If I had made my bold predictions on Thursday rather than Saturday this week, I’d have told you the Chicago Bears were going to wreak havoc on the Green Bay Packers offense and cause a crisis on that side of the ball. And I would have been right for two and a half quarters, and then totally wrong.
That’s often how these bold predictions play out. They aren’t meant to actually come true, but there’s enough of a possibility that sometimes the game follows that script for long enough. Last week, I was right there in saying Cody Kessler would throw for more than 300 yards against the Tennessee Titans (he finished with 336), but the upset ultimately wasn’t meant to be. The Cincinnati Bengals looked to be on their way to a road upset of the New England Patriots before, well, the Patriots became the Patriots again.
Let’s not mention I predicted Antonio Brown would record 260 more receiving yards than he did. Let’s just skip over that.
Anyway, here are 10 that could happen with this weekend’s slate of games:
Geno Smith will throw for more than 300 yards against the Baltimore Ravens
The New York Jets’ switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Geno Smith looked like mere desperation, and it probably is. At 1-5 and practically eliminated in the AFC East, it’s time to figure out what they have in younger players. What they find in Smith might not end up being much in the long run, but the fact he hasn’t played in so long does up the intrigue for what he can do Sunday. Baltimore has a vulnerable secondary that has been picked apart by No. 1 wide receivers at times this year, like with Odell Beckham Jr.’s 222 yards and 2 scores last week. A game like that from a fed up Brandon Marshall will inflate Smith’s stats, but he’ll end up having a statistical performance in a close game that will draw some attention in New York and elsewhere.
The Titans will drop 40 points on the Indianapolis Colts
Is Exotic Smash-mouth even capable of such a feat? It is if it continues to transform the way it has the past two weeks. In wins against the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, the Titans have allowed Marcus Mariota to open it up as a dual-threat player. Operating a good deal out of shotgun, Mariota had a combined quarterback rating of 125.3. Combined with a lethal ground game, the Titans have produced scoring outputs of 30 and 28 the past two weeks. So where does 40 come in? That’s when you factor just how bad the Colts are on defense, particularly in defending the way Tennessee likes to play. Indianapolis is 31st in defensive DVOA despite facing the league’s 31st-ranked slate of opposing offenses. The Colts allowed Lamar Miller to break out for 149 yards and a touchdown last week, and they’ll allow something worse to DeMarco Murray, plus enough in the passing game to really get their heads spinning.
Miami will prove its running game isn’t a one-game flash with an upset of the Buffalo Bills
Nobody will blame you if you have a hard time buying into what Jay Ajayi did against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Ajayi rushed for 204 yards in an offense that hasn’t run the ball all season, against a defense missing its two best run defenders, with 62 of the yards coming on a single play late in the game. This isn’t to argue the Dolphins are now an offensive juggernaut, because they aren’t. But Sunday offered the perfect recipe of exactly what Adam Gase wanted to eventually see in Miami, with one running back carrying the load behind five set starters and wearing a team down throughout the course of the game. It’s the first time he’s had anything near that kind of continuity of personnel this season, but it’s a wave of momentum to now ride into a second straight home game. The Bills are smoking hot, but they’ve feasted on some weak opposing quarterbacks as of late. A consistent Miami running game is the way to limit what Ryan Tannehill has to do, and against a Bills team potentially missing LeSean McCoy, it’ll be productive enough to end Buffalo’s winning streak.
The Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants will combine for 7 interceptions
Case Keenum and Eli Manning are coming off their best performances of the season, but the jet lag that comes with London games has a way of halting offenses in their tracks. Both teams will force the pass by negating the run, and a sloppy game will emerge that makes you change the channel on Sunday morning to whatever gospel show is most intriguing.
A.J. Green will eclipse his performances against the Jets and Dolphins with a monster showing vs. the Browns
Believe it or not, the Browns are actually one of the best teams at stopping Green. His 65.5 receiving yards per game against them is the lowest average against any of the 10 teams he’s played at least three times. But the reason for that stoppage, Joe Haden, is likely to miss a third straight game with a groin injury. The Bengals desperately need to get back on track after two straight blowout losses, and they’ll target their one sure thing on offense like none other this week. Against a team that has been stopping the run reasonably well but has let top targets run wild against them, Green is going to have a day that is more productive than his performances against the Jets (12 catches, 180 yards, 1 touchdown) and Dolphins (10-173-1).
The Jacksonville Jaguars will upset the Oakland Raiders by holding them to less than 20 points
The three early games Oakland has won in the Eastern time zone tend to follow a similar script: A sluggish start on offense creates a somewhat manageable hole until the offense wakes up and seals the victory. This one will be similar except the offense won’t wake up. Young teams are bound to have those games sometimes, and Oakland is displaying enough problems in the running game, in pass protection and even in Derek Carr’s consistency to suggest it could happen even against an opponent as vulnerable as Jacksonville. The Jaguars have won two straight by closing teams out on defense, and the most underrated pass defense in the league will come up with this week’s biggest upset.
David Johnson will run for fewer than 80 yards, but the Arizona Cardinals beat the Seattle Seahawks anyway
Johnson has been the NFL’s best back during the past two weeks, gashing the San Francisco 49ers and the Jets for a combined 268 yards and 5 touchdowns. It has helped turn the Cardinals’ season around, and it’s creating a new team identity. But on Sunday, the league’s No. 3 rush defense is going to shut him down. And the Cardinals will win anyway. Carson Palmer’s strange season is starting to look like a bunch of reasonable performances and one horrible one against Buffalo, but he and Bruce Arians know how important this game is to everything they want to accomplish together. After Seattle’s emotionally draining win against an Atlanta Falcons team that exposed some holes in the pass defense, Arizona generates enough plays through the air to win a gutty defensive game.
Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins combine for 800 passing yards
What do the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins have in common? They are the only teams to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, and they’ve combined to do it in the past two weeks. Enough of that formula came on the ground, but it also happened because of two passers who continue to grow more comfortable in their systems finding the holes in zone coverage. When the two square off this week, a shootout will incur as the game comes down to which quarterback makes the crucial mistake first.
The Kansas City Chiefs will hold the New Orleans Saints to less than 20 points
This won’t be your typical New Orleans shootout. Drew Brees isn’t the same on the road as he is in the Louisiana Superdome, nor is the Saints offense. It only scored 13 points on the road against the Giants in Week 2, and it would have only managed a little more in San Diego two weeks later had it not been for a late flurry of Chargers fumbles. Kansas City’s defense is working back to top-10 status, and it’ll take another step Sunday by pressuring Brees into a few mistakes and allowing its offense to play ball control to keep him off the field.
Lamar Miller will run for 180 yards against the Denver Broncos
Miller broke out against the Indianapolis Colts last week, totaling 149 yards and a touchdown. However, he’ll eclipse that as the Houston Texans use him to take the pressure off Brock Osweiler during his return to Denver. The Broncos still hold a reputation as an elite run defense, but that’s not how they’ve played this year, as they currently rank 22nd in the league in giving up 113 rushing yards per game. The stretch runs that worked against Indianapolis will work again this week in Denver, but the difference will be that Miller breaks one for a monster gain.