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NFL Week 5 game picks: Broncos rock Falcons; Vikes top Texans

Tape time.

It's Week 5, which means all of these young players who've put an early stamp on the 2016 season will be forced to prove themselves all over again. Defensive coordinators now own enough tape on Carson Wentz, a guy who didn't play in the preseason. Dak Prescott, like Wentz, has started every game this season -- and he also played plenty exhibition ball.

This also applies to all the players who've made hay this season for different teams (Sam Bradford) or at different positions (Terrelle Pryor). As well as the guys who are flat out playing more than last year (David Johnson).

Looking forward to seeing whether all of these dudes keep it up, regress or get better.

Me too.

How does "hope Denver loses" sit with you? Thanks for checking in from England. The Power Rankings know no bounds!

The Vikings are entertaining the 3-1 Texans this weekend, while the Broncos host the high-flying Falcons. High-flying Falcons -- that's sports writing right there. So are all the blurbs below. Enjoy the campiness. And send your own to me: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 9-6 on his predictions for Week 4, giving him a record of 40-23 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 5? His picks are below:

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

This is the week Rob Gronkowski goes off. Redskins tight end Jordan Reed burned the Browns for two touchdowns last week, and given Gronk's absenteeism this season (even when he's been active), look for the big tight end to finally reward all the people who drafted him high in fantasy. Because that's what's most important to the Patriots organization -- and of course, to Mr. Gronkowski himself -- fantasy football. For the Browns to upset New England -- like they did in 2010 -- the secondary, in particular, will have to play over its head. That being said, if Cleveland can get productive carries early out of Isaiah Crowell, it will only help the pass rushers later. (More time of possession = More rest for the Brownies' pass rush.) Oh yeah, Tom Brady is back. Did I forget to mention that? One regular starting quarterback in NFL history has posted a 100-plus passer rating beyond his 16th season in the league: Brett Favre. Brady was outstanding in Year 16 with a 102.2 passer rating. #NEvsCLE

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Philadelphia's defense just might be too strong ... too strong to look anything like the feeble unit that showed up (or did it?) on Thanksgiving in Detroit last year. Too stout to let Matt Stafford fully bounce back from the ugly showing in Chicago last week. Too ... well ... the unit doesn't really need be too anything to halt the Jim Caldwell's running game, which has done nada since Ameer Abdullah went down. Over the last two games, the ground "attack" has run 41 times for 116 yards. If you remove Stafford scrambles, the numbers fall into a 2008 Lions abyss: 37 carries for 88 yards. That's fugly, even by Honolulu Blue standards. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz might be looking for *a triumphant return to Detroit 2.0*. Easier done than said, if his defense continues to allow 6.7 offensive points per game. That's not a misprint. #PHIvsDET

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

An interesting matchup, even if both of these teams might be on a one-way train to Nowheresville. The Colts are coming off an agonizing loss to the Jaguars overseas, and not only did they bring back a 1-3 record, but they didn't even get a bye week for their trouble. The NFL's cross-Atlantic road trip could result in a fatigued Indianapolis squad. Perhaps missing adrenaline will be provided by the many reminders this week of the 2006 Colts team that triumphed over the Bears 10 seasons ago in Super Bowl XLI. Adam Vinatieri was a part of that group, and might be needed heavily in this contest. Chicago will face all it can handle, going against a supremely focused Andrew Luck, who was beside himself for not throwing a perfect ball to Dwayne Allen on that ill-fated fourth down in London. Don't sleep on Brian Hoyer, though. Remember when Kyle Orton led the Bears to an opening-day victory in Indy back in 2008? #CHIvsIND

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Going with the road team here. Not sure anyone wants to pick the Titans right now. In fact, I have three more sentences in this blurb to change my mind. So, let me ask you a question: Do you trust Ryan Tannehill and this Dolphins offense? (@HarrisonNFL) Following that first drive on "Thursday Night Football" last week -- when Kenny Stills took full advantage of a busted coverage, scoring a long touchdown -- the "O" was Oh, no!, with 141 yards the rest of the night. Sunday's matchup feels like a DeMarco Murray game. Marcus Mariota has been no great shakes -- or, put another way, the Titans likely will lean on the run. Mike Mularkey loves him some ground game. Miami makes loving fun, with the 29th-ranked run defense. #TENvsMIA

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

The Ravens have a new bell-cow back -- kind of -- in Terrance West. Baltimore released Justin Forsett, and while rookie Kenneth Dixon is coming back from injury, it's West's baby now. Can he take advantage of a Redskins defense that really struggled to stop DeAngelo Williams in Week 1 and Isaiah Crowell last Sunday? If West averages over 5 yards per carry -- like he did in last week's 113-yard effort vs. Oakland -- Joe Flacco should see vertical opportunities all over the field. The QB wasn't able to hit many last week, but I'm not banking on that happening two weeks in a row. Flacco, who's quite streaky, can get hot in an instant. His counterpart, Kirk Cousins, found Jordan Reed on several big plays, including two touchdowns, last Sunday. Reed's impact -- or lack thereof -- could decide this game. Don't think this contest will be close? Since 2008 the Redskins and Ravens are tied for the most one-score games in the league with a whopping 24 apiece. #WASvsBAL

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

If there is one elite passer who can hit the Vikings' defense for five touchdowns, it's Brock Osweiler. Except not at all. If there is one game in which Houston's quarterback can ill-afford to underthrow/overthrow/suckythrow DeAndre Hopkins, it's this one. How many opportunities will the Texans' WR1 get against Xavier Rhodes? Probably not too many -- at least if we're to take anything away from Rhodes' boffo effort against Odell Beckham Jr. this past Monday night. Will Fuller must take advantage of Terence Newman or whoever is on him Sunday. Sam Bradford, meanwhile, has been spreading the football around efficiently. Think he will continue the trend and ride his defense to win No. 4 for himself (and win No. 5 for the club). #HOUvsMIN

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Jets have faced three playoff teams from 2015. They are 0-3 in those games. Last week's loss was particularly egregious. Russell Wilson was dealin' the Green Lantern out there ... form of Gang Green burned defensive backs ... boom, another big play. Making matters worse, the secondary is now down Darrelle Revis -- or will be competing with a very hobbled Darrelle Revis -- against a quarterback who tossed as many touchdown passes (five!) as incompletions last week. History proffers no solace, as New York has lost nine of the 10 games the franchise has played in Pittsburgh. Who could forget the 2004 divisional playoffs, when Doug Brien missed two very makeable field goals in the fourth? #NYJvsPIT

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

Matt Ryan has been playing lights-out, leading an offense that's scoring 38.0 points per game. That's right, thirty-eight. The only issue is that his defense is giving 'em up almost as fast as Atlanta scores 'em (31.0 points per game allowed). Unfortunately -- or fortunately, depending on whether you own a Bobby Humphrey Starting Lineup figurine and an Olandis Gary bobblehead or not -- the Denver defense presents a bad matchup for the Falcons' attack. Aqib Talib will give Julio Jones all he can handle. Put another way, Broncos DBs > Falcons WRs. (Denver also leads the league in sacks.) In fact, Atlanta's secondary might have more trouble with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. #ATLvsDEN

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

Dan Bailey might be out for this game. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Besides being the most accurate placekicker in NFL history, he just might be a writer you know's fantasy kicker. (Of course, the title of most accurate kicker changes like every two years because the guys in the '60s, '70s and early '80s couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.) The faceoff that will determine this football game is the Cowboys' ground attack vs. the Bengals' run D. Cincy has allowed just one 100-yard rusher since the beginning of 2015. Hopefully they don't give Ezekiel Elliott the Le'Veon Bell treatment. (Each of the Steeler back's past two seasons have ended with injuries in games against Cincy.) Can Dak Prescott expose the Bengals deep? He's thrown the intermediate stuff well; it's not all none-yard outs and 5-yard ins with Prescott. But the deep ball? Expect Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to connect on at least one of those. #CINvsDAL

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

Perhaps the toughest game to call on Sunday. The Rams' front four should get plenty of movement -- backward -- on the Bills' offensive line. Or will they? Buffalo is averaging 4.6 yards per rush (fifth in the NFL). However, with Tyrod Taylor getting a robust 6.7 on his scampers, the Bills' overall ground numbers are skewed. Meanwhile, the Rams allow a scant 3.7 per tote, which means Taylor will need to win this through the air -- not likely, given the passing game's performance thus far -- or Buffalo must force turnovers. Don't see the latter thing happening, as Case Keenum simply isn't forcing many throws downfield. If the Rams wear their old-school blues (please) against the Bills' road whites, we will be treated to a gorgeous uni matchup. #unimatchups #BUFvsLA

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

Sebastian Janikowski wins it from 50-plus yards out. Would you believe the guy already has hit 53 kicks from that distance in his career (an NFL record)? What, you don't like kicker talk? Cool. So analytics maven Pro Football Focus said Marquette King just produced the finest game a punter has had in more than 10 years. ... OK, I'll stop. The Chargers should give the Raiders all they can handle, especially with an Oakland defense that has allowed a ton of big plays. The Raiders' secondary was better in coverage last week than earlier this season, but the unit made up for it by not tackling. The San Diego concern here is that with no Jason Verrett, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will have themselves a day. This is Oakland's best start since 2002, in case you were wondering. #SDvsOAK

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

Odell Beckham Jr. might be receiving all the attention right now -- more than he is receiving passes, anyway. ... Nonetheless, the rest of Big Blue's offense is stagnant. It stinks like big blue cheese. (Why does blue cheese stink, anyway?) There is no exaggeration here. Eli Manning has thrown for a lot of yards, but he's also tossed four picks and fumbled four times. The run game has dealt with injuries, and thus is averaging an underwhelming 93.8 yards per game at 3.9 per carry. The Giants have popped only one run for more than 20 yards. And 18.3 points per game is far from what we all anticipated from this group. The Packers are coming off a bye, with key parts on defense able to get rest. Don't see them losing at home, either. Green Bay moves to 3-1, while the Giants lose their third in a row. #NYGvsGB

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

Going conservative on this game, due to the uncertainty of Cam Newton. Trend-wise, this matchup doesn't bode well for the road team. The Panthers have taken six straight games over the Buccaneers, with Derek Anderson starting (and winning) both contests versus Tampa Bay in 2014. Also worth noting is that Carolina won 14 straight games at home before falling to the Vikings two weeks ago. Jameis Winstonmust protect the football -- the only guy in the NFL who bakes turnovers like the Bucs quarterback these days is Ryan Fitzpatrick. That's not a lovely comparison. Winston has chalked up 10 in four games. That said, Ron Rivera's group has struggled in prime time during his coaching career -- and Carolina's actually 4-5 in its last nine games (including the playoffs) -- so perhaps the home team lays another egg. #TBvsCAR


Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS/NFLN

I'm picking the Cardinals because they are a desperate team that believes they can win. What is the 49ers' identity? If you feel Drew Stanton is a liability, look no further than what the Broncos have accomplished with Trevor Siemian at quarterback, or the Rams -- who beat Arizona last week -- with Case Keenum under center. Since besting that L.A. team in the opener, 28-nothing, San Francisco has been outscored 107-62. Stanton fared well filling in for an injured Carson Palmer in 2014, going 5-3 as a starter and making enough plays to help the Cardinals get into the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Side note: You have my pick for Thursday night, but be sure to make yours, as well. Go to to vote for "Which Can will Win" or use #CardinalsCan or #49ersCan on Twitter.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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