AFC Week 5
Sports Analyst Tim CarrollTim is a freelance Sports Reporter with previous work in the Daily Vidette at Illinois State University.
Thursday, October 8
Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3)
The Colts enter this game with both Andrew Luck and back-up Matt Hasselbeck listed as questionable. Luck is still expected to start after sitting last week because of his right shoulder, so they should be all set on that front. But even still, you have to feel nervous about a quarterback coming back too soon with an injury like with anything to do with your dominant side, especially with the shoddy offensive line play. You know JJ Watt will be aiming to get after Luck early to prevent him from going deep with the football. The Texans appear to be rolling with Ryan Mallet as the starter still, much to the chagrin of every fan in Houston (Luckily for them, the Astros are moving on in the MLB Playoffs). This game should be interesting still, as the defensive line is still strong enough to get after Luck to keep this interesting.
Prediction: Colts 23, Texans 17.
Sunday, October 11
Chicago Bears (1-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
The Chicago Bears were getting a rep as potentially being the worst team in the NFL before their win against Oakland last week. The Chiefs, meanwhile, keep drawing interest as a potential playoff team because they’ve lost to three 4-0 teams. Their defense may be giving up 31 points per game (Tied for 31st in the NFL), but they’ve played talented offenses. With that being said, the Bears are starting to generate pass rush on defense, and Alex Smith has struggled to keep the football in his own players’ hands. Jay Cutler makes the Bears a competitive team, but still seems to have a penchant for throwing late picks. This team has a pair of good running backs, shoddy quarterbacks, and defenses that like to make your quarterback scared, it should be a competitive game.
Prediction: Chiefs 24, Bears 20.
Seattle Seahawks (2-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)
The Seahawks escaped a close game Monday night, with a controversial no call that left many scratching their heads. With that being said, the Seahawks earned that victory, and that rule will likely be reviewed in the offseason. The defense has settled down greatly, giving up just 10 points the last two weeks after giving up 61 in the first two weeks. The Bengals, meanwhile, are riding high following a hot 4-0 start. Andy Dalton has his favorite target fully healthy in AJ Green, and is loving every minute of it. You can say what you will about the teams the Bengals have played, but they’re all without a doubt competitive and talented, and the Bengals earned each victory. The difference in this game will come down to which quarterback can keep it mistake free. And with all due respect to Andy Dalton, something tells me Russell Wilson keeps figuring out how to best utilize Jimmy Graham. Oh, and Marshawn Lynch is likely ready to go this week.
Prediction: Seattle 31, Cincinnati 20.
Cleveland Browns (1-3) at Baltimore Ravens (1-3)
The Ravens finally eked out their first victory of the season last week, narrowly escaping the Steelers and Michael Vick’s 3 yard passes. The Cleveland Browns keep shooting themselves in the foot with Josh McCown behind center. Raven’s receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman didn’t participate in practive Wednesday (as of print time), but if Smith plays, you can bet he’s going to be giving it everything he’s got. Neither of these teams really evoke much out of me. Flacco’s receiving core is depleted even with Smith, as he’s really the only reliable target. The offensive line isn’t bad, but one has to wonder if they miss Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme for Marc Trestman’s finesse style. Forsett looked good last week, but that’s the first time he’s shown signs of life. The Browns leave you wanting more constantly with Manziel on the bench. With that being said, the Ravens in the Jim Harbaugh era just don’t lose to bad teams.
Prediction: Ravens 26, Browns 14.
Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-2)
Marcus Mariota has played very well for a rookie. He played well week 1 in that thrashing of the Buccaneers, fell victim to big plays by the Browns offense in week 2, and then lost a shoot-out to division resident Andrew Luck’s Colts, in Indy’s offensive breakout for the season. With that being said, Marcus Mariota hasn’t seen a defense yet with a much top-notch talent as this Bills defense. And Rex Ryan doesn’t allow rookie quarterbacks to embarrass him. On the other side of the ball, Tyrod Taylor has played well, losing only to Tom Brady and Eli Manning. I think he can live with that… for now. However, he didn’t look great in the loss to the Giants, but he was playing with LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins. It looks like McCoy will play, while Watkins is still up in the air. McCoy may not look like he did Philly, but the presence of him takes pressure off Taylor, which should bode well for him this week.
Prediction: Bills 27, Titans 17.
Denver Broncos (4-0) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Denver Broncos are winning a little different lately than they’ve been used to since Peyton Manning came to town. Peyton Manning has still not yet put up 30 points in a game without help from the defense. But this defense is awesome. Whether it’s DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller or even TJ Ward, this team gets after the quarterback. They’ve also got awesome corners, with Chris Harris and Aqib Talib locking receivers up. But once a year, Peyton Manning and co. drops a game to a team that has no business winning. Last year St. Louis won 22-7 thanks to a 63 yards TD pass (their only TD of the game). This game, in Oakland, could potentially have that feel. Amari Cooper is really talented. And while this Oakland defense hasn’t exactly harassed the quarterback, worries about the Broncos offensive line, and Khalil Mack lining up for the Raiders could make things interesting. I’m not picking an upset here, but it definitely has a feel of a potential letdown for Denver.
Prediction: Broncos 28, Raiders 26.
Monday, October 12
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) at San Diego Chargers (2-2)
The Michael Vick experiment looks like it might leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the Steelers. He didn’t make any obvious mistakes, but his dink and dunk passing and inaccurate passes don’t seem to be able to work for this Steelers offense that wants to sling it to each receiver down the field. LeVeon Bell is nice, but without a true passing threat, he can only do so much to break games open. Meanwhile, the Chargers have really left you wanting more this year. They are 2-2, so it’s not exactly time to panic. But they really got slammed in their losses this year to Cincinnati and Minnesota really left you thinking they can’t get it done against teams that are well coached. Philip Rivers continues to be Philip Rivers, but without a running back for Danny Woodhead to compliment, this offense appears stuck in neutral when it really matters. Melvin Gordon can still be that guy, but it appears either the coaching staff is not ready to trust him, or already believe they can’t trust him. This game will likely come down to LeVeon Bell’s performance. If he breaks a few nice runs, they can get in position to score touchdowns.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Chargers 21.
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