An afternoon loaded with 1 p.m. ET games and a number of intriguing inter-conference contests awaits pigskin fans Sunday in the NFL. Hopefully I can stay hot after strong performances in Week 3 and Week 4.
I thought the Cowboys were overvalued heading into the Superdome last Sunday night, based on the fact that they had played terrible competition through the first three weeks. Their offense struggled in a 12-10 loss to the Saints, but I expect them to bounce back with Green Bay coming to town in a matchup between 3-1 teams.
The Packers dominated turnover margin in their first three games, including two big wins against NFC North rivals, but it was Philadelphia that created turnovers last Thursday night, which led to the Packers’ first loss under new head coach Matt LaFleur.
The Green Bay defense has played well against the pass, but the run defense has been a problem. The Packers gave up 176 yards on the ground to an Eagles offense that prior to Week 4 struggled to get things going on the ground. The Pack will now head south to take on one of the better rushing attacks in the league.
Ezekiel Elliott watching this Packers run defense pic.twitter.com/x1BROCGphV
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) September 27, 2019
Stopping Ezekiel Elliott is going to be a tough task for a Packers D that has a solid pass rush and a really good secondary, but will be overmatched by the Cowboys offensive line, even without tackle Tyron Smith. I expect the Packers defense to play better than it did against Philly, but holding Dallas to less than 24 points at home is going to be a challenge.
The Packers offense has played well early in games, but has struggled to score in the second half. With star wide receiver Davante Adams likely to miss the game with turf toe, it is hard to imagine that changing against one of the better defenses in the NFL.
Look for Dak Prescott to make enough plays to keep the Green Bay defense honest and for the Cowboys to control the game with their running game and defense. Dallas by a touchdown or more.
Pick: Dallas -3.5 (best bet)
Heading into the 2019 season, many experts considered the Browns a legitimate threat to win the AFC, but two losses and a less-than-spectacular win over the Luke Falk-led Jets over the first three weeks tempered expectations.
Cleveland then earned an impressive victory against the Ravens in Week 4 and now sits atop the AFC North heading into the second quarter of the season. I thought the Browns played pretty well Sunday on the East Coast, but I thought the result was much more about how awful the Ravens played, especially on defense. The Baltimore D gave up 193 yards on the ground and 337 through the air in a 40-25 loss in front of the home crowd.
Off the division-shifting win, the Browns will now head west to take on the undefeated 49ers. Even with a 3-0 record, San Francisco has been far from perfect. The 49ers needed two defensive touchdowns to defeat Tampa Bay in Week 1 and had to overcome five turnovers in their 24-20 win at home in Week 3. The Niners had a bye in Week 4 to work on some of their issues, which I expect will lead to their best effort of the year.
Give me Kyle Shanahan with an extra week of preparation against Freddie Kinchens every day of the week and twice on Monday.
Pick: San Francisco -3.5
It is not very often I am willing to lay more than two touchdowns on the road in the NFL, but this is one of those rare instances.
The Redskins are a mess on both sides of the ball. Their offense has struggled through four games and will not find itself in Week 5 against one of the best Patriots defenses we have seen under Bill Belichick. Couple that with an angry Tom Brady after a poor performance in Buffalo and you have a one-sided contest in the nation’s capital.
Patriots defense and special teams highlights from Sunday: pic.twitter.com/dnzabRhZid
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) September 30, 2019
Lay the wood. Pats for fun.
Pick: New England -15
The Buccaneers put 55 points on the Rams in Week 4, but that will not happen again this Sunday, when they take on a Saints defense that has carried “Who Dat Nation” early on. They may not completely stop Tampa’s passing game, given all of its weapons, but I do not expect Jameis Winston to go nuts in the Superdome in this NFC South clash.
The Saints have lacked a downfield passing game since Drew Brees was sidelined in Week 2. They will meet a Bucs defense that has been elite against the run but has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks. Brees’ replacement Teddy Bridgewater has not been terrible, but he relies on the short and intermediate passing game. That not only limits chunk plays but chews up the clock.
Saints games have gone Under in two of their four contests, but the two that went over did so late in contests due to game scripts.
Pick: Under 46.5
The Chargers are banged up on both sides of the ball now, with Melvin Ingram sidelined with a hamstring injury, and have no real home-field advantage. The Broncos may be winless, but they have been in every game this season.
Denver will play with desperation and once again hang in the game from start-to-finish.
Pick: Denver +6.5
If the Steelers continue to run the offense they have through two weeks with quarterback Mason Rudolph, they are an Under player’s dream. That means lots of running the ball and a short passing game that chews up a lot of clock.
The Ravens also like to run the rock and should play with a lot of emotion on defense after they were embarrassed at home by the Browns.
These teams are not quite what they have been in recent years, especially the Ravens on defense, but this should be a tight game, where points will be a bit hard to come by.