NFL Week 5 game picks: Bengals stay perfect; Cardinals fall

It's usually around Week 5 when we identify the quality teams and learn which matchups are most important. My Week 4? Always stinks. Having done the picks for the last three years, I can tell you that this week is usually the time of the season when your friendly writer starts to get an idea of what he's talking about ... although, like the picks below, that is up for debate.

Speaking of ...

Wait, your Twitter bio says you're a Seahawks fan, and that's your avatar? I think it's time to change your pic, @Lucks_neckbeard, especially now that Kyle Orton is back slingin'. And we shall see about your prediction -- Nick Foles couldn't do it, after all.

Some guy selling memberships at my gym was wearing a white Cleveland Browns Tim Couch jersey with khakis ... in Los Angeles. So when he was telling a potential client that by signing up to be a member he could look just as he did 13 years ago, the guy was living proof.

On that note, I think Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer will have an efficient day down in Nashville. That's just one of the many predictions below. You can share your thoughts on Browns-Titans or any other matchup -- @HarrisonNFL is the place. And don't forget to check out the latest edition of the Dave Dameshek Football Program, in which Dave, Handsome Hank and myself discuss our predictions.

Now, let's get to it ...

Elliot Harrison went 6-7 on his predictions for Week 4, giving him a record of 36-25 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 5? His picks are below.

Something tells me the Panthers will turn around their defense, which means the Bears probably won't be able to get Matt Forte going, regardless of how vulnerable Carolina has been to the run lately. Really, it's how those safeties and corners will do against Chicago's receivers that would worry me if I were the Panthers. Antoine Cason is allowing opposing quarterbacks to register a 110.3 passer rating; at least Melvin White makes up for it with a 119.8 mark. Teams are burning the Carolina linebackers in coverage, too: Luke Kuechly has allowed two touchdown receptions and a sterling 132.9 passer rating when the ball comes to his guy. All that spells a nice day for Bears tight end Martellus Bennett on the road. Chicago wins. #CHIvsCAR

Taking the home team -- well, the homier team. Here's what you'll see in Dallas: DeMarco Murray getting the football 25 to 30 times for the Cowboys against a Texans defense that is allowing 5 yards per rush this season. Here's what you won't see: J.J. Watt and that Houston front seven harassing Tony Romo all day. Give the veteran quarterback 26 attempts. In fact, the way that Dallas offensive line has been way-laying its opposition, there's no reason not to have a 55:45 run-pass ratio Sunday at JerrahWorld.

 Texans quarterback 
 Ryan Fitzpatrick will beat 
 Orlando Scandrick with a deep ball to 
 DeAndre Hopkins, but the 
 Cowboys' defense just needs to hold the fort until a couple of interception opportunities come along. It will happen. 

Ugh. I would very much like to predict a big blowout here in Detroit, but unlike the Bills' coaching staff, Buffalo's defense is frankly not at all wishy-washy. The unit has given up a mere nine plays of 20-plus yards this season, tied for sixth-least in the NFL. The Bills also have eight takeaways.

Detroit must get the run game going to soften up the pass rush, and to keep Matthew Stafford in a position where he can take fewer chances and make high-percentage throws. The vertical shot will be there off of play-action or in anticipated run sequences. Of course, Jeremy Ross' long touchdown reception for the Lions last week against the Jets did come on third-and-10. So forget what I just said. Or not. After all, the Bills' secondary is better than its counterpart in New York. So is their quarterback ... right? #BUFvsDET

This is certainly one of the better games on the Week 5 docket. The Ravens are really on a roll, with their only loss this season coming in Week 1 to the Bengals -- arguably the best team in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Colts have rebounded quite neatly from their 0-2 start, with Andrew Luck playing red-hot football. Consider his stat line from the past two weeks: 763 passing yards, eight touchdown passes, one interception and a combined passer rating of 132.4.

Can Joe Flacco stay with Luck in Indy? He'll have to, if a) some combination of Bernard Pierce, Justin Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Earnest Byner can't get it done on the ground, or b) Baltimore's pass defense -- which ranks 24th in the NFL (260.2 passing yards allowed per game) -- falters against the league's top-ranked passing attack. #BALvsIND

Given all the comparisons of Blake Bortles to Ben Roethlisberger, watching Steelers-Jags on Sunday should be like watching Taylor Swift open up for Kelly Clarkson ... or something like that. How Pittsburgh starts off on offense will be interesting; methinks the Steelers should take a page out of Dallas' playbook and run right at the defensive front. Keep the Jags' pass rush -- which is markedly better this season, but more on that later -- honest, and the matchups will be there all day for Big Ben in Jacksonville.

OK, so as for that Jags pass rush: Did you know Jacksonville is tied for second in the NFL with 12 sacks? The last time the Jags finished in the top two in sacks was 1999, when they were winning playoff games by the score of 62-7. Don't expect huge numbers for Pittsburgh's running game -- Chargers back Donald Brown was stuffed against Jacksonville last week -- but 25 carries certainly makes sense. #PITvsJAX

Had a guy the other morning ask me on Twitter about playing Drew Brees or Andrew Luck in fantasy. In fact, I've received a lot of questions about Brees on the old @HarrisonNFL account. I get it; the perception is that he's been far from productive. But is that accurate? Consider that Brees is averaging 300.8 yards per game with seven touchdowns against just three interceptions. Do you realize that pace projects to 4,812 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 picks? Granted, that would be Brees' lowest yardage total since 2010 and his smallest touchdown tally since 2007, but they're still pretty much Hall of Fame numbers. The Saints' defense, meanwhile, has been more painful to watch than the countless "Sleepy Hollow" promos.

Speaking of sleepy, Mike Glennon woke up the Buccaneers last week in Pittsburgh during Tampa Bay's upset victory. Can he at least match that performance in New Orleans? If not, the Bucs' secondary will have to step up -- the unit is allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a passer rating of 118.4 this season, worst in the league. #TBvsNO

Heard Pat Kirwan on SiriusXM Radio talking about some openings in the Falcons' A-gap during their loss to the Vikings last Sunday. Can we call it the A-void? Minnesota did whatever it wanted on the ground (241 rushing yards). Despite his relatively slow night against Washington on Thursday (55 yards on 13 carries), Rashad Jennings should receive plenty of run for the host Giants. If Atlanta loads up to stop him, then New York will simply get Iso's with its receivers where it can. The biggest mismatch could come in the form of now-famous tight end Larry Donnell, as the Falcons' safeties and linebackers haven't exactly lit it up this season.

One thing's for sure: Matt Ryan simply must play better on the road. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much in the way of protection -- and Atlanta doesn't have the kind of defense that can mitigate an average day at the office from the quarterback. #ATLvsNYG

A tasty little nugget emerged from the Eagles' loss to the Niners last Sunday: Philly blocked a punt for a touchdown for the first time since 1992, a whopping 22 years ago. I can't help but think of the punt the Eagles *almost* blocked for a score in the 2001 NFC Championship Game against these very Rams. Had the immortal N.D. Kalu gotten to that ball ... history would have changed, man. Bill Belichick and the Pats would have been facing Donovan McNabb in Super Bowl XXXVI, a wild card if ever there was one.

Oh, how that Rams club was loaded. Flash forward, and the 2014 version has slightly less offensive firepower, unless you consider Austin Davis the second coming of Kurt Warner. Either way, I don't trust these Rams on the road against an Eagles offense that you know will be fired up to prove nothing ails it after being held without a touchdown in San Francisco. St. Louis needs defensive end Chris Long to get healthy. Every team could use a Jeremy Maclin, who is on pace to break Mike Quick's Eagles record (set in 1983) for receiving yards in a season (1,409). Quick, by the way, had a mustache that year that Lionel Richie could have been proud of. #STLvsPHI

Cleveland gets its first road win in more than a year after dropping seven straight away from FirstEnergy Stadium (yep, I had to look that up ... both the stat and the name of the Browns' home venue).

 *The feeling is electric at FirstEnergy Stadium* ... said no one ever. 

Still, the Titans haven't been much better at their home, giving up more than 200 rushing yards to the Cowboys in the process of losing their only date in Nashville thus far. Tennessee's defense has been a mess since the Week 1 win over Kansas City, allowing 498 yards to Indy last week and 100 points over the past three games. Now the Titans are hoping Jake Locker is healthy enough to play. As for injured Browns, tight end Jordan Cameron hasn't been 100 percent, either -- but he will be a factor. #CLEvsTEN

Arizona at Denver should be three hours worth watching Sunday, as I feel it'll be a close game. Look for the Broncos to feature a decent mixture on offense and put the Cardinals away with a late drive. Make no mistake, the Cardinals' impressive run defense won't allow this to be a breakout contest for Montee Ball. Todd Bowles' unit is allowing a scant 2.9 yards per carry, third lowest in the league. And let's not understate the impact Tommy Kelly has had on this defense since his arrival in late August. Still, Peyton Manning has to keep Arizona's D honest.

One interesting facet that could really hurt the Cardinals in this matchup: their ineffectiveness in the red zone, where they rank 29th. The Broncos' defense, meanwhile, is tied for seventh in red-zone D. Drew Stanton has to find a way to locate the open guy in the end zone ... and put the ball on his numbers. #AZvsDEN

Will the Jets make a move at quarterback? And will they do it sooner rather than later? It might be hard for general manager John Idzik and the entire coaching staff to watch a QB play at the level Philip Rivers has been for the host Chargers -- calling the game from the line of scrimmage with an ocean of play options at his disposal -- while Geno Smith works with a playbook that's been shrunk to the comparative size of a Porta Potty. New York's sturdy defensive front should more or less shut down Donald Brown, but the thinking here is that San Diego will still be able to run just enough to open up vertical shots to Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd. This is a fantastic uni matchup, by the way. #NYJvsSD

After doing a little research on the interwebs, I figured out that Alex Smith will be playing his former team. Who knew? Will the Chiefs' quarterback go off like another Smith -- Baltimore receiver Steve Smith Sr. -- who just famously roasted his ex-employers in the Ravens' Week 4 win over the Panthers? Well ... no. This game is in San Francisco, where the 49ers' defense played with a chip on its shoulder last Sunday, completely shutting the Eagles' offense out of the end zone. Between that and the fact that Jamaal Charles won't exactly have Mayflower-truck-sized lanes to move through, I'm thinking this Smith's "revenge" game might not be as triumphant as that other Smith's, even if fans screaming their heads off when Colin Kaepernick dashes for 17 yards are secretly singing Keith Sweat songs to Alex Smith in their heads.

Oh ... while we're on the subject of Smiths, that "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" movie kind of sucked. #KCvsSF

This should be one of the week's top-flight matchups. New England will not play as poorly as it did in Kansas City on Monday night. (This isn't 1992.) That said, the Patriots' run defense is going to have to step up, starting with the defensive line; Vince Wilfork can't be playing every snap against a Bengals ground game that will be used time and again. Giovani Bernard will get at least 20 touches, while Jeremy Hill should continue flat dealin'. Speaking of flat, will Cincinnati come out that way on the road following a bye? Perhaps. Even so, New England is dealing with a short week after that debacle in Arrowhead. If the Pats lose this game -- and I think it will be close -- it is definitely time to bench the best player in franchise history for a guy who threw a meaningless touchdown pass in garbage time against the Chiefs. #CINvsNE

How effective are the Seahawks on the road? That's what this game in Washington should tell us. Obviously, Seattle lost in San Diego in Week 2, bolstering whispers that this club simply isn't the same away from CenturyLink. In fact, I heard that notion plenty around the NFL Media newsroom -- and yet, I'm not sure the line of thinking holds up. The heat and humidity in Southern California that day caused major problems, and the Chargers are an excellent football team.

Then again, stretching back to 2012 -- when the Seahawks really arrived as a quality outfit -- they've gone 9-8 on the road, where they average 22 points per game, and 17-1 in front of the nutso home crowd, where they average 29.9 points per game. Scaring up 22 in D.C. should be enough, as the Redskins' receivers will have some trouble getting separation. Kirk Cousins must be patient -- take what the defense gives, and give Alfred Morris the rock 30 times. #SEAvsWAS


The mobility -- and *availability* -- of Teddy Bridgewater is so important to the Vikings' viability in Lambeau on Thursday night. While the rookie QB might not be the most "pro ready," you probably noticed he had decent wheels on that touchdown scamper against the Falcons. (UPDATE: Bridgewater will not play on Thursday night, meaning Christian Ponder will get the start.) Either way, fully expect Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon to steamroll the Packers' abhorrent run D -- and don't think that characterization is an exaggeration. Green Bay is giving up an NFL-worst 176 rushing yards per game, 18 more than the next closest team. So I guess Aaron Rodgers is going to have to go off again. Which he can do against this secondary. #MINvsGB

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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