The Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys looked like two of the NFC’s best teams at 3-0. One of them is going to be 3-2 after they play each other Sunday, unless there’s a tie of course.
Things can change fast in the NFL, and one loss can lead to a spiral. The Packers and Cowboys are coming off rough losses. Green Bay was upset at home by the Philadelphia Eagles, as an end-zone interception late in the fourth quarter finished the loss. The Cowboys didn’t give up a touchdown to Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints but still lost 12-10. Considering both losses came to teams that could be contenders is a tough NFC, those could sting when tiebreakers factor in.
The game in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday afternoon could have playoff implications, too. At very least, the team that comes out of it 4-1 will feel good about itself.
The Cowboys and Packers have played some classics, from the “Ice Bowl” to the playoff game decided by Aaron Rodgers’ great throw to Jared Cook three seasons ago. Both teams look pretty good early this season, though they’re hard to get a read on. The Cowboys’ 3-0 start was against three bad opponents. The Packers struggled on offense most of the first three weeks and then, when the offense came alive in Week 4, the defense let down. And even when the offense played well against the Eagles, there were issues with the running game and play-calling near the goal line.
How each team deals with some key injuries will be a big factor. The Packers lost running back Jamaal Williams to a concussion and receiver Davante Adams to a toe injury against the Eagles. Even if they play against Dallas, they could be less than 100 percent. The Packers don’t have a receiver nearly as good as Adams, and Williams has been a big part of the run game along with Aaron Jones. The Cowboys could be without left tackle Tyron Smith, who has a high ankle sprain. The Cowboys have struggled without Smith before. Dallas has also been playing without receiver Michael Gallup, who has a knee injury.
Adams’ injury is the tipping point for me taking the Cowboys as 3.5-point favorites. Even if Green Bay’s offense had legitimate breakthroughs last week, Adams is crucial to what they do. It’s hard to imagine Adams playing Sunday and looking like his usual self. Dallas is a quality team — losing at the Superdome is never anything to be ashamed about — and I think they’ll bounce back.
But one of these two teams is going to be wondering what happened to their hot 3-0 start.
Here are the rest of the against-the-spread picks for Week 5 of the NFL season:
Bears (-5) over Raiders: The Bears defense has been unbelievable this season. The offense hasn’t been, but I just can’t see the Raiders scoring too many points.
Steelers (+3.5) over Ravens: It’s not like the Steelers are back after an ugly Monday night win over the Bengals. But are the Ravens good? Through two weeks everyone thought they were a contender. Now, it just looks like they beat up on the Dolphins and Cardinals, perhaps the two worst teams in the NFL. Since then their defense has been exposed. Let’s see if they bounce back before trusting them as road favorites again.
Jets (+13.5) over Eagles: The Eagles have been up and down, but even with Sam Darnold ruled out, these dreadful teams getting double-digit points every week are going to cover some of these spreads.
Jaguars (+3.5) over Panthers: Who am I to go against Minshew mania? The Panthers have done well to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole with Kyle Allen at quarterback, but this is a tough test for that offense.
Colts (+11) over Chiefs: This line shocked me. The Colts deserve more respect than this. Last week’s loss to the Raiders wasn’t good, but I’m not giving up on the Colts. This is a well-coached team with good talent on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs are fantastic but this seems like too many points.
And here are the rest of the picks ...
Seahawks (-1.5) over Rams (picked Thursday): Last night’s 1-point Seahawks win is a reminder of how sharp and tight NFL spreads are.
Bengals (-3.5) over Cardinals: The Bengals aren’t very good but they had solid showings against the Seahawks and Bills. The Cardinals have mostly looked awful. Their offense isn’t tricking anyone and the defense is bad, especially without Patrick Peterson. This is the Bengals’ shot to get a win.
Bills (+3) over Titans: There are a handful of teams in the NFL that will confuse me all season. The Titans top that list. I have no idea what we’ll get out of them this week, or any week to follow. But I do know the Bills defense is legit.
Saints (-3) over Buccaneers: It’s still going to be hard to trust Jameis Winston. Even in a very good game for Winston last week, he threw a pick-six that almost allowed the Rams to come back and win. The Saints are not a pretty team right now but they seem all-in on the idea of finding any way to win without Drew Brees. And the Superdome is always a tough place to play. If the Buccaneers win there, we’ll have to take them seriously (and start wondering if Bruce Arians is chasing another NFL coach of the year award).
Giants (+5.5) over Vikings: Do we think the Giants are a good team? Because as we know, the Vikings can’t beat good teams. Let’s hedge and say the Giants are good enough to keep it close.
Redskins (+15.5) over Patriots: I’m just going to take the home team getting more than two touchdowns and probably hate myself for it on Sunday. It’s rather shocking how many truly awful teams there are already this NFL season. Having a handful of teams that are utterly incompetent is really bad for the game.
Texans (-5) over Falcons: The aforementioned list of teams that will be entirely unpredictable from week to week probably includes both of these squads. Though, it’s also possible the Falcons are just bad.
Broncos (+6.5) over Chargers: The Broncos keep coming close. And the Chargers’ proclivity to lose games they should win makes them hard to back any week.
49ers (-3.5) over Browns: I still have questions about the 49ers, whose 3-0 start came against some bad teams. But the situation isn’t good for the Browns. They go from playing the Ravens on the East Coast to a game out west against a 49ers team coming off a bye. If the Browns win in that spot, we’ll know they’re back on track.
Last week: 7-8
Season to date: 33-31
SuperContest: 1-4 last week, 9-11 season to date
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