Game of the week
Indianapolis at Cleveland
Both teams have won three consecutive games after bad Week 1 losses (Colts fell to Jacksonville and the Browns were routed by Baltimore). The Colts are a 1 1/2-point road favorite, but Cleveland’s offense should make it the favorite — the Browns have scored 35, 34 and 49 points the last three weeks.
Browns 25, Colts 22
Upset of the week
Carolina at Atlanta
The 0-4 Falcons are a two-point home underdog against the suddenly surging Panthers (2-2). One of these Monday mornings, Falcons owner Arthur Blank is going to realize it’s time to move on from coach Dan Quinn. But it won’t be this Monday because Atlanta will pull off the mild upset.
Falcons 13, Panthers 10
Lock of the week
Jacksonville at Houston
The Texans are a six-point home favorite despite being 0-4 and having fired coach/GM Bill O’Brien. That’s why this is our lock — teams with interim coaches usually get some kind of bump and they’re facing the right team (the Jaguars) at the right time (the Jaguars’ defense is a mess).
Texans 31, Jaguars 20
Around the AFC: Bad trades, signings doomed Houston GM/coach Bill O’Brien
O’Brien gets gate. Bill O’Brien the general manager ultimately failed Bill O’Brien the head coach, resulting in his firing Monday following Houston’s 0-4 start. How attractive is the Texans job? Well, they’ve got quarterback Deshaun Watson … and then what? They don’t have first- or second-round picks in 2021 because of the trade for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. A key for any interested candidate is getting the truth about Jack Easterby’s role. Brought to Houston by O’Brien, Easterby has seen his influence increase and will reportedly advise owner Cal McNair during a search. Beware, general manager and coach candidates.
No big plays for Raiders. Las Vegas is back at sea level following a 2-0 start (2-2) and now heads to Kansas City. Uh oh. The issue is their defense isn’t making any plays. Their four sacks are tied for second-fewest in the NFL and their two takeaways is third-fewest. “We have to get the turnovers from our defense,” coach Jon Gruden said. “That’s a big story here.” The Raiders’ next four games: At the Chiefs, vs. Tampa Bay, at Cleveland and at the Chargers. That stretch will define Gruden’s third season.
Colts’ defense impressive. Indianapolis’ defense leads the NFL in fewest yards per game (236.3), yards per play (4.44), passing yards per game (159.3), passing yards per play (5.44), third down (opponents convert only 31.1%), points per game (14.0) and interceptions (seven). A key addition has been defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (18 tackles and eight quarterback hits). “It’s rare that you get a guy with that size (6-foot-7) and is that athletic,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said.
Around the NFC: Quick hook in Washington for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins
Packers rolling. Green Bay sprinted into its bye with a 4-0 record, a point-differential of plus-51 and quarterback Aaron Rodgers having 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Coach Matt LaFleur is 17-3 since being hired, tied for the second-best 20-game record in NFL history, behind San Francisco’s George Seifert, who inherited Bill Walsh’s team and went 18-2. The Packers have started 4-0 in consecutive years for the first time since 1965-66.
Haskins’ quick hook. Never underestimate a coach’s lack of loyalty to a quarterback he didn’t draft. Washington (1-3) pulled the rug out from Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall draft choice in 2019, on Wednesday. Coach Ron Rivera made the change to Kyle Allen (they were together in Carolina) and elevated Alex Smith to No. 2. Although it does have the feel that Washington is still chasing its tail, Rivera basically admitted the NFC East being up for grabs drove his decision, plus the lack of practice time. In reality, Rivera should have started Allen from Week 1.
Dallas’ defense awful. The Cowboys’ offense is averaging 509.5 yards per game, 64 more yards than any team. Problem is, their defense can’t stop anybody. Dallas is 30th in yards allowed (430.5) and worst in points allowed (36.5). Cleveland rushed for 307 yards last week, the most ever allowed by the Cowboys. “There have been no effort issues, in my opinion,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “We played very poorly. I hope we don’t have to live through another one of those.” Next up are the Giants, whose 276.1 yards per game is tied for last in the league. That could fix things.