Derrick Henry throws Josh Norman, who's listed at 6 foot and 200 pounds, like he's a bag of beans.

NFL

Week 5 Vibe Check - Apologies for my Apple repair-induced vacation last week. For those curious, my offline picks kept me afloat at 3-2, while waiting to hear exactly how much a new keyboard for a MacBook costs.

The Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Arizona Cardinals all chipped in for me, but the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars nearly cost me letters "Q" through "T."

What did we figure out this last week? Well, Tom Brady's favorite number is four and like I've been saying all year, "THE BUCS AREN'T THAT GOOD." Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, the Panthers once again showed us that they ARE a competitive football team by smacking down the Falcons so mercilessly that Dan Quinn got the ax. You could've gotten pretty good odds on his firing. Or if you're like me, you lost money for the second time that Adam Gase hasn't cleaned out his office yet.



Moving onto new business…

Titans -3.5 over Texans

The Ryan Tannehill experience keeps on rolling from town to town, even if a couple performances had to be delayed. The Titans wiped out an undefeated Bills team on the second ever Tuesday Night Football game on the strength of their passing game, which finally had its young, talented receiver, AJ Brown back in fighting shape and Jonnu Smith mid-breakout. This allowed them to leave Derrick Henry, Ford F-150 with a Ferrari engine, in the garage most of the night, tallying a season low in carries, two TDs, and one of the nastiest stiff arms in recorded history. The Texans may have managed to beat up a flailing Jaguar team, but they'll have a lot more trouble handling a surging offense, even if Deshaun Watson will be able to do some damage against a subpar pass rush.

Panthers -1.5 over Bears

THE! PANTHERS! ARE! GOOD! I've been trying to say it all year. Matt Rhule gets it. Joe Brady gets it. Teddy Bridgewater gets it. They've looked competent in every game this season and the offense keeps improving with each start, seemingly not missing a beat without McCaffrey. (Imagine what happens when he gets back). Meanwhile, the Bears are statistically one of the worst 4-1 teams in NFL history. They've lucked into a Charmin soft schedule that still required multiple collapses, a Foles' comeback, and a Brady blunder to get to where they are, which isn't that impressive.


Mike Davis has taken up the torch for his injured teammate and looked like a star in his own right. AP Photo/John Bazemore


Ravens -7.5 over Eagles

The Eagles have proven themselves to be a bit frisky, having found a gem in Travis Fulgram and benefited from the health of Miles Sanders. However, everything still hinges on Carson Wentz and his protection, currently averaging just a shade under four sacks let up a game. Bad news: the Ravens are coming off a seven sack performance against the Bengals. As for their offense, Lamar Jackson's run production has dropped this season, and with it, the overall effectiveness of their offense, which currently ranks 17th in DVOA. That's a ranking for a team whose victory has come by at least two scores. If this is a team who hasn't hit anything close to their stride, watch out.

Packers -1 over Buccaneers

This is QB matchup everyone's been talking about. Aaron Rodgers is a man on a no holds barred, take no prisoners, scorched earth mission to assert his dominance. Tom Brady is a man on the edge of a fall down, flat out, faltering 43 year old's breakdown. Rodgers has continued to elevate playmakers like Allen Lazard and Robert Tonyan well above their ceilings. Brady has continued on without playmakers like Chris Godwin or Mike Evans from week to week and looked more human with each passing possession. The Bucs are destined to go 8-8 and you can hang this one up in loss column towards that unavoidable reality.


Aaron Rodgers has looked ten years younger orchestrating his offense this season. The Associated Press


Chiefs -4 over Bills

Patrick Mahomes has only lost back-to-back games in his career twice, once in 2018 and 2019. I wouldn't bet on this being the third. The Bills were left reeling after that thorough shellacking, while the Chiefs got caught trading punches with a scrappier Raiders team than anyone expected, leading to the largest loss in Mahomes' career. If the Bills couldn't keep the Titans under wraps, watch out for a motivated Chiefs offense that's talking about going back to basics and refocusing their play around the fundamentals. The star quarterback himself said that he can't rely on his scrambling and broken-plays-turned-good to win games. Do you hear that? It's the sound of 31 NFL defensive coordinators slamming their heads against the wall of their office in concert. The only interesting competition in this game should be who has the bigger arm.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

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Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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