It’s a special week for my weekly bold predictions, as the week number coincides with the number of predictions I make. Let’s see what’s in store as several teams start up the 2nd quarter of their schedule…
1) The Cardinals More Than Survive With Drew Stanton
Contrary to popular belief, the 2014 Arizona Cardinals, one of the most heartbreaking “might-have-been” teams in NFL history, did not completely collapse upon the injury to Carson Palmer. Stanton was the first understudy to step in, and actually performed pretty well, posting a 5-3 record in 8 starts before succumbing to an injury himself, forcing Ryan Lindley into action. Stanton is one of the league’s more reliable backups, having stuck around in the league since 2008. Arizona, once thought to be NFC favorites, is at 1-3, so they need a win this week on Thursday night in San Francisco. The Niners have shown flashes of brilliance, but when Blaine Gabbert is at quarterback, there’s really nothing to get too excited about. Arizona gets back on the right track under Stanton’s guidance.
2) The Browns Keep It Close In You-Know-Who’s Return
You may have heard that some unknown quarterback named Tom Brady will be making his first start for the Patriots this Sunday, taking on an 0-4 Browns team. It just wouldn’t be Cleveland football otherwise.
Brady will be out for blood, and will see it, albeit in an orange form, on Sunday against the Browns. But, all jokes aside, the Browns aren’t as obscenely bad as their 0-4 record indicates. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not a good football team in the slightest. But Cody Kessler has filled in for his injured veteran help nicely, and Terrelle Pryor, the anti-Tebow, has been masterful since putting his quarterback aspirations aside and lining up as receiver. In addition, the Browns have a knack for playing New England well in recent times. In the two most recent meetings, Cleveland won a 2010 meeting 34-14 behind a 184 yard day from Peyton Hillis, and took the Pats to the brink in 2013, falling 27-26. The “any given Sunday” trope played out years ago…but it most certainly applies here.
3) Julio Jones Will Tally Under 50 Yards
Somehow, someway, the Atlanta Falcons, not the defending champion Panthers, not the supposedly young and exciting Buccaneers, not the Drew Brees-led Saints, are the lone winning team in the NFC South, leading at 3-1. Well, we actually know the somehow and someway, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been delighting their fantasy owners with numbers that would make pinball machines blush. However, the ultimate test of wills will come in a de facto Super Bowl XXXIII rematch with the Denver Broncos, who are somehow even better sans Peyton Manning and several members of their Super Bowl winning defense. They’re basically the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, but instead of Trent Dilfer, there’s one…or possibly two!…competent quarterbacks under center. Trevor Siemian has been a diamond found in the 7th-round rough, and the Broncos didn’t lose a step thanks to their 1st round this year, Paxton Lynch, who stepped in when Siemian got hurt last week. The magic runs out for the Falcons this week, as they leave the comforts of the
Big 12 NFC South and face one of the strongest defenses of the generation.
4) Dak Prescott Will Pass His First Big Test
Even if you hate the Dallas Cowboys, you have to admit the Dak Prescott story has been pretty nice. Forced into service upon the injury of Tony Romo, Prescott, along with several others who have stepped up, give those who actually do like the Cowboys something that wasn’t present the last time Romo got hurt…hope. Prescott has kept a goose egg in his interception column, but not on the scoreboard, as the Cowboys offense currently ranks 2nd in football in terms of yards. However, buried within the Cowboys’ 3-1 mark is the fact the victories have come against Washington, Chicago and San Francisco, not exactly NFL royalty. Dallas now enters a crucial three game stretch, were they take on Cincinnati, Green Bay and Philadelphia, who have a combined 7-3 record. Prescott, who has already conceded the starting job back to Romo, who is slated to come back for that last game against the Eagles, can make the Dallas QB question that much more interesting by beating a recent playoff staple in the Bengals.
5) Carolina Drops to 1-4
Both Carolina and Denver picked up right where they left off from Super Bowl 50. Denver has rattled off wins in their first four games, while the Panthers have looked as lifeless as they did on that February evening, currently standing at 1-3. The situation became that much more dire when Cam Newton suffered a concussion running a two-point conversion in Sunday’s defeat in Atlanta. It’s not only because Derek Anderson, 2007 Pro Bowler (!!!), is starting for the Panthers do I think they’ll go down. It’s the opponent, the likewise 1-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that plays the bigger factor. The attention has gone to Ryan Fitzpatrick (because, after all, LOL Jets), but Jameis Winston has been a turnover machine in his own right. The Bucs were quietly a sleeper team entering this season, and helped those projections when they topped Atlanta in Week 1, but have since dropped 3 in a row. Desperate for a chance to return to the level they’re capable of, the Bucs big up a big win on Monday night, while Carolina is left pondering more questions.
What predictions do you have for Week 5 of the NFL season? Tweet @GeoffMags5490 and keep the conversation going.