Thursday, October 11 8:20 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-2 @ Tennessee Titans 1-4
With the return of James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers get a much needed boost on both sides of the ball. The defense only has eight sacks, but expect that number to rise if Harrison can stay healthy. And the running game should improve if Mendenhall can avoid another knee injury. The most concerning injury for the defense is the loss of safety Troy Polamalu (calf) who will miss his 16th game out of the last 37. But they catch a break at the music city going up against a dismal Titans defense and offense that can’t score points, 13 in week 1, 10 week 2, 14 week 4 and only 7 last week. That’s bad. Pick: Steelers 24, Titans 13.
Final Score: Titans (2-4) 26, Steelers (2-3) 23
Sunday, October 14
1:00 PM ET
Oakland Raiders 1-3 @ Atlanta Falcons 5-0 – TV: CBS
Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez needs one more touchdown catch for his 100th of his amazing career. What amazes me about Tony is what he’s still doing in his 16th season still playing at an All-Pro level. He caught 13 passes for 123-yards and a score in Atlanta’s hard fought win at Washington. And to think that this could be his best chance to get himself a super bowl ring being a big part of Atlanta’s high powered passing game would be one of the greater ending stories for an all-time great. Tony, what have you been eating your whole life? Pick: Falcons 34, Raiders 19.
Cincinnati Bengals 3-2 @ Cleveland Browns 0-5 – TV: CBS
No matter how good your passing game is, it’s important to have a run game on the road. Look for Cincinnati to commit to the running game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott against a Browns defense that’s allowing 142 yards per game against the run and go play-action over the top to A.J. Green for the knockout blow. Pick: Bengals 30, Browns 17.
St. Louis Rams 3-2 @ Miami Dolphins 2-3 – TV: FOX
This is one of the better games to watch not on the prime-time meter. Reason being, this will be an ultimate battle in the trenches. St. Louis’ Chris Long has blossomed into one of the top pass-rushers that Miami will need to slide the protection over to his side to keep rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright. St. Louis will have to do the same trying to keep Miami’s Cameron Wake from getting after Sam Bradford. This makes up for a battle of field position and who will commit less penalties and turnovers to sustain drives by running the football effectively and converting on third down to move the chains, something Miami will do slightly better. Pick: Dolphins 17, Rams 16.
Indianapolis Colts 2-2 @ N.Y. Jets 2-3 – TV: CBS
The Colts running game won’t be effective with running back Donald Brown (knee injury) out. I’d expect interim head coach and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to have Andrew Luck test Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie that will be matched up on Colts receiver Reggie Wayne with some slants and deep balls. I see this working until Cromartie jumps one those slants or comebacks for a pick six. Pick: N.Y. Jets 24, Colts 22.
Detroit Lions 1-3 @ Philadelphia Eagles 3-2 – TV: FOX
With a running game that has no volume going, Detroit needs to do the opposite of what going up against a talented defensive front that teams normally try to do, and that’s have an effective running game. It won’t work, trust me. Scott Linehan, Detroit’s offensive coordinator’s game plan will be to try to get a balanced attack going. I say keep Stafford in the shotgun and spread Philadelphia’s defense out. That will give them the best chance to win in my opinion. Pick: Eagles 27, Lions 23.
Kansas City Chiefs 1-4 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-3 – TV: CBS
With Matt Cassel (concussion) out, Brady Quinn gets the go at quarterback for a turnover happy Chiefs offense. The sun isn’t shinning any brighter for the Bucs offense with Josh Freeman only completing 54% of his passes with the best receiving core he’s had. I know it’s only four games in, but no loud music happening between him and Vincent Jackson, a receiver capable of making big plays. They connect this time. Pick: Buccaneers 19, Chiefs 13.
Dallas Cowboys 2-2 @ Baltimore Ravens 4-1 – TV: FOX
In case anyone is wondering why the Dallas Cowboys offense is struggling other than pin-pointing everything on Tony Romo, through his first four games as a Cowboy, left guard Mackenzy Bernadeau is rated 60th among 61 guards allowing 7 quarterback-hurries, 3 sacks and his run blocking ratings are dead last. Among 62 tackles, right tackle Doug Free is rated 57th and left tackle Tyron Smith is rated 50th. This is on head coach/offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to shorten things up and get the ball out of Romo’s hand quicker instead of leaving him to avoid the rush and improvise, something that only makes Dallas’ offense go. If I’m Garrett I’d steal a page from Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice that has made things simpler for Jay Cutler who also has a bad offensive line by running shorter plays, making him get rid of the football quicker into the hands of the skilled players. Stop trying to do too much, you’re quarterback can’t always play Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote. Garrett, this isn’t Looney Tunes. Pick: Ravens 27, Cowboys 20.
4:05 PM ET
New England Patriots 3-2 @ Seattle Seahawks 3-2 – TV: CBS
New England has the perfect offense to negate the loudest crowd in the league with the no-huddle offense and coach Belichick is best at taking away what his opponent does best. The focus for New England will be to take away Seattle’s strength on offense using extra defenders in the box to stop Marshawn Lynch from having a big day running the football. In the grand scheme of things, Brady will have a better game than Russell Wilson on passing downs. Pick: Patriots 27, Seahawks 17.
Buffalo Bills 2-3 @ Arizona Cardinals 4-1 – TV: CBS
One player getting my attention in Arizona is linebacker Daryl Washington who’s emerging as one of the better linebackers adding another playmaker on defense along with Patrick Peterson who in my opinion is breathing down New York’s Darrelle Revis’ neck as best cornerback in football. Arizona wins the turnover battle here. Pick: Cardinals 27, Bills 19.
4:25 PM ET
N.Y. Giants 3-2 @ San Francisco 49ers 4-1 – TV: FOX
The defending super bowl champs better start getting production from their d-line that’s been quite so far heading into game 6, a game NFC runner up San Francisco has marked on their calendar as a payback game. New York’s offense has been putting up points with injuries against poor pass defenses in all three of their wins, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Cleveland, combining for 118 points. In both losses to .500 or better teams, Dallas and Philadelphia, only 34 points. It’s fair to say that no offense will light up the scoreboard against San Francisco’s defense. I’m not really throwing salt in New York’s water, but the Tuck’s, Pierre-Paul’s and Umenyiora’s need to get back to being the pit-bull like dogs that won them big games if they want to slow down Frank Gore and San Francisco’s running game. I expect them to come ready to fight. That’s what will take place at Candlestick Park, not a game, this is a fight. Pick: 49ers 24, N.Y. Giants 20.
Minnesota Vikings 4-1 @ Washington Redskins 2-3
Robert Griffin III (concussion) has been practicing this week and it looks like he’s more on the side of playing than not. The Redskins have lost eight straight home games and things don’t get much easier against a Vikings team that has a healthy Adrian Peterson carrying the load and a healthy Percy Harvin that can do anything you ask him to do on offense. Not to mention quarterback Christian Ponder is playing mistake free football completing 69% of his passes. If Washington is going to end its home game losing ways, Robert Griffin III needs to make big throws on the run avoiding Minnesota’s Jared Allen rushing off the edge. Pick: Vikings 23, Redskins 20.
Sunday Night Football in America 8:20 PM ET – TV: NBC
Green Bay Packers 2-3 @ Houston Texans 5-0
At some point Houston’s offense better start getting Andre Johnson going. Johnson missed lots of time due to a hamstring injury last season, and this year the big question is, has the All-Pro receiver lost a step? I say he has, but not tremendously. This is more of a system that pounds the rock with arguably the league’s best running back Arian Foster, using two tight ends and looking for the homerun deep ball with Andre Johnson. Johnson had only one catch last week as New York shadowed a safety over the top with Antonio Cromartie on him all game long. Expect Green Bay to do the same with Charles Woodson shadowing him to take away the deep ball. As for a struggling Green Bay offense that will be without Greg Jennings (groin) again, this game is all on Aaron Rodgers to work his magic trying to avoid Houston’s J.J. Watt that will be buzzing in his ear all night long on the outside. Things are just not going right for the Pack in 2012 with Injuries, replacement officials taking away a win from them, Gypsy Cursed?? Pick: Texans 27, Packers 23.
Monday Night Football, October 15 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Denver Broncos 2-3 @ San Diego Chargers 3-2
Here we go San Diego, your chance to get an early two game lead in your division. I like most things San Diego is doing particularly on the defensive side of the ball getting after the quarterback. They’ll have to do it all night long against the greatest signal caller ever. I’m never fooled by records and Denver’s under .500 record is overshadowed by the offense getting better each week along with the defense. Both quarterbacks San Diego’s Philip Rivers and Denver’s Peyton Manning will have to be solid in their pre-snap reads. In that event under the Monday Night spotlight, nobody does it better than Peyton Manning who knows his team can’t afford to drop to 2-4. And San Diego has been known to always slip on the Banana Peel when they have a chance to do something big. Pick: Broncos 31, Chargers 27.
Bye: Chicago 4-1, New Orleans 1-4, Carolina 1-4, Jacksonville 1-4