Falcons at Saints, Thursday, 8:25PM
Summary: We thought the NFC South would be one of the weakest divisions in football, but the undefeated Falcons are one of the biggest surprises of this season. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and breakout star Devonta Freeman have the Falcons with Super Bowl aspirations, but Drew Brees and the Saints are always a tough opponent.
Key Matchup: Saints offensive line vs the Falcons pass rush. If the Saints want to have a shot at winning this, they need to keep Brees upright and give him time to work through his progressions. Rookie pass rusher Vic Beasley is fast and dangerous and he might be the difference maker in this game.
The Pick: Falcons. They’re just operating at a different level than anyone else in the division and their schedule doesn’t get much harder from here on our.
Bengals at Bills, Sunday, 1:00PM
Summary: Another surprise, the Bengals are undefeated so far after knocking off the Seahawks last week in a come from behind victory. The Bills, however, are dealing with major injury issues and quarterback Tyrod Taylor looks doubtful for the game. Not a good sign against a very, very dangerous Bengals pass rush.
Key Matchup: Bills offensive line vs the Bengals pass rush. Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson must be licking their chops at this matchup. Backup quarterback and a shaky offensive line versus this pass rush? This might get ugly.
The Pick: Bengals. If the Bills didn’t have so many injuries, this might be a different game. But for now, the Bengals should win this one easily.
Broncos at Browns, 1:00PM
Summary: The Browns might not be the team we thought they were. While Josh McCown isn’t the quarterback of the future, he is operating at a very high level and the Browns are suddenly feisty. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning is winding down, but the Broncos defense is the best in the league for a reason: they’re damn good.
Key Matchup: Joe Haden vs Demaryius Thomas. Peyton Manning is going to be looking for his favorite target all day long, and Haden can give the Browns a fighting chance by locking Thomas down. If he struggles, which he has this year; the Broncos might not even need their defense for this game.
The Pick: Broncos. Quarterback advantage? Broncos. Receiver advantage? Broncos. Defensive advantage? Broncos. No question here.
Bears at Lions, 1:00PM
Summary: A matchup between two of the worst teams in the league. The Bears have won two in a row, but the front office seems intent on gutting this team from the inside out. Meanwhile, Matt Stafford got benched in an ugly loss last week. A new quarterback might be in their future.
Key Matchup: Matt Forte vs the Lions defensive front. The Lions suffered a huge blow this week when star linebacker DeAndre Levy was sidelined with a hip injury. That’ll require surgery, which is bad when the defensive front is going against a running back like Matt Forte. They need to step their game up.
The Pick: Bears. Stafford was benched, Megatron isn’t the guy he used to be and the Lions defensive is taking a huge step back this year. They’re in the drivers seat for the #1 pick in the draft.
Texans at Jaguars, 1:00PM
Summary: The Texans are 1-4, but have been somewhat competitive in each of their matchups. They have absolutely no idea who their quarterback is however. The Jags think they have something in Blake Bortles, but he’s not impressed so far in his career. They have a nice collection of young talent and need them to come together if they want to turn their season around.
Key Matchup: Jadeveon Clowney vs Luke Joeckel. J.J. Watt is going to get double-teamed all day long. That will leave Clowney with a lot of favorable matchups. He hasn’t lived up to the hype of the #1 overall pick so far, but could have a huge game against left tackle Luke Joeckel, who is terrible.
The Pick: Texans. The saying goes: “when you have two quarterbacks, you have none” but Hoyer and Mallett are each better than Bortles. Look for Nuke Hopkins to have a huge game against this weak Jaguars secondary.
Chiefs at Vikings, 1:00PM
Summary: The Chiefs have lost four straight and just lost Jamaal Charles for the season with an ACL tear. Meanwhile, the Vikings and Teddy Bridgewater might be one of the most underrated teams this season. Adrian Peterson is back and running all over people and the Vikings defense is full of young, talented players.
Key Matchup: Mike Wallace vs Marcus Peters. Marcus Peters has been playing very well for a rookie cornerback, but has given up the most touchdowns out of all the rookies so far. He’ll have a tough matchup this week in the speedy Wallace, who hasn’t lived up to the hype so far in Minnesota.
The Pick: Vikings. Jamaal Charles was their entire offense and Alex Smith isn’t a good enough player to pick up the slack. Teddy Bridgewater is a very talented player and might be on the verge of a breakout game.
Dolphins at Titans, 1:00PM
Summary: Joe Philbin got the boot in Miami, a team that had playoff hopes in the preseason. There are locker room rumors surrounding Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins don’t look like the team we thought they would. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota has been playing at a very high level for the Titans and he has been on of the biggest surprises so far in the NFL.
Key Matchup: Dolphins secondary vs the Titans receivers. The key to Mariota’s success has been the Titans ability to scheme their wide receivers open, similar to how Oregon’s staff did it. If the Dolphins want to make Mariota uncomfortable, they need to blanket the receivers, not give up the underneath stuff, and make Mariota make plays with his arm.
The Pick: Titans. Teams with an interim head coach typically haven’t performed well. The Titans have lost three straight, but had a bye week to prepare for this game.
Redskins at Jets, 1:00PM
Summary: The Jets are… 3-1? What? How did that happen? Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a great quarterback by any stretch of the imagination, but he has been a game manager and the Jets have one of the best defenses in the league. Meanwhile, the Redskins can’t seem to decide if they want to rebuild or contend this year. This might be the biggest battle of game managers ever with Kirk Cousins still manning the Redskins.
Key Matchup: Redskins receivers vs the Jets secondary. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are lock down corners and will make life very, very difficult for Kirk Cousins. They have a good running game, but the Redskins can’t afford to get one-dimensional.
The Pick: Jets. The Jets are actually… good? This makes no sense.
Cardinals at Steelers, 1:00PM
Summary: The Steelers had a crazy, last second win last week thanks to Le’Veon Bell and Mike Vick. They’re still without Big Ben, but Vick has been a nice backup so far and the Steelers are banking on him and Bell continuing their success. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are one of the best teams in the league thanks to the newfound youth of Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald.
Key Matchup: Le’Veon Bell vs the Cardinals run defense. The Cards are only allowing 97.2 rush yards per game, but face the league’s best back this week. If Bell gets going, it limits the amount on Vick’s plate and makes the Steelers very difficult to stop.
The Pick: Cardinals. This game will be close, but the Cardinals will hold out for another victory. It’s always difficult to pick against Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but the Cards are a much more balanced team.
Panthers at Seahawks, 4:05PM
Summary: Who would have thought that the Seahawks would be 2-3 and the Panthers would be 4-0 heading into this game? Seattle has struggled this year on both sides of the ball. Marshawn Lynch will play in his game, but the Panthers get back all-world linebacker Luke Kuechly for this game to counter this.
Key Matchup: Seahawks run game vs the Panthers run defense. Lynch is dynamic when healthy, which he hasn’t been this season. Meanwhile, Kuechly’s return means so much for this Panthers defense. Whoever wins this matchup will win the game.
The Pick: Panthers. Russell Wilson is still good, but Seattle’s offensive line has been terrible and the Panthers run defense will stop Lynch from having a monster game. Cam Newton won’t be asked to do much on offense, but all he needs to do it limit the turnovers to win this game.
Ravens at 49ers, 4:25PM
Summary: This matchup of two 1-4 teams might get ugly. On one hand, the Ravens have struggled on defense due to injuries. However, Colin Kaepernick is not the same quarterback he was a few years back and the 49ers have nothing on offense either.
Key Matchup: Joe Flacco vs the 49ers secondary. Flacco is clearly the better quarterback in this matchup and the 49ers boast one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Limit the turnovers through the air, and Flacco might have a huge game.
The Pick: Ravens. When in doubt, pick the team with the better quarterback. The 49ers are on their way to a Top 5 pick in the draft.
Chargers at Packers, 4:25PM
Summary: The Packers have been rolling despite Aaron Rodgers finally snapping his streak of home games without an interception that had lasted since Rome was the world’s greatest power. He is the best quarterback in the game but Phillip Rivers on the other side is still not getting the credit he deserves. They lost on the last second to the Steelers, but Rivers is still one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
Key Matchup: Melvin Gordon vs the Packers run defense. The Packers have, surprisingly, one of the league’s worst run defenses. Gordon is still a rookie, but he needs to do more to relieve some pressure from Rivers. If the Chargers get more balanced on offense, they have a shot.
The Pick: Packers. Rodgers might be throwing picks at home now, but he is also throwing touchdowns. The Packers have Super Bowl sights and are certainly rolling through their schedule.
Patriots at Colts, 8:30PM
Summary: DEFLATEGATE REMATCH! The first game since the infamous Deflategate scandal, the two teams have clearly been trending in opposite directions. The Pats are the defending Super Bowl champs and are undefeated. Meanwhile, the Colts are 3-2 but Andrew Luck is questionable for this game. That means aging veteran Matt Hasselbeck might start his third consecutive game for the Colts.
Key Matchup: Rob Gronkowski vs the football. Gronk is known for his epic spiking of the football when he scores. This could pose problems for the PSI level of the football, as there is a chance some air is released when he spikes it with such force. The football’s ability to stand up to the spiking will be a key matchup in this game.
The Pick: Patriots. Luck out? No question here.
Giants at Eagles, Monday, 8:30PM
Summary: The Eagles have struggled all year, but regained their footing with a win over the Saints. The offense is terrible, but maybe things will get better with time. The Giants, on the other hand, are on a three game winning streak, mainly due to the improved play of Eli Manning and the passing game.
Key Matchup: Odell Beckham Jr vs Byron Maxwell. OBJ hasn’t been phenomenal this year, but is still a very dangerous receiver. Meanwhile, Maxwell has struggled this year and is liable to give up yards due to penalties as well.
The Pick: Giants. Manning and the Giants have a chance to run away with the NFC East here. The Cowboys are suffering from injuries, the Redskins have a backup at quarterback and the Eagles have yet to find their identity.
BYE: Cowboys, Raiders, Rams, Buccaneers