Whole lotta soul-searching on the docket for the four teams not playing this week ...
It's bye week for the Dallas Cowboys, which is good news. Dez Bryant won't be able to kill his football team this Sunday. Tony Romo won't be able to throw any more interceptions, either. Matt Stafford and the Detroit Lions get to rest, regroup and figure out a way to get the season back on track. The Oakland Raiders better use their off time to figure out if 2012 will be another lost season. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- another 1-3 team -- have a week to fix the defense. Surely Greg Schiano and Co. will try to recapture the momentum they had before Eli Manning Drago'd them in the waning moments of Week 2.
As for everybody else, well, they're playing. And the weekend offers some enticing matchups, including Manning-Brady XIII and the undefeated Atlanta Falcons paying a visit to Robert Griffin III's Washington Redskins.
Elliot Harrison went 11-4 on his predictions for Week 4. How will he fare in Week 5? His picks are below, with home teams listed second:
Miami's defense has acquitted itself well over the first quarter of the season, but the
Dolphins will have their hands full with
Andy Dalton this weekend.
Put another way: Dalton > Kolb.
After an opening loss at Baltimore, the Bengals quarterback has guided Cincy to three straight wins -- and has suddenly become quite the fantasy stud with three straight 20-point outings. Meanwhile, although the defense got a reprieve with Jacksonville last week, it's not "back." Miami's Ryan Tannehill can't make Mike Zimmer's job easier by providing three giveaways like he did in Arizona. #MIAvsCIN
Green Bay's offense woke up last Sunday; although it sure did help facing the Saints after playing the imposing defensive units of the 49ers, Bears and Seahawks over the first three weeks. The thought here is that Andrew Luck will have trouble keeping pace with Aaron Rodgers' offense, even with an extra week's preparation. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy might burn more clock than usual in this game with a lead and a more involved Cedric Benson (22 touches versus New Orleans) running the rock. #GBvsIND
Joe Flacco should have his hands full with a motivated Chiefs defense playing in front of its home crowd with a healthy dose of desperation at 1-3. Last season, Kansas City started 0-4 -- a hole that proved just too daunting, as the Chiefs finished a game back in the AFC West at 7-9. Matt Cassel will not be able to put up huge numbers on a good defense. The Chiefs signal-caller has been erratic, but he's also not getting much help from his receivers, who aren't making plays that count until it's garbage time. Twenty points is as high a total as K.C. can hope for this Sunday. #BALvsKC
Brandon Weeden has to play this game close to the vest. Cleveland cannot afford to give the Giants short fields. With both Hakeem Nicks (foot) and Ramses Barden (concussion) hurt, Cleveland can stay in this game -- IF Weeden doesn't make the big mistake like he did in Baltimore ( pick-six). Browns head coach Pat Shurmur should give Trent Richardson the ball and slow this game down. #CLEvsNYG
Philadelphia makes a game of it late, but my sense is that Pittsburgh's defense is going to give Michael Vick all he can handle. Vick looked flustered against Dick LeBeau's defense in each of the past two preseasons. The Steelers' offense gets a boost with the return of Rashard Mendenhall, but the explosive tailback must refrain from dancing in the backfield and run north-south in the lanes that Philadelphia's wide-nine allow. If Mendenhall can make the Eagles' safeties miss, it will be a long day for Andy Reid. If not, this ballgame will be on Ben Roethlisberger's shoulders. #PHIvsPIT
The Atlanta passing attack is a bad matchup for the Redskins' secondary and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Washington's defensive unit will hold the fort until late in the game ... before Matt Ryan reacts to what he's seen after several drives and responds accordingly. The fifth-year vet's football discernment has been off the charts thus far this season. Expect Michael Turner to get steady run, as injuries in the Redskins' front seven make "Burner" Turner a matchup advantage for Falcons head coach Mike Smith. #ATLvsWAS
For the second week in a row, I'm predicting a safety -- this time by Charles Johnson. Seattle loses not because of Russell Wilson, but rather some big plays by Cam Newton. This is a faith pick in the Panthers, primarily because Newton has learned that when he tries to do too much, Carolina loses. We saw it Week 1 in Tampa. His fumble last Sunday in Atlanta was costly. The Panthers aren't as bad as their 1-3 record suggests, while Seattle has to get more out of its offense to keep winning. Although Wilson doesn't play all that poorly, a loss suddenly drops the Seahawks to 2-3. Thus, the Matt Flynn discussion heats up. #SEAvsCAR
Jacksonville keeps this interconference battle close until the Bears' front four forces Blaine Gabbert into two second-half mistakes. The Jags' offensive line will have its hands full with Chicago's defensive line across the board, though Maurice Jones-Drew should still get plenty of touches. Unfortunately, the Bears' defense will not allow the gashing runs that Indy gave Jones-Drew in his best game of 2012. Jay Cutler might not go off, but expect Brandon Marshall to make three big plays and get into the end zone against a so-so secondary that gets NO help from the pass rush (two sacks total). #CHIvsJAC
Tennessee is another team that's staring a lost 2012 campaign in the face. Expect Chris Johnson to get a lot of work in this game, so as to limit Matt Hasselbeck's exposure to the pass rush while capitalizing on CJ2K's big performance last week. I wouldn't expect a 50-attempt, 380-yard monster passing game from the veteran Hasselbeck. Meanwhile, the big plays should be there off play action for Christian Ponder, who can take advantage of a defense that's allowed opposing passers a 118.3 rating (worst in the NFL). #TENvsMIN
Rocky and Apollo tee it up one more time, but this ballgame will be partially defined by a big defensive play. Both of these defenses are capable of forcing turnovers -- New England had six takeaways last week in Buffalo -- so just because Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are the quarterbacks, don't think that either isn't capable of throwing multiple interceptions. I trust Brady at home against a defense that can still be taken advantage of on the back end at times. #DENvsNE
Ryan Fitzpatrick just can't toss multiple picks for a second week in a row. But after leading the NFL with 23 in 2011, I fully anticipate the Bills quarterback giving San Francisco at least two gift-wrapped turnovers at some point this Sunday. (He tossed four last weekend.) Bills safeties George Wilson and Jairus Byrd need to come up big, as they will be asked to cover Niners tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker while also having to fill against the running game. A huge key will be if Buffalo can improve when opponents venture inside the 30. To date, the Bills have allowed opposing offenses to score touchdowns 68.4 percent of the time in this scenario. That's the worst in the league. #BUFvsSF
Could you call this game an upset if the
Chargers won, despite the fact New Orleans hasn't won a game yet? A big reason for the
Saints' 0-4 start is a defense that's giving up an absurd 463.3 yards per game (easily
dead last in the league). That's a worse figure than anything Enron ever reported. But another factor in New Orleans' slow start -- at least
according to Drew Brees -- was the replacement refs allegedly slowing down the pace of the explosive New Orleans offense. There might be some truth to that, as Brees' unit racked up 474 yards of offense and converted over 50 percent on third down with the regular refs back in the fold
Ryan Mathews will probably get a lot of work on the San Diego side of things, but it won't be enough on the road.
Saints ... off the schneid. #SDvsNO
This feels like a game Gang Green could win, but I'm not buying into it. I don't need to watch the Jets' passing game or The Notebook again to know that they suck. The Houston pass rush will hurry, harass and pummel Mark Sanchez, while New York's 31st-ranked run defense will have its hands full with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. A late Tate fumble on the MetLife carpet gives the Jets a garbage touchdown. #HOUvsNYJ
This might be your 15-12 score of the week. But I'll give the teams a few more points (not many). I'm fully expecting some odd plays and a full-on defensive struggle Thursday night, with the advantage going to the home team. Yes, the undefeated Cardinals will finish the night at 4-1. Look for Kevin Kolb to put up 227 yards and a touch (and no more) versus two very talented Rams corners in Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins. Although Arizona's defense has made a season's worth of impact plays already in 2012, Steven Jackson should be able to run the ball effectively enough against the 14th-ranked run defense so that Sam Bradford doesn't have to go it alone. #AZvsSTL
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.