We are now four weeks into the 2016 NFL regular season, and the things that we thought might just be coincidences in Week 1, are looking more like trends in Week 5.
The Denver Broncos are better than most experts thought.
The Carolina Panthers seem to have taken a big step backward. Although, there is still plenty of time for them to right the ship.
And the Philadelphia Eagles have surprised everyone by going undefeated with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz under center.
So now that we are beginning to figure out just exactly who is who, let’s get down to the important task at hand, and start making some money! And if you win, don’t forget who sent you!
And if not, well … there’s always next week.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff.
My pick: Denver Broncos -4.5 vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Denver Broncos boast one of the top defenses in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons have the top scoring offense in the league, racking up 38 points per game. Something has to give on Sunday in Denver.
Through the first four games, the Bronco defense has faced the No. 4 offense in Carolina, the No. 16 offense of Indianapolis, the No. 11 ranked offense of Cincinnati and the No. 21 offense of Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Falcons offense hasn’t faced nearly the same competition on the defensive side of the ball. Tampa’s defense is ranked No. 15, the Raiders are dead last at No. 32, New Orleans is second to last at No. 31 and Carolina has fallen to No. 13.
So, Atlanta will be facing a significantly tougher test on Sunday.
Add into the mix the fact that the Atlanta defense is allowing over 102 yards per game rushing and 31 points per game, and the Broncos offense should be able to generate some points against that defense, no matter who starts at quarterback.
Don’t be surprised to see the Falcons offense move the ball early, and possibly even score a few points.
But just as they have done every week, once the Denver defense settles in, Matt Ryan and company could be in for a long afternoon.
My pick: Minnesota Vikings -7 vs Houston Texans
The Minnesota Vikings (4-0) are playing as well as anyone in the NFL right now, and they are doing it with a nasty defense.
Just for comparisons sake, the Denver Broncos currently have sacked opposing quarterbacks 17 times, and the Vikings aren’t far behind with 15.
That can’t be good news for Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler who left Denver to be the man in Houston.
But so far, Brock has struggled, throwing five touchdowns to six interceptions, and he has already been sacked seven times.
Osweiler has played on the road just once this year.
He went 24 for 41 with just 196 yards and an interception in New England in Week 3, and the Texans got rolled 27-0 by the Patriots.
The Vikings will be looking to keep the Houston offense scoreless on the road again on Sunday.
My pick: Buffalo Bills +2 at Los Angeles Rams
Jeff Fisher and the Los Angeles Rams are 3-1 and have to be feeling good with wins over Arizona and Seattle, but if there is one thing that we know about Jeff Fisher, it’s that he tends to go 8-8.
So for those good wins, there should be some bad losses coming.
Rex Ryan got a big win last week when the Buffalo Bills shut out the New England Patriots at home. Sure, the Patriots were down to their third quarterback, but Ryan’s defense played excellent and allowed just a single third down conversion.
Still, the Bills have struggled on the West Coast.
In the past 20 seasons, Buffalo is 3-11 when playing on the left coast. Their last win came in 2004 against the San Francisco 49ers.
But this Buffalo team has some talent. They are one of the best rushing teams in the NFL, averaging over 123 yards per game on the ground, and the return of suspended defensive tackle Marcell Dareus should help a defense that looks to be returning to form.
The Bills have to win a game out west at some point, don’t they?
Stay Away of the Week: New England Patriots -11 at Cleveland Browns
I realize this might be a trendy pick.
Tom Brady returns from his NFL suspension, angry about his tarnished reputation, and the Patriots run roughshod over the hapless Browns.
But it isn’t quite that simple.
Brady hasn’t been allowed to practice or even have any communication with his team. Can he really be expected to step right in as though he had never been gone?
And while the Browns are 0-4, they do appear to be a little feisty.
They are actually leading the league in rushing with over 149 yards per game on the ground, and the Patriots defense is giving up nearly 136 per game, ranking them 30th.
For the past six months, the Browns have been hearing about just how bad Brady is going to shred them in his Week 5 return.
I’m not saying they can actually win the game, but I don’t expect them to go away without a fight, either.