I know you’re all used to a 3,500-word NFL picks column from me every Thursday, but a funny thing happened right before I started my first draft of this column on Wednesday… I discovered that Showtime has a website called “Showtime Anytime” that operates basically like HBOGO, meaning I suddenly had access to the entire backlog of Homeland episodes. And here I was waiting for the physical DVDs to arrive from Netflix like a sucker. So instead of spending most of my Wednesday night working on the football picks, I’ve been watching season 2 of Homeland. And I’m not sorry about that either. It’s a much better use of my time than writing thousands of words that will ultimately doom me to a 7-8 record against the spread this week.
And that’s another thing. This whole picking against the spread charade isn’t nearly as fun when I’m not consistently winning. I didn’t really experience that last season, and I gotta say it’s a pretty crappy feeling. Just like rooting for your team is more fun when they’re doing well, picking all the games is much more fun when you’re on a roll.
Now before you get excited about the prospect of me significantly cutting down the size of this column for week 6, I’ve got bad news for you. Instead of the usual 3,500 words, I’m giving you….2,700 words!!
You can thank Claire Danes for saving 800 words worth of your time.
Before we jump into the picks, now seems like as good of a time as any to review my preseason over/under win totals bets. The following are bets I actually made during the summer when my sports betting website posted the over/under win totals for each NFL team:
Tampa Bay over/under 7.5 total wins
I picked OVER. And why not? They had all the talent in the world. If Josh Freeman could just be an average QB…fuck. Looks like I need them to go 8-4 the rest of the way.
Washington over/under 8.5 total wins
Of course I have the OVER. How could the Redskins not pick up where they left off when RGIII was healthy last year? Surely in a weak NFC East the ‘Skins would get to 9 wins and take the division, right? Well, they’ve gotta go 8-4 from here on out just like the Bucs. Based on their schedule and the lack of a mutiny in the locker room, I’d say they have a much better chance than Tampa.
New Orleans over/under 9 total wins
Finally, I wisely took the UNDER…oh, shit…of course I pick a team that starts off undefeated to go under their win total. I never thought the defense could turn around so quickly, and like everyone else, I thought the NFC South would actually be competitive. Unless Drew Brees drops dead tomorrow, I don’t see the Saints going 3-8 over their final 11 games, which is what I’d need them to do to win this bet.
Cleveland over/under 6 total wins
I have the OVER. And I can’t believe Cleveland might be the only preseason bet that I win. They’re 3-2 now, but unfortunately they’re stuck with Brandon Weeden the rest of the year. Just need ‘em to go 4-7 at this point. That’s doable, right?
Oakland over/under 5.5 total wins
Considering it’s the Raiders I obviously took the UNDER. They were the consensus “worst team in football” before the season started. But Terrelle Pryor might singlehandedly get them to 6 or 7 wins. They’re at 2-3 now. Four more wins screws me. Unlike the first three bets on this list, at least I still have a chance.
Boston Red Sox to win the World Series 30/1 odds
It’s not football, but it might just cancel out all those losses above if the Sox can pull this off. And now that I’ve made this bet that I placed back in April public, all my Boston friends can give me a ton of shit for jinxing the team if the Sox lose in the ALCS. Considering the current line has the Sox as 2/1 favorites to win the World Series, I’d say this is my best open bet.
And now for the week 6 picks:
NY Giants @ Chicago (-8)
The oddsmakers are really making life miserable for us this week with six lines of eight points or larger. As it turns out, teams favored by at least eight points this year are 5-6 against the spread, providing no help whatsoever in trying to figure these lines out.
I’m sure I’ll talk myself into a couple of these heavy favorites, but the Bears aren’t one of them. Both teams are long on offense and short on defense. I’d like to bet the over of 48 instead of picking either team if that’s allowed. For some crazy reason I think this is the week when the Giants don’t turn the ball over. The Bears D is pedestrian when it’s not getting turnovers. Let’s start this week off with a dose of insanity. New York pulls off the upset with a 28-24 win.
An extra word of caution to those thinking of betting on Chicago: Remember how the Giants start every season 6-2 before fading in the second half, leading to the annual “have the Giants quit on Tom Coughlin?” media stories? Well what if he’s reversing it this year? Start 0-4 and resurrect this team from the rubble to make a playoff push, leading to the media still trying to figure out a way to write that the team quit on Coughlin. Wouldn’t it be just fantastically absurd for the Giants to come out and win this game? Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Oakland @ Kansas City (-9)
It’s time to start shorting your Kansas City stock. I’m not saying they’re bad or that they’ll suddenly go 0-11 the rest of the way, but I do think they’ll fall back to the pack a little bit. Even the biggest Chiefs supporters thought before the season that 10 or 11 wins was their best case. And that’s probably still true. I think a division game against a friskier-than-we-thought Oakland team is the perfect time for the Chiefs to sweat out a win. Let’s give Kansas City the win but not the cover, 27-23.
Philadelphia (-2) @ Tampa Bay
The college coach that everyone loves vs the college coach that everyone hates. One team that we knew would lose its starting QB by week 6 because of injury vs one team that we knew would lose its starting QB by week 6 because of ineffectiveness. A team with a top-5 offense/bottom-5 defense vs a team with a top-5 defense/bottom-5 offense. Tampa Bay’s coming off a bye, but the Eagles are coming off a win over the Giants (the equivalent of a bye).
This pick simply boils down to whether or not you think the Bucs will get their first win of the season this week. Is Mike Glennon ready for his first career win? Yes, yes he is. And I think he’ll get it without having to do much. The defense and running game handle this one for the Bucs as they win 26-20.
Green Bay (-3) @ Baltimore
Strange line, right? The 3-2 defending Super Bowl champs are at home taking on a team that has looked decent but not great so far this year, and that road team is favored by a field goal??? After the Ravens struggled in their first two games (loss @ Denver, ugly win against Cleveland), people were ready to write them off so quickly that they weren’t even favored at home against Houston the following week. I wrote at the time that some teams just deserve the benefit of the doubt at home. Baltimore is one of them. If this was Denver or New Orleans coming to town, I’d bet against the Ravens, but it’s not like the Packers have really come out of the gate guns blazing. I’ll take Baltimore to win in overtime 33-30.
Detroit (-2.5) @ Cleveland
I fucking hate when extenuating circumstances force our hand on a pick. Calvin Johnson is a game-time decision for Sunday. Obviously if you’re actually betting on this game, you’re waiting until Sunday morning to hear the news. But if you have to submit picks for a highly-read blog or for your Pick ‘Em league on Thursday, you must go with Cleveland, right? How can you take Detroit if there’s even a 5% chance Johnson doesn’t play? You saw what that offense looked like in Green Bay last week. The problem is I could still see the Lions winning this game even without Johnson. Brandon Weeden is terrible and the Lions’ defensive line could control this game regardless of what its offense does. But I’m going with the Browns, 23-20 (with Calvin Johnson being a huge caveat).
Carolina @ Minnesota (-3)
Minnesota coming off the bye week does nothing for my confidence in them. The combination of Matt Cassel (I think he’s starting) and a terrible run defense will make Carolina look great in this game. The Panthers are better than they’ve looked. Eventually that has to translate into W’s. I say Carolina wins relatively easily, 29-17.
St. Louis @ Houston (-9)
You might have heard that Matt Schaub has had a rough month. Four games, four pick-sixes. Three straight losses, only one of which wasn’t a total blowout. Rumors of fans showing up at his house this past week to “have a chat” with him.
So is Matt Schaub the type of quarterback who will go out there on Sunday and ignore a home crowd that might be ready to boo him early and often? Will he be able to play loose like his starting job isn’t on the line? Does he have that mental makeup to not let any of this recent history bother him? And just to add a degree of difficulty, let’s go ahead and see him do it without his second best pass-catching option (Owen Daniels).
Yeah, I’m sure this will go great for Houston. I’m saying St. Louis covers, the Texans pull out a 24-20 win, and the fans still boo because their team should be able to beat the Rams by a lot more than four points.
Pittsburgh @ NY Jets (-3)
Some sportsbooks post the lines for the following week’s games before the current week is even over. Did you know that the Steelers were actually a 3-point favorite when some books set this line on Sunday night/Monday morning? Could you imagine getting to bet on this game with that line? It would be highway robbery. Obviously they corrected it. And even with that 6-point swing, I still like the Jets. The concern is that the Steelers have had two weeks to prepare for this game while the Jets are coming off a short week. But still…that Pittsburgh D isn’t scaring anyone, and the Jets D will do its job at home. I’m not sure what I’m missing here. Jets win 23-17.
Cincinnati (-7) @ Buffalo
Even after that huge win over New England last week I still don’t think I respect the Bengals enough to lay seven points on the road with them. And I’m fully aware that Thad Lewis has the quarterbacking reigns for Buffalo in this game. But the Bills have a sneaky good defense that’s just finally starting to get some key players back. And Andy Dalton on the road… Let’s go with Cincinnati winning but not covering, 28-23.
Tennessee @ Seattle (-14)
“Ryan Fitzpatrick in Seattle.” Just repeat that sentence five times if you get the urge to bet on Tennessee. Seattle wins by plenty, 37-17. (That’s the depth of analysis you get when more Homeland is waiting to be watched).
Jacksonville @ Denver (-27)
Last week I wrote that smart gamblers would be taking the Jaguars in back-to-back weeks because the spreads on their games were getting too large. And sure enough, Jacksonville looked like they might cover the 11-point spread at St. Louis in week 5 right up until seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Damn that would have made me look smart. With the news that Chad Henne is starting for Jacksonville this week, you’d think I would be all in on the Jags, but any Henne goodness is cancelled out by the fact that their offensive line is decimated. In case this flew under your radar, the Jags traded their starting left tackle to Baltimore nine days ago because they wanted to get their 2nd overall pick Luke Joeckel into that position to gain experience. Well he broke his ankle last week so now they’re down to their 3rd string guy at the offensive line’s most important position.
All of that is a long-winded way of saying I have no faith in Jacksonville. This line is outrageous but so is the talent gap between these two teams. The Broncos squeak out the win, 45-14.
Arizona @ San Francisco (-11)
What sets me apart from the casual football fan is my almost-super natural ability to know a random team like the Cardinals so well. I pinpointed the exact week they’d go on a major losing streak last year, and I’ve been scary good picking their games so far in 2013. If you believed that bullshit I just wrote, then you’ll gladly get on board with a San Francisco cover in this game. I’m half expecting Arizona to put up exactly 0 points in this game. I honestly think if the 9ers can get to 20 points, they’ll cover this spread. So my pick is San Francisco over Arizona, 23-6.
New Orleans @ New England (-2.5)
Remember the Patriots’ 2009 regular season game in New Orleans? The one where the Saints manhandled New England? On one side you had a juggernaut (and the eventual Super Bowl winner) in that Saints team, and on the other side you had a Patriots team whose record looked good, but it was obvious to people who really paid attention that this wasn’t a championship caliber team. I’m worried that we’re looking at the same thing in this weekend’s matchup, with the only difference being where the game is played. The Saints are locked in and everything about them looks good. The Patriots might get Gronk back, but does that automatically translate into the offense suddenly running smoothly? Doubtful. As a Pats fan, I’m not giving up on the season. I just don’t think they’re healthy enough or playing at the level they need to right now to beat a team as good as New Orleans. I’m just not sure how you watch the last couple Patriots games and knowingly pick them to keep up in this game. I’m going with a Saints win, 31-23, and I hope I’m dead wrong.
Washington @ Dallas (-6)
I love the Redskins in this game. They just had a bye, they’re playing their most hated rival and they know the division is still well within reach. Meanwhile the Cowboys just had a demoralizing, draining, WTF just happened kind of loss. My friends who are Redskins fans are going to hate me for doing this, but I’m picking Washington to win outright, 28-27.
Indianapolis (-1.5) @ San Diego
What if the Colts are the AFC’s second best team? What if “don’t bet against Andrew Luck in a nationally-televised game” starts becoming a thing? And what if I told you this is a terrible matchup of strengths and weaknesses for the Chargers? The achilles heel of this Indy team is its run defense. But San Diego can’t run the ball. On the flip side, San Diego has the worst pass defense in the NFL (and one of the worst run defenses!).
Andrew Luck in year two is significantly better than Andrew Luck in year one (and he was damn good in year one). Indy’s offense dominates in a 40-27 win.
For those keeping score at home, in week 6 I’m taking:
- 5 Favorites & 10 Underdogs
- Of those 10 Underdogs, 4 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs.
Apparently I love underdogs this week. Enjoy week 6.