Shapiro's Week 5 NFL picks: Offenses won't have things so easy in Cleveland
Most teams in the NFL are through a quarter of their 2020 schedule and there are six franchises that have yet to suffer a defeat.
The defending champion Chiefs are one of the six undefeated squads, after they disposed of the Patriots on Monday night, 26-10. Andy Reid’s group looks like the clear team to beat in the AFC, but the Bills, Colts, Ravens, and Steelers all look like legitimate contenders, as well.
The NFC appears a bit lighter on teams capable of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February. Seattle and Green Bay stand out, in large part because of impeccable play from their veteran quarterbacks. However, their defenses are far from perfect, and there is still a ton of football left to be played.
My Week 4 started poorly, with an ugly performance on both sides of the ball from Kliff Kingsbury’s Arizona Cardinals. However, I was able to bounce back with a dominating performance from the Colts defense at Soldier Field. Sunday ended with a frustrating push in San Francisco.
On to Week 5!
Indianapolis Colts vs. Cleveland Browns
Sun, October 11 2020, 8:25 PM
The Browns come into their Week 5 battle with the Colts on a roll offensively. They've scored 34 points or more in three straight games.
There is no doubt new head coach Kevin Stefanski has made a difference as their play caller in 2020, but a closer look also shows that the Cleveland offense has benefited from advantageous situations. Especially last Sunday, when the Browns played a Dallas defense that is on pace to yield the most points in NFL history.
Not only are the Cowboys without their top cornerbacks and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, but their extremely high pace of play on offense leads to more opportunities for the opposition. Cleveland took advantage, with 49 points, but the Browns will face a much different situation this week against the Colts.
Indianapolis has given up just 56 points through four games and plays at one of the slowest paces in the league. Frank Reich’s group relies on their running game and short and intermediate passes from Philip Rivers, which chews up the clock, even on scoring drives.
The Colts are likely to have some success on the ground, but they are unlikely to make big plays down the field like Dallas, given a limited group of wide receivers. This should lead to a much different game script.
The 2020 season has been an Over-heavy campaign, but the Colts are an exception to the rule. Both teams will struggle to score into the 20s.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Sun, October 11 2020, 5:00 PM
Philadelphia took advantage of a few big mistakes by San Francisco backup QB Nick Mullens and made enough plays on offense to earn a much-needed first win on Sunday. They now somehow sit atop the pathetic NFC East at 1-2-1.
I'm not sure how long that will last, though, as they will bring a banged-up offense and one of the worst linebacker groups to Heinz Field to take on the Steelers.
Pittsburgh got an early bye in Week 4, because of the Titans COVID-19 situation, but has played well to start 2020. Mike Tomlin’s team is in a great spot to win its fourth straight, in large part because of a massive mismatch between the Steelers front seven and a Philadelphia offensive line that is down several starters. Look for T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and the Steelers to stop the Eagles rushing attack and make life miserable for Carson Wentz.
Pittsburgh will dominate on defense and get enough plays from Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson to beat Philly by double digits.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints
Tue, October 13 2020, 12:15 AM
New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Chargers
Coming into the season, the Chargers boasted one of the NFL’s most talented defenses, but they have been unable to avoid injuries to their best players.
They lost safety Derwin James to a knee injury before Week 1 and are without defensive end Melvin Ingram and newly acquired slot corner Chris Harris Jr. Joey Bosa is also playing at less than 100%.
Their lack of talent and depth was exposed Sunday in Tampa, and things will not get much easier in Week 5. They travel to the “Big Easy” on Monday night to take on a Saints team that scored 35 points in Detroit last Sunday and is likely to get All-Pro Michael Thomas back in the lineup.
The good news for the Bolts is that rookie QB Justin Herbert looks great. The former Oregon star is taking shots down the field and has the offense playing at a much faster pace than previous years.
His defense may struggle to stop the opposition in the Superdome, but Herbert should be able to keep his team in it, even without running back Austin Ekeler, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a hamstring injury and a hyperextended knee.
The Saints will score regularly and the Chargers will do their best to keep pace in a shootout.