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The 5 O'Clock Club: The good, the bad & the ugly - a look ahead to this week’s games

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere...

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

The most hyped game of the week

Falcons (3-2) at Patriots (4-2) - We finally get the cross-conference rematch of the last super bowl, with all its attendant story-lines, in prime time Sunday Night Football. Last year’s high-flying Falcon offense hasn’t been grounded, but it is relatively sputtering along at 24 points per game, in comparison to the historically huge rate set last year by Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Meanwhile, the Patriots are the worst team in the league in scoring defense, though they’ve faced some pretty high-powered offensive teams in the Chiefs, Saints, Texans and Panthers. New England held the Bucs and Jets under 20 points apiece in each of the last two weeks. Gillette Stadium in a prime time Sunday Night Football matchup in mid-October? Gimme Tom Brady. Club line: 33-27, Patriots win

Premier matchups

Redskins at Eagles on Monday Night Football - This rematch pits the #1 & #2 teams in the NFC East in a must-win contest for Washington’s hopes for a division title. If the Redskins lose on Monday night, then in the remaining games of the season (9 for Philly, 10 for Washington) they would need the Eagles to lose 3 more games than the ‘Skins lose. For example, if the Skins go 7-3 in the final 10 games, then Philly would have to go 3-6 for Washington to have a chance at the division title. On the other hand, a Washington win makes it a neck & neck race again. Club line: 30-27, Redskins win

Cardinals (3-3) at Rams (4-2) - A week ago, I would have put this in the ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ category. The Cardinals were the worst 2-2 team in football going into Week 5, but suddenly, they have a new-ish running back wearing #23, they beat Tampa Bay, scoring 38 points, and — with a win against NFC West division leading Rams — can vault to second place in the division and push the Rams from 1st to 3rd (assuming the Seahawks beat the Giants in New York on Sunday). The Rams offense leads the league in scoring while the Cardinals have the 4th ranked scoring defense, pitting strength against strength. Adrian Peterson breathes new life into this talent-filled offense for Arizona, and he’s a man on a mission. It’s one of the oldest teams in the NFL versus one of the youngest (that goes for the coaches as well). Club line: 27-24, Cardinals win

The good

Tampa Bay (2-3) at Buffalo (3-2) - The Bills are in 2nd place in the AFC East, a half-game back of the Patriots, and this year, Buffalo has an actual shot at finishing at the top of the division. The Bills defense is 13th in yards per game, but they are #1 in scoring defense, having given up just 74 points in 5 games. With wins over the Jets, Broncos and Falcons, Buffalo has shown that it can compete with anybody.

The Tampa offense, meanwhile, is 4th in yards, but only 18th in scoring. Tampa Bay has 11 games remaining in the regular season, and NONE of their opponents have a losing record at the moment. A Buccaneers loss this week to a non-conference opponent wouldn’t be the end of the world, but at 2-4, the first nail would be driven into the Tampa Bay coffin. Club line: 19-12, Buffalo wins

Panthers (4-2) at Bears (2-4) - Two weeks ago, I would have put this in the “ugly” category, but Mitch Trubisky starting at QB, combined with the RB tandem of Jeremy Langford & Tarik Cohen, and the Bears win in Baltimore in Week 6 make this suddenly a more interesting and watchable matchup. Cam Newton looked like Clark Kent late in the 4th quarter against the Eagles. If Superman doesn’t show up again, it could be a long day at Soldier Field. Club line: 23-19, Panthers win

Ravens (3-3) at Vikings (4-2) - Has any franchise had to overcome more injury to star players in the past 18 months than the Vikings? Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, Dalvin Cook. Still, the Vikes came away with a win at home against the Packers this week when Aaron Rodgers was injured and lost for the season. Mike Zimmer may end up as coach of the year.

Meanwhile, I can’t figure this Ravens team out.

The Vikings have won 4 of 6 and have a net point differential of +19. The Ravens are .500 with a net point differential of -10. The Vikings have scored 13 TDs, the Ravens 12. Both teams are +2 on turnovers. The Vikings are playing at home. Club line: 23-16, Vikings win

The bad

Saints (3-2) at Packers (4-2) - Two second place NFC teams battling it out in the middle of the season! Why isn’t this a good or even premier game? Because Aaron Rodgers won’t be in uniform. The Packers need to try to find a way to patch together a playoff run without their leader. Maybe Brett Hundley and Aaron Jones can make some Prescott-Elliott 2016 magic happen — but I don’t hold out a lot of hope. The Saints hung a 50-burger on the Lions in Week 6, but their defense is 5th worst in the league in points given up.

The Saints defense keeps the Packers in the game, and the home mystique of Lambeau Field proves too much for the New Orleans team to overcome. Overtime wouldn't surprise me; last team to score wins. Club line: 34-33, Packers win

Jaguars (3-3) at Colts (2-4) - I just watched the Colts lose to the Titans 36-22 a few hours ago. There are two teams in the NFL that are worse than the Colts right now; the Browns and the 49ers, who happen to be the only two teams that the Colts have beaten this season. The Colts may win a few more games before it’s all over — Frank Gore is having a nice twilight to his career, T.Y. Hilton is a quality receiver, Jacoby Brissett looks like a pretty good quarterback, and it’s possible that Andrew Luck still has a career in the NFL — but right now the Colts look like a 1963 pickup truck with a bad spark plug and a worn timing belt. The Jags need the division win to keep up with the Titans & Texans. Club line: 30-19, Jags win

Jets (3-3) at Dolphins (3-2) - The loser of this game will be looking up at the rest of the AFC East from last place. The Dolphins, in the five games they’ve played, have scored: 19, 6, 0, 16 and 20 points. The Jets are one television replay away from having “loss of control, touchback” changed to “touchdown”, potentially putting them in first place in the division. Club line: 21-16, J-E-T-S win

Bengals (2-3) at Steelers (4-2) - Is it just me? Hasn’t it felt like the Steelers were having a bad season? How can they be 4-2 and leading their division?

After scoring 0 and 9 in their first two game, the Bengals have made a bit of a recovery, but one of their two wins is against the Browns. I read somewhere that Roger Goodell is considering making a motion at this week’s owner’s meeting to remove all victories against the Browns from team records, as it provides their opponents with an unfair advantage. Thus, this is really the 1-3 Bengals at the 3-2 Steelers. A combined 4-5 record — that looks more like the football these two teams are playing.

Ben seems to be out of his funk. Club line: 19-18, Steelers win

Chargers (2-4) at Broncos (4-2) - This is the battle for the middle of the AFC West, behind the Chiefs and ahead of the seemingly defunct Raiders. Along with the Redskins-Eagles game, this represents the first divisional re-match of the young season. The Broncos won the Week 1 matchup. The Chargers’ two victories came in Weeks 5 & 6 against the Giants and the Raiders. That’s just a bit more impressive than beating the Browns and the Niners, but not much. This one is at Mile High Stadium. Club line: 26-20, Broncos win

The ugly

Chiefs (5-1) at Raiders (2-4) - At the start of the season, this Thursday Night Football matchup looked like it would be one of two fantastic prime time games (along with Falcons-Patriots) in Week 7. Instead, we see two teams in the AFC West going opposite directions. The Marshawn Lynch homecoming & super bowl party isn’t really going as expected, Derek Carr has been injured, and the Raiders have lost 4 straight games, including 2 inside the division. The Chiefs, meanwhile, look like a team that is on its way to Minneapolis in the new year. Club line: 34-17, Chiefs win

Titans (3-3) at Browns (0-6) - I started out the season thinking that the Browns had done enough with the roster & coaching staff to win 5 - 7 games this season. Boy, was I wrong! There are two winless teams in the NFL right now; one of them is playing with fire, showing grit & determination, and has lost 5 games by a total of 13 points. The other is the Browns.

The Titans are in a 3-way tie for the division lead in the AFC South, and need this win to stay on pace with the Jags & Texans. The Browns look like they will have the first overall pick in the draft. Again. This won’t be close. Club line: 24-13, Titans win

Cowboys (2-3) at 49ers (0-6) - A combined 2-9 on the season. The Niners are likely to start rookie CJ Beathard at QB, while the Zeke Elliott mess is likely to dominate the game coverage. For teams in different divisions, these two franchises have a long and bitter rivalry. Kyle will know a lot about the Cowboys from his 4 years in Washington, and I imagine Pierre Garcon may be a bit fired up as well. The streak of 3-point-or-less losses for the Niners ends at five. Club line: 27-23, 49ers win

Seahawks (3-2) at Giants (1-5) - Forget about the Giant victory against the Broncos. It was a fluke. The Seahawks have lost to the Packers and Titans. They beat the Niners, Colts and Rams. Seattle is a veteran team with a good coach, and they are winning the games they are supposed to win. Giants are having post-mortem muscle spasms but the heart has stopped pumping. Club line: 18-16, Seahawks win

Poll

How many winners have I picked correctly?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    12 or more
    (13 votes)
  • 7%
    11
    (10 votes)
  • 12%
    10
    (17 votes)
  • 18%
    9
    (25 votes)
  • 11%
    8
    (15 votes)
  • 5%
    7
    (8 votes)
  • 9%
    6
    (13 votes)
  • 25%
    5 or less
    (35 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Aside from the Redskins-Eagles game, which game are you most looking forward to this week?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Falons-Patriots
    (48 votes)
  • 4%
    Cardinals-Rams
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Buccaneers-Bills
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Panthers-Bears
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Ravens-Vikings
    (0 votes)
  • 5%
    Saints-Packers
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Jaguars-Colts
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Jets-Dolphins
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Bengals-Steelers
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Chargers-Broncos
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    Chiefs-Raiders
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Titans-Browns
    (2 votes)
  • 46%
    Cowboys-49ers
    (80 votes)
  • 4%
    Seahawks-Giants
    (8 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which one is the worst game of the week?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Falcons-Patriots
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Cardinals-Rams
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Buccaneers-Bills
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Panthers-Bears
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    Ravens-Vikings
    (6 votes)
  • 1%
    Saints-Packers
    (2 votes)
  • 12%
    Jaguars-Colts
    (22 votes)
  • 16%
    Jets-Dolphins
    (28 votes)
  • 2%
    Bengals-Steelers
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Chargers-Broncos
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Chiefs-Raiders
    (1 vote)
  • 45%
    Titans-Browns
    (80 votes)
  • 6%
    Cowboys-49ers
    (11 votes)
  • 4%
    Seahawks-Giants
    (8 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now

Poll

At the end of Week 7, where will the Cowboys be in the NFC East?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Tied with the Redskins for 2nd place
    (58 votes)
  • 22%
    Tied with the Giants for last place
    (57 votes)
  • 53%
    All alone in 3rd place
    (133 votes)
248 votes total Vote Now