Unfortunately, I went 0-2 last week with a blowout loss by the Jets and a narrow victory by the 49ers. Hopefully, some of you waited on that San Francisco line, as it went down to -4 shortly before game time. Anyway, on to Week 6!
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders +7.5 Total: 43.5
Since losing their opening game by one point to the Arizona Cardinals, the San Diego Chargers have been one of the NFL’s most impressive teams in the first five weeks. Since that defeat, they have won four straight games, including last week’s 31-0 drubbing against the visiting New York Jets.
As I mentioned last week, quarterback Phillip Rivers and his tight end Antonio Gates continue to sip from the proverbial “Fountain of Youth.” Rivers was an outstanding 20 of 28 in the victory for 288 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception. Gates caught two of four of those balls for 60 yards and two scores.
Rivers’ great game was an afterthought to the week’s best performance, however. Undrafted rookie running back Branden Oliver combined for over 200 yards rushing and receiving while adding two touchdowns of his own. He will again likely receive bell-cow duties this week with Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown still sidelined.
Defensively, the Chargers defense continues to over perform based on preseason expectations. They forced several turnovers last week and held the Jets’ offense to under 80 yards passing in the win.
The Raiders come off a bye as they still look for their first win of the season. While they have lost two games by a touchdown or less, they’re coming off a 38-14 massacre by the Miami Dolphins at the Oakland Coliseum on Sept. 28th.
They also head into this game with a new head coach. Dennis Allen was fired last week after just four weeks on the job, and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has taken over head coaching duties.
While Sparano looks towards the future (and perhaps to reviving his coaching career) and not at their 0-4 start, the Raiders have a lot of work to do. They have been outscored 103-51 in four games and have an aging roster of veterans along with a rookie quarterback.
It’s hard to have faith in Oakland, but at the same time, it’s tough to imagine this team playing worse than they already have. The coaching change may give them an added incentive to play harder, and they’re also coming off a bye week.
As bad as the Raiders have been, this is still a divisional game where they’re still +7.5 at home. They held the Jets and Patriots to 19 and 16 points in two road games, respectively. Of course, both of those offenses have not performed well this season, but if they can run the ball even moderately well, this game could be closer than most think in the final minutes.
Picks: Raiders +7.5(-105)
Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals -7 Total: 43.5
This inter-conference battle should be one of the games of the week as the both teams are currently leading their divisions. The Panthers visit Paul Brown Stadium this week after rallying late against the Chicago Bears.
It was a full team effort by Carolina. Despite the poor play of their defense early, they forced four turnovers in a 31-24 victory including three of those in the final six minutes. They held the Bears to just seven points in the second half.
Injury wise, Carolina is banged up on both sides of the ball. Their defense is a shell of the unit they had last season. They have given up 69 points in the past two weeks.
Offensively, they are down to their fourth-string running back, Darrin Reaves. Even he has been limited in practice this week as well. Jonathan Stewart may suit up this week, but is questionable. DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert remain sidelined.
The Bengals finally fell from the ranks of the undefeated last week, and they did so in embarrassing fashion. In what was easily their worst game of the season, Cincinnati gave up 43 points to the previously offensively challenged New England Patriots in primetime on Sunday Night. They only mustered ten points in the loss.
The worst news for Cincy happened on the practice field this week. All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green came up lame with a toe injury in practice, and he looks to be sidelined for a number of weeks. This is in addition to being without tight end Tyler Eifert and number two receiver Marvin Jones, who was scheduled to return this week, but now is now doubtful to play.
For Cincinnati, revenge will be on their mind after last week’s demolishing, and I don’t think it matters who the opponent is. The loss of Green is huge, but the two-headed rushing attack of Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill is one of the best in the league.
We saw Forte did to the Panthers last week, and Bernard game’s is extremely similar. The Panthers defense is one to target until further notice, and the Bengals’ won’t hesitate to ram the ball down their throats via the run and focus on their backs in the short passing game. This is a matchup nightmare for Carolina.
Cincinnati is eager to avenge their defeat last week, and I think they hand them a beating.
Pick: Bengals -7(-105)