Thursday, October 3, 2013

Week 5 NFL Picks: For Comedy Value Only

Another Weak Prognosticator
I'd say something about the fourth straight sub-.500 week, and the fact that this is the longest I've ever been this bad... but at some point, you just have to own up to the record. The coup de gras being that masterful MNF pick of Miami in New Orleans, as if the Saints ever lose and fail to cover there, and just to back up the truck on stupid, the Dolphins racked up all kinds of injuries to make sure they couldn't do the deed. I felt like punching myself before kickoff, and that's a special feeling from a bet, really.

But you didn't come here to hear me moan; you came to get fantastically misguided picks to go the other way on. So let me just pour a few stiff fingers of courage and get to it. But only while noting that this year's thumbwork has put us under the .500 mark for the career, which is just all kinds of futile. (Even more than the falling CPMs for blogging? Yes. Welcome to my shame spiral!)

Make it a double and play me out, Amy...

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Buffalo at CLEVELAND (-3.5)

The Bills are an erratic outfit, with a rookie QB, injury issues on defense, and poor results on the road. The Browns are the most unlikely division leader in the league, with third-team QB Brian Heyer riding a 2-game winning streak ever since the club looked like it was tanking by sending out RB Trent Richardson. But the secondary is strong, the passing game is surprising with TE Jordan Cameron and WR Josh Gordon, and the OL has always been better than the results. In the usual Thursday night slopfest, they benefit from the Bills not having full strength from RB CJ Spiller, and cover this number fairly easily.

Browns 24, Bills 16

New Orleans at CHICAGO (Pick 'em)

Classic bounce and trap game, with the Saints traveling after the short week and running into a Bears team that was in a game in Detroit despite a fistful of turnovers. The Saints have always had road issues, and I'm not ready to buy into the idea that Rob Ryan has made this defense airtight, especially when the Bears are due for one of hose clean games on offense that suck people into thinking they could be a playoff factor. One more unbeaten team bites the dust.

Chicago 27, Saints 24

NEW ENGLAND at Cincinnati (Pick 'em)

After four weeks, I'm ready to throw out my preseason pick of the Bengals to win the AFC North and ride the surprising Patriots defense to a road win. It's not going to be easy; the Bengals are quite capable of playing smashmouth here, and if WR Danny Amendola isn't back in time, QB Tom Brady doesn't have enough reliable pass catchers to move the chains all night along. But when push comes to shove, I just can't get behind QB Andy Dalton beating this defense.

Patriots 26, Bengals 24

Detroit at GREEN BAY (-7)

Second half squash coming. Green Bay is coming off a bye, will get some of their top tier RB options back, have one of the best home fields in the NFL, and have to have the game. Detroit is a little fat and happy after taking down Chicago, doesn't win without turnovers, and aren't mistake-free enough on offense to get a road game. It will be close for a while, and then, not so much. Right about the time the Lions pass rush stops getting to QB Aaron Rodgers, with about 5 minutes left in the third.

Packers 34, Lions 23

KANSAS CITY (-2.5) at Tennessee

I'm suspicious of this Chiefs team; I think they've benefited from a weak schedule, can be stopped on offense by anyone that scouts QB Alex Smith to know that he never takes a downfield chance, and RB Jamal Charles hasn't looked like his most explosive self. But they catch yet another break this week, since the Titans don't have QB Jake Locker, and back-up QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is (a) a turnover machine, and (b) not going to get enough out of RB Chris Johnson to keep the KC pass rush from reminding us all about (a).

Chiefs 23, Titans 17

SEATTLE (-3) at Indianapolis

Are the Seahawks ever going to show up for the first half of a road game? So far they haven't had to, because QB Russell Wilson has packed all of his good play late and the defense has gotten better over time. It also helps when the opposing team wilts under unrelenting pressure, as the Texans did late last week. Indy remains a prime regression candidate with the offense losing explosiveness ever since the Richardson trade, and I don't think the Seattle OL will have the same troubles that they did against Houston, mostly because the Colts have nothing like JJ Watt. High confidence pick here.

Seahawks 31, Colts 20

Jacksonville at ST. LOUIS (-12)

Good grief, I hate giving up this many points for a team as weak as the Rams... but the Jags are trending hard for 0-16, and even trading off their "assets" for draft picks. They might show a bit of a pulse this week with WR Justin Blackmon coming back from suspension, giving them 2 NFL-level WRs to go with still potent RB Maurice Jones-Drew... but none of those guys plays QB or blocks, and the Jag defense is getting that Not Trying That Hard Anymore For Cause look about them. The final point to swing me for the Rams covering the number is the extra rest they got after the TNF beatdown from the Niners; Jeff Fisher is too good of a coach to let that go to waste.

Rams 24, Jaguars 10

BALTIMORE (+3) at Miami

Just a feel pick here, which you should really run away from. Miami has a short week after the MNF game in New Orleans, too many injuries, and poor luck to catch the Ravens after a loss. It'll be close, but so long as LB Cameron Wake is gimpy, the Fish defense can be had, especially late.

Ravens 26, Dolphins 24

PHILADELPHIA (+1) at NY Giants

Can I take a pass on picking this game, and maybe even watching it? Philly can easily find themselves tied for first after this game, might be better than they've shown just from running into three strong teams in the last three weeks, and will play against the only kind of offense that they might be able to stop -- i.e., one that stops itself. On the other side, this seems like just the week for Giants HC Tom Coughlin to remember that a makeshift OL looks a lot better when it commits to the running game against a light in the loafers defense, and that QB Eli Manning can't be a turnover machine if the team runs for 200 yards and 40 minutes of clock. But the Giant pass rush has been too much of a rumor to keep the Eagle offense under wraps, and I'm thinking this is the game where Philly doesn't give the ball away or soil themselves in the red zone. There's also this: the Eagles' STs can't play a game as badly as they did in Denver, and seeing that will be a real inspiration.

Eagles 34, Giants 31

CAROLINA (-1.5) at Arizona

You have to love it when a team that's not blocking for sour milk deals away starters to tank the year. Carolina is coming off a bye, has the best front 7 on defense that no one has ever heard of, and will face a Cardinals OL that might be the worst in the NFL. The only way they could make this game easier for the road team would be if they slathered QB Carson Palmer in a vinegar-based BBQ sauce. On other side of the ball, look for the Panthers to wear down a game Cardinals outfit, and take advantage of turnover-induced field position, to slowly but surely put this one out of reach.

Panthers 24, Cardinals 9

DENVER (-8.5) at Dallas

What's going to stop Denver from running the table deep into the schedule? Kansas City losses that push the team to rest the starters, but nothing like this mistake-prone Dallas team, who spit the bit in San Diego and made this line even fatter, but still attainable. Short of a spate of turnovers in a stadium where the size kills any chance of truly loud home fan behavior, Dallas isn't efficient enough to stay with the September champs of the NFL. As you can tell from the warm weather, the seasons haven't really changed yet.

Broncos 34, Cowboys 24

HOUSTON (+6) at San Francisco

I get why the home team is getting the number here; they are rested, playing a team that gave up a big lead to lose last week, and the defending NFC champs against a paper tiger playoff team. But I can't see giving up this many points when Houston handled Seattle for a very large chunk of last week's game, has a solid running game, and a defense that could very well force QB Colin Kaepernick into some big mistakes. I like the Texans to cover, if not win outright.

Niners 23, Texns 20

SAN DIEGO (-4) at Oakland

Want to know why the AFC has been much better than advertised? Look no further than the Chargers, who have feasted on the NFC East and a surprising comeback year from QB Philip Rivers to still be part of the conversation in their suddenly loaded division. Alas, that loaded nature doesn't extend to the Raiders, who have managed to avoid Putrid, but can't keep their skill players on the field to get all the way up to Frisky. It also doesn't help the home team that this will be a late night game to accommodate the A's ALDS game; as any number of early season MNF doubleheader wipeout games have shown, Oakland is even worse under the lights. (Oh, and watch for the rush of bitter fantasy guys who get suckered into playing Danny Woodhead because he got into the end zone twice last week. That's always fun.)

Chargers 27, Raiders 20

NY Jets at ATLANTA (-10)

Between TNF and MNF, I think we can all agree: the NFL is taking up way too much time in our lives, and making us watch bad matchups played worse. That's the story in a nutshell for the Jets this week, who take their historically turnover-prone rookie QB into a night game, in a dome, on national television. (On the other side of the ball, I'm not buying the Jets as a pass rush that will show up on the road.) New York will be able to move the ball late -- the Atlanta defense is no great shakes, especially at providing consistent pressure on the QB -- but not cleanly enough for the back door comeback cover.

Falcons 31, Jets 17

Last week: 6-9

Year to date: 25-35-3

Career: 695-697-33

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