October 7, 2021

Week 5 NFL Game Picks: One Storyline For Every Team

The NFL is kicking off its second month of action as Week 5 nears. The first month brought pleasant surprise performers such as the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals. However, some favorites like the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, and Kansas City Chiefs have struggled more than anticipated.

Week 5 could be when everything changes or continues to further the path these teams are on. We have one winless team in Detroit, and only Arizona stands tall as an undefeated presence. Could the 1972 Miami Dolphins pop champagne this week?

I'm breaking down each key storyline for every Week 5 matchup. I'll also provide a pick for all 16 games, with odds courtesy of BetMGM.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Storyline: Who Will Stop the run?

Both the Rams and Seahawks have produced efficient passing attacks through four weeks but have struggled to find rushing games that compare to prior years. The Rams are averaging just 93 yards per game, and the Seahawks are just 14 yards better. Both coaching staffs know this isn't ideal and want to feature an effective ground game.

The Rams should be more successful based on this matchup. Seattle has allowed 152 yards per game on the ground compared to their 123.5 mark. I'm looking for a solid output from Darrell Henderson.

Pick: Rams -2.5 (-110)

New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons

Storyline: Which offense is worse?

Both of these bottom-dwellers stink. Their rosters were poor to start and both have been decimated by injuries to this point. This game has a high chance of determining which team picks higher in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Normally, I'd trust a veteran quarterback in this foreign spot, but Matt Ryan hasn't been able to overcome the league's worst defense as the team has dropped three out of four games. The Jets have shown more life recently and I think their offense has an easier path against a worse defense than the Falcons' offense against a league-average unit.

Pick: Jets ML (+135)

New England Patriots at Houston Texans

Storyline: Can the Texans Score?

Everyone saw Davis Mills throw four picks last week in a horrible showing and nobody is surprised. Houston never meant for Mills to start so early in the year with a ragtag group of playmakers. But they willingly started Tyrod Taylor knowing his injury history was only delaying the inevitable destiny that Mills would play.

The coaching difference is so vast that I can't possibly bet on Houston. The Texans should clean house after 2021 and try to rebuild under a competent front office and staff after trading Deshaun Watson.

Pick: Patriots -9.5 (-110)

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Storyline: Does Jared Goff Go Off?

Detroit is an objectively awful team but injuries have absolutely affected that. This coaching staff is filled with former players and it's easy to see their influence paying off. The Lions are a tough team despite being undermanned.

The Vikings have a potential weakness against quarterbacks based on their play thus far. They were fortunate Baker Mayfield is average at best, or else last week's loss would've been uglier.

Goff can keep the Lions close if he doesn't miss easy opportunities.

Pick: Vikings -9 (-110)

New Orleans Saints at Washington Football Team 

Storyline: Will the Saints Offense Find their Groove?

This might be the toughest game on the slate to pick. The Saints have been wildly unpredictable, and their offense is unreliable. Will Jameis Winston be great or a non-factor? Will Alvin Kamara increase his pitiful yards per carry average? Either way, something has to give for the Saints. 

Facing Washington's defense should be a great thing. The Football Team's back seven has been shockingly terrible. I'll put slight faith in the Saints just because of Sean Payton and Winston's upside.

Pick: Saints -1.5 (-110)

Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Storyline: Will the Bucs Take this Game Seriously?

Miami has been one of the most disappointing teams in the league. Tua Tagovailoa is out and the team has crumbled without him. General manager Chris Grier's awful draft record and head coach Brian Flores' terrible offensive coordinator choices are mostly to blame.

The Buccaneers are by far the better team. The question is whether they step on the Dolphins' throat or not. The only way they don't cover is if the human element takes over and the Bucs coast to an uncomfortable win.

Pick: Bucs -10 (-105)

Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals 

Storyline: Can Cincinnati's Defense Continue their Play?

The Bengals have been one of the most fun teams in the league to watch. Joe Burrow is pretty darn good and his playmakers are elite. The defense, shockingly, has been one of the best in the league and now must step up against Aaron Rodgers.

I think the Packers have limited postseason upside but are an excellent regular-season team. They almost always beat lesser teams. The Bengals will fall in this one.

Pick: Packers -3 (-110)

Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers

Storyline: Does Teddy Bridgewater Play?

This is as simple as it comes to me. If Teddy Bridgewater plays, the Broncos are the better pick. Teddy Two Gloves continually makes the right reads and has shown better downfield passing ability with his new weapons. Pittsburgh's defense will bring a ton of pressure that Drew Lock can't handle if he's playing.

Pittsburgh can never be slept on but it's fair to say they're fighting for their season here. Their defense hasn't been fully healthy yet but the play of Ben Roethlisberger has been downright awful. This team should trade for another quarterback if they want to compete this year.

Pick: Broncos ML (-105)

Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers 

Storyline: Is Either QB Actually Good?

There's been a big rush to crown both Jalen Hurts and Sam Darnold thus far but neither have especially impressed me. Stat sheets aside, neither is especially impactful. Hurts continues to miss big-play reads and settles for the easy completion that boosts his numbers. Darnold is still a turnover threat and has accuracy issues.

Nevertheless, the Panthers are clearly the better team. Philly has a banged-up offensive line and horrible run defense. Carolina will expose them on this incredibly valuable spread.

Pick: Panthers -3 (-110)

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars 

Storyline: Who Plays for Tennessee?

The Titans might be the most injured team in the NFL and it may not matter against Jacksonville. Part of me feels the Jags will rally based on Urban Meyer's drama and end some of the immediate speculations that Meyer will be out soon, but their team is lacking playmakers and consistency.

If the Titans are without their starting receivers, Bud Dupree, and Rodger Saffold, I'd consider taking the Jags to cover. However, betting against Derrick Henry and even Ryan Tannehill to figure this out as the Titans get desperate for wins is misguided. Tennessee should cover regardless.

Pick: Titans -4

Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders

Storyline: Does Chicago Keep the Playbook Open?

The Raiders have become famous for getting hot for three games in a season and everyone buying in, but last week's beatdown by the Chargers was revealing. Their personnel is still limited and dynamic passers and speedy receivers will attack Gus Bradley's defense effectively.

Chicago can win this game outright if Bill Lazor continues to call a vertical game for Justin Fields. Fields is a fantastic touch passer and his playmaking will frustrate the Raiders' pass rush.

Pick: Bears +5.5 (-110)

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers

Storyline: Who is Baker Mayfield?

Baker Mayfield has stunk this year regardless of whether his left shoulder injury has affected him or not. He hasn't pushed the ball downfield despite several quality deep threats on the roster and his accuracy has waned in key moments. The Browns absolutely need him to step up and prove he's worth the $200 million contract he desires.

I don't see it happening this week. The Chargers are finally earning respect for their quality roster and coaching. They'll need to key onto Cleveland's excellent run game and force Mayfield to beat them with his arm.

Pick: Chargers -2.5 (-110)

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals

Storyline: Can Trey Lance Keep up with Kyler Murray?

I wrote about Murray becoming an MVP frontrunner this week for good reason. The guy has stepped up in a big way and the Cardinals have found the right formula of playmakers to help him. Winning a divisional game against a rookie quarterback seems easy enough, but the NFC West has been tough to predict over the years. I think this will be closer than any initial inkling will suggest.

Kyle Shanahan will want to control the ball with his run game. I expect Lance to be conservative but efficient with carries and throws. Arizona wins, but it's not going to be the offensive shootout we'd all love to watch.

Pick: 49ers +5.5 (-110)

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Storyline: Can the Giants Convert in the Red Zone?

Dallas has a clear weakness against the pass, ranking 31st in passing yards allowed. Trevon Diggs has been a star to this point but the talent around him is poor. Daniel Jones and the Giants are often a punching bag for good reason but this is a good matchup for them.

If the Giants can convert drives into touchdowns, they can cover but not win. The Cowboys are too talented with arguably the NFL's best offense. I'll bet against Jones being able to hit tight passing windows in the red zone but I don't love this line.

Pick: Cowboys -7 (-110)

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Storyline: Can the Chiefs' Defense be Trusted?

This is easily the matchup of the week.

Kansas City is still a powerhouse at 2-2 but must start winning in order to position themselves within the AFC West. Their defense has had so many issues creating plays that it's fair to wonder if they can win on a bigger scale. Relying on this offense will only go so far for so long.

Meanwhile, the Bills have their own issues that have been covered up in big wins against bottom-feeders. Josh Allen has come back down to Earth a bit this year and the team's defense hasn't been tested at all. I think the Chiefs step up and we see both teams normalize a bit after this one.

Pick: Chiefs -3 (-105)

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens 

Storyline: Does Baltimore Play Down?

I didn't expect Baltimore to be given less than a full touchdown on this line. Indianapolis may be coming off a win but their team is as uninspiring as they come. Carson Wentz has been a major liability and the Colts are en route to giving up a first-round pick for him if they play him 75% of snaps this year. That gives the Colts some urgency to either play well or get off the pot so they can avoid the premium cost for a bad trade.

Baltimore has improved their passing game a tad considering the injuries they've suffered at receiver. I don't think Baltimore needs to do anything special to cover this line. Show up, play hard, pressure Wentz, let Lamar Jackson Cook, and then we profit. 

Pick: Ravens -6.5 (-115)

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