BRONCOS (2-2) at PATRIOTS (2-2), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: The Game of the Week cabinet gave a cursory glance at Eagles-Steelers and Chargers-Saints but ultimately was drawn as if by hypnosis to the holy altar of Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. I don’t wanna say this’ll be a shootout, but the score is already 24-21 and kickoff is still hours away. Brady affirmed his magic last week in engineering a 45-point second half that made Buffalo’s defense collapse like a U.S. Ryder Cup team, while Manning has silenced his critics with vintage 300-yard games back to back. Always like Brady at home, always, still, but bet Manning finds a way to keep it close and make it thrilling deep into the fourth.
Prediction: Patriots, 38-34
FALCONS (4-0) at REDSKINS (2-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Sometimes you go with your gut. Atlanta is unbeaten and Redskins have somehow lost seven consecutive home games, but those trends shall end. See a big day for unheralded Alfred Morris against a run defense that is Falcons’ Achilles heel.
Prediction: Redskins, 30-28
BROWNS (0-4) at GIANTS (2-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: The Dog panel sifting for a week’s worst game always prefers the classic enjoining of two really bad teams but will settle on apparent disparity when needed. In this case, that’s winless Browns — losers of 10 in a row — against defending champ Giants, who are home and also hungry after last week’s two-point loss to Philadelphia. Browns played Baltimore tough last week, but I like Giants’ defense to dominate rookie Brandon Weeden.
Prediction: Giants, 28-13
DOLPHINS (1-3) at BENGALS (3-1), 1 p.m.
Outlook: A 431-yard passer, a 253-yard receiver, eight defensive sacks and it isn’t enough — man, the Dolphins truly are inventing new ways to lose. Miami has won on six of its past seven trips to the Queen City, and I give the Dolphins a medium shot at an outright road win, following heartbreaking overtime losses the past two weeks. That upset hat hangs on this hook: Reggie Bush and a stout running game against a Cincinnati run defense allowing 5.4 yards per carry. Alas, I see a big day for Bengals receiver A.J. Green and a purring offense that has averaged 33 points in its current three-game winning streak.
Prediction: Bengals, 27-24
PACKERS (2-2) at COLTS (1-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: How much does emotion weigh? That’s the question here, as Indy plays its first game without Coach Chuck Pagano since he was diagnosed with leukemia. No doubt Colts will be inspired, and the fact they’re coming off a bye and the Packers are coming off a draining one-point win over the Saints further levels this game. Then again, back in the real world, Aaron Rodgers will have his way with the Colts’ defense.
Prediction: Packers, 31-17
RAVENS (3-1) at CHIEFS (1-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Ravens’ run defense is better equipped than most to limit Jamaal Charles, meaning the game shifts into Matt Cassel’s error-prone hands. Baltimore is rested after playing last Thursday, and Ray Rice figures to have a big day. I’d also note that KC’s once-vaunted home-field edge at Arrowhead has withered, with six losses there in past seven games.
Prediction: Ravens, 27-10
EAGLES (3-1) at STEELERS (1-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: One needn’t be a Pennsylvanian to be excited about this one. Eagles have survived turnovers to win three games by four total points. Steelers, off a bye, are healthier than they’ve been in a long time, and get Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall back. Philly might have more overall talent but Pittsburgh takes the state title.
Prediction: Steelers, 24-20
SEAHAWKS (2-2) at PANTHERS (1-3), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: I like Seattle’s defense, a lot, front to back, and I like a hot-running Marshawn Lynch to show up big against shaky Panthers run stopping. On the other hand, Seahawks rookie QB Russell Wilson worries me a bit, as does the long-trip factor. But, hey, what is life if not for the occasional risk, right? So give me that Seattle defense. Upset!
Prediction: Seahawks, 20-17
BEARS (3-1) at JAGUARS (1-3), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: Chicago is off a short week and facing a letdown after that big Monday night rout at Dallas, but I can’t find a single way Jacksonville has the talent to take advantage or make this much of a game. Bears’ defense will limit Maurice Jones-Drew and make it rough on Blaine Gabbert. Remember when Drew questioned Jay Cutler’s manhood in a tweet during the 2011 playoffs? Payback.
Prediction: Bears, 30-0
TITANS (1-3) at VIKINGS (3-1), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Tennessee has a bad defense, is struggling on offense, isn’t great on the road and now has the ghost of Matt Hasselbeck at QB for injured Jake Locker. So, naturally, I give the Titans a real upset shot, because Minnesota is a flimsy 3-1 and ripe for a fall. (Aside to Chris Johnson: Thanks for the 141 yards last week – the week I finally sit you on my fantasy team! Oy.)
Prediction: Vikings, 23-20
BILLS (2-2) at 49ERS (3-1), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Expect a bit of a hey-we-still-have-pride-after-all, bounce-back effort by Buffalo after that egregious second-half collapse against the Patriots last week. And expect Niners to maybe be a bit flat after that 34-0 flattening of the Jets. Can’t envision a San Francisco loss, but Bills have enough going on offense (NFL-best 16 TDs) to like them against the spread getting almost double figures.
Prediction: 49ers, 27-20
CHARGERS (3-1) at SAINTS (0-4), 8:25 p.m.
Outlook: NFL gave special permission for suspended coach Sean Payton to attend, because Drew Brees, facing his former team, figures to break Johnny Unitas’ record for consecutive games with a TD pass (now tied at 47). That record, Payton in the house and New Orleans being winless and desperate all suggest a huge, emotional effort for the Saints.
Prediction: Saints, 41-38
TEXANS (4-0) at JETS (2-2), 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: It’s a Monday matchup made in ESPN heaven: A great, unbeaten team against a reeling, chaos-engulfed New York team. How long before Jon Gruden is leaning out the booth, Harry Caray-style, and leading the crowd in a “We want Tebow!” chant? I actually like the Jets with the points and give them a fair upset shot because they are struggling mightily and Mark Sanchez’s future is imploding and Houston is really, really good and the NFL is absolutely crazy.
Prediction: Texans, 23-19