Shawne Merriman: Chicago DE Khalil Mack Will Give Them Hell

Shawne Merriman: Chicago DE Khalil Mack Will Give Them Hell

After a winning week, former Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman is back to give his picks for Week 5, so you NFL betting players take note.

Merriman gives his thoughts on another win from his Los Angeles Chargers and highlights the key thing to watch with Tom Brady this season. Merriman also discusses how the Jacksonville locker room may react to the Urban Meyer controversy.

Chargers Still Chargin’

Gambling.com: Your former team, the Los Angeles Chargers, once again had a good showing on Monday Night Football, beating the Las Vegas Raiders 28-14. They backed up what you said about them being a legit team. What’s your takeaway after a convincing win?

Shawne Merriman: Yeah, like I said before, they should be undefeated. There's no question about it. They had two touchdowns called back against Dallas. Dallas got away with one. And you know, I can always be biased as I want to; it's my former squad. But the truth of the matter is that they are the real deal. And they're a scary team to play right now because they're playing well in all three phases: offense, defense and special teams.

GDC: We’ve seen the Chargers have competitive teams like this in the past. What do you feel makes them ready to take the next step and be one of the favorites in the AFC?

SM: I think the confidence level is high. I’ll start when they went for it on fourth-and-9. How quick they’ll go for it on fourth-and-1, fourth-and-2, there’s no hesitation. They’re playing with a different confidence level right now, and I think that starts with (Coach) Brandon Staley on down.

GDC: Staley has had success leading the Chargers in his first year. What’s the process like for a new team to get used to him? And how does having success early help him gain the team’s trust?

SM: The team has taken all Brandon Staley’s personality. If you see how they are playing right now, that's him. And you can see it on the field. They are making plays as if they are supposed to. You know, you don't see guys getting up to celebrate a 4 or 5-yard catch – these are all routine plays. And they have so many weapons, and they're sharing the ball. One week, Keenan Allen will light you up, then another week, it’ll be Mike Williams. They have so many weapons, it’s like they’re spreading the ball around, so there’s no real way to game plan for them.

 

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How Bout Them Cowboys?

GDC: You mentioned the Cowboys, who are now 3-1 after a convincing 36-28 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Do you think the Cowboys are a legitimate team at 3-1?

SM: Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is going to get a head coaching job somewhere. They’re consistently throwing 30-plus points a game, and that’s hard to beat anybody at that point. This is the best we've ever seen Dak play, in my opinion, consistently. As long as Dallas keeps putting up points like this, they’re going to beat a lot of people.

Bullying Browns

GDC: On the other side of the ball, one of the dominant teams has been the Cleveland Browns, who have given up just six and seven points in the last two games against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. How impressive is that considering how much more offensive-oriented the league is now?

SM: With defensive linemen Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, you have less than three seconds to throw the ball. Myles Garrett had one play where he just took the offensive lineman and threw him back into the quarterback. We’re talking about a different kind of physical specimen. He’s something we haven’t seen before in a very long time.

There are three players, in this order, that are the most important people on your team. You have the quarterback, then the right or left tackle, depending on the arm your quarterback throws with. Then a pass rusher because you need someone to stop those two. Cleveland has those two pass rushers, so it doesn’t matter who they play, they’re getting in the backfield.

Come On Ref, Let ‘Em Play

GDC: Speaking of pass rushers, we saw a controversial roughing the passer call on Washington defensive end Chase Young during the team’s 34-30 win over the Atlanta Falcons. How frustrating is something like that for a pass rusher?

SM: I couldn't play in today's game. I always make a joke, but I'm halfway serious about it. I would be playing for free because I would just get fined every game and hand over every check back to the NFL with whatever I made that game.

Chase Young went in and made a good play. There was nothing vicious about it, there's nothing illegal about it. When you got a split second to go in there, and you're trying to get the quarterback to the ground, mind you, you have 340-plus pound offensive tackle or guard blocking you at the same time, and all you're doing is trying to get a guy on the ground. Half the time, you can’t even see what you're grabbing because this guy in front of you that’s blocking you is bigger than you. You can’t see around him, and you can’t see over him because he’s bigger than you. So, you go in and try to get a guy on the ground, you don't know what's happening.

There are certain parts of the game, taunting is one I wish they’d get rid of that penalty. The second part of it is that with the quarterbacks and where you can hit them and whatnot, how you can’t lay on them or you can’t go below the knees. There are so many things you're trying to do during a play in the game that you don’t really know.

 

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Can Brady Hold Up?

GDC: The big matchup last week was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beating the New England Patriots 19-17 in Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough. Both offenses struggled to consistently generate points in the rainy conditions. What was your biggest takeaway from the Sunday night game?

SM: Tom Brady always struggles against his former coaches, whether it's somebody as a defensive coordinator or an offensive coordinator. And I think that game was more about New England quarterback Mac Jones than it was about Tom Brady. Tom Brady just wanted to go in there and win, but that game in my opinion, was about Mac Jones being handed a torch and how comfortable the Patriots fans should feel at this point by backing Mac Jones for the next 10-plus years.

GDC: There’s a lot of discussion about how long Tom Brady can play. He’s 44 right now, and you know the physical demands of the NFL. How long do you think he can keep playing?

SM: I think he has another two or three years if he wants to. But what I’m waiting to see out of Tom Brady, and this is what everyone needs to watch. They need to watch his game from Week 8 on. When you’re older, your body starts to hit a wall fast during a season because it can’t recover. I’m not making a whole big deal about these first eight games for Tom Brady. I’m looking for the back half of the season because if the age is a factor, it will start showing around Week 8.

Meyer’s Troubles

GDC: The big storyline heading into Week 5 right now is Jacksonville coach Urban Meyer and videos of him acting inappropriately at a bar. What would the locker room think of a controversy like that involved with their head coach?

SM: The locker room is not going to make a big deal about it. It’s the media who makes a big deal about it that brings it to the locker room. No player wants to answer a question about his head coach being out somewhere and doing something inappropriate.

With the players, I’ll tell you the truth, it’s all fun and games. We’ll laugh about it. The locker room is a tough place to be because people will get on you and make jokes and make comments and things like that. You’ve got to have tough skin. But to have a camera or microphone stuck in your face and having to answer a question about your coach doing something inappropriate, that’s when things get dicey.

Who Are You Going With This Week?

Moneyline figures are from DraftKings.

GDC: Let’s run down the Week 5 slate. We have a good Thursday night game with the Los Angeles Rams (-140) visiting the Seattle Seahawks (+120). Who are you going with?

SM: This is a tough one. Somebody is going to win by a field goal. I just can’t see Seattle losing at home with their crowd, so I’m taking Seattle.

New York Jets (+135) vs. Atlanta Falcons (-155) in London

SM: I’m taking the Falcons.

GDC: Did the Jets prove anything to you with their win last week against the Tennessee Titans?

SM: They got fight. I mean, that’s pretty much it, that they’re willing to fight. I didn’t see anything to say that they will turn their season around. All they showed me is that they’re willing to fight and not cave in. But Atlanta should have beaten Washington, and I think they will beat the Jets.

Detroit Lions (+290) at Minnesota Vikings (-380)

SM: I’m taking the Vikings. Lions are another team that will keep fighting and not roll over, but they’re a young team.

Green Bay Packers (-160) at Cincinnati Bengals (+140)

SM: I’m taking the Packers. I think it will be a shootout, but I’m taking the Packers.

Denver Broncos (+100) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-120)

SM: Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) is not going to practice this week, so I will take the Steelers.

Miami Dolphins (+360) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-490)

SM: I’m taking Tampa.

New Orleans Saints (-135) at Washington Football Team (+115)

SM: Saints let me down last week, but I don’t think they will let me down this week.

Philadelphia Eagles (+160) at Carolina Panthers (-190)

SM: I’m going with the Panthers. Jalen Hurts will always make plays, but when they were playing the Cowboys, he just looked rattled too much for me. The Panthers are a really good team, so I’ll go with them.

Tennessee Titans (-200) at Jacksonville Jaguars (+170)

SM: I’m going Titans. Sad to say, but I don’t know if Urban Meyer finishes the season.

New England Patriots (-410) at Houston Texans (+310)

SM: Patriots. Texans are a really, really bad team right now.

Chicago Bears (+190) at Las Vegas Raiders (-235)

SM: This is a tough one, too. I'm taking the Bears. I think Chicago defensive end Khalil Mack will give them hell.

Cleveland Browns (+110) at Los Angeles Chargers (-130)

SM: Cleveland has some damn animals coming on the defensive side of the ball, but the truth of the matter is, the Chargers should be undefeated, and it’s at home, so I’m taking my boys.

New York Giants (+245) at Dallas Cowboys (-310)

SM: Going with Dallas.

San Francisco 49ers (+190) at Arizona Cardinals (-235)

SM: I think the Cardinals beat them bad.

You talk about teams taking on the coach’s personality, the Cardinals are letting that offense fly with head coach Kliff Kingsbury, letting it open up. They have wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and have so many opportunities to beat you deep. The guys are flying around up front with Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt. They are probably the biggest sleeper in the NFL, I would say.

Buffalo Bills (+130) at Kansas City Chiefs (-150)

SM: I’m going with the Bills.

The (Chiefs) aren’t stopping anyone on defense. They’re another one who will put up points, and you have to accept that, but it’s about whether they can stop anyone on the defensive side of the ball.

Indianapolis Colts (+225) at the Baltimore Ravens (-280)

SM: I’m taking the Ravens.

I always say this, if Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson became a little bit more accurate, I think he’ll go down as the best quarterback of all time. Really, I do believe that. And I’m not talking about being a better passer than Peyton Manning or whatever, I’m just talking about an individual athlete who can hurt you in that many ways, and he finds a way to be accurate, what do you do? You can’t keep somebody to spy him and keep him in the pocket, because then you create more one-on-one coverages for Hollywood Brown and those wide receivers. If he got accurate, they’re going to win a lot of football games because you automatically know he’s going to hurt you with his legs.

 

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