By Brien O’Donal
Follow me on Twitter @ODonalsVanguard
Another week, another set of problems. This time it’s the players that shake things up. Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson, Derek Carr, Ty Montgomery, Devante Adams, Marcus Mariota all went down with some sort of injury. Some are lost for the season, some for a few weeks and some for less. All will have an impact on how picks are made this week and into the future. I want to think that some of these teams will be able to survive but I have to be real and understand that it won’t go that way. You always hate to see a promising team’s season ruined by one bad injury. You also have to hope that some of those injuries don’t dampen the player’s future careers.
But on to the topic at hand; picking winners. I went 11-5 last week, getting burned by wins from the Panthers, Bills, and Rams. I didn’t see those coming but as the season goes on the strengths of some teams will become clearer and maybe I will get a better win percentage. For now, here are my picks for week 5.
Bye week: Falcons, Broncos, Saints, Redskins
Patriots (2-2) at Buccaneers (2-1)-Thursday 7:25 p.m. CT; CBS, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
An interesting game to start the week. I’m not really sure what I think about these teams anymore. The Patriots defense seems to be struggling lately. I didn’t think the Panthers had enough offense to beat them and it makes 2 weeks in a row they allowed 30 or more points. Brady has also been sacked a lot this season making it difficult for him to work. As for the Buccaneers, they just haven’t really found their stride yet. The defense, which looked to be improved this year, hasn’t really been able to get after the quarterback and has only done just enough to get their 2 wins. Jameis Winston got more weapons to throw to in the offseason but there hasn’t been a huge aerial show displayed in their first 3 games, something I think might change this week. I’m still a Brady believer so I will go ahead and make the Pats for another win.
Jets (2-2) at Browns (0-4)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
The Jets are starting to surprise some folks. McCown has been doing his thing and they are starting to put some things together. I still don’t think they’re an above average team, but with a last place schedule they look like they can be 50/50 against other last place teams and maybe only slightly less against teams struggling this year. The Browns apparently haven’t improved like expected this year. Their offense is anemic their defense is still lacking any punch. It looks like the first overall pick in the draft Myles Garrett will be playing his first game of the season and that may help, but I just don’t know if it will be enough. I’m going to give the Jets a slight edge based solely on the momentum they’ve built, I think they win a close one.
Panthers (3-1) at Lions (3-1)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
The Panthers offense came to life last week in New England and put 33 points on the board. I’d like to think they can do it again but I’m not sure. The Patriots defense is looking pretty weak. Maybe Cam Newton is back, maybe they can do the same against the Lions. I doubt it. The Lions just won a game where they only put 14 points on the board. But the Vikings do have a good defense. I wasn’t high on the Lions jumping out of the gate like they have so I have to temper their record with my initial assumptions. When I first saw the slate of games I put the Lions down for a win and walked away. But the more I think about it; I want to go with the Panthers.
49ers (0-4) at Colts (1-3)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
This seems like another trap game for me. The Colts won a game I didn’t think they would, and the 49ers are still bad but looking better each week. These are two bad teams facing off in controlled conditions. It’s the Colts home field but I still don’t have any faith in them. I picker the Niners last week and they almost came through for me so I’m going to dip back into that well again. I’m picking the great Brian Hoyer to lead the charge for the first 49ers win.
Titans (2-2) at Dolphins (1-2)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
The potential of Mariota being out looms large over this game. Matt Cassel didn’t look good coming into the game last week so I’m not confident he will be able to handle more time in week 5. They still have a solid running game and can win by controlling the clock because the Dolphins look like a mess. I had such high hopes for them to be competitive but after 3 games I can’t make heads or tails of what they’re doing. I think they are weak on both sides of the ball and even without Mariota the Titans can probably pull out a victory.
Bills (3-1) at Bengals (1-3)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Two teams in the opposite position from where they were expected to be prior to the season. The Bills upset the Broncos and the Falcons in the last 2 weeks and now look to face a team scraping to get their season back. The Bengals got their first win last week by blowing out the Browns, and maybe that’s what they needed. They have potential but I feel the need to ride a hot hand and pick the Bills to win on the road.
Chargers (0-4) at Giants (0-4)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Yeah, not too interested in watching this one. These must bee the two teams that just can’t get anything to work this year. Both teams have franchise quarterbacks, and a good wide receiving corps. The Chargers have a good running back too. I think offensive line is a big concern but there are other issues at play. Most of which are simply underperformance. If I have to pick a team to win I’m going to pick the Chargers.
Jaguars (2-2) at Steelers (3-1)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Well, looks like the Jaguars are turning back into a pumpkin again and just in time to face the Steelers. Their defense may still be good but Antonio Brown and the rest of the Pittsburgh offense should be able to move the ball just fine. I think Blake Bortles is turning back into what we all know he is and will turn the ball over enough to lose the game for his team. Maybe this is the game that forces Chad Henne into more playing time.
Cardinals (2-2) at Eagles (3-1)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Cardinals snuck away with an overtime win last week when they probably shouldn’t have. Good for them. It would be hard for them to swallow if they don’t get enough wins to stay out of 1st overall pick contention. They might have to keep stealing wins to do that because they just don’t look like a fierce team. The Eagles are a team on the rise though and the NFC East could be theirs for the taking if they keep it up. I think this is another week for them to keep their spot atop the division and keep the Cardinals fighting to crawl out from the cellar of theirs.
Seahawks (2-2) at Rams (3-1)- Sunday 3:05 p.m. CT; CBS
The Seahawks got a win against a lowly Colts last week but there’s nothing to be patted on the back about when you do what you’re supposed to do. In the process they lost their best running back and now have to go on the road to a place where they haven’t been super successful in the past. The Rams are on the rise this year. I don’t know how high they can go, but a home divisional game early might help their cause. Jared Goff is really finding a groove and Todd Gurley is tearing it up on the ground. Wade Philips is doing what he does best when he starts with a new team and I am picking them to win at home this week.
Ravens (2-2) at Raiders (2-2)- Sunday 3:05 p.m. CT; CBS
Another Derek Carr injury may ruin the Raiders season again. Word is, he will be out for several weeks with a fractured spine. Without him they are doomed. E.J. Manuel is not the answer and with their receivers struggling I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for them. The Ravens have just flat out looked bad on offense and their defense has begun to struggle under the weight of the team they are trying to carry on their backs. But hey, they come into Oakland with a team that will have to try and find a new identity in week 5 and I’m picking them to walk out with a wun they desperately need.
Packers (3-1) at Cowboys (2-2)- Sunday 3:25 p.m. CT; Fox
This is a game I’ve been looking forward to all year. The Packers and the Cowboys are ready to duke it out again. The Cowboys don’t look the same as they did last year and the Packers now have a glut of injuries to worry about. I think this will be a good game and I will be enjoying another family BBQ to watch it. I’m picking Aaron Rodgers to utilize all the tools he has available to pull out a tough win on the road.
Chiefs (4-0) at Texans (2-2)- Sunday 7:30 p.m. CT; NBC
And here’s the big game in Houston. The best team in the league is coming in for a Sunday night matchup against the local team coming off a big divisional win. I was talking extensively about this game at the office the other day and I will convey my same sentiments here. Andy Reid is better than Bill O’Brien. The Chiefs have the speed that will be necessary to get just a few more chunk plays than the Texans and win with a few extra field goals. I like these defenses to keep the touchdowns low and those extra kicks will be the difference. I’m taking the Chiefs to burst the Texans bubble.
Vikings (2-2) at Bears (1-3)- Monday 7:30 p.m. CT; ESPN
The Trubisky show arrives Monday night and Soldier Field will be electric. Hopefully they can make some noise on offense and put on a good show against a stout Vikings defense. Sam Bradford could be back but even if Case Keenum is the starter again I think he could pull off another win. The loss of Dalvin Cook will be huge but facing the Bears can help them ease into the Latavius Murray backfield. I’m picking the Vikings to win on the road.