Thursday, October 10, 2013

NFL Week 6 Picks: Inevitable, And Then Evitable

Fyodor Is My Gambling Co-Pilot
As I went though the roster of games this week, what struck me is how five weeks worth of trends just seem so resolute. The four remaining winless teams look like they are never going to win until they play each other, and the three remaining unbeaten teams look like they aren't going to lose until they also play each other. Terrible defensive units look hopeless, and dominant offensive squads only fail to score touchdowns on their own mistakes, rather than anything the defense does.

But it's still early, with good weather and fresh squads that aren't working with deep reserves, and defensive coordinators have a tendency to get better at this for the longer they do it. Seattle looked like the best team in the league until some linemen went down; now they've spent much of the past two road games behind to weaker opponents, and are looking up at the Saints for the top spot in the NFC. Kansas City looks like an also-ran to me behind Denver, but there's no denying that they have more players on defense. New Orleans has occasional issues in the running game and the sense that the defense isn't really up to this level. And while there's a clear top tier of teams, it's not as if they look bulletproof. It's still, well, early.

But if I don't throw together a big winning week soon, it's not going to matter, because I'm going to have to start selling organs that I'll miss. (Kidding! Kind of.)

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

NY Giants at CHICAGO (-7)

One of these weeks, the Giants will find themselves in a matchup they can win. There are too many tolerable skill players here, with a history of success, and the league is generally too close to have huge turnover deficits every week. But man alive, a short week, a Chicago team that should be better than it is despite defensive line injury issues, and the usual forces that create Terrible Night Football... well, it isn't exactly filling me with confidence. RB David Wilson is probably missing this one, which gives the league's worst rushing attack even less reason to exist, and QB Eli Manning isn't getting time enough to stay clean under any circumstance. It's hard to see how this one doesn't end with the Bear defense looking dominant, maybe scoring on defense, and the Bear offense keeping things simple enough to just throttle the life out of them.

Bears 27, Giants 16

CINCINNATI (-8.5) at Buffalo

If the Bills had starting QB EJ Manuel, this would be an intriguing little trap game, because Manuel has the ability to evade the strong Bengal rush and make some plays to keep his team in it. But when they have to go to shell-shocked UDFA QB Jeff Tuel, with a rushing attack that's been toothless most of the year... um, not so much. Cincy's offense really isn't at a stage where a big number on the road is a point of comfort, but they might be able to cover this number with two scores. It won't be pretty.

Bengals 20, Bills 10

Detroit at CLEVELAND (+3)

The line tells me that the world thinks little of Browns QB Brandon Weeden, that Lions WR Calvin Johnson will be 100%, and that home field doesn't really matter against a dome team because it's still warm outside. But I think this Detroit team doesn't get a 100% Megatron, that the Browns' linework is going to be a difference maker, and that those extra days of rest after their Terrible Night win will pay off. One more week of the Browns in first. We're through the looking glass here, people.

Browns 24, Lions 20

OAKLAND (+9.5) at Kansas City

Too many points in what is usually a gritty division game, and the Raider offense is looking downright frisky now with QB Terrelle Pryor making plays and elevating WR Denarius Moore to borderline WR1 status. The Chiefs are also too button-down (WR Dwayne Bowe is about to appear on a milk carton, since he dares to run routes more than 15 yards down field) to get big plays and very strong red zone work against a Raider defense that's starting to look competent on the other side of the ball. I don't like the Silver and Black's chance at pulling off the upset -- the Chiefs have too much top-line talent -- but a scare and cover seems possible.

Chiefs 26, Raiders 20

CAROLINA at Minnesota (-2.5)

Two teams that are just a mess, really. The Panthers need a real coach and a serious attitude adjustment in QB Cam Newton, because they are wasting a legitimately frisky defense. The Vikings are so bad at the trigger position that they brought in Josh Freeman and could start him, having discovered that Matt Cassell and Christian Ponder are both, well, what they thought they were. I'll take the road team because I think they are due to not turn the ball over, while the Vikings are. If you feel really confident about this game, seek medical attention.

Panthers 24, Vikings 16

PITTSBURGH (+2.5) at NY Jets

The winless Pirates come off the bye to get the short week Jets in a home game, and while I don't like their chances to actually get back into the race in the AFC North, the bye week will do them some good in terms of getting a running game going. QB Ben Roethlisberger is going to prolong plays into productivity against the not-quite Jet pass rush. The veteran defense doesn't make big plays any more, but QB Geno Smith looks like a guy you can bait, and the Jet won-loss record is built on sand. Enjoy this one, Yinzer Fan: it doesn't quite make up for the Pirates taking the pipe against the Cardinals, but you'll still enjoy hearing Jet Fan lose his mind.

Steelers 23, Jets 17

PHILADELPHIA (-1) at Tampa Bay

Are the Eagles secretly a mediocre defensive team posing as an awful one? We'll know more after this week, the first game in which they aren't facing an established NFL QB with some first-rate weapons. Bucs QB Mike Glennon is going to look a little better after a bye week and reps, and RB Doug Martin and WR Vincent Jackson can do damage, but the real way to wreck this team is with WR2/3 getting hit in stride, and from not beating yourself. Tampa's not there yet, and I see the Eagles getting to the QB with regularity. On the other side of the ball, there's a trace of doubt as to whether QB Nick Foles or Michael Vick gets the start, and WR DeSean Jackson has already made the mistake of mouthing off about how he's faster than CB Darrelle Revis, as if the NFL's best name CB does what he does with pure wheels. What I think is going to happen here is that Foles will get the start, struggle for a while, but eventually make hay with TEs Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. Later on, he'll get a short field or two, and close it out with the running game working against a demoralized defense. I don't see this as a QB controversy game, but others will, and the real takeaway will be that Bucs coach Greg Schiano will not be long for this world.

Eagles 24, Bucs 17

GREEN BAY (-2) at Baltimore

One of those classic Green Bay Isn't Tough Enough road games... but it's not as if the Ravens are a bone crushing outfit, and the Raven offense just can't control the clock the way they used to. QB Aaron Rodgers has a long and solid history of pulling out road wins in season against teams that aren't going to make deep playoff runs, and the Pack rushing attack is better than it used to be, which means sustaining drives won't be entirely about Rodgers. This one will be won on the edges, and Green Bay's just a lot better there.

Packers 31, Ravens 20

St. Louis at HOUSTON (-7)

How bad is the Rams rushing defense? So bad that embattled QB Matt Schaub might as well be game manager / caddy TJ Yates in this one, what with RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate on track to run for more than 200+ yards between them. They're going to need to, because Texan Fan is out for Schaub's blood, and will likely greet him with boos before he does anything in this game. It's a big number to hit for a team that's going to have to grind this out and try to avoid more devastating mistakes, but that's just how generous the Ram defense is against the run. And on the other side, it's not as if JJ Watt and company can't get a mistake or two from Rams QB Sam Bradford.

Texans 23, Rams 13

Jacksonville at DENVER (-26.5)

Believe it or not, the Jags lost any chance of covering this game last week in Dallas. With the Cowboys moving the ball up and down the field on the Denver defense, HC Jon Fox got what he needed to get his team to care about this lay-up against a terrible team, and it doesn't help that it's at home, at altitude, and with a QB (Peyton Manning, naturally) who seems to be taking this season as the personal challenge to put up the most ridiculous numbers ever. Back-door cover potential abounds, since garbage time will start late in the second quarter, but the Denver defense is going to want to get some pride back in this one, and it's not as if anyone is accusing them of Patriot style run-ups. Yet.

Broncos 55, Jaguars 24

Tennessee at SEATTLE (-14)

Bad spot for the Titans, who get the Seahawks at home for the first time in a long time, and coming off their first loss. The trip to Seattle is never an easy one, and with the Seahawks starting to get healthy on the offensive line, it's going to get worse. Oh, and there isn't a WR on the Titan roster that can get open against the best secondary in the league, and the Seahawk ground game is going to turn them into pudding.

Seahawks 31, Titans 17

NEW ORLEANS (+2.5) at New England

The line is going for TE Rob Gronkowski and the sense that the Patriots always have a bounce-back game in them, but it's hard for me to see how the Saints don't have the better QB, TE, and WRs. Plus, after five weeks of the defense doing the job, going against the Patriots doesn't look like a terror-inducing prospect. Should be a very nice game and tight in the fourth, and in that scenario, this year, give me Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham.

Saints 27, Patriots 26

ARIZONA (+11) at San Francisco

A feel pick here, which is the best indication yet to go the other way. San Francisco covers big numbers with the run game, but Arizona is reasonable at defending that, and these division games are always tight. I'm just not seeing enough from QB Colin Kaepernick to justify a big cover, and even if the Niners are up late, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has got serious Jedi Garbage Time skills.

Niners 27, Cardinals 20

Washington at DALLAS (-5.5)

DC comes in with a bye week of rest after their first win, and QB Bob Griffin had one of his best games in the Thanksgiving effort. Dallas also looked absolutely hopeless on defense, but Denver has that kind of effect on teams this year, so I'm looking for a little bit of a bounce back. Washington will play its best game of the year, but the Dallas offense just put up 48 on a team that could have a mediocre secondary. Against one that is downright terrible, I'm seeing another 40 burger, and Dallas Fan becoming the most unbearable rooter for a .500 team in history.

Cowboys 41, Redskins 31

Indianapolis at SAN DIEGO (+1.5)

I keep expecting the Colts to regress and being disappointed, but a road game is a whole 'nother cup of soup, and the Chargers desperately need this one to remain relevant in the AFC after getting punched around in Oakland Late Night last week. QB Philip Rivers has found a variety of weapons to go with resurgent TE Antonio Gates, and while I don't think they pass block or defend well enough to be a factor late in the year, they'll have enough to cover a MNF game at home. (Oh, and the idea that they can give goal line carries to RB Danny Woodhead is also ludicrous.) Especially when the Colts seem hell-bent on force-feeding a meh running game with RB Trent Richardson to try to keep QB Andrew Luck from getting hit so often that he gets hurt. If this team ever gets an offensive line, they are going to go right back to crushing their division and getting worked in the playoffs... just like the old Manning days!

Chargers 23, Colts 20

Last week: 6-8

Year to date: 31-43-3

Career: 401-405-33

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