TB (3-1) @ CHI (3-1) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon
The first “big” Thursday Night Football game of the season (i.e. on FOX, and with a 4K broadcast with those who have that option) is a Super Bowl LII rematch between Tom Brady and Nick Foles, though the quarterbacks—and Rob Gronkowski—are the only things similar for this NFC clash. Overall, the Buccaneers are extremely banged up on offense with Chris Godwin (hamstring) and multiple others out, so it may be time for Gronk to breakout; obviously the defense is different and he’s no longer in his prime, but it’s at least worth noting that the superstar tight end absolutely destroyed Chicago back in 2014 with a 9/149/3 line, and I’d love to see a flashback performance tonight. Whether or not Mike Evans (ankle) is himself, Brady should elevate his supporting cast and put up points if the offensive line can keep Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn away from him. For the Bears’ passing attack, we should see a better performance from Foles tonight, and getting Anthony Miller more involved feels like a simple solution that I’ve talked about since last year. If the pass protection holds up for Brady, he should be able to get revenge (at least how he likely views it) for his most recent Super Bowl loss.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LAR (3-1) @ WAS (1-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Washington essentially throwing in the towel on last year’s first-round pick Dwayne Haskins after 11 career starts is a definite surprise, but Ron Rivera didn’t draft him, and the head coach is going with who he feels gives them the best chance to win with the NFC East still wide open. Last year, Kyle Allen provided a spark for Rivera and the Panthers by winning his first four starts, so it’s not like Washington is going with some unknown here; plus, Allen has a strong grasp of the offense, and he will be backed up by Alex Smith—one of the game’s best quarterbacks when last on the field in 2018—if the change doesn’t work out. I don’t know how Jalen Ramsey isn’t being suspended for straight up fighting at the end of last week’s game, but it’ll be interesting to see how much Allen will challenge him in potential shadow coverage against Terry McLaurin, who has the skillset to present problems for the All-Pro corner as a smaller, more elusive wideout. Washington could have a real shot to pull off an upset if Chase Young (groin) returns to help win in the trenches, but Jared Goff and the Rams probably have too many weapons.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
PHI (1-2-1) @ PIT (3-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
As a rookie, Carson Wentz led the Eagles to a dominant, 34-3 victory over Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, but much has changed over the past four years—and you can be sure Mike Tomlin is reminding his guys (whether they were on the team or not) about the result of the last in-state matchup. Particularly, the depth of Pittsburgh’s passing attack with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, and Eric Ebron will be tougher to defend than the Antonio Brown show back in 2016, and Philly’s defensive line isn’t what it used to be despite showing life last Sunday night. Also, the Steelers almost certainly won’t be allowing 30+ points this time, but Wentz needs to continue making plays as a scrambler/runner to give the Eagles a chance at an upset. Doug Pederson needs to have a plan to stop T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree from wrecking the game against Jordan Mailata and an in-and-out-of-the-lineup Lane Johnson (ankle), but that will be easier said than executed, and Wentz needs to help out by getting rid of the ball. I don’t think this is an opponent the Eagles can beat at less than full strength.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
ARI (2-2) @ NYJ (0-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Cardinals being viewed as championship contenders might have been a bit premature after beating the banged-up 49ers (who they played tough last year) and Washington to start the season, as Kliff Kingsbury’s squad is now 2-2 with basically no explosive plays over the past two weeks. The Jets are an opponent to get on track against, but they’ve had a few extra days to prepare, and—I would think—Gregg Williams should have his defense showing more discipline compared to last Thursday night. Furthermore, Williams had previously coordinated defenses in St. Louis/Los Angeles that went 5-3 against Russell Wilson, so we’ll see if he knows how to contain a similar player in Kyler Murray. On the other side of the ball, New York is getting reinforcements with Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) back, and Joe Flacco is a very capable quarterback that should have a chip on his shoulder as a former Super Bowl MVP looking to prove himself in the late stages of his career. I expect the game to be close, but Arizona has the clear talent advantage on both sides of the ball if they can avoid mistakes.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
LV (2-2) @ KC (4-0) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
The Chiefs have had Derek Carr’s number by winning ten-of-12 games since he was drafted in 2014, and the past three results have really slanted in favor of Kansas City (35-3, 28-10, and 40-9). Jon Gruden added playmakers like Henry Ruggs III (hamstring) and Bryan Edwards (ankle) in order to keep up with Andy Reid’s offense, but the rookies being either out or less than full strength will be tough to overcome, and the defense probably isn’t improved enough to stop Patrick Mahomes this weekend. In order to win, Las Vegas will need a perfect game from Derek Carr, and Nelson Agholor (8/118/2 line on nine targets this year) should get increased opportunities, including more downfield shots. The Chiefs have been stingy against opposing receivers, though, so Ruggs III being back would be huge for the offense in general to open things up for Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Agholor. Maybe we’ll see Kansas City come out somewhat flat after an odd week and tough battle against New England, but as was the case in 2019, the Raiders don’t have the players on defense to stop all of Mahomes’ weapons.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
JAX (1-3) @ HOU (0-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
I’m not saying he should or shouldn’t have been fired, but the Texans getting rid of head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien not even nine months removed from a 24-0 lead over the Chiefs is the playoffs is another crazy story for 2020, and it would take a dramatic turnaround to compete in the AFC South with the Titans (when on the field) and Colts rolling. Jacksonville appears to be a good opponent to take down in the first game for interim head coach Romeo Crennel, but Houston better come ready to play on defense, as James Robinson can punch them in the mouth, and it’s possible Deshaun Watson struggles some in the early transition away from O’Brien. For me, one of the best individual matchups of the week will be top receiver Will Fuller against rookie cornerback C.J. Henderson, and the respective skillsets—with speed being a significant factor—should make it a fun rivalry in the division with two meetings every year. The Jags having more coaching stability is something you wouldn’t have guessed just a few weeks ago, but the talent advantage still belongs to the Texans.
Winner: Houston Texans
CIN (1-2-1) @ BAL (3-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Joe Burrow repeatedly getting hit around in the Thursday Night Football loss to the Browns was a tough test that I’d say he passed, but a road matchup against Baltimore could be the first real welcome-to-the-NFL moment for the No. 1 overall pick. While the breakout outing for Joe Mixon will fortunately take the pressure off Burrow some, he has never faced a defense like the one he’ll see on Sunday, and the Ravens should view Week 5 as a chance to drain the confidence of the rookie signal-caller after he became the first rookie in league history to throw for 300+ yards in three-straight games. Where the Bengals could have an edge is with A.J. Green against Marcus Peters (assuming Tyler Boyd draws coverage from Marlon Humphrey), but the veteran wideout has just 14 receptions for 119 scoreless yards this year, and the offensive line might not be able to hold up long enough for things to develop downfield. It might be a good idea for Baltimore to lean more on one running back (my pick would be J.K. Dobbins) ahead of their brutal midseason stretch (@ PHI, v PIT, @ IND, @ NE, v TEN, @ PIT, v DAL), but it might not matter this week because of how they’ve handled lesser opponents.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
CAR (2-2) @ ATL (0-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The Falcons are now 0-4 after another loss—and more injuries—on Monday night, but the effort level remaining high is a great sign that they can at least remain competitive on a weekly basis. Although the Panthers are emerging with two wins after an 0-2 start, Atlanta is the favorite this weekend, and Matt Ryan has won five in a row against them (plus each of the past five at home), so those streaks need to stay alive for Dan Quinn’s team to realistically have a shot at turning the season around. The big concern right now for the Falcons is having routine missed assignments in coverage, but first-round pick A.J. Terrell returning at cornerback should help, and I’m sure a lot of time was spent fixing all the flaws exposed in Week 4; D.J. Moore would be the guy I’m most worried about with Christian McCaffrey (ankle) still out for Carolina. As we have seen over the past two years, needing to win in a shootout every week isn’t something you can count on, but even without Julio Jones (hamstring, questionable), the Falcons have too much talent to drop to 0-5.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
MIA (1-3) @ SF (2-2) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | FOX
The only silver lining of San Francisco’s loss to the Eagles last week is that they came out of the night healthy, and top playmakers George Kittle and Deebo Samuel could be joined by Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle) and Raheem Mostert (knee) in a get-right game against Miami before—like the Ravens have but even worse—a nightmare stretch kicks in starting in Week 6 (v LAR, @ NE, @ SEA, v GB, @ NO, @ LAR, v BUF). Now, the Dolphins are no pushover opponent and may have Byron Jones (groin) back on Sunday, but the 49ers being close to full strength will make them very difficult to slow down. Defensively, I think San Francisco can force multiple takeaways against a hot-and-cold Ryan Fitzpatrick, but they need to make him win exclusively with his arm after he’s done unpredictable damage as a runner in back-to-back games for Miami. As long as DeVante Parker doesn’t go off against a secondary missing Richard Sherman (calf) and Mike Gesicki (just two receptions over the past two weeks) isn’t a huge factor over the middle, the Niners should be able to take care of business.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
NYG (0-4) @ DAL (1-3) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Dak Prescott is literally putting up video-game numbers over the past three weeks with yardage totals of 450, 472, and 502, but that’s partly due to slow starts and partly due to defensive issues—both of which need to get figured out if Dallas wants to live up to preseason expectations. Since his rookie season, Prescott is 6-0 against the Giants with at least three touchdowns in four of those games, so a new coaching staff in New York will try to reverse those fortunes; last week was promising as they limited the Rams to 240 total yards in a 17-9 loss, and the Giants have notably played LA, Pittsburgh, and Chicago tough so far this year. On offense, the results haven’t been there for Daniel Jones, but it was clear the early-season schedule would be a challenge, and those who watch the games should at least see glimpses of promise. However, the firepower/depth for New York isn’t on the same level as the Cowboys’ skill-position stars, and Mike Nolan’s defense has too many good players for them to remain as bad as they’ve been over the past three games (108 points allowed). A career day out of Jones—including production on the ground—might be needed if the Giants are going to win.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
IND (3-1) @ CLE (3-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | CBS
Cleveland deserves credit for bouncing back from a 38-6 loss in the opener to win three in row, and Colts-Browns is suddenly a potential playoff preview in a top-heavy AFC field. Of course, the loss of Nick Chubb (knee) for several weeks is a huge drain on the star power for Kevin Stefanski’s offense, but Kareem Hunt is more than qualified for the lead role, and No. 3 back D’Ernest Johnson showed well last week with 13 carries for 95 yards. Plus, tight end David Njoku (knee) is slated to return as another weapon, and an explosion from Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 4 should change how opponents have to defend them. For the Colts, rookie runner Jonathan Taylor needs more than the 15 carries he’s averaged over the past two weeks, and making him the clear offensive focal point is key to control the clock as Indy relies on the defense to lead the way; one of these teams jumping out to an early lead could be tough for the other to overcome. The possible absence of Darius Leonard (groin) would hurt, but I think the Colts have enough to win either way with Philip Rivers handing it off to No. 28 and allowing him to turn the corner on opponents.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
MIN (1-3) @ SEA (4-0) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC
A lot is working against the Vikings this week if history is any indication—Russell Wilson is 50-16 at home, 26-7-1 in primetime, and 6-0 against Minnesota (including playoffs)—but perhaps a win last week will give Mike Zimmer’s team the confidence they need to pull off the upset. If you don’t remember, the Vikings showed resilience last year on Monday Night Football by nearly overcoming a 34-17 deficit in the fourth quarter of an eventual 37-30 loss (which also came at CenturyLink Field), so Kirk Cousins is hoping to carry some of the big-game success he had in late 2019 into this weekend. Furthermore, there won’t be the usual homefield advantage for Seattle, and Jamal Adams (groin) has already been ruled out for a defense that’s allowing an NFL-high 401.0 passing yards per game. All that being said, I don’t see the young Minnesota secondary stopping D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett, and Dalvin Cook hasn’t had much room to run in two career matchups against the Seahawks (42.0 yards per game). A close game would be great, but something tells me the Seahawks will win decisively to improve to 5-0.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
LAC (1-3) @ NO (2-2) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN
Justin Herbert has officially been named the starting quarterback for Los Angeles after weeks of Anthony Lynn insisting Tyrod Taylor (chest) would return to the role, but the rookie gave him no choice following a near victory over Tom Brady and the Bucs in Week 4. While I thought Herbert could have used more refinement as a passer coming out of Oregon before he was ready to start, the No. 6 overall has simply gone out and made plays to keep the team competitive, so it makes sense for LA to let him continuing developing with on-field experience. I expect Herbert to play very well again for his first career primetime start, but Drew Brees has put up historic numbers throughout his career on Monday Night Football (except against “Mr. Monday Night” Keith Bulluck), and it seems appropriate that he will have what is likely his last MNF appearance come against his former team. Herbert, fellow rookie Joshua Kelley, and the rest of the offense should put up a fight, but the Saints have too many different ways to attack the Chargers’ depleted defense. I reserve the right to change my pick if Keith Bulluck comes out with a steel chair at some point, which actually is plausible in 2020.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
BUF (4-0) @ TEN (3-0) | TUE 7:00 PM ET | CBS
As of now, Bills-Titans is still on, and I would guess no new positive tests on Friday and Saturday will lead to the NFL forcing Tennessee to play (with no practice time) on Sunday considering they have been the main violators regarding the current COVID-19 issues. So far, none of the offensive headliners—Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown or Jonnu Smith—have tested positive, and that remaining the case will have them in good enough shape to win this matchup of undefeated teams. Buffalo has won both matchups against the Titans since Josh Allen was drafted with low-scoring outcomes (13-12 and 14-7), but this year is different, and it will be up to Tennessee to keep up with the MVP candidate and a white-hot offense. Devin Singletary getting 20+ touches again would only make the Bills more difficult to defend, and I don’t think they would want a forfeit as they try to keep the momentum going ahead of next week’s powerhouse battle versus Kansas City. Tennessee playing through Henry is the path to preventing a monster game from Allen and coming out with a win, but I’m all-in on Buffalo.
Winner: Buffalo Bills