Each week, I run down my picks for a few of the NFL's most interesting match-ups, while throwing in some odds and ends on players to highlight in fantasy football and DFS. I'll also pick the scores for the local college teams.
Season Record: 10-5-1 in NFL (3-1 on UPSET SPECIAL), 6-0 in college
The Game: Chargers @ Browns
The line on this game has been doing some weird things this week. Though the Chargers opened as a favorite, the tides have since shifted to where the Browns are now favored by a point. The Chargers are off to a 3-2 start behind the strength of their offense, while the Browns (2-2-1) have a stout defense and have shown improvement offensively under Baker Mayfield, winning twice with late scores.
Cleveland hasn’t lost a home game yet this season (2-0-1), and that’s where the Browns get the Chargers this Sunday. I expect the Browns’ defense to pressure Philip Rivers early and often to neutralize the L.A. passing attack, and turn this into the ugly kind of game that benefits the Browns.
If the Browns can win the turnover battle, they’re going to win the game. That’s what I predict, as Cleveland picks off Rivers twice while forcing fumble en route to a win that puts the Browns within striking distance of a wild card spot in the AFC.
The Pick: Browns 23, Chargers 20
Fantasy Implications: I’ve got Rivers in one of my leagues, and I’m nervous about it. I don’t think Rivers ends the day as a QB1 in 12-team leagues. If Cleveland’s D makes it uncomfortable for him in the pocket, it could lead to nice totals for Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler catching passes out of the backfield--I’m still firing those guys up. I’m not comfortable starting any Chargers WR outside Keenan Allen, though. Baker Mayfield may not be a QB1 this week, but he’s got a favorable schedule upcoming; take a flier on him if he’s still available. I want the Browns to give Nick Chubb more touches, but it’s unlikely unless something happens to Carlos Hyde. Chubb remains stashed on my bench, nevertheless.
The Game: Panthers @ Redskins
Washington laid the largest of eggs Monday night in a road loss to the Saints. Jay Gruden lost any respect I had for him as I watched Jordan Reed sit out a bunch of snaps for grandpa Vernon Davis and a real-life human named Jeremy Sprinkle. Alex Smith was as atrocious as the play-calling Monday, but since his most dynamic pass-catcher hardly played, what else can you do?
Speaking of coaching decisions, I know the emphasis in Carolina has been to get Christian McCaffrey more rushing touches, but the reason he’s so electric is for what he can do when you get him into space. This guy should be targeted in the passing game a dozen times a week out of the backfield. Instead, the Panthers have begun turning him into an inside runner. I don’t get it, but he’s dynamic enough to make some hay out of all those opportunities, anyway.
With a line that has the Panthers favored by one, I think they'll take it by more than that. I’m not very high on the Washington offense right now, so I expect Cam Newton to win the day in this road quest on Sunday.
The Pick: Panthers 27, Redskins 20
Fantasy Implications: Outside the ones mentioned above, I have to expect Chris Thompson to find more success in the passing game, if he plays. He and Adrian Peterson are both listed as Questionable, so Kapri Bibbs could have some interesting FLEX value if one of those two regulars ends up sitting out. I’m also calling a big game out of Devin Funchess this week. Greg Olsen should be back for the Panthers, snatch him up if someone in your league dropped him during his injured stretch.
The Game: Ravens @ Titans
This one’s intriguing to me because it features two 3-2 teams that I could envision finishing anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6--I have no idea if either of these teams are good! Both of them could be. Or neither? Who really knows!
Look at the quarterback play: The question surrounding Joe Flacco’s merits has been circulating for at least half a decade. Can you really trust him? Marcus Mariota hasn’t been very consistent this year, but he’s coming off a great game, and he used to be good! I think he’s still good? My head is spinning.
What we do know is that both defenses ARE good--only the Ravens have allowed more than 17 points in a single game this season, and that happened way back in Week 1. This line is set at a modest 42, and I’m predicting another defensive struggle for these two enigmatic squads.
The Pick: Ravens 17, Titans 16
Fantasy Implications: Do whatever you want, but I’m glad I don’t roster any fantasy players on either of these two teams. Mariota always has the ability to go off at any given time, but I don’t expect either side to offer much fantasy value this week, outside of their respective D/ST units. Both are a go in Week 6. Possible upside FLEX plays include Dion Lewis, Corey Davis, John Brown and Javorius Allen.
Upset Special: Chiefs (+3.5) @ Patriots
Here’s the game of the week, folks. The wunderkind Patrick Mahomes heads into Foxborough to take on the legendary Tom Brady. I don’t know how confident I feel picking this game, but one thing’s for certain: There will be fireworks.
Two elite offenses vs. two imperfect defenses. Both defensive units have highlight reel potential--don’t be surprised if each forces a couple turnovers--but each unit is also capable of making big mistakes. When that happens, the other side is guaranteed to have the offensive weapons to take advantage.
The over/under on this game is an enormous 59.5 total points, and I’m thinking it gets there. In what could be a preview of the AFC Championship Game, I'm taking the underdog Chiefs on the road to stay undefeated.
The Pick: Chiefs 33, Patriots 30
Fantasy Implications: Start EVERYONE in this game (except Chris Hogan, he’s looking like a 2018 bust until he shows otherwise). But really, Sony Michel is an RB1 the rest of the season. So is Kareem Hunt. Josh Gordon probably catches another touchdown this week. Julian Edelman will catch eight balls, he’s a must-start in PPR. Travis Kelce and Gronk both play in this game! Man, this is going to be some fun offensive football.
In the college ranks…
The Game: Missouri @ #1 Alabama
Gulp. This is going to be an absolute bloodbath, nobody’s denying it. Missouri will present very little in the way of a challenge to the offensive juggernaut that is building down in Tuscaloosa. Mizzou might put some points on the board, but if it does, it’s only because Alabama shows some mercy in the second half.
Take this game for what it is, Mizzou fans. Nobody’s beating ‘Bama this year, so don’t sweat it. Favored by four TDs, I expect the Tide to have no trouble covering that number.
The Pick: Alabama 59, Missouri 24
The Game: Illinois @ Purdue
The Illini are a double-digit underdog for their homecoming game this week, but I actually expect them to put up a real fight. Purdue has been a far cry from infallible this season and Illinois just handled its business convincingly last week against Rutgers. I think Illinois has a legitimate chance at an upset Saturday afternoon in Champaign.
The Pick: Illinois 34, Purdue 32