Gregg Rosenthal went 9-6 on his predictions for Week 4 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 38-24-1. How will he fare in Week 5? His picks are below.
Sunday, Oct. 11
Los Angeles Rams 27, Washington Football Team 16
I can't blame Washington coach Ron Rivera for making a quarterback change. Washington's offense, coordinated by Scott Turner, looks surprisingly competent outside of Dwayne Haskins' struggles, with open receivers aplenty and Antonio Gibson keying a solid running game. It's just hard to believe new starter Kyle Allen will be much better, based on his 2019 tape alongside Turner in Carolina. Rivera says he sees an opportunity to compete in a disastrous NFC East, with an upcoming six-game stretch against teams that currently have losing records. That doesn't start for another week, though.
The Rams' screen game has been stymied in back-to-back weeks, and coach Sean McVay's surprising turn to extreme run-heavy tendencies invites closer games, especially when matched against a solid WFT front. That could lead to a lower-scoring game than expected, but I won't believe in Kyle Allen magic until I see it.
Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Philadelphia Eagles 16
Pittsburgh is the wrong matchup for a Philadelphia team working through issues on the offensive line. After Stephon Tuitt's standout game in Week 3, the Steelers have a better chance of seeing multiple defensive players win battles on a given down than any team in football. They also blitz as well as anyone. Philly's deep, healthy and talented defensive line could give similar issues to Ben Roethlisberger. Carson Wentz is leaning on his legs more in recent weeks, which gives the Eagles hope for a long-term turnaround, but this is not a favorable draw for them.
Arizona Cardinals 27, New York Jets 21
The Jets were one of the worst offensive teams I've ever seen before losing their two best players, Sam Darnold and Mekhi Becton, to injury. Well, the Jets hope Darnold is one of their best players, at least. Joe Flacco will start this week, a lose-lose situation because of what any success by Flacco would say about the team's franchise quarterback. While Kliff Kingsbury has somehow made Kyler Murray boring with an overreliance on dinking and dunking, it would take cascading injuries or an organizational meltdown to lose to this Jets team.
Kansas City Chiefs 35, Las Vegas Raiders 20
As if the Chiefs weren't enough to deal with already, their defense ranks fifth in efficiency and could get back previously suspended starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland and injured pass rusher Chris Jones. That should be plenty against a Raiders team too often willing to trade long field goal drives for touchdowns, especially in this divisional mismatch. Kansas City's passing attack isn't producing like normal (Patrick Mahomes ranks eighth in yards and 18th in YPA!), but Las Vegas' defense doesn't do a single thing well, tackling included. This is a get-right game for the Chiefs' offense, as if a 4-0 team needs to get right.
Houston Texans 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 27
Firing Bill O'Brien was necessary, but it's not going to fix the mistakes in roster construction that current football chief Jack Easterby helped oversee. The defense remains slow, with poor coverage linebackers and without much of a pass rush. Any offense with Deshaun Watson at quarterback and a capable group of wideouts should be fine, especially against a Jacksonville defense that routinely allows opposing quarterbacks to have their best game of the season. If the Jaguars couldn't rush the passer against the Bengals, it may never happen. Better vibes won't make the Texans world beaters, but beating the Jags to make interim head coach Romeo Crennel 1-0 is manageable.
Baltimore Ravens 30, Cincinnati Bengals 21
It's unfair to compare any offense to the 2019 Ravens -- even the 2020 Ravens. Still, it's disarming to see them ranked 11th in offensive efficiency after a quarter of the season. The O-line is not playing as well, their trademark long drives aren't happening and they aren't converting many first downs through the air. That's the bad news. The good news is that they remain very explosive and the schedule remains forgiving. Don't be surprised if smoking Joe Burrow moves the ball against a lagging Baltimore pass rush, but I'm not yet buying into Cincy's improved defensive numbers. Even a diminished Ravens offense is a very good one, although it's worth keeping an eye on Lamar Jackson's status after he missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury. (UPDATE: Jackson missed practice again on Thursday, marking the first time in the quarterback's career that he has sat out back-to-back days.)
Carolina Panthers 27, Atlanta Falcons 24
How much lower can Dan Quinn's team go? The injury report indicates Atlanta might get three key defensive starters back (Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Takk McKinley), but it seems foolish to play Julio Jones anytime soon. The Falcons need Matt Ryan to be special to overcome his surroundings. The 35-year-old QB has been ordinary. The Panthers' defense, meanwhile, has orchestrated a shockingly quick turnaround the last two weeks with rookies Yetur Gross-Matos and Derrick Brown making plays. If Matt Rhule goes into Atlanta and wins with Teddy Bridgewater on pace for 4,500-plus passing yards, Robby Anderson on pace for 1,500-plus receiving yards and Mike Davis capably replacing Christian McCaffrey, it's hard not to see the result as a pure reflection of coaching.
San Francisco 49ers 27, Miami Dolphins 20
The cavalry is arriving for the 49ers. After the healthy returns of George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Jason Verrett in the last two weeks, Jimmy Garoppolo and Raheem Mostert returned to practice on Wednesday. That bodes well against a Dolphins defense struggling to generate pressure or cover receivers. (Other than that, it's great!) The 49ers' cornerback group remains mostly missing, but it's hard to trust a Miami team to outscore opponents when Ryan Fitzpatrick is trying to mitigate two offensive tackles ranked in the bottom 10 of Pro Football Focus qualifiers. The Dolphins play just well enough each week to remind everyone that they are well-coached but talent-deficient.
Dallas Cowboys 31, New York Giants 24
New York's offense hasn't topped 300 yards yet, with Daniel Jones increasingly indecisive even in the rare instances he's protected. If that continues against the collapsing Cowboys defense, Giants fans will experience a nostalgia for Pat Shurmur they didn't believe possible. The Giants' big defensive line makes them difficult to run against, so this is yet another matchup where it would behoove Dallas to pass early and often. New York cornerback James Bradberry is performing like an All-Pro, but the Giants don't have enough other players in the back end to match up. Dak Prescott is the anti-Jones right now, with quick decision-making and a surplus of options, including tight end Dalton Schultz and backup running back Tony Pollard. For once, Dak won't have to play from behind.
Cleveland Browns 26, Indianapolis Colts 24
The Browns' offensive line and the Colts' defense are two of the most surprisingly dominant groups of this young season. It's also a surprise that both teams are 3-1 without their quarterbacks being especially sharp. No team has fewer explosive pass plays (20+ yards) than the Browns, while Philip Rivers' accuracy has been erratic. In a matchup of supporting casts, however, I'll take the Browns' group, even without star runner Nick Chubb. And in a matchup of contrasting styles, I'll take the improving offense over the improving defense in the year 2020, especially if Darius Leonard and other injured Colts linebackers don't suit up.
UPDATE: Coach Frank Reich announced Friday that Darius Leonard is ruled out for Sunday's game against the Browns.
Seattle Seahawks 35, Minnesota Vikings 31
Russell Wilson is not the only mad bomber in this game. No quarterback has thrown deep more often this season than Kirk Cousins, according to PFF, with increasingly productive results. Rookie WR Justin Jefferson has played so well the last two weeks that I'm afraid to say more about it, and the Vikings have another plus matchup against a Seahawks secondary missing Jamal Adams again. There's little reason to believe the Vikings have fixed their defensive problems enough to slow down the Seahawks, but Minnesota should make this game fun with no one running better than Dalvin Cook. All your fantasy options into the pool!
Monday, Oct. 12
New Orleans Saints 28, Los Angeles Chargers 20
As if the Gulf Coast hasn't been through enough lately, Hurricane Delta is bearing down on the region, with multiple governors declaring a state of emergency. The status and location of this game obviously pale in comparison to the real-life implications of the area's citizenry.
Regardless of where it might be played, the Saints have to feel confident in the matchup. Los Angeles' defense is not the same group it was a month ago due to injuries, and the Bolts are counting on Justin Herbert to continue playing like a top-10 quarterback to cover up for deficiencies elsewhere on the offense. The rookie QB has been extraordinarily fun to watch, but asking him to carry this franchise is asking too much, too soon against a Saints team getting healthier.
Tuesday, Oct. 13
Buffalo Bills 31, Tennessee Titans 20
(UPDATE: The Buffalo-Tennessee game originally scheduled for Sunday has been moved to 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the league announced Thursday.)
This is a difficult game to write about. The Titans are facing an unprecedented situation in terms of the number of players on their reserve/COVID-19 list and the lack of time in their facility over the last two weeks. In fact, after the latest positive result in Wednesday's round of testing, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that the "game being played as scheduled is clearly in doubt." I would take the high-flying Bills, even if everything was normal in this game, and there is nothing normal about this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, Chicago Bears 21
The craziest part about the Bucs ranking first in DVOA (measuring overall efficiency) is how much better they can still get on offense. Bruce Arians' bombs-away approach appeared to only fully click in the second half of last week's win against a banged-up Chargers group, but playing the fundamentally sound, eighth-ranked Bears defense on a short week will be much tougher. As long as the Bucs have wideouts Mike Evans and Scott Miller -- both listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report, though NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports optimism that both will suit up, Tom Brady will possess just enough weapons to win. It's the Bucs' offensive linemen who are truly the stars on this team, the perfect antidote to slow down Chicago's defensive strength up front.