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NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions
By Massimo Russo: Co-Editor Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

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Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, NFLIndianapolis’ Andrew Luck and Seattle’s Russell Wilson will air it out this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, two quarterbacks in their second season playing the position like veterans, guiding their teams into the realm of contenders

Week 5
Thursday Night Football, October 3 8:25 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
Buffalo Bills 2-2 @ Cleveland Browns 2-2

With all the attention circulating around Buffalo’s rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and Cleveland’s backup quarterback Brian Hoyer’s solid play taking over for the injured Brandon Weeden (Thumb), quietly, both defenses are generating pressure upfront, 27-sacks combined with Cleveland leading by a slim margin 14 to 13. Buffalo has more takeaways, highlighted by 9-interceptions, 5 last week in their win over defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore. Weeden has been cleared to play, but head coach Rob Chudzinski is staying with the hot hand of Hoyer connecting big with tight end Jordan Cameron. Hoyer and Cameron have connected 4 times in the endzone, a differential to Weeden’s 1 with Cameron in their first two games. Having a tight end that can create miss-matches in the middle helps open up the outside, and Hoyer has that going for him with a young talented receiver Josh Gordon. Here’s an interesting factor that Cleveland’s offensive coordinator Norv Turner has to be delighted with: Hoyer’s timing has been better than Weeden’s by holding onto the ball 1.5 seconds quicker, and with an average of 2.8 seconds, the shortest time by any quarterback this season. If you know your history, Turner had lots of influence on Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman’s career on being one of the better timing-passers with accuracy of getting rid of the football quick. But, hold your horses, I’m not jumping the gun here people by saying the Browns have found the next Aikman-like QB, but he’ll need to get rid of the football quick with Buffalo’s Mario Williams rushing him on the outside, and I think he does.
Pick: Browns 26, Bills 19
Final Score: Browns (3-2) 37, Bills (2-3) 24

Sunday, October 6
1:00 PM ET
New Orleans Saints 4-0 @ Chicago Bears 3-1 – TV: FOX

Although Chicago’s defense has a nag of creating turnovers at a high percentage, the defensive line needs to start getting after the quarterback better, and they get one of the league’s most efficient quarterback’s, New Orleans’ Drew Brees in chi-town this weekend. It’s extremely difficult to throw a quarterback like Brees into an off-timing game because he gets rid of the football so quick, and his receivers are absolute dynamite route-runners in-tuned with Brees hitting them between the numbers. The more important factor for New Orleans’ offense is having a healthy Jimmy Graham at tight end, a nightmare for defenses to keep him from getting singled up on favorable matchups. Chicago will also have to keep running back Darren Sproles, a dangerous speedy back that’s a weapon for Brees out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. Offensively, the Bears need running back Matt Forte to set the tone by gaining positive yards on first down against an improved Saints defense that’s getting after the quarterback under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s manufacturing pressure ways of his 3-4 scheme. The weather could be a factor with thundershowers in the forecast that could slow down the speedy route-runners of New Orleans. Can I be going with a field-conditioning factor and a running back like Matt Forte to be effective out of the backfield on screens over a blitz-happy Rob Ryan defense? And even though Detroit disconnected line between Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler, I’m still on speed-dial.
Pick: Bears 27, Saints 24

New England Patriots 4-0 @ Cincinnati Bengals 2-2 – TV: CBS

Even though the Bengals offense is coming off a putrid performance in Cleveland, you can’t expect the same results to follow. One thing’s for sure with Cincinnati’s offense at running back. The wheels seem to be falling off of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and being put on the feet of rookie running back Giovani Bernard, a shifty runner that is more effective with his ability to be a threat out of the backfield as a receiving option for quarterback Andy Dalton. They need better production from their running game in this contest that’s only averaging 3.4-yards per attempt, and they could catch a break with New England’s All-Pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (Achilles) done for the season. That’s a major part of the Patriots D-line that clogs the middle, helping the defense stop the run on the interior, and getting a push up the middle to free up the outside rush. Expect a change in defensive plans from a master-minded coach like Bill Belichick to cover the A and B gaps with Wilfork out the rest of the way by using more rotations on the line and leaning more in the avenue of manufacturing pressure up the middle on Andy Dalton, a quarterback that doesn’t fare well under immense-pressure. The moral of the story is how the Bengals stout D-line pressures Tom Brady, who’s starting to find a rhythm with his new receiving bunch. Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s (Back) status is still cloudy on his return, but receiver Danny Amendola (Groin) has been practicing this week and seems to be moving well. The more the merrier if Amendola plays, and when Gronkowski returns to the lineup. I like Cincinnati’s chances to rebound at home, but they’ll need to create turnovers like they did against Green Bay in week 3. I don’t see them doing that against a disciplined offense that’s starting to put everything in place.
Pick: Patriots 34, Bengals 31

Detroit Lions 3-1 @ Green Bay Packers 1-2 – TV: FOX
Detroit’s success so far has been pin-pointed on Reggie Bush’s influence at running back. Not surprising seeing Reggie doing big-things in a high-powered passing system capable of making big-pays with the best receiver in the game, Calvin Johnson catching footballs from quarterback Matthew Stafford. The success should be more looked upon the pressure they’re providing upfront on defense with Ndamukong Suh, who had 2-sacks in their win over the Bears to gain sole possession of first place in the NFC North. The pressure they got from Suh and gang forced Bears quarterback Jay Cutler into costly mistakes with 3-interceptions and a fumble return for a touchdown. This week, they’ll have to continue to provide pressure in “Cheese-Head Land” trying to get after the games most dangerous passer when it comes to getting rid of the football quick, and getting it in tight spaces better than any quarterback in the game, Aaron Rodgers. The Packers running game has quietly been getting better results than perceived. As a group they’re averaging 5.3-yards per carry between James Starks, who’s doing most of the work, providing a spark, and rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. Outside of those factors, looking into history, the Packers are 22-0 against the Lions in their house since 1991, and with Green Bay facing a 1-3 start, I expect a highly-energized Clay Matthews to ignite Green Bay’s defense to create turnovers and take advantage of them.
Pick: Packers 34, Lions 24

Kansas City Chiefs 4-0 @ Tennessee Titans 3-1 – TV: CBS
We have a battle between both defenses amongst the top of the league in sacks, Kansas City’s league leading 18-sacks against Tennessee’s 14. Difference is; Kanas City’s offense will be operated by their starting quarterback Alex Smith, while the Titans will have backup Ryan Fitzpatrick under center for the injured Jake Locker who’s nursing his hip. Make no mistake, the Titans will need a breakout game from running back Chris Johnson to keep the non-mobile Fitzpatrick out of lots of passing downs. If Kansas City’s defense limits Johnson from making big plays on the ground, they’ll have a huge advantage behind their dynamite pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Tennessee defensive end Derrick Morgan may not be a statistical factor, but he plays with a high-motor each week, and he’ll need to get to Alex Smith, a quarterback that’s playing well within the west-coast offense, utilizing his backs, tight ends and his bread and butter third down option Donnie Avery. In the coming weeks, Kansas City needs to make bigger plays within the passing game by stretching the field more, vertically. But, for this matchup, they just need to keep it simple and short, moving the football methodically with a slew of positive yardage, inch by inch.
Pick: Chiefs 20, Titans 13

Seattle Seahawks 4-0 @ Indianapolis Colts 3-1 – TV: FOX
What a great storyline in Indy for this matchup. You have Andrew Luck, a 2012 number one draft pick and Russell Wilson, a third round pick, two young and talented quarterbacks gaining lots of success in the early stages of their careers. Luck was more of the sure hand of future stars to quarterback in the pros, while Wilson’s small-frame was questioned on if he had the tools to succeed. Both of these young-slingers have something going for them heading into this game. Seattle and Indianapolis’ running game are ranked in the top five with Seattle ranked 5th averaging 144.3-yards per game, and Indianapolis ranked 4th averaging 149.5-yards per game. That’s a QB’s best friend to gain positive yardage on first down to set up third and shorts. Seattle does rely more on the running game with bruising running back Marshawn Lynch in differential to Indianapolis’ offense that likes to stretch the field with a vertical passing-attack. Formulating favorable matchups downfield is extremely difficult against Seattle’s top-notch secondary, and Luck’s new best friend Trent Richardson will need a better than average game if his number gets called 20 times again. With Ahmad Bradshaw (Neck) undecided to have surgery or not, the Colts will need Donald Brown to be an effective change-of-pace runner. That’s the focal point of this game. Can Indianapolis establish an effective ground game like Houston did against Seattle and not turnover the football? At some point, Seattle needs to shift things over to Russell Wilson throwing the football more than 19 attempts in week 2, 21 in week 3 and 23 last week in Houston because I think he’s going to need to do that at Lucas Oil Stadium. A message to Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and head coach Pete Carroll – Your quarterback can throw the ball if you let him, and stop overworking your running back, the real star of your offense. Keep them legs healthy, if you know what I mean? Oh, by the way, I picked up Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka off the waiver-wire for my fantasy team this week, who I see nailing the game winning kick in a nail-biting finish.
Pick: Seahawks 26, Colts 24

Jacksonville Jaguars 0-4 @ St. Louis Rams 1-3 – TV: CBS
Jacksonville gets receiver Justin Blackmon back from suspension, and head coach Gus Bradley is extremely pleased about Justin’s approach during his time off the field to get in game shape. “His body fat has dropped and his weight has gained,” Bradley said. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked of him.” I guess you can say there’s always some light at the end of the tunnel for any bad situation? As for the Rams, this is the week the offense needs to get better production and some rhythm going. The Rams are only averaging 17.2-points per game, tied for 6th worst in the league. No excuses, they need to turn back the clock and get some volume going with the running game, and get the ball into the hands of receiver Chris Givens’ hands. They’ll be able to buy time in the pocket for quarterback Sam Bradford to distribute the football to tight end Jared Cook, receivers Chris Givens and Tavon Austin. Defensively, the Rams focal point will be stuffing the run, something they’ve had trouble with, and they’ll have to slow down Maurice Jones-Drew, a running back that could break out on any given Sunday. But, the problem is Jones-Drew is Jacksonville’s only serious threat. Ultimately, the confidence level of Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert needs some retooling, and luckily for him his head coach is still giving him the nod.
Pick: Rams 33, Jaguars 17

Baltimore Ravens 2-2 @ Miami Dolphins 3-1 – TV: CBS
Very uncharacteristic of Baltimore’s offense to only run the football 9 times last week on the road in Buffalo. That’s not what makes the Ravens offense successful, and Joe Flacco shouldn’t be throwing the football 50 times. The Ravens offense should be dependent on a steady running game to sustain a functional offense. Running back Ray Rice has been hampered with an injured hip and Bernard Pierce strained his calf in Sunday’s loss to Buffalo. The chit-chat coming from head coach John Harbaugh this week is the offense looking to get back to its usual formidable form by pounding the rock, and they’ll need to do that against a solid Miami defense looking to erase their Monday night debacle in New Orleans. Miami’s defense may be without All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake (Knee) again, as he indicated that chances of him suiting up this week are on the downside of things. They’ll need Wake healthy at some point rushing off the edge, but I think Miami has things in their favor with Pierce and Rice not at 100 percent health-wise, and seeing the formations Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman is throwing into the fold by spreading defenses out with Ryan Tannehill using his feet, makes me believe Miami has faith in him. A player behind the shadows of Miami’s offense is fullback/tight end Charles Clay, who’s been effective replacing the injured for the season Dustin Keller. He’s currently tied for second on the team in receptions with 20. Look for Ryan Tannehill and Mike Wallace to get back to connecting on intermediate routes like they did in week 2. Eventually 2 or 3 catch games for Wallace are going to turn into bigger things. Miami didn’t pay him cold-hard-cash just to be a decoy.
Pick: Dolphins 24, Ravens 19

Philadelphia Eagles 1-3 @ N.Y. Giants 0-4 – TV: FOX
What a mess floating around the Jersey locker room. Giants star receiver Victor Cruz questioned Tom Coughlin’s decision on electing to punt on a 4th and 1 situation when trailing 10-7 in their loss to the Chiefs. In defense to Cruz questioning Coughlin’s decision, defensive end Justin Tuck gave his thoughts on any teammate throwing his coach under the bus. “If anyone turns on our coach, I would be the first one to punch him in the mouth, said Tuck. And put that in print. It better not happen, I know that.” I’m with Tuck on this one. It was only a three point game, and you have to play situational football. You don’t go for it in a close game on your side of the field unless you have to. Adding to the mess, the Giants remain hobbled with an enormous amount of injuries in a season that’s turning into an episode of General Hospital. Right guard Chris Snee (Hip) was placed on injured reserve. Center David Bass (Neck), cornerback Aaron Ross (Back), defensive tackle Linval Joseph (Ankle) will miss the game, and cornerback Corey Webster (Groin) is doubtful. The good news for the Giants bruised and battered offensive line is David Diehl returns to the lineup from a thumb injury. You can’t be feeding Tom Coughlin any nasty-food, sometimes things go wrong like some Gypsy is casting bad things on you. It’s hard to fathom the Giants offense to continue to be out of sync, and they should be able to find holes in the Eagles defense that ranks last in the league in yards per game allowed (446.8). It’s also hard for me to fathom the Eagles offense not being able to sustain drives against a Giants defense with a banged up D-line. That’s the most vital part of this contest. Can the real Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck show up to pressure Michael Vick? Watching Pierre-Paul play gives me every indication that he hasn’t fully recovered from back surgery, and with him not being able to get after the speedy Vick, things continue to look sour for the G-Men’s defense. Pick: Eagles 33, N.Y. Giants 29

4:05 PM ET
Carolina Panthers 1-2 @ Arizona Cardinals 2-2 – TV: FOX

One of the very few positive things about traveling out west is having a bye week during the process. Coming off a bye week, the Panthers take their act to the desert looking to carry over their blowout win over the Giants on Sep. 22. Receiver Steve Smith is clearly Cam Newton’s number one option, but what’s been taking flight in the passing game is the utilization of the speedy Ted Ginn on deep balls. Both of Ginn’s touchdown grabs this season have been from 40 plus yards out. The task to complete things over the top will be much more difficult against Arizona’s secondary led by standout cornerback Patrick Peterson, who will challenge any receiver at the line of scrimmage. He’ll be matched up on Steve Smith, a very physical and intriguing battle to behold. Both defenses have been stout against the run, and every yard gained will come with a punishing hit from a wide-load of ball-hawks. If there’s a weak spot between these two clubs, it’s the Arizona offensive line that traded away tackle Levi Brown to Pittsburgh. Bradley Sowell, a second-year player will take his spot. That’s been the downside of Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer’s turnover ways with 6 on the season. He’ll be pressured immensely, but there’s always something funky about playing in the desert for visitors that always find themselves in nail-biters, and I see Arizona’s defense winning the turnover battle in a field-position defensive battle.
Pick: Cardinals 20, Panthers 17

4:25 PM ET
Denver Broncos 4-0 @ Dallas Cowboys 2-2 – TV: CBS

Oh, how I remember the undefeated 9-0 Colts strolling into Dallas in 06, a game Dallas handed them their first loss of the season, and I remember the 8-5 Cowboys crashing the party in New Orleans, defeating the 13-0 Saints in 09. Once again, the Cowboys get an undefeated team that features a quarterback on his way to an MVP like season, and an offense that seemingly looks impossible to stop. Peyton Manning will always be the big-talk this season in Denver, but I’m going on the outside of what’s expected out Denver’s prolific offense. Denver’s defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has been the best coach in all of football, in my opinion. No Von Miller rushing off the edge, cornerback Champ Bailey has been hampered with a bad foot, but the secondary is still making plays. Why? They’re stopping the run (ranked 3rd in the league allowing only 74-yards a game rushing), and the interior of the defensive line has been stout in covering their gaps. In the offseason, they re-signed defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, brought in Terrance Knighton from Jacksonville, and drafted North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams in the first round. Those three key players, along with Malik Jackson and Mitch Unrein, have been a dynamite rotation. I could only imagine how much better they’d be with Miller back in the lineup. On the flip side of things across the border with Monte Kiffin’s defense, his cornerback Morris Claiborne, the teams 2012 first round draft pick has struggled on picking up the cover 2 zone scheme, and has been benched because of it. Linebacker Bruce Carter was exposed last week in San Diego, getting burned twice on wheel-routes. Not good, and you have an offense that throws so many things at you this week. Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan better have an expertise type of game-plan to get a push on Denver’s interior between the tackles for running back DeMarco Murray to have running lanes, because Denver’s speed at linebacker won’t allow you to gain positive yards outside the tackles. I know many of you are picking Denver to sweep the floor over Dallas this weekend, but I like Dallas to play competitively, and the only difference will be in the plus advantage for Denver to pounce on Dallas’ miscues of a non-disciplined offense that doesn’t know how to play a clean mistake-free game.
Pick: Broncos 37, Cowboys 27

Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Houston Texans 2-2 @ San Francisco 49ers 2-2

Both offenses feature top-tier running backs that have a major emphasis on the offense to keep their quarterbacks out of long-distance passing downs. They’re also good enough to punch it in when in the redzone. Passing-wise, both San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Houston quarterback Matt Schaub have a prime receiver and a tight end that are solid options on passing downs. Defensively, they’re strong upfront with pass-rushers that create havoc in the trenches. That’s what’s going to win this football game, the team that wins the battle in the trenches, and you need a quarterback that can escape pressure and throw on the run, something that’s in favor of Kaepernick. Texans receiver Andre Johnson (Shin) is listed as questionable, but head coach Gary Kubiak has stated earlier this week that Johnson is on track to play. Matt Schuab can’t be turning over the football like he did last week against Seattle with a costly pick 6 with Houston in position to win the game. The 49ers defense is ranked 5th overall and 4th against the pass, allowing 191.8-yards per game. Not to say that Schaub is gun-shy, but check down throws aren’t going to gain you positive yardage in this game with San Francisco’s linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, two linebackers that can do so much as interchangeable players that can stuff the run, cover tight ends, running backs out in the flats, and I’ve seen them able to cover a slot receiver here and there. Willis (Groin) is listed as questionable, but I expect him in the lineup. They need him to slow down Texans All-Pro running back Arian Foster, a back that can do so many things at the position. What this game ultimately comes down to is turnovers and field position. I favor San Francisco’s defense to pressure the pocket and force Matt Schaub into costly mistakes, and for Colin Kaepernick to make big-plays with his feet by improvising and extending plays, connecting with receiver Anquan Boldin, who’s always money in these type of extravaganza’s.
Pick: 49ers 30, Texans 20

11:35 PM ET
San Diego Chargers 2-2 @ Oakland Raiders 1-3 – TV: NFL Network

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is smoking so far in 2013. He’s completed 73.9 percent of his passes with 11-touchdown passes and only 2-interceptions. He’s coming of a dazzling performance against the Cowboys completing 35 of 42 passes, highlighted by connecting big with tight end Antonio Gates, a vital part of the Chargers offense that has him in healthy standards, unlike recent seasons. Head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt have brought life to San Diego’s offense that’s utilizing every skilled position player, including former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead, who’s second on the team in receptions with 22. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s concussion is behind him and he’ll start Sunday night, but the status on running back Darren McFadden (Hamstring) is uncertain. Backup Rashad Jennings is in line to get most of the workload for the Raiders backfield, and that’s not anything in the avenue that will help propel Oakland to victory. Rivers stays red-hot.
Pick: Chargers 34, Raiders 21

Monday Night Football, October 7 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
N.Y. Jets 2-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 1-3

The Jets will be without receiver Santonio Holmes (Foot) and Stephen Hill’s (Concussion) status looks cloudy practicing with no contact this week. That’s not anything looking on the upside of things for quarterback Geno Smith that’s turning over the football in bunches. Smith has 11-interceptions, and he needs to play mistake free football in the dome against a desperate Falcons team looking to climb its way out of an early-season hole. The Falcons strength point on defense has been against the run, and I’d expect the Jets to try to pound the rock with Bilal Powell. Chris Ivory (Hamstring) returned to practice this week, and should he play, that could give the Jets running game a much needed change-of-pace option. Pressuring Matt Ryan is must for a good Jets defensive front, but there’s much more ammo in favor of Atlanta to move the sticks on passing downs.
Pick: Falcons 37, N.Y. Jets 20

Bye: Minnesota Vikings 1-3, Pittsburgh Steelers 0-4, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0-4, Washington Redskins 1-3

You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and @SilverBlueRpt

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