AFC North Week 5 Predictions

AFC North Week 5 Predictions
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Welcome to the AFC North predictions page!

Each week, one of our AFC North feature writers will list their picks for that week and be forced to explain why they voted as they did. Keep in mind that these picks are for entertainment purposes only, and in no way should be used to influence gambling or illegal activity, unless you’re smart enough to recognize that we know more than you because we publish things.

Cleveland Browns @ Tennessee Titans
October 5, 2014 1:00pm

A week four bye is not exactly what the Browns wanted to see on the schedule, but after three straight games with last second field goals and losing two of them, it might be just what the doctor ordered. Now they get to play the reeling Titans, who have lost three in a row while being outscored 100 to 34. Tennessee has had a brutal opening schedule and a new offensive system, but there is no excuse for playing that poorly.

What to watch:

Browns running game and stopping the run The Browns will most likely have free agent acquisition, and oft-injured running back Ben Tate back in the mix this Sunday to potentially bolster an already solid running attack (ranked 10th). Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell have filled in nicely during Tate’s absence. The Browns major challenge early in the season has been defending the run (ranked 29th). The Browns D has the talent, but this challenging trend has continued from the 2013 season.

Titans running game and defense Quarterback Jake Locker might not play in this one, leaving the offense in the hands of Charlie Whitehurst. The Titans do run the ball well (5th in yards per attempt) but usually play from behind, limiting the running attempts. Tennessee’s defense must give their offense a short field, otherwise the offense won’t put up many points.

Bottom line:
If Whitehurst starts, the Browns defense can focus on stopping the run. “Check-down Charlie” is rarely a deep ball threat. Browns sneak out of Tennessee with a road win for the first time in eight games.
Browns, 24-20

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis
October 5, 2014 1:00pm

Historically, playing indoors versus a gun-slinging quarterback does not bode well for the Ravens. However, this year Indy has proven vulnerable against good teams, and the Ravens offense can keep up with Andrew Luck and company for the most part.

What to watch:

Ravens pass rush The Ravens should be able to put up points against Indianapolis, but the question is whether they can they slow down Andrew Luck. They will need to take pressure off of the struggling defensive backfield by getting consistent pressure on Luck while keeping him contained. The Ravens pass rushers have been better lately, recording two sacks and seven quarterback hits last week, but they only have four sacks on the season.

Indianapolis’ turnovers Turnovers have been the key to Indy’s success and failure thus far in 2014. During their first two games, both losses, turnovers proved costly and ultimately led to defeat. In their two recent wins, creating turnovers helped fuel lopsided victories. Not coincidentally, they played playoff-caliber teams in the two losses, and the wins were against two hapless teams with a combined 1-7 record. If they can win the plus/minus battle, they should be in decent shape.

Bottom line:
Both teams are on a roll. Arguments can be made either way, but I have to go with history and the home team in this one.
Indy, 30-27

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
October 5, 2014 1:00pm

If there is such a thing as a “must-win” in week five, this might be it. Dropping two against Tampa and Jacksonville would put their team into a mental tailspin, and that’s before facing fans and talking heads post-game. Jacksonville has their own issues, giving up a staggering 20 sacks in their four losses.

What to watch:

Steelers’ defensive line The Steelers should be able to go through a poor Jacksonville offensive line to bottle up their lumbering running backs, but the key will be to put pressure on rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who is starting just the second game of his career. Blake has singlehandedly reduced the sack rate on Jacksonville quarterbacks by almost 75%, and he does have young dynamic wide receivers at his disposal. The Jags WRs have multiple 50+ yard TDs and 30+ yard receptions under their belt already. Unfortunately the steady Cecil Shorts and Marcedes Lewis will most likely be sidelined in this one, so there will be even more pressure on that group. A solid up-field push from Steelers front four would negate the best thing Jacksonville has going for them

Jaguars’ cornerbacks One other strength of Jacksonville has been is pass rush (12 sacks), and Ben has been sacked 11 times. Will all of this pressure being put on opposing quarterbacks, the defensive backfield has to step up as they have just one interception this season.

Bottom line:
The Steelers won’t lose this one. Jacksonville just has too many weaknesses (running game, offensive line, defensive backs)
Steelers, 27-13

Cincinnati Bengals @ New England Patriots
October 5, 2014 8:30pm

These teams will be entering this game with completely different mentalities. New England is coming off of a humiliating loss followed by five days of fallout from fans and media. The Bengals are 3-0, coming off of two sun-filled weeks with palm trees and umbrella drinks. That said, both will have pressure placed on them to perform well. A New England loss will most likely cause more internal disruption (especially if Tom Brady is pulled), and a poor Cincinnati showing will have folks revisiting questions about Andy Dalton and his ability to perform in big games.

What to watch:

Bengals’ defensive line New England had its first taste of playing a good team in a hostile environment, and they did not pass the test. This game in Foxburough will obviously allow the Patriot offense to communicate better, but it was the pressure on Tom Brady led to many of their miscues. The Bengals run D has been giving up 5.1 yards per carry so it will be interesting to see if the Pats concentrate on the run. Otherwise, if the Bengals can hit Brady early it will most likely effect his decision making throughout the game. The Bengals are an anomaly in that they are average in most categories but are winning because of their incredible sack and turnover differential.

Patriots pass rush, defensive backfield This game should showcase strength against strength as the Patriots statistically are number one at defending the pass, and the Bengals have multiple play-makers through the air. In the Pats last game, Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was extremely efficient, but he did not have to worry about crowd noise. In this game, noise could disrupt Bengals play-calling, and the D line needs to pressure Dalton who has yet to be sacked this year. He also has just one interception, which is the team’s only turnover.

Bottom line:
I’ve been back and forth with this one with so many variables involved but I have to go with the better team at this point.
Bengals, 24-20

Author’s picks:

Writer Game Score
Ravenous128 Browns @ Titans Browns, 24-7
Ravens @ Indy Indy, 31-27
Steelers @ Jaguars Steelers, 35-21
Bengals @ Patriots Bengals, 28-17
Peatwo (8-2) Browns @ Titans Browns, 24-20
Ravens @ Indy Indy, 30-27
Steelers @ Jaguars Steelers, 27-13
Bengals @ Patriots Bengals, 24-23
DOOOMMEEEEDD Browns @ Titans Browns, 26-16
Ravens @ Indy Ravens, 30-27
Steelers @ Jaguars Steelers, 27-21
Bengals @ Patriots Bengals, 26-17

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