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Phinsider Week 5 Game Previews and Predictions

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Welcome to another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly Game Previews and Predictions!

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t done so lately, and you’re in the mood for a good scare, you might want to take a look at the current AFC East standings. Go ahead... I’ll wait.

That’s right, as of Thursday, October 5th (before the Patriots game on Thursday Night Football) the Buffalo Bills lead the pack sporting a 3-1 record, and the New York Jets are sitting pretty in second place at 2-2. Behind them, the Pats are in third at 2-2, while the Dolphins are occupying the cellar at 1-2. If anyone had told me back in the summer months what this division would look like going into week 5, I would have called them crazy. Unfortunately for Dolphins fans, the NFL is a crazy place, and hopefully for the Dolphins faithful, those standings shake up a bit after this week.

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of each contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 4 prediction record: 7-9

2017 season prediction record: 40-23

Thursday

New England Patriots (2-2) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) - 8:25 PM ET on CBS/NFLN

As I stated above, not many would have had the reigning Super Bowl champions pegged to start the season at 2-2, but here we are. While Tom Brady might still be at the top of his game at 40 years old, his defense just isn’t stopping enough opponents to help the Patriots win games. The secondary has been a mess and the pass rushers aren’t getting any pressure. If head-honcho Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia don’t figure something out, Brady might face more difficulty than expected while pursuing that sixth ring.

An under-the-radar storyline to keep track of here: Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin’s return from suspension. The Bucs run game has needed a boost through the team’s first three games. Martin’s 2017 debut might give them just that.

Score prediction: New England 30 - Tampa Bay 27

Sunday

New York Jets (2-2) at Cleveland Browns (0-4) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Jets defense has impressed through the past few weeks, holding three of their past four opponents to 21 points of fewer. It appears that the drafting of Jamal Adams was a great move by this front office, and the defensive line is holding up better than many have expected. That being said, this team still has quite a number of holes, especially along the offensive line and at the linebacker position. That is where Cleveland needs to focus to win this game.

Head coach Hue Jackson is sure to bring Duke Johnson out of the backfield plenty to take advantage of New York’s depleted linebacker unit, while first overall draft pick Myles Garrett appears on track to return from an ankle injury. If he gets going against the Jets’ offensive line, Josh McCown could be in for a long day.

Score prediction: Cleveland 20 - New York 17

Carolina Panthers (3-1) at Detroit Lions (3-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Panthers knocked off the Patriots last week after an impressive showing from Cam Newton, but the former MVP faces a stiffer test against a much improved Lions defense. This Detroit team feels different than those in years past, when it was always up to Matthew Stafford to dig the team out of a hole to secure a comeback victory. Now, with a defense that is holding opponents to field goals and a running game that can actually move the ball and earn first downs, Stafford doesn’t have to shoulder the load on his own. This game will serve as a good measuring stick to evaluate where Detroit is truly at.

Score prediction: Detroit 23 - Carolina 16

San Francisco 49ers (0-4) at Indianapolis Colts (1-3) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Colts simply aren’t the same team without Andrew Luck, and they are going to have to wait at least one more week to get their elite signal caller back on the field. Fortunately for backup Jacoby Brissett, his team is taking on a very up and down 49ers defense, one that has matchups to exploit with talented playmakers like T.Y. Hilton. For the 49ers to win this game, they will need to feed running back Carlos Hyde early and often. If San Francisco can control this game on the ground and keep its defense off the field, it might just be able to put up the points necessary to come away with its first win of the season.

Score prediction: San Francisco 14 - Indianapolis 10

Tennessee Titans (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Will Marcus Mariota take the field? That seems to be the biggest headline surrounding this contest, and rightfully so. Mariota’s presence (or absence) will mean a great deal in determining the outcome of this game, especially when the man set to replace him is Matt Cassel. Despite the fact that it’s the Dolphins’ offense, not defense, that is keeping Adam Gase and company from winning games, playing Cassel instead of Mariota would be a huge break.

What the Dolphins need to do to win this matchup is get back to their running game. Gase needs to feed Ajayi 20+ times to get the engine in the Jay Train running. Then, when the defense starts stacking the box, it will be time to launch some deep balls downfield and let playmakers like DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills do what they’re being paid to do.

Score prediction: Miami 21 - Tennessee 20

Buffalo Bills (3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-3) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Buffalo Bills defense has gotten off to an impeccable start through the first quarter of the season. Sean McDermott’s unit held last season’s top offense to under 20 points last week! That is an impressive feat for a defense that has earned much flak for its play over the Rex Ryan years.

The Bengals have also had a good year on the defensive side of the ball, but their offense has severely underperformed to start the season. Rookie runner Joe Mixon hasn’t been given the opportunity to find any open space because Andy Dalton can’t keep defenses honest with consistent production through the air. It doesn’t help matters that the offensive line has struggled with the departure of stalwarts like Kevin Zeitler. In short: the Bills are on the rise. The Bengals are not.

Score prediction: Buffalo 17 - Cincinnati 10

Los Angeles Chargers (0-4) at New York Giants (0-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

It’s the battle of the losers! Both Chargers and Giants fans have suffered through several agonizing losses this season, with both teams getting stung in the kicking game. The Giants have failed to score on offense and the Chargers have shot themselves in the foot with countless pointless errors. Starting the season 0-4 might as well be a guarantee of not playing any meaningful football in January, but a win, at the very least, would nice to see for either squad. Expectations were high for Philip Rivers and Eli Manning going into the season. It’s truly unfortunate that they’ve gotten to this point.

Score prediction: New York 16 - Los Angeles 13

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Jaguars defense seemingly can’t decide whether or not it’s any good. One week they shut down the Texans, the next they cede 37 points to the Titans. The following week they smother the Ravens, only to fall to the Jets one Sunday later. Which version of Doug Marrone’s unit will show up this week?

On the black and yellow side of things, Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown finally found some semblance of a rhythm against their division rivals last week. I expect Mike Tomlin to continue to feed the killer bees this Sunday, while possibly getting Martavis Bryant involved as well.

Score prediction: Pittsburgh 28 - Jacksonville 17

Arizona Cardinals (2-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

It’s not hard to imagine how much more of a contender this Arizona Cardinals team would be with David Johnson still in the fold. The superstar running back would complement this team’s 7th ranked defense very nicely, but with Johnson gone, Carson Palmer has been forced to continue airing it out. Against the Eagles, that might not be a problem though, as Phily has had difficult stopping the pass as of late. In order to keep Palmer’s air raid attack off the field, LeGarrette Blount will need to show up in this contest.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 27 - Arizona 21

Seattle Seahawks (2-2) at Los Angeles Rams (3-1) - 4:05 PM ET on CBS

What to make of this matchup? The Seahawks stepped up and impressed last week, albeit against a very weak Colts team, while the Rams are continuing to show that they are not a squad to be taken lightly. For Sean McVay to pull off a win here, getting Todd Gurley going early is a must. Seattle’s defense will be sure to pressure Jared Goff throughout this entire game, so he won’t be able to win this one on his own. This is definitely one to keep an eye on as Sunday rolls closer.

Score prediction: Seattle 21 - Los Angeles 20

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-2) - 4:05 PM ET on CBS

If there was ever a get-right matchup for a struggling team like the Baltimore Ravens, this is it. Joe Flacco’s offense has gotten absolutely NOTHING going over the past couple of weeks, so playing Oakland’s porous defense might be just what the doctor ordered. In addition, Derek Carr won’t be available to save the day for the Silver and Black faithful. Backup E.J. Manuel just doesn’t put any fear into the hearts of opponents the way Carr’s gunslinging play does.

Score prediction: Baltimore 17 - Oakland 13

Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2) - 4:25 PM ET on FOX

This is far and away my favorite game of the week. With last season’s playoff contest still fresh in the memory of both fan bases, the atmosphere will be buzzing with energy in AT&T Stadium. Will Aaron Rodgers pull off another heroic victory? Will Dak Prescott get his revenge? Who knows? But this contest is shaping up to be an entertaining shootout that promises to satisfy that appetite of lovers of all things football.

Score prediction: Green Bay 31 - Dallas 27

Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) at Houston Texans (2-2) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

Although Green Bay-Dallas is my favorite matchup of the week, this Sunday Night Football showdown is a close second. The undefeated Chiefs have shown that they have the makings of a championship caliber team, using all sorts of different methods to beat opponents depending on the flow of the game. Whether it be relying on rookie sensation Kareem Hunt or the revitalized arm of Alex Smith, Kansas City keeps finding ways to pull off wins. That being said, Deshaun Watson’s Texans are no push overs. They just decimated their AFC South rival Titans with a brand of offense we haven’t seen from Bill O’Brian in a long time, if ever. If you’re going to be up late this Sunday night, it would be worth your while to tune in to this one.

Score prediction: Kansas City 28 - Houston 24

Monday

Minnesota Vikings (2-2) at Chicago Bears (1-3) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

Boy, is ESPN happy with head coach John Fox or what? This contest was looking to be a snooze fest until Mitch Trubsiky was announced to be Chicago’s starting quarterback. Now, every eye in the football world will be glued to this game. It’s hard to determine what we should be expecting from the rookie signal caller despite his impressive performance in the preseason. The regular season is an entirely different animal, especially against Minnesota’s imposing defense. Sam Bradford’s status must also be closely monitored. He means more to the Vikings offense than most realize.

Score prediction: Minnesota 20 - Chicago 14