A.J. Green. However, I’m not sure Miami has the run-stuffers inside to contain Mixon, and Tyler Boyd has turned into a capable No. 2 receiver, which could be a problem for the Dolphins.
Winner: Cincinnati Bengals
OAK (1-3) @ LAC (2-2) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
Since 2014, the Raiders and Chargers have had some great battles, as before last year’s 30-10 blowout victory for Los Angeles in the season finale, the previous seven matchups were all one-possession games. This weekend, I’m anticipating another close game between two teams that haven’t started particularly fast, but still believe they can win a lot of football games and potentially compete for a playoff spot. Perhaps an unlikely comeback win over the Browns will give Derek Carr (seven interceptions) confidence as he works to cut down on the turnovers, because the overall offense is there (No. 2 in yards per game) with Jon Gruden calling the shots. In general, the Raiders have done an excellent job creating a weekly game plan on both sides of the ball so far—despite what the jealous analysts on social media believe—but it will be tough to stop Philip Rivers with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Melvin Gordon combined with the great role players for LA. Still, I think Oakland is going to get right back into contention before a couple home games sandwiching a bye for the rest of October.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
ARI (0-4) @ SF (1-3) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Led by backup quarterback C.J. Beathard, the 49ers were nearly able to pull off a road upset against the Chargers last Sunday, and I think the team at least showed that they aren’t ready to give up hope with Jimmy Garoppolo (knee) done for the year. At the same time, Arizona was losing on a last-second field goal to the Seahawks in Week 4, and it was a demoralizing defeat after they missed their own opportunity at a game-winner just moments earlier. Josh Rosen showed flashes of the accuracy that made many believe he was the most pro-ready prospect in the 2018 quarterback class, but he isn’t always going to have a clean pocket like he did against Seattle, and San Francisco has the talent up front to make the UCLA product’s first road start one to forget behind a sub-par offensive line. If the Cardinals are unable to get a win this month (@ SF, @ MIN, v DEN, v SF), I think they will be on 0-16 watch due to a difficult second-half schedule.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
MIN (1-2-1) @ PHI (2-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Was last year’s NFC Championship Game a burn-the-tape showing for Minnesota? Maybe, and both teams will obviously have a different quarterback under center in the rematch, but I think this is just a good matchup for the Eagles, particularly at home. Including their 38-7 playoff loss, the Vikings have allowed 311 passing yards per game over their past five outings, and you wouldn’t know that they had two All-Pro defenders in the secondary if you just watched the group play as a whole. Carson Wentz should be more than ready to attack a sudden weakness after 50 pass attempts to knock the rust off against Tennessee, and he might have a chip on his shoulder more than Minnesota does because he wasn’t out there to lead the shellacking in January. Defensively, the Birds will probably be facing a team that doesn’t have Dalvin Cook (hamstring), but the Vikings have decided to attack teams through the air anyway, and Kirk Cousins—despite previous success against his former division rival—might not have time to find Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs if Philadelphia finally gets the pass rush going at home like I assume they will.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
LAR (4-0) @ SEA (2-2) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Excluding playoff games, I think what Jared Goff did last Thursday night was the best quarterback performance I have ever seen, as the numbers—465 yards and five touchdowns with a perfect quarterback rating (158.3)—were arguably surpassed by his actual play. The throw rolling to his right that he dropped perfectly to Cooper Kupp in the corner of the end zone was simply unbelievable, and there’s no telling what Goff will have in store heading into a matchup with the Seahawks sans Earl Thomas. Even at home, the odds are stacked heavily against Seattle, but if they want to win, they need to establish the running game, throw out multiple defensive looks, and pull out every trick in the book—whether it be on offense, defense or special teams. Beyond that, it will be up to Russell Wilson to make plays as a passer and runner with the fans chipping in to create an unforgiving environment.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
DAL (2-2) @ HOU (1-3) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
The Sunday and Monday night games are probably the biggest toss ups of the week for me, but when in doubt, I think it’s wise to go with the team that has better players in the trenches. The Cowboys offensive line against the Texans defensive front is probably a push or a slight edge to Houston, but the Dallas defensive line—a group that gets 25-year-old standout David Irving back from suspension [NOTE: Irving is now not playing in the game.]—has game-wrecking potential against the banged-up, bottom-barrel offensive line of the Texans. Plus, Deshaun Watson could be without Will Fuller (hamstring) and rookie slot receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring), leading to plenty of attention for DeAndre Hopkins, who is also listed on the injury report with three injuries (thumb/ankle/hamstring). And while Dak Prescott gets heat for whatever reason, he’s going to take care of the ball, and that might be enough to get another close victory and potentially claim first place in the NFC East, if only for a day.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
WAS (2-1) @ NO (3-1) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
History will be within reach on Monday Night Football, as Drew Brees needs 201 yards to break Peyton Manning’s all-time record for passing yards in a career (71,940), and it’s only right that it happens in New Orleans. He’s been a definite stat-compiler with Sean Payton, but Brees is still one of the more underappreciated players in recent memory, and even in his age-39 season, the future Hall of Famer is as feared as anyone due to his accuracy and intelligence. The story is really the complete opposite for Alex Smith (in terms of statistics, not accuracy/intelligence), as he isn’t setting any records, but he’s won games everywhere he’s been, and that’s continuing so far in Washington. Smith is likely going to need to pass the ball more against a defense that’s allowing the most yards per attempt in the league but the fewest yards per rush, so this could be a Chris Thompson game with Adrian Peterson (ankle) possibly hobbled against his former team. It’s risky picking against Brees in New Orleans on what should be a historic night, but the extended bye week has me leaning towards the Redskins.
Winner: Washington Redskins
Last week: 8-7 /// Overall: 28-35
Recommended picks last week: 4-1 /// Overall: 13-7
Colts @ Patriots (-10.5)
Titans (-3) @ Bills
Falcons (+3) @ Steelers
Broncos @ Jets (-1)
Jaguars @ Chiefs (-1)
Packers (-1.5) @ Lions
Ravens (-3) @ Browns
Giants @ Panthers (-7)
Dolphins @ Bengals (-6)
Raiders (+5.5) @ Chargers
Cardinals @ 49ers (-4)
Vikings @ Eagles (-3)
Rams (-7) @ Seahawks
Cowboys (+3.5) @ Texans
Redskins (+6.5) @ Saints
For access to recommended picks and much more, get Fantasy Consigliere… It’s an offer you can’t refuse.