I know Jameis Winston is still getting comfortable in the NFL, but I didn’t realize how far behind he was on the learning curve. While the Buccaneers’ 34-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers proved to be my only incorrect prediction from last week’s column, I can assure you I won’t be picking Tampa Bay for the rest of the season. Ignoring that mishap, let’s dive into five of the best games Week 5 has to offer.
Week 4 Record: 4-1-0
Season Record: 13-7-0
Cleveland Browns at BALTIMORE RAVENS (-6.5)
Even though it’s only Week 5, the loser of this AFC North game will drop to 1-4 and be eliminated from the playoff discussion. After a miraculous win over the Steelers, Baltimore’s Week 4 MVP was certainly Pittsburgh kicker Josh Scobee. The Browns almost pulled an upset win over the San Diego Chargers last week and have to be feeling confident knowing they can hang with some of the better AFC teams. However, they haven’t kept a game at M&T Bank Stadium within seven points since 2011. I expect that trend to continue this week.
Prediction: CLE (13) – BAL (20)
Seattle Seahawks at CINCINNATI BENGALS (-3)
This is the kind of game that seems too good to be true, with the option to take Seattle getting three points. But unless the Seahawks signed an entirely new offensive line, the Bengals defense is going to have a field day against Russell Wilson. With Marshawn Lynch likely to miss another game, Thomas Rawls’ performance against the Lions was a strong reminder of just how valuable ‘Beast Mode’ is. Cincinnati’s well-balanced attack will be too much for the Seahawks to handle, as the Bengals improve to 5-0 and make a statement in the process.
Prediction: SEA (17) – CIN (27)
Arizona Cardinals at DETROIT LIONS (+2.5)
Both teams are coming off tough losses, but the Lions certainly have more to lose heading into this game. While the Cardinals should have protected home field and beaten the St. Louis Rams, the Lions got the short end of the stick in their Monday Night Football game against the Seattle Seahawks. Detroit is still winless on the season, and an 0-5 start would guarantee some serious personnel changes. In this game though, Matthew Stafford will only throw two passes to the Cardinals defense, and Calvin Johnson will wait to fumble the ball after he crosses the goal line. Despite how well the Cardinals are playing, the Lions get their first win of the season.
Prediction: ARI (23) – DET (24)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-8.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are coming off their bye, meaning they have had two weeks to study tape of Brandon Weeden and the new-look Cowboys offense. That tape couldn’t have been pretty, and I’m sure Belichick saw everything he needed to within 20 minutes. Weeden isn’t a starting caliber player, and based on the past two weeks, neither is half of the Cowboys defense. The Patriots have their way with the Cowboys, and Matt Cassell takes over for Weeden at halftime. This one won’t be pretty.
Prediction: NE (38) – DAL (13)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (+6.5) at New York Giants
I mean, there’s no way things can get much worse for the 49ers, right? But after consecutive 25-point blowouts, only allowing 17 points to the Packers’ high-octane offense had to feel like a moral victory for the defense. Now facing a much less dynamic Giants squad, I expect the 49ers defense to keep them in the game. The Giants are coming off an impressive road win over the Buffalo Bills, and with a Week 6 date against the Philadelphia Eagles looming, this match-up has trap game written all over it. Colin Kaepernick finally shows some NFL quarterback-like ability, helping lead his team to a close loss.
Prediction: SF (20) – NYG (24)