NFL Week 5 game picks: Pack top Cowboys; Chiefs stay perfect

Flying past the quarter mark into midseason and ... byes! Yay!

They mess with the schedule, standings and your fantasy team. They also provide rest for certain teams. The interesting aspect to Week 5 byes is the opinion that many hold that they're too early for teams to rest players, which operates under the assumption that no one's roster is too banged-up by early October. Well, the Vikings, Titans and Raiders are already down a starting quarterback. Two flagship RBs are out, too: David Johnson and Dalvin Cook. If you watched "Monday Night Football" earlier this week, you saw that the Chiefs were without three offensive linemen, while the Redskins' entire defensive backfield got dinged at one time or another. So the byes come when they come, and each team's individual roster situation determines if the off week is well-timed or ill-timed. So, I'll leave that up to fans of the Week 5 bye teams (Falcons, Broncos, Saints, Redskins).

Now that we got the that out of the way ... On to Week 5's games!

The Packers and Cowboys tee it up nine months after their playoff thriller. Chiefs at Texans pits a potential MVP QB against a potential OROY QB. Panthers at Lions is a sneaky-good game. My projections for each are below. Your projections? Send along: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 10-6 on his predictions for Week 4, giving him a record of 38-25 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 5? His picks are below:

New York Jets 13, Cleveland Browns 10

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Whew, boy. Talk about a game that could go either way. Last year, these two teams played to a near stalemate, with New York barely holding off Cleveland late. The Jets' running backs were uber-important that day -- and should be again Sunday. Anticipate the Jets running right at the Browns with Bilal Powell, as they did against the Jags (who have a more talented front seven than Cleveland). That should limit Josh McCown's pass attempts. DeShone Kizer's throws will be limited if he performs as he did versus the Bengals. So, in order to make this game more interesting, I asked NFL.com researcher Jack Andrade for a little additional, well, you know, research. His note: New York is seventh in the NFL in rushing. Awesome. Really in-depth perspective there. #nostoneunturned #NYJvsCLE

Detroit Lions 23, Carolina Panthers 17

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Lions fans have pointed out that I keep picking against them every week, which has been more circumstantial than anything. In Week 2, I thought the Giants would be so embarrassed by their putrid showing in Dallas that they would come out fired up. Week 3 was against Atlanta, which I thought was the best team in the NFC. The game against the Vikings was in Minnesota. Detroit won two extremely close affairs against the Vikes last year, so I felt the latter was due. Outside of the Chiefs, the Lions have been the most consistent outfit in football. They're like Navy blue and khaki. (I know, I know ... Honolulu blue.) The Panthers' offense? Peaks and valleys. Cam Newton probably shouldn't expect to get any short fields, either. Jim Caldwell's group is plus-nine in turnover diff -- tops in the league. #CARvsDET

San Francisco 49ers 13, Indianapolis Colts 10

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Two of the NFL's weakest teams duke it out in Indy, each trying to pick up momentum before 2017 becomes a lost season. The Colts are merely trying to hang on until Andrew Luck (presumably) comes back, though no one knows for sure when that will be. The 49ers, meanwhile, are in search of their first win of the season. Maybe Brian Hoyer vs. Jacoby Brissett doesn't make you want to fire up the grill and bust open a Zima, but you will probably see Hoyer's best effort of the year. He has a knack for hanging around when people write him off. Brissett has hung in tough this year behind a so-so line (if that). Speaking of quarterbacks ... This same matchup produced an all-time -- and quite unique -- QB matchup two decades ago. Check it out. #SFvsIND

Tennessee Titans 20, Miami Dolphins 17

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Will Marcus Mariota be under center for the Titans? That's the important question in this matchup of two teams that got flattened last week. Tennessee's defense was manhandled by the Texans. Miami's offense couldn't handle anything the Saints threw at it. What's really puzzling is that no one would I.D. Houston or New Orleans as a dominant team. If Mariota can't go, the outcome will rest on Matt Cassel's shoulders. Really, though, could the journeyman signal caller play any worse than Jay Cutler has been?

(Not) fun fact: The Dolphins are averaging 8.3 points per game. No other team is < 15. But, hey: Cutler knows Adam Gase's offense. #TENvsMIA

Buffalo Bills 16, Cincinnati Bengals 14

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Bills win on the strength of the stingiest defense in pro football. Through four games, Sean McDermott's group is allowing a scant 13.5 points per game. There were times early in the season when you wondered whether Andy Dalton could get his team to double-digit scoring. The last two weeks have seen a resurgence in the Bengals' offense. Back to Buffalo, though, a team that just beat the Broncos and Falcons in successive weeks. No one is paying attention. Oh, and Tyrod Taylor is still underrated. Back to McDermott's defense: The unit has seven takeaways (tied for fourth) and is allowing a not-robust 4.7 yards per play (fifth in the NFL). So, basically, no flukiness here. #BUFvsCIN

New York Giants 27, Los Angeles Chargers 17

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Who wants to pick the Giants in this game? Nobody? OK. How about the Chargers? That's what I figured. The battle of the winless means that somebody has to win. (I guess that's not technically true. ... Could you imagine if these two tied?! Make it so.) You know who prevails here? The fans. Maybe not, but this should be a decent contest. If New York can block Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Eli Manning should find plenty of open windows in the Bolts' secondary. Or the Giants could run right at them like the Eagles did. Well, that's kind of theoretical for Big Blue -- after all, you kinda need a running game to run right at a team. My gut feeling is that Steve Spagnuolo's defense will show up this week. What a difference one year makes ...

Giants' defensive ranks in 2016 vs. 2017:

PPG allowed: 2nd vs. 25th
Total YPG allowed: 10th vs. 25th
Yards/play allowed: 7th vs. 22nd
Rush YPG allowed: T-3rd vs. 28th
Opp. third-down percentage: 3rd vs. 21st

#LACvsNYG

Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

So ... not going with the Jaguars. As viable as Jacksonville's secondary is, this just feels like a Ben-Roethlisberger-streetball-Antonio-Brown-is-ticked-off-Martavis-Bryant-catches-two-touchdown-passes kind of game. Can Blake Bortles keep up? Possibly, but Jacksonville will likely lean on Leonard Fournette to the tune of 25 carries. The other keys will be whether Calais Campbell can consistently win his battles, so that Pittsburgh has to double-team him, and whether the Jags can create pressure with only their front four. Gotta slow the Steelers' offense down before the air raid hums and they're up two scores. You know, can't get overconfident picking Pittsburgh against perceived lesser opponents. Since 2014, the Steelers are 14-12 versus teams that were .500 or worse (going into the matchup) and a staggering 18-4 against winning squads. That's incredible. #JAXvsPIT

Philadelphia Eagles 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

The Eagles move to 4-1, although not before the Cardinals make a game of it. Anticipating Philadelphia will be ahead two scores in the fourth quarter when Arizona starts playing with a sense of urgency. Can Carson Palmer pull off another comeback win? The veteran quarterback made huge throws to bring the Cards back in Indianapolis. Last Sunday, he lofted a ball that only Larry Fitzgerald's Canton-bound hands could catch. Wonderful football moment. The Eagles' front seven will be too much in the moment Sunday. Carson Wentz, by the way, has personally accounted for a 54 percent conversion rate on third down (his pass completions + his rushes) -- highest in the NFL. Pretty impressive. #AZvsPHI

Los Angeles Rams 23, Seattle Seahawks 17

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The above might be too high a score for this matchup. The Rams always play the Seahawks tough, and have actually won three of the last four in the series. The fun part of this rivalry will be seeing how Los Angeles' new-and-improved offense under Sean McVay fares against Seattle's defense. Last year, the Rams won a defensive slugfest. Yet, even though the defense improved against Dallas, Wade Phillips' group is still allowing 26.2 points per game (28th in NFL). Will L.A. sports fans show up to see their 3-1 football team? Will the Seahawks' offensive line show up? The latter looked better last Sunday night. (Against. The. Colts.)

Fun fact: Nobody ever thought of Todd Gurley as a David Johnson-like player. He's been Johnsonesque, averaging five catches for 58.5 yards per game. That latter figure more than triples his career average coming into 2017. #SEAvsLA

Baltimore Ravens 20, Oakland Raiders 17

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS

The Ravens have been awful the last two weeks. The Raiders are starting EJ Manuel. Joe Flacco has recently played like Manuel on his worst days. Oakland was outscored 51-20 in two contests without Derek Carr last season. Baltimore scored 16 points total vs. the Jaguars and Steelers over the last fortnight. The Raiders' offense was terrible in Washington and bad in Denver last week, but the unit made up for it by going 2-23 on third down in those games. So, basically, I'm saying the final score will be 5-3. Going with Flacco in Oakland. I don't feel wildly confident about it.

(Not) fun fact: Amari Cooper has caught 12 of 31 passes headed his way, a 38.3 percent catch rate. That's ridiculously bad. How bad? It ranks 80th among qualifying receivers. Or, put another way, dead last. #BALvsOAK

Green Bay Packers 30, Dallas Cowboys 27

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, FOX

No Sean Lee could mean doom for the Cowboys. The Packers' running game showed a little pep last week with rookie third-stringer Aaron Jones seeing significant action for the first time. The Dallas run defense, which finished first in the league last season, has been gashed by the Broncos and Rams. Imagine if the Cardinals had David Johnson's services when they played Dallas in Week 3. All of this leads to Aaron Rodgers enjoying a few favorable matchups whenever the Cowboys creep into the box. Rodgers' passer rating keeps climbing: 86.5 in Week 1, 90.7, 102.6 and then a healthy 128.0 in last week's blowout of the Bears. He's made big throws in Dallas before. I think. I can't remember. #GBvsDAL

Kansas City Chiefs 26, Houston Texans 20

Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Many people are going to pick the Texans in this game. It really depends on how healthy the Chiefs are. Kansas City played without three starting O-linemen last week. No Dee Ford, either. Not having Ford is problematic, in that Frank Zombo is supposed to be a swing player who can spell the starters. We know the offensive line will be without Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, even if Mitch Morse and Parker Ehinger can go. For the Texans, it will be interesting to see if Bill O'Brien keeps it simple for Deshaun Watson or adds a few wrinkles to the offensive system built around the rookie quarterback. The more he plays, the more defensive coordinators like K.C.'s Bob Sutton can prepare for him.

Fun fact: K.C. has outscored opponents 54-13 during the fourth quarter this season. #KCvsHOU

Chicago Bears 22, Minnesota Vikings 20

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Going with the kid here, man. Mitchell Trubisky could throw a flutter ball that lands at Wrigley and Bears fans wouldn't care -- as long as Mike Glennon isn't starting this week. Everyone has been wondering when the rookie quarterback would play. Now they got their wish. Fine, but ... Can he go toe-to-toe with Case Keenum?! Moving along: No Dalvin Cook means Latavius Murray carries the load for Minnesota. The last time he played in Chicago, Murray had a costly fumble and an even costlier drop. The Bears' front seven is going to win this game. Book it. Or maybe just try to believe. Worth noting: Mike Zimmer's Vikings lost to two rookie quarterbacks last year -- Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott -- although neither eclipsed 150 passing yards in those games. #MINvsCHI

THURSDAY NIGHT'S GAME

New England Patriots 26, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24

Back in the spring, I had the Bucs upsetting the Patriots in this game. My reasoning then was that New England would be undefeated and fall flat against the pesky Tampa defense. Well, that clearly hasn't played out like I envisioned. The Buccaneers' defensive unit isn't the same without Lavonte David, who injured his ankle in Tampa Bay's Week 3 flop at Minnesota. The Bucs haven't put forward strong performances on that side of the ball in their last two outings. As weak as the Pats' defense has been, this Week 5 matchup could turn into a track meet. Usually, Thursday night games don't.

Fun fact: The Patriots have already allowed 128 points this season; they didn't reach that total until their eighth game last year. Oops. #NEvsTB

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.