Colin Kaepernick is back in the fold. So is Carson Palmer. And somewhere, free agent Charlie Whitehurst is ready to go, for a team to be named later. It’s quarterback carousel time in the NFL. Here’s how I see it all shaking out this weekend.
Week 5 record: 7-7
Overall 2016 record: 44-33
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Cheat Sheet trivia question
Of all active quarterbacks with at least 100 career starts, Tom Brady has the best winning percentage (.765). Who is number 2 and 3?
Thursday night: Broncos at Chargers
The Chargers have lost in spectacular fashion this season, already making it one of the more improbable runs of losing the league has ever seen, and it’s only been five games. From the Wall Street Journal: “Prior to Week 5, the Chargers had already blown two games where their fourth-quarter odds of victory were 99.9 percent and another, against the Colts in Week 3, when they dropped a game despite an 84.7 percentage win probability with just 2:05 left. Collectively, the odds of losing all four games from those points of time works out to 0.0000034 percent.” And that was before the botched snap versus the Raiders. If there’s a will, there’s a way for these guys. This could be the rare Thursday night game worth watching until the end.
The pick: Broncos 23, Chargers 20
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sunday: 49ers at Bills:
The 49ers couldn’t send Blaine Gabbert out there in good faith after his performance last week, but if America is expecting the Colin Kaepernick from 2013, think again. He’s still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, and physically, he’s still 10 to 15 pounds from his ideal playing weight. Buffalo is going to be a madhouse Sunday. Even if Kaepernick plays better than Gabbert (won’t be hard), I’ve got the home team winning its fourth straight.
The pick: Bills 30, 49ers 23
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Sunday: Jaguars at Bears
This might be a “Survivor” game. Win, and you can stick around the playoff hunt. Lose and go home, and take your January dreams with you. The Jags are 3-25 under Gus Bradley in games before their annual trek to London. They’re 9-14 in games after it. It’s their version of George Clooney’s Lake Como rendezvouses. See a little Big Ben, enjoy some tea time, and start winning football games. I’ll go with the Jags on the road, coming off the bye.
The pick: Jaguars 24, Bears 17
USA TODAY SportsReinhold Matay
Sunday: Rams at Lions
The Lions beat the Eagles despite a rash of injuries to key performers Eric Ebron, Ziggy Ansah, DeAndre Levy and Haloti Ngata. With two more home games left in their mini three-game, midseason home stretch, they can get right back in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. Los Angeles has its bags packed for London, but the Rams can’t start thinking about that trip until they hit the Motor City. I like the Lions, with new addition Justin Forsett making some plays Sunday.
The pick: Lions 23, Rams 19
Sunday: Steelers at Dolphins
The Dolphins had a bloody Tuesday, with two starting offensive linemen and backup running back Isaiah Pead getting their walking papers. As I told Colin Cowherd on “The Herd” this week before those moves, there’s a real feeling of uneasiness and confusion in that building as to what the Dolphins are. No identity. No wins other than the weird one against the Browns. This would be a huge victory. I just don’t see the Steelers falling asleep at the wheel against an inferior squad.
The pick: Steelers 34, Dolphins 24
APAaron M. Sprecher
Sunday: Bengals at Patriots
Tough to pick against Tom Brady in his homecoming game, no? And though I can’t blame Andy Dalton, I just don’t see the Bengals offense being what it was with Hue Jackson at the helm the past few years. Brady has a full arsenal of weapons, a chip the size of a boulder on his shoulder and a national audience to entertain. Yeah, I’ll take New England.
The pick: Patriots 30, Bengals 20
Scott GalvinScott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday: Panthers at Saints
Not the ideal situation for Carolina, even if Cam Newton is healthy and ready to go. The Saints are coming off of a bye and are at home, while the Panthers just played a Monday Night game and are severely banged up. The NFL schedule makers did the Panthers no favors, but I think they find a way, against all odds. I just don’t see the team I remember dabbing and taking group selfies less than 12 months ago going 1-5 to start the season.
The pick: Panthers 31, Saints 24
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Sunday: Ravens at Giants
Talk about two teams cascading off a mountain, going in the completely wrong direction after promising starts. The Giants defense has a league-low four sacks, and the offense is suddenly all about getting Will Tye and running backs the ball rather than the explosive trio of wide receivers. The Ravens, meanwhile, are a tough watch week to week, and just fired an offensive coordinator five weeks into the season. I’ve got to think the home team finds a way, but if this one is a 7-7 tie, I won't be surprised.
The pick: Giants 17, Ravens 16
Sunday: Eagles at Redskins
I was in attendance for the Eagles-Lions game in Detroit last Sunday, and I was almost more impressed with the way Carson Wentz responded to a 14-0 deficit than I was his flawless game in the blowout win over Pittsburgh two weeks earlier. The Eagles hadn’t faced adversity all season, and Wentz took it head-on and attacked it. Philly was a few questionable calls and unfortunate bounces away from getting out of MoTown with a win. The Redskins are winners of three straight and haven’t even started putting it all together yet. I like this one to be the game of the week. Give me Wentz and the Eagles to find a way on the road.
The pick: Eagles 33, Redskins 27
Sunday: Browns at Titans
It’s games like this on the NFL slate that always surprise you. On paper, it’s a zero; one that you wouldn’t watch if it were one of two games on the television. You might opt to watch an infomercial instead. But then, sure enough, it’s a shootout or there’s some bizarre onside kick recovery late, or Derrick Henry runs for 300 yards and you’re hooked. That’s this game. Tennessee wins it, but not without a test and some late-game mishap from the Browns.
The pick: Titans 23, Browns 21
Sunday: Chiefs at Raiders
Oakland has been cruising, winning games late behind a coach that has the courage (and the stones) to do things like toss 20-yard fade passes on fourth-and-2 with the game on the line. Coach Jack Del Rio has pressed all the right buttons, but Andy Reid is a beast, historically, in games coming off a bye (15-2 record). Give Reid and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton too much time to prepare, and they’ll beat you. Plain and simple. They’ll find a way to go into the Black Hole and do it on Sunday, too.
The pick: Chiefs 24, Raiders 20
Sunday: Cowboys at Packers
Oh, baby. Am I crazy if I’m taking the Cowboys, here? Am I off my rocker if I think Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott could be the best rookie tandem to hit the league since Jon Ogden and Ray Lewis suited up for the ’96 Ravens? I might be all of these things, but the Cowboys are playing flawless football. The stage hasn’t been too big for Prescott yet, and even if Lambeau Field is rocking, this kid seems to rise to the occasion when the lights are the brightest. National TV audience. Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman in the booth. Erin Andrews on the sideline. Aaron Rodgers under center for the Packers. And … I like the ‘Boys. Sorry, Tony Romo … it’s Dak’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
The pick: Cowboys 33, Packers 30
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
Sunday: Falcons at Seahawks
Going into Seattle is never easy, but if any offense is up for the challenge, it has to be this Atlanta one. Kyle Shanahan is pressing all the right buttons, and it’s not just the Julio Jones Show. The running back tandem of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman is my No. 1 in the league, the complementary pieces at receiver like Aldrick Robinson and Mohamed Sanu are holding their own, and the offensive line is playing its best in years. And the defense. Yes, there’s a defense in Atlanta. Winning in Seattle is a tall task. But this unit went into Denver and won last week. Rookie QB or not, that was no small deal. The Panthers were kind of this team last year, early on, too, before beating Seattle in its building in Week 6. I think Atlanta is that squad this season. Rise up!
The pick: Falcons 24, Seahawks 20
Sunday night: Colts at Texans
My colleague on “Good Morning Football” said it perfectly: The Texans are like that teenage kid who is too big to sit at the kids table but not big enough to be swigging wine at the adult table at Thanksgiving. They beat the teams they should be beating, but seem to get blown out by the elite teams in the league. Minnesota and New England made them look like pretenders. But this Colts unit is not Minnesota or New England. Houston -- behind a much-needed breakout performance from DeAndre Hopkins -- outscores Indy on Sunday night.
The pick: Texans 33, Colts 24
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Monday night: Jets at Cardinals
The schedule gods did the Jets no favors whatsoever. What is this schedule? Week after week, they play playoff teams from a year ago. What’s their gift for playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh last weekend? A cross-country trip to face the Cardinals on 11 days’ rest. Goodnight.
The pick: Cardinals 31, Jets 20
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Ben Roethlisberger (.670) and Aaron Rodgers (.662) are second and third on the list of QB winning percentage for active quarterbacks with at least 100 starts.