NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks and NFL Football Predictions, with Massimo

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Massimo Russo NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks and NFL Football Predictions, with Massimo
Massimo Russo is a Co-Editor for Silverandbluereport.com. He blogs featured stories for pro football and the Dallas Cowboys, providing insights, trends and general topics, along with his weekly game-by-game matchup breakdowns and predictions during the NFL season.
Massimo Russo NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks and NFL Football Predictions, with Massimo
Massimo Russo NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks and NFL Football Predictions, with Massimo

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NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football
By Massimo Russo: Co-Editor Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

massimo russo 150x150 NFL Predictions | Week 5: NFL Football Picks and NFL Football Predictions, with MassimoCan Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense slow down reigning league NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field? Plus, Seattle’s vaunted defense looks to cool off the red hot Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium while the Steelers look to get back on track against the Chargers out west on Monday night.

Thursday Night Football, October 8 8:25 PM ET – TV: CBS/NFL Network

Indianapolis Colts 2-2 @ Houston Texans 1-3
Without Andrew Luck (shoulder), will the Colts survive for a second straight week with Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback? Pass protection and run blocking has been putrid for Indianapolis, particularly on the interior. With that factoring in, look for Houston DC Romeo Crennel to have his men up front utilize twists, stunts and some manufacturing pressure looks toward Hasselbeck. To combat and neutralize the Watt led Houston front, Indy OC Pep Hamilton will need to keep Houston’s defense honest by feeding RB Frank Gore the rock while using quick passing concepts (screens, slants, crossing routes) for Hasselbeck to get the football to his outlets T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Andre Johnson. Trying to get the seam game going with tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener should also be part of the plan.

Hasselbeck doesn’t have the same cannon arm as Luck for Hamilton to dial up lots of deep ball attempts, but if the intermediate/shallow concepts function, the vertical switch up game can open up for for 40 year old Hasselbeck, who won’t be shy to take shots downfield to Hilton, Moncrief or Dorsett. Chucking the football nearly 100 times more than they’ve run the ball hasn’t helped an unstable quarterback situation in Houston. If things are going to improve this year for HC Bill O’Brien’s team, a healthy Arian Foster needs to rescue Ryan Mallett from turning the ball over. Foster is one the best complete backs when it comes to running between the tackles, getting out to the edges, cutting back against the grain, and catching the ball in space. Leaning on Foster’s big bag of skills should be the game plan for OC Rick Dennison to poise Mallett or if Brian Hoyer takes over to negate Indy DC Greg Manusky’s blitzes.
Pick: Colts 23, Texans 17

Sunday, October 11
1:00 PM ET
Chicago Bears 1-3 @ Kansas City Chiefs 1-3 – TV: FOX

You need to stay gap disciplined and avoid mismatches in coverage when trying to slow down running backs like Chicago’s Matt Forte and Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles. Both are capable of making defenders miss in the open field when they get the ball in space, and with their receiving skills, they’re able to beat a linebacker when they’re flexed out. Looking at both quarterbacks, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Kansas City’s Alex Smith don’t fare well when under duress, which makes pressure the deciphering factor in this matchup. Threading the needle has been the downside of Cutler’s game throughout his career, and I’d expect Chiefs DC Bob Sutton to use some zone blitzes to influence Chicago’s gun-slinging QB to make bad decisions. Pressure on opposing quarterbacks is lacking for Chicago’s defense. Only three players (Pernell McPhee, Jarvis Jenkins and Eddie Goldman) have registered sacks for them, and if we’re going to look at the overall talent of both clubs up front on defense – Kanas City has three players (Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston) that I like to win their battles against a subpar Bears O-line.
Pick: Chiefs 30, Bears 17

Seattle Seahawks 2-2 @ Cincinnati Bengals 4-0 – TV: FOX
Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins has been a force at the 3-tech on the interior and Seattle’s offensive line has been abysmal. Guard J.R. Sweezy and right tackle Gary Gilliam have been the weakest links on the O-line for Seattle and their ground game will be missing Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) for a second straight game. With the uncertainty of Thomas Rawls being able to gash Cincinnati’s front that’s favorably matched up against Seattle’s porous O-line, the play-fakes (read-option and bootleg concepts) of OC Darrell Bevell’s system needs to be on point for Seattle’s offense to have success in this matchup. To contain Seattle’s Russell Wilson from making plays with his feet, Bengals DC Paul Guenther needs to have his D-line get pressure up the middle and contain Wilson on the edges with his linebackers, corners and safeties. Guenther needs to trust his beefy D-lineman, Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Domata Peko to get penetration without blitzing lots, because Wilson is capable of getting away from a pack of wolves to move the chains and buy time for his receivers to get open. If the Bengals can neutralize Seattle’s rushing attack and limit tight end Jimmy Graham from getting behind their linebackers, chances for Guenther’s unit to get off the field on third down will be on the up. Bevell should try using some spread formations and move Graham around (flexed in the slot and perimeter to formulate mismatches if the ground game doesn’t have success). Have trust in Wilson to air things out, he’s not a limited passer.

Cincinnati’s offense is also predicated on running the ball and they have a duo in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, both runners doing it on the ground and on screen game concepts. The running lanes and spaces in the flats will likely be mitigated by Seattle’s vaunted defense, and with safety Kam Chancellor looking to take Bengals TE Tyler Eifert away from making plays on the seams – look for Bengals OC Hue Jackson to move elite receiver A.J. Green around and get him matched up on Seattle’s Cary Williams. With the best free safety (Earl Thomas) in the game playing center field, Seattle’s secondary has what it takes to neutralize Bengals QB Andy Dalton from connecting with his deep ball receivers over the top. I’m not going to say Seattle can’t win this game without Lynch, but I think they’ll miss his prowess of breaking tackles with violence in this matchup.
Pick: Bengals 20, Seahawks 14

Washington Redskins 2-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 4-0 – TV: FOX
The hire of O-line guru Bill Callahan has already taken shape for the good of Washington’s offense. Callahan’s influence in Dallas helped formulate one the league’s top rushing offenses, and in first year with the Redskins, he has two meaty backs in Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, who both have rushed for 200 or more yards. Washington’s top rushing offense will need to stick to their pedigree of grinding things out on the ground to keep a high powered Falcons’ offense on the sidelines. If Washington is able to run the ball effectively against an expected good amount of stacked fronts from Atlanta’s defense, they’ll be able to mix things up in the passing game on quick outs, slants, screens and potentially get big plays downfield off the play-action. Can a wounded Washington secondary slow down Matt Ryan from connecting big with Julio Jones? Without DeAngelo Hall (sprained toe) and possibly Chris Culliver (knee), it’ll leave lots of responsibility for Bashaud Breeland to man Jones wherever Atlanta OC Kyle Shanahan lines him up.

Rolling a safety over the top on Jones is imperative, but if I’m Washington DC Joe Barry, I don’t want to get into the business of playing single high lots. Ryan is one the best quarterbacks in the game and can depict favorable matchups, and with Julio motioning around, drawing the backend to roll his way, Ryan will be able to find his second and third options (Roddy White, Leonard Hankerson and Jacob Tamme). The execution of Atlanta’s offensive line has been marvelous, creating lanes for running back Devonta Freeman on outside zone runs. Atlanta may be known for stretching defenses through the air, but they now have a new element with Freeman leading the way, running with speed, shiftiness and violence in the open field. Unless Washington’s D-front shows up at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons will remain hot.
Pick: Falcons 30, Redskins 20

Jacksonville Jaguars 1-3 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-3 – TV: CBS
Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley is starting to get his defensive philosophy he brought over from Seattle to work, always outnumbering opposing offenses at the line of scrimmage – deploying 8 or 7 in the box with a single high safety. Sloppy play on offense has burned the Bucs, giving opponents short fields and points. Knowing that Jacksonville’s plan on defense will be focused on limiting Bucs’ running back Doug Martin on the ground with loaded fronts, look for Tampa Bay OC Dirk Koetter to mix things up by deploying extra blockers on running downs and spread formations to space Jacksonville’s defense out with Winston in the shotgun.

Getting leverage against Jacksonville’s front that swarms to the ball carrier is vital for the Bucs to get positive yards on the ground. Most importantly, nullifying Jacksonville’s pass rush for Winston to make music with his tall and freakishly talented receivers (Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans) to stretch a suspect Jaguars secondary will be Tampa Bay’s keys for success when they have the ball. On the opposite sideline, Jacksonville’s offense is centralizing their game plans more around rookie running back T.J. Yeldon while using some play fakes and stretching the field horizontally and vertically. Second year quarterback Blake Bortles’ confidence to take shots downfield has upped (thanks Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns), two receivers with raw skills and natural instincts. You can flip a coin between these two on who’ll come out on top, but the discipline aspects of the game has been better in Jacksonville.
Pick: Jaguars 26, Buccaneers 20

New Orleans Saints 1-3 @ Philadelphia Eagles 1-3 – TV: FOX
What approach does Saints DC Rob Ryan take against the Eagles’ up-tempo spread offense? Does he have his defense deployed in a bend but don’t break game plan, or does he use a variety of blitzes to rattle Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford? Blitzing often will be a big gamble, knowing that Chip Kelly’s system uses the running backs in space on screens, swing passes and wheel routes. The Eagles haven’t been able to get their trio of runners (DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles) to gash defenses on the ground, but this could be the week they get it going against a Saints defense that’s allowing 123.3 yards per game against the run. In coverage, look for Ryan to mix things up with his physical corner Brandon Browner to man the Eagles’ tight ends and receiver Jordan Matthews, but what’s going to be vital is how Ryan’s safeties fare and not get caught out of position when the Eagles send their verticals and crossing route concepts to create traffic in the middle of the field to open up the perimeter game.

If Ryan’s safeties bite the dust, the quick screens, slants and singled up looks for Bradford can stymie New Orleans’ defense to make plays after the catch and open up the deep ball. A HB wheel pass to C.J. Spiller got the Saints their first win of the season last week against the Cowboys. Spiller is explosive in the open field and if the Saints can make him a factor in this contest, the screen game concepts can isolate the Eagles’ linebackers and safeties. However, Mark Ingram will need to be effective on the ground, running the rock with violence to wear down a solid Eagles D-front. I’m favoring the Eagles to be better in trench play – creating better field position and edging the Saints in special teams and takeaways.
Pick: Eagles 28, Saints 20

Cleveland Browns 1-3 @ Baltimore Ravens 1-3 – TV: CBS
Without WR Steve Smith (back) and TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), the Ravens’ passing game will be shorthanded for Joe Flacco, leaving the signal caller rolling with receivers Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown, Darren Waller and rookie tight end Maxx Williams. Stats can be deceiving when looking at Cleveland’s defense ranked near the bottom of the league against the run, allowing 141.5 yards per game, because the talent up front that’s anchored by rookie standout NT Danny Shelton and edge rushers Armonty Bryant and Paul Kruger can ruin Baltimore’s protection scheme. So it’s up to Baltimore’s strength points on the offensive line to create lanes for running back Justin Forsett to scan the backside of their zone running scheme. To create anything in the avenue of stretching Cleveland’s secondary – Forsett will need to have an effective day on the ground for Flacco to work off the play-action (to get Cleveland’s backend to cheat up in coverage).

The deal is the same for Cleveland against Baltimore DC Dean Pees’ hybrid linebackers looking to pressure Browns QB Josh McCown. The X-factor in this matchup to me will be Duke Johnson, Cleveland’s rookie back that’s been huge out of the backfield as a pass catcher. Browns OC John DeFilppo uses gap blocking/downhill running plays while riding on the strengths of a strong O-line to execute on zone based runs for Isaiah Crowell and Johnson. To win on the road, they’ll need those concepts working effectively to control the tempo and to negate Baltimore’s front from taking over the game.
Pick: Ravens 21, Browns 17

St. Louis Rams 2-2 @ Green Bay Packers 4-0 – TV: CBS
Green Bay’s philosophy on pass protection keeps the pockets wide for reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers to step up in the pocket and to use his feet when the second levels have their backs turned to move the sticks. Pressuring Rodgers is always the objective for a defense, but QB-Hurries isn’t going to slow Rodgers from exploiting St. Louis’ secondary. The fearsome D-lineman (Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Chris Long and Nick Fairley) of the Rams’ front needs to hit Rodgers often and bring him to the ground – otherwise he’ll extend plays by using his improvising/schoolyard skills to elude the rush. The interior of Green Bay’s O-line has lots to do with keeping the middle pocket firm. Guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang and center Corey Linsley have been Rodgers’ shield, so as talented as the Rams’ front is, it would be wise for DC Gregg Williams to use blitzes and stunts to pressure the middle.

Offensively for St. Louis, they’ll need to control the game and chew up clock by feeding rookie sensation Todd Gurley the pigskin. Green Bay DC Dom Capers’ is aggressive with his rushers and Clay Matthews is running wild, roaming around from the inside and rushing on the edge when the Packers are in their nickel defense. Trying to go toe-to-toe with Green Bay’s offense chucking the football lots shouldn’t be in HC Jeff Fisher’s game plan, but some creativity (jet-sweeps and screens to Tavon Austin, spread sets and high percentage reads for QB Nick Foles) can isolate Green Bay’s second level to keep the Packers’ defense honest. Green Bay HC Mike McCarthy uses multiple groupings and formations, but mostly spreading defenses out to have them play more conservative. Having a bruiser like RB Eddie Lacy running behind stone cold blocker John Kuhn to seal the Rams’ linebackers and receivers Randall Cobb and rookie Ty Montgomery utilized on their versatile strengths, motioning around from the slot, backfield and perimeter should be the ultimate isolating factor in this matchup for the Packers to mix things up on the ground and through the air.
Pick: Packers 27, Rams 17

Buffalo Bills 2-2 @ Tennessee Titans 1-2 – TV: CBS
Without any doubt, Bills HC Rex Ryan will try to put as much pressure on Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tennessee’s tackles Taylor Lewan and Jeremiah Poutasi will have their hands full trying to neutralize Buffalo’s dynamic edge rushers in Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams. Look for the Bills to run stunts and twists to pressure Mariota’s pocket, and though the Titans shouldn’t abandon trying to get their backs (Bishop Sankey, Dexter McCluster and Terrance West) going on the ground, a neutralizing factor Tennessee can use to avoid Mariota taking hits, will be spreading Buffalo’s defense and getting the football to Sankey and McCluster out in space (as an extension of the running game).

Look for the Titans to have Mariota operate on strong run-action fakes to work against Buffalo’s defensive strengths. The Bills also have a quarterback in Tyrod Taylor using play-fake concepts for isolating purposes, but with an ailing backfield that will likely be without LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Karlos Williams (concussion), it’ll be up to Boobie Dixon and recently signed Boom Herron. Dixon has the physicality to run between the tackles and Herron has the receiving skills to make up for the absences of McCoy and Williams. If Sammy Watkins (calf) misses his second straight game, look for the Bills to get Percy Harvin’s versatile game going on creative concepts (Jet-sweeps, bubble screens and maybe a gadget play). If Buffalo gets Taylor functioning on read option concepts, the designed fakes could stymie Tennessee’s defense (as long as Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo) aren’t disruptive.
Pick: Bills 22, Titans 16

4:05
Arizona Cardinals 3-1 @ Detroit Lions 0-4 – TV: FOX

Detroit’s longest play from scrimmage through the air is 36 yards. Are you kidding me? An offense that has one of the better tandems in Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and Golden Tate isn’t generating big plays. Much of Detroit’s porous execution has to do with porous play from their offensive line and OC Joe Lombardi better have his offense geared to play physical and up the number of rushing attempts for Ameer Abdullah because Joique Bell (ankle), Detroit’s grinder between the tackles will be out again. Lombardi has to find ways to get the play-action pass working in this matchup and communication will be vital for Detroit’s O-line to mitigate Arizona’s DC James Bettcher’s exotic blitzes and stunts he’ll use toward Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Arizona plays lots of press man coverage, but getting overly aggressive can make way for Stafford to find singled up looks to exploit Arizona’s secondary with his bona fide receivers. The blitzes will be part of the plan, but in coverage, Bettcher has skilled defenders in Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon that can react and make a play on the ball in off man coverage while Frostee Rucker, Calais Campbell, Alex Okafer and Cory Redding have the advantages up front to penetrate in the backfield to stuff the run and force Stafford to throw outside the hash marks.

The Cardinals’ offensive line has been outstanding in protecting QB Carson Palmer and when executing on their outside stretch runs. Andre Ellington will return from his knee injury to give the Cardinals a three headed backfield with rookie David Johnson and Chris Johnson. Recognizing and sliding protection to take out the oppositions best pass rusher has been one of the keys for HC Bruce Arians’ team. They’ll likely do this to negate Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah and stay the course of running the ball to the outside to keep Detroit’s interior D-lineman Haloti Ngata from penetrating inside. Both squads have the ball hawks in the secondary to make a play and neutralize the deep ball, but the O-line that’s been better in pass protection and run blocking has been Arizona’s. That favors them to be the more efficient team on third down in this matchup.
Pick: Cardinals 24, Lions 17

4:25 PM ET
New England Patriots 3-0 @ Dallas Cowboys 2-2 – TV: CBS

One of the keys to New England’s long list of dominance in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era has been protecting their future Hall of Fame quarterback, particularly on the interior. Giving Brady a clear vision with limited amounts of pass rushers in face has allowed him to dissect defenses throughout his illustrious career. With DE Greg Hardy and Mike LB Rolando McClain returning from their four game suspensions, Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli has two viable pieces that can potentially pressure Brady up the middle (something that has proven to work against the amazing QB from time to time). Hardy can play the 3-tech and though McClain is more of a punishing tackler between the tackles, Marinelli has used him on A gap blitzes. Look for Marinelli to utilize stunts, twists and some blitzes on the interior to try to throw Brady off his spots. As far as the most important matchup goes, I would expect Marinelli to place rookie DB Byron Jones, a flier that can man flex tight ends on the freakishly talented Rob Gronkowski with an extra DB over the top. It’s extremely difficult to shut Gronkowksi down, but as long as Jones or whoever else Marinelli rolls coverage on Gronkowksi, keeping him from stretching the field and out of the endzone is the main goal. There are so many isolating and neutralizing concepts the Patriots have in their playbook, and they’ve found their next Kevin Faulk/Danny Woodhead/Shane Vereen in Dion Lewis. Lewis’ versatile game gives coach Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels the luxury to use him in the passing game. If the Cowboys allow Lewis to make plays in space and don’t play discipline in coverage, Brady will torch Dallas’ defense by finding open looks to Julian Edelman and the rest of his bunch on combination routes and pick concepts of New England’s aerial attack.

If the Cowboys have any chance against the defending champs, their elite O-line needs to plug holes for running backs Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, and now Christine Michael, who figures to get some work with Lance Dunbar (ACL, MCL) done for the season. Look for New England DC Matt Patricia to use loaded fronts and some double A gap blitzes with Linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower toward the non-mobile Brandon Weeden. Weeden does have a brick wall protecting him and OC Scott Linehan has been drawing up high percentage plays for him, but if the ground game is limited, there won’t be much isolation for the Cowboys’ offense to catch New England’s backend out of position. Getting the play-action going will help tight end Jason Witten get behind the Patriots’ stout linebackers, but ultimately, the Cowboys need to control the clock to keep Brady’s sizzling arm on the sidelines.
Pick: Patriots 34, Cowboys 20

Denver Broncos 4-0 @ Oakland Raiders 2-2 – TV: CBS
It’s simple to me when looking at the talent the Broncos have on the defensive side of the ball to limit the Raiders from stretching the field. DC Wade Phillips has a herd of skill everywhere to attack offenses on a weekly basis. In this matchup, the objective should be to take Oakland QB Derek Carr’s playmaker (rookie WR Amari Cooper) out of the picture. Phillips has two lockdown cornerbacks in Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib that can hang with Cooper in press man coverage while deploying safety T.J. Ward near the tackle box as an extra defender against the run/screens and to cover the seams. Holding Denver’s dynamic duo in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the edges looks impossible these days, so Carr will need to use his sandlot skills while the Raiders should look to get their ground game working effectively. Without formulating the play-action pass, it’ll open up the gates for Phillips’ unit to unleash the Dogs on Carr.

Stopping the run won’t be enough for the Raiders to come out on top. Their trio of pass rushers (Khalil Mack, Aldon Smith and Justin Tuck) will need to harass Peyton Manning consistently for the Raiders to defeat their rivals in front of their home crowd. Can Oakland’s defense force some turnovers? Can their suspect secondary contain Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders?
Pick: Broncos 27, Raiders 19

Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
San Francisco 49ers 1-3 @ N.Y. Giants 2-2

49ers OC Geep Chryst has to be extremely frustrated with his offense. 1) His offensive line has been putrid. 2) His receivers aren’t getting enough separation. 3) His QB Colin Kaepernick has been awful in his progressions, and though he’s balanced play selection between the run and pass, RB Carlos Hyde hasn’t rushed for more than 51 yards in a game since his 168 yard performance in Week 1 against the Vikings. This matchup doesn’t bode well for Chryst’s unit. In his second stint in New York, DC Steve Spagnuolo has the “Big Blue” defense containing and staying disciplined in their gaps against the run, which is the main reason why the Giants’ defense is ranked first against the run, allowing just 69.8 yards per game. Without an effective game on the ground and limited receivers to stretch the field, the 49ers’ offense won’t be able to get New York’s defense to respect pass. Look for Spagnuolo to deploy loaded fronts to contain Kaepernick from making plays with his feet on option concepts and to halt Hyde from getting past the second levels on the ground.

Giants OC Ben McAdoo has done a tremendous job of keeping Eli Manning upright. Working out of the shotgun/spread sets, Eli has found comfort on getting the ball out quickly on short passing concepts. Although New York’s running game hasn’t been setting off fireworks, the extension of the running game has been effective (getting Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen in space on screen game concepts). With Odell Beckham Jr. doubled, Eli should find favorable matchups. The 49ers must bring Eli to ground and run the rock well to pull off the upset.
Pick: N.Y. Giants 23, 49ers 13

Monday Night Football, October 12 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2 @ San Diego Chargers 2-2
I have to tip my hat off to Steelers DC Keith Butler for taking an aggressive approach and getting his men up front to rush the passer. His secondary doesn’t have many reliable defensive backs that could man up in coverage against high-octane passing offenses. The Chargers’ O-line is banged up, and though they have one of the best quarterbacks in Philip Rivers, he isn’t a mobile passer. Stephon Tuitt, Cam Thomas and Cameron Heyward need to get bench press pushes on the interior to force Rivers outside the hash marks. If they win their battles, the outside rushers (Bud Dupree, James Harrsion and Jarvis Jones) of Butler’s unit will keep Rivers under duress and out of rhythm. To combat Pittsburgh’s rush, look for the Chargers to try to get Pittsburgh’s linebackers in coverage by working the seams to tight ends Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. As long as the Chargers isolate Pittsburgh’s strengths away from the box, the shallow passing concepts will be there for Rivers to get the football to his deep receiving corps (mainly to his prime target in Kennan Allen, and of course, draws to Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead while getting them functioning on screen game concepts) could stymie Butler’s unit.

Chargers DC John Pagano needs to respect Michael Vick’s arm, he can go over the top if he has his unit playing up in coverage. Having a safety play over the top on Pittsburgh’s explosive weapon in Antonio Brown is a must, and containing Le’Veon Bell from making plays in the second levels will be the prime mission of Pagano’s defense. Will he bring safety Eric Weddle down in the box as an extra enforcer to halt Bell, or does he have enough trust in his linebacker Manti Te’o to shadow him? San Diego’s pass rush needs to awake from its slumber because Pittsburgh’s spread formations will keep them in their nickel and dime packages, meaning, a light box for Vick and Bell to work against.
Pick: Chargers 28, Steelers 24

Bye: Miami Dolphins (1-3), Minnesota Vikings (2-2), N.Y. Jets (3-1), Carolina Panthers (4-0)

You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com

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