After an opening few weeks that saw underdogs covering the majority of games, we had a bit of a course correction last week as favorites went 8-5 against the spread. This week is a bit of a mind fuck as 10 of 15 games have spreads greater than six points. My instincts kept telling me to pick a lot of those favorites, but there’s no way things are that simple.
If you’re in a Suicide Pool, this gets even more stressful because now you have 10 teams that seem to be good picks, but you know a few of them are losing outright. Good luck with that.
An early theme for my blogs this season has been my obsession over wide receivers and the many incredible things that they do (seriously, Antonio Brown excites me in a way that I haven’t experienced since the height of Kelly Kapowski’s powers).
But I gotta be fair and point out when a non-receiver causes me to have those same adolescent feelings. In week 4, Aaron Rodgers made what I think was the best throw I’ve ever seen in my 20+ years of watching football. Sure, it was called back due to holding and it wasn’t even a tight spiral, but under the circumstances it was simply the best. In case you somehow missed it, here it is:
Only two teams on byes this week so let’s breeze through their status updates:
- Miami: They’re already locked in as this year’s “stay away team” from a gambling perspective. Sure, every NFL team could win or lose to any opponent on any given day, but these guys really embody that sentiment. Do not ever think you have this team figured out (bonus stay away because their coach seems to be a loose cannon).
- Oakland: Starting the season 0-4 looks even worse when you realize they play eight of their final 12 games against last year’s playoff teams. My “will any team go 0-16” bet is looking great at the moment.
And with that, let’s get right into it. Here are the picks for week 5.
Minnesota @ Green Bay (-9)
- The Pick: Green Bay
- The Score: Green Bay 36, Minnesota 20
Let’s see: So far this year the winning team of the Thursday night game has beaten its opponent by 20, 20, 42 and 31 points. The Packers have played only one home game so far, and it was that comeback win over the Jets that might not have been a win if Geno Smith’s perfect touchdown pass at the end of the game had counted. Something tells me the Packers want a statement win at home still. Also, Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie, playing a full game on the road for the first time in his career, and has a bum ankle that’s caused him to miss two days of practice this week.
And if Christian Ponder starting becomes a reality by Thursday afternoon, look out. This might be the biggest Thursday night blowout yet.
Chicago @ Carolina (-3)
- The Pick: Chicago
- The Score: Chicago 30, Carolina 23
Oh man, the Panthers are in trouble. I mentioned it last week, but it’s worth reiterating…their schedule is BRUTAL for the next six weeks. Hosting the Bears seems to be the easiest one on the slate. But here’s the problem: Chicago might be the anti-Saints, meaning they’ll go winless at home but undefeated on the road. So far the Bears are a +8.5 in point differential on the road, but -12 at home. And Matt Forte against that shitty Panthers run defense should be fun to watch.
Side Note: What a weird first four games from Brandon Marshall. He has 16 receptions (47th among receivers) for 144 yards (77th) and five touchdowns (1st). He’s on pace for 20 touchdowns on only 64 receptions. That would likely go down as the strangest season for a receiver in NFL history.
Cleveland @ Tennessee (-1.5)
- The Pick: Cleveland
- The Score: Cleveland 24, Tennessee 17
Wow, I love this game for Cleveland. Remember that this Browns team is two plays away from being 3-0 AND they’re coming off a bye week. The Titans, meanwhile, are trying to pick up the pieces from three straight losses where their “best” game was a 16-point loss to the Cowboys. Keep in mind the Browns are now 4-2 in the six starts Brian Hoyer’s made dating back to last year, and again, it could just as well be 6-0. I might be loving this Cleveland team a little too much this week.
St. Louis @ Philadelphia (-7.5)
- The Pick: St. Louis
- The Score: Philadelphia 27, St. Louis 24
Could picking this game really be as simple as “The Eagles’ offensive line is in tatters and the Rams boast one of the best pass-rushing units in the league”?
When we’re talking about a point spread that’s greater than a touchdown, yes, it is that simple for me (add in the fact that St. Louis was resting last week while Philly was playing yet another physical game with an already-injured team). I think the Eagles are just treading water until their week 7 bye at this point.
Atlanta @ NY Giants (-4)
- The Pick: NY Giants
- The Score: NY Giants 33, Atlanta 27
Ahh, the out of division game sandwiched between important division matchups for the Giants. After a big win at Washington last week, the Giants have road games against Philly and Dallas following this game. Do they look past the Falcons because of that? Let’s hope not because if they don’t, this is an easy pick. Atlanta has lost each of its road games by at least 13 points so far, and the Giants actually have a top five pass defense as of now. The stats all say mismatch so that’s the way I’m leaning.
Tampa Bay @ New Orleans (-11)
- The Pick: Tampa Bay
- The Score: New Orleans 31, Tampa Bay 25
Blind pick based on too large of a spread (though New Orleans is still a good Suicide Pool option).
This is as good of a time as any to make a case for the Bucs not being completely out of the playoff picture just yet. What if, as I’ve been joking recently, the Falcons and Saints simply can’t win on the road? That caps their ceiling at eight or nine wins. And we already know Carolina is on their way to regression, AND they’ve got that awful schedule. With the Bucs facing Baltimore, Minnesota, Cleveland and Atlanta (at home) after their week 5 game, there’s a realistic scenario where they’re 5-4 or 4-5 after nine games.
Yes, I picked them to make the playoffs and really don’t want that dream to be dead already.
Houston @ Dallas (-6)
- The Pick: Dallas
- The Score: Dallas 27, Houston 14
Here’s the problem with picking Houston: Their three wins look like this: At home against a terrible quarterback (Robert Griffin), on the road against the worst team in the league (Oakland), and at home against another terrible quarterback who would be benched the next day (EJ Manuel of the Bills). And even in that game it took a J.J. Watt pick-six to put the Texans comfortably in the lead.
Ryan Fitzpatrick on the road will never lead me to say, “Yeah, let’s take the points.” And if Dallas is suddenly smart (it’s too early to tell), they’re going to pound the ball all day against Houston’s 29th-ranked rush defense.
I already hate myself for saying this, but I think Dallas is a sneaky Suicide Pool pick this week.
Buffalo @ Detroit (-7.5)
- The Pick: Detroit
- The Score: Detroit 29, Buffalo 15
What would you have me do? Pick a quarterback who lost his starting job to both Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow at different points of his career and who has thrown just 61 passes in the past three years? On the road against the NFL’s 2nd-ranked defense?
No, I don’t think I can back Kyle Orton, regardless of the large spread here. Fuck, why are so many favorites so enticing this week? And for the third and final time, I will say this is a good Suicide Pool option for week 5.
Baltimore @ Indianapolis (-3.5)
- The Pick: Baltimore
- The Score: Indianapolis 24, Baltimore 21
We’ve already seen what the Colts can do when they’re not feasting on the putrid AFC South. They lost close games to Denver and Philadelphia in the first two weeks. I’m banking on that trend continuing. Not that they’ll lose, but that these games are going to be close. This seems like an extremely tight matchup so there’s no way I was going to take the Colts as more than a three-point favorite.
Pittsburgh (-7) @ Jacksonville
- The Pick: Jacksonville
- The Score: Pittsburgh 28, Jacksonville 22
How can I possibly write, “This line is too high” when the Jaguars have been outscored by an average of 23.5 points per game through the first quarter of the season? Because it’s my blog and I can write whatever I damn well please. That’s why.
If Blake Bortles’ first career home start doesn’t end with him throwing a game-ending interception with the Jaguars down by only six late in the 4th quarter, then I know nothing about football.
Arizona @ Denver (-7.5)
- The Pick: Denver
- The Score: Denver 34, Arizona 17
I think I may have just found my most confident pick of the week. This line should be at least two points higher, but people will look at that 3-0 record for the Cardinals and blindly pick them.
Arizona’s wins haven’t been nearly as convincing as they might seem, and after reviewing Drew Stanton’s numbers, I’m doubling down on him not being a good football player. Oh, Carson Palmer might start you say? Yeah, seems like we should put a lot of confidence on Palmer and his shoulder right now.
With the Broncos getting a week off to retool some things and reincorporate Wes Welker more fully into the game plan, I see a big win for them.
Kansas City @ San Francisco (-6.5)
- The Pick: Kansas City
- The Score: San Francisco 24, Kansas City 23
This pick was simple. When it’s impossible to trust either team, you obviously take the points when the spread is this large. My pick isn’t based on the Chiefs’ handling of New England on Monday, but rather it’s an indictment against the 49ers. In their two wins, one was handed to them by an awful Tony Romo performance, and the other was a game at home in which they struggled to beat an Eagles team whose offense never entered San Francisco territory until there were four minutes left in the game. Not exactly the type of performances that inspire confidence. An upset win by Kansas City would not surprise me here.
NY Jets @ San Diego (-7)
- The Pick: San Diego
- The Score: San Diego 31, NY Jets 12
Every Monday morning I guess the lines for the following week’s games. As a result of being a football genius, I’m typically within one point of the actual spread on all of them. But there’s always one or two that throw me for a loop. This was one of those games. I had San Diego -10.5. I can’t envision a scenario where the Jets make this a game.
By the way, why is everyone so excited about Michael Vick? His stats are average at best and his teams are 6-11 in his last 17 starts. The Jets are 1-3 and there’s a legitimate chance they’ll be 1-6 after week 7. It probably makes sense to keep Geno in there to see what you’ve got.
Cincinnati (-2) @ New England
- The Pick: Cincinnati
- The Score: Cincinnati 26, New England 20
Of course I hope to be terribly wrong about this game, but I refuse to be that idiot that blindly chooses his favorite team when all the evidence points in the other direction. Yes, it would be just like the unpredictable NFL for the Patriots to steamroll the Bengals, but call this an emotional hedge if you will.
For you Patriots fans out there, even when they lose this game and fall to 2-3, don’t worry. Keep in mind they’re still in a division where the other three teams have each thought about benching their quarterback in the last two weeks, and each of those teams could also be looking for a new coach by the end of 2014. A 10-6 record and an unexpected march to the Super Bowl is exactly the way things get done these days anyway. Remember, they’ve won several Championships riding the “No one believes in us” mantra.
Seattle (-7.5) @ Washington
- The Pick: Washington
- The Score: Seattle 28, Washington 23
Listen, I don’t know if this news about the FCC potentially banning the name “Redskins” from public airwaves affects a blogger like me or not, but as many of you probably saw from my tweet on Tuesday, I finally made money as a professional writer. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a government fine take away my hard earned money. From now on in this blog, they will be known as the Washington PotatoSkins. I think it’s a cooler mascot anyway.
I don’t know what to make of this PotatoSkins team just yet, but I do know that it’s crazy to pick against even a below-average team that’s at home and getting more than a touchdown. Sure, they’re facing the best team in football, and that team happens to be coming off a bye, but I just can’t do it. I may be feeling like an idiot as I watch Seattle burn the PotatoSkins on Monday night (see what I did there?), but that’s what happens when you blindly follow certain gambling edicts.
After four weeks I’m sporting a 28-31-2 record against the spread. Nothing to write home about, but not even close to disastrous. We’re still learning a lot about these teams. Stick with me and I’ll make you some money starting real soon (or at the very least get you to the top of your Pick’ Em league standings).
Enjoy Breast Cancer Awareness week #1…THE NFL TOTALLY CARES ABOUT WOMEN!!