I took last week in the NFL off as I honestly just didn’t have time to cap the card as well as I’d like. Instead of just throwing darts and hastily coming up with plays I decided to keep on the sidelines and jump back in there this week. Hopefully the week away serves me well, here’s what I’ve got for week 5….
Browns (+3): As weird as it is to think about with a few breaks here and there the Browns could rather easily be 4-0 right now. In week 1 they missed a last second FG that would’ve beat the Steelers. In week 2 their then kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a few FG’s and extra point which ended up being the main reason they lost that game, and then in week 4 they had the ball and an 8 point lead with under 2 minutes left yet still found a way to lose. In all of 3 of those games they were in the drivers seat to win as the game was winding down but found a way to blow it. The truth is they actually have a pretty talented roster and are as improved as any team in the league. At QB Baker Mayfield came back to earth a bit last week with 2 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles but the big play potential is still there and I think he’s a clear upgrade over Taylor. There’s no doubt some volatility in his game but there’s enough upside there that you can live with the occasional mistake. Now obviously 4 turnovers is too many but if he can keep that under control he should be fine, as I fully expect him to generate his share of big plays. Defensively despite being chewed up by the Raiders last week they’ve been pretty good on the whole. They handled Pittsburgh well in week 1, were very good against the Saints in week 2, and again strong against the Jets in week 3. I’m not going to let 1 poor defensive showing sway me from what they did in their first 3 games. On the Ravens side I just don’t know how long they can continue having success being so one dimensional offensively. Flacco is off to a nice start and there’s no denying that, but the running attack has been nearly non existent. As a team they only average 89 yards per game rushing and the duo of Collins and Allen is barely averaging 3 yards per carry. Led by Miles Garrett the Browns pass rush is very solid and I expect plenty of pressure on Flacco. If the Ravens can’t establish some sort of rushing game then they could find a tough go offensively. As far as the Browns go I already talked about Mayfield and now fellow rookie Nick Chubb is starting to emerge at RB. The duo of he and Carlos Hyde have the Browns 2nd in football with 152 rushing yards per game. They can run the ball well and now with Mayfield in there over Taylor they can pass it too. I think they can win this game but I’ll opt to take the FG instead of play it on the moneyline.
Texans (-3): Houston is only 1-3 out of the gate this year but this is still a team I think is pretty decent. Their 3 losses are by a combined 15 points and despite some of the media souring on Deshaun Watson I’m still quite high on him. He’s completing 62% of his passes for 311 yards per game and 7 TD’s to go with 4 INT’s. On top of that he’s still a threat on the ground where he adds in 41 yards per game rushing on nearly 7 yards per carry. This is a team that can still move the ball very well and their WR duo of Hopkins and Fuller are in my opinion one of the best in the league. On the other side we have a Dallas offense that is basically a one man show. Ezekiel Elliott is an excellent player and he’s averaging 138 yards from scrimmage per game, but outside of that there is a serious lack of talent on this offense. I rate their WR group as the worst in the NFL and frankly it isn’t even close. Cole Beasley is their #1 WR and that’s really saying something. On most teams he’d be a 3rd or 4th option at best as someone who just works out of the slot. After Beasley no other WR on the roster even has double digit catches and Elliott is actually 2nd on the team in both receptions and receiving yards. Dallas has the better defense and I will give them credit for that, but I just can’t get past how bad that offense is. If something happened and Elliott got hurt I honestly think they’d struggle to score more than about 10 points per game. The defense is good enough to slow Houston down and likely keep them below their season averages, but not good enough to stop them entirely. There’s too much talent on that Texans offense to be completely held down and I think they are going to get theirs. If they build an early lead Dallas isn’t built to come from behind and this thing might even start to get out of hand. I won’t quite call for a blowout but I do think Houston wins by double digits. Something along the lines of a 27-14 Texans win is what I’m looking for.
Bills (+5): Just today this line has shot up to 5 and that’s now a number I’m comfortable making a play at. The Titans on the strength of their defense are off to a 3-1 start. They lost their opener at Miami but since then have won 3 straight. Those 3 wins however have all been by just 3 points and they are 28th in the league scoring just 18.8 points per game. They are also only 28th in total yards, 26th in time of possession and 28th in passing yards. In other words this is a well below average offense and it’s tough to pass on getting 5 points with a home team against a team like that. On the ground the much hyped duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis just haven’t been able to get it going. Combined they are only averaging 76 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry rushing. Without those two getting untracked the passing attack just isn’t explosive enough to do much damage. The way it’s drawn up is for them to gash you on the ground and then when you add an 8th man into the box that’s when Mariota can make some big plays in the air. You won’t get one without the other though and that’s why overall the offense has been so stagnant. The total in this game is only 39 which makes it the lowest total on the board this week. This figures to be a very physical, grind it out, low scoring kind of game. In a game like that 5 points go a lot further than they do in a game where the total is in the 50’s or so. Admittedly the bad offense argument goes both ways in this one as the Bills are dead last in the league with 12.5 points per game. Allen showed some glimpses of what he can do in that win a few weeks ago over the Vikings but he’s still feeling out the league and learning as he goes. I’ll admit this is a plug your nose play as backing what is statistically the worst offense in the league isn’t a comfortable play. That said I only made this number 3 and now that’s it’s crossed the key number of 4 I see some value with the Bills. Honestly I just don’t think Titans should be laying 5 points on the road against anyone.