Tuesday, October 11, 2016

NFL 2016 Week 5 MNF Review & Week 6 Predictions

Tampa Bay 17, Carolina 14 - Uh-oh! Like most people, I assumed that the Panthers were going to be off the charts this season, following an amazing, even historical season last year that, nonetheless, ended in disappointment in the Super Bowl. Surely, this team was going to be hungry, and was going to come out and dominate! Well, not so much. The first loss at Denver was not that surprising. After all, it was the Super Bowl champs, and they had an emotional homecoming against the very same team that they beat to win their third franchise title. However, when the Panthers lost to Minnesota in much the same fashion shortly thereafter, you kind of sensed that something was wrong. Then, any denial went out the window when they lost yet again, this time to Atlanta. Now, injuries or not, the Panthers really should have found a way to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this Monday Night showdown. Granted, they were playing without Cam Newton, but still, you kind of figure that the team has to have some depth outside of their big star. Well, not so much. The Panthers came out flat, and looked surprisingly lifeless for much of the game. It certainly did not help that a late drive that could have gone for a go ahead touchdown to win it wound up being a turnover instead for Tampa Bay, a team that looked fired up all night. An ugly game, but ultimately for the Bucs, the results could not have been more beautiful, as they come into Carolina and shock the Panthers, who fall to 1-4 and, for now, own sole possession of last place in the NFC South! Who would ever have thought that? Not I! 

Let's look at the upcoming match-ups for Week 6:

Thursday Night: Denver at San Diego - Perhaps, just perhaps, the worst news for the Chargers heading into this game is that the Denver Broncos lost last week, as well. They are playing well, trying to defend their title, and so will be even more highly motivated than usual to avoid a second straight loss, which will have people asking what is wrong with this team. San Diego, in the meantime, has lost quite a few games in a row, and in the most heartbreaking fashion. It seems that they have kind of gotten used to losing in the worst ways, and against a team like Denver, that is not a promising sign. The Chargers have some talent, but the Broncos should still get this win. My pick: Denver

Cincinnati at New England - The Bengals just cannot catch a break this season. They keep having incredibly tough games at the most inopportune times. Really, the Bengals have not managed a very impressive win yet this season, beating only those opponents that they were supposed to beat. Few believe that they can beat a highly charged New England squad that seems to be at full power once again, particularly in hostile territory. The Patriots should be able to make relatively short work of an outclassed opponent. My pick: New England

Philadelphia at Washington - Here is a tough game to call! Philly was unbeaten, but received a bit of humble pie in Detroit, dropping their first game of the season. Washington, in the meantime, has won three straight, and they have home field advantage in an all-important divisional showdown. You better believe Washington will enter this game incredibly motivated, and the question will be how the Eagles respond. They have played well in each of their first four games, and their defense is tough. Still Washington just seems hot right now, and with home field advantage, that should be enough. My pick: Washington

Cleveland at Tennessee - The Browns return to the site of one of their greatest victories ever, and surely their greatest single victory in the last few seasons. It was not too long ago that the Browns overcame a 26-point lead by the Titans in Tennessee, only to come back and ultimately win the game. However, the two teams seem to be heading in opposite directions, with the hapless Browns losing consistently week after week, while the Titans are pulling off some upsets and showing some improvements. With a victory against Cleveland, that would start to change to significant improvement, although the Titans have to get it done first. The Browns are better than their 0-5 record suggests, and logic dictates that, sooner or later, Cleveland is bound to win again some Sunday afternoon. However, they just likely will not win this one. My pick: Tennessee

Pittsburgh at Miami - It would be nice to seriously pick Miami in this one. But barring some major miracle, it is hard to see how the reeling Dolphins slow down or keep pace with Pittsburgh's explosive offense. Miami was supposed to be better than this at this point in the season, but they keep disappointing. In the meantime, the Steelers have fully recovered from the humbling loss they were handed in Philadelphia, and are now on the verge of completely controlling their division, so they come in quite motivated. Under all of those circumstances, it is hard to imagine how Miami keep up. My pick: Pittsburgh

Carolina at New Orleans - The battle for the cellar of the NFC South division. This will be a tough game to call, and really hinges on whether Cam Newton will be back or not. If he is, then that gives that Panthers an obvious advantage. If not, however, then the Saints can very likely take advantage of a reeling and seemingly disorganized Carolina franchise that is on the verge of seeing their incredibly promising season go up in flames. Indeed, should Carolina lose this game, they would fall into sole possession of last place in the NFC South in Week 6 with an alarming 1-5 record, which would be an almost unthinkable scenario considering how heavily favored the Panthers were going into this season. I really hesitate to make a pick here, because so much depends on Newton, who is still a question mark. However, if he is not there, or not at one hundred percent, then look for the Saints to take advantage. My pick: New Orleans

San Francisco at Buffalo - Here is an even more glaring example of two teams heading in opposite directions. The 49ers won big in week one at home against the Rams, shutting out Los Angeles on a nationally televised game. Since then, however, they have been hit hard, losing all four games and getting blown out in three of them. Buffalo, in the meantime, got off to a rough 0-2 start, but have been playing lights out since, pulling off three consecutive victories against quality teams. The Bills defense is intimidating, and the 49ers have one of the worst offenses in the league. Buffalo is riding high, while San Francisco often looks overwhelmed. It is hard not to picture the Bills winning this one, and potentially even winning it big against a reeling 49ers club that just may be overwhelmed in this one. My pick: Buffalo

Los Angeles at Detroit - The Lions looked very good early in the season, but have since suffered some truly huge setbacks. Still, they just managed to pull off a big victory at home against the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, so attention should be paid. The Rams have been surprisingly good to this point in the season as well, even though they just lost to the red hot Bills last week. All of this makes this game a particularly difficult contest to call. Still, the Lions have talent on offense and defense, as well as home field advantage, and I suspect that should count for something here. My pick: Detroit

Baltimore at NY Giants - Two teams that are really struggling at this point, after undefeated starts. Suddenly, both teams are struggling, and more or less thrust into almost must win situations for this game, particularly the Giants. However, I like the G-Men here, specifically because they are returning home, and they have faced the tougher teams in those losses, falling at home to Washington, then losing on the road at Minnesota and Green Bay, although playing fairly tough in each contest. The Ravens, by contrast, have lost two consecutive at home, and barely won some of the games that they did win. New York takes this one. My pick: NY Giants

Jacksonville at Chicago - Tough game to predict! On the one hand, the Jaguars finally showed signs of improving, and should be well-rested and well-prepared for this game. On the other hand, the Bears are at home, and have been playing much better themselves these last two weeks. Still, the Bears have not found a great deal of offense, while the Jaguars can potentially light it up. I suspect that their better offensive capabilities should prove to be the difference in this contest. My pick: Jacksonville

Kansas City at Oakland - The Chiefs are not where I expected them to be to this point in the season. Then again, neither are the Raiders. I expected some improvements in terms of record from both of them, but the Raiders thus far look like they are flirting with being an elite team! Kansas City, in the meantime, has struggled more than I thought they would, particularly on the road, and that is troubling. A KC road victory is certainly not impossible, although if Oakland continues playing the way that they have and are capable of, the Raiders take this one. My pick: Oakland

Atlanta at Seattle - Now, this just might be the game of the week coming up! Two elite teams in the NFC, two teams atop their respective divisions. You have to imagine that one of them is going to lose, right? The Falcons have the most explosive offense in the league right now, and have won two particularly impressive games in a row, knocking off the two last Super Bowl teams in back to back weeks. They have handed both Denver and Oakland their only losses of the season thus far, and that was in back to back weeks, to boot! But the Seahawks are always tough, particularly in Seattle. My pick: Seattle

Dallas at Green Bay - Yet another game that is very tough to call going in. What an intriguing match-up this one is! Green Bay enters with a 3-1 record, and are notoriously tough to beat at Lambeau Field. The Cowboys are themselves red hot at 4-1, and have the revenge factor on their side, having lost that heartbreaking playoff game a couple of years ago. If the 'Boys play anywhere near the level that they played at against Cincy last week, they have a strong shot at pulling off this tough road game. The Packers have not shown their usual explosiveness on offense, which you would expect from an Aaron Rodgers led team. In a tough game, I still pick the Pack. My pick: Green Bay

Sunday Night - Indianapolis at Houston - A huge divisional showdown that could be all-important, despite how early in the season it is. If the Colts win, they will have recovered from a two game deficit to beat their likely biggest rivals on the road, and would have forced a first place tie. However, if the Texans win, they will re-open a two-game lead, and could come close to taking control over this AFC South. You just cannot get higher stakes so early in the season, and this presents a tight match-up. The Texans have lost a couple of blowouts on the road, but being at home in this one should help. Their defense might be limited due to injuries, but my suspicions are that they should be tough enough to beat Indy in this one. My pick: Houston

MNF - NY Jets at Arizona - This is basically a must win for both teams. The Jets are really struggling, and look to simply stop the bleeding at this point. The Cardinals want to build on their victory last week, after a shockingly bad 1-3 start. With both teams projected to be playoff teams, it is now crunch time, and this game means everything right now for both clubs. Unfortunately, for the Jets, they have some key injuries, and keep getting these really difficult games in must win situations, and they have not really gotten the job done yet. The Cardinals, in the meantime, have not shown their full potential except for the Tampa Bay game, although they came close to it last week against San Francisco. Being back home again, and with extra time to rest and prepare, Arizona should come away with this all-important victory for them. My pick: Arizona

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