Week 5 NFL Picks & a Happy October to All

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It really is the best time of the year for a sports fan. The 2nd month of the NFL & college football seasons have begun. October baseball has already shown up in a HUGE way with dramatic Wildcard games from each league earlier this week. We’re less than a week away from the NHL regular season starting, and under 20 days to go until the NBA tips off.

Apologies to the month of April—who many argue is the best sports month because we get NBA, NHL, the end of March Madness, the start of baseball, and The Masters—but not having the NFL going on during that month is an automatic disqualifier.

So be sure to warn your significant other that it’s not just Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays that you have to be parked in front of TVs. Every day brings a valid excuse not to spend quality time with your loved ones for the rest of this month. Enjoy it because soon enough the holidays will be here and there will be more family time than you know what to do with.

Let’s dive into the week 5 games.

Teams on a Bye Week: Seattle, New Orleans, Kansas City, Jacksonville

Arizona (-3.5) at San Francisco | over/under 42

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 23, San Francisco 9

The Bets: Under (52) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The way this works is: Everyone found out on Wednesday that Carson Palmer’s out and Drew Stanton will start in his place on Thursday. Then the retweets started circulating with stats to show how awful Stanton has been recently and over the course of his career. By Thursday afternoon, everyone will have jumped on the 49ers noting how +3.5 is such a great number, and they’re in a good spot at home, on a short week, with the opponent’s backup QB starting.

But we’re all gonna walk away from this game reminding ourselves that the 49ers are really crappy and the Cardinals on a bad day are still a lot better.

Let’s say Stanton somehow leads the Arizona offense to a 30-point output on Thursday night, wouldn’t this situation be ripe for a QB controversy? Wouldn’t there be an instant groundswell of people wanting to see more of the Stanton offense and less of the Palmer-over-his-last-10-games offense? I believe this comment is ground zero for stirring up the pot in Arizona. Would like to see it go viral.

New England (-11.5) at Cleveland | over/under 46.5

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: New England 27, Cleveland 17

The Bets: New England (-1.5) in a 3-way tease / Cleveland (+21.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

This line is absolutely ludicrous. And though I know how big of a collective idiot the betting public is, I’m still shocked that they’re clearly taking the bet and backing New England. This line opened at New England -7.5, has climbed to -10 or -10.5 in the pro books, and the public has taken it all the way to the current, ridiculous line.

Honestly, why wouldn’t you include the Browns in a 3-way tease where you get them at +21.5? If you can get any NFL team at +21.5, you automatically do it.

Philadelphia (-3) at Detroit | over/under 46

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: Philadelphia 27, Detroit 17

The Bets: Philadelphia (-3)

SuperContest: Yes with Philadelphia (-3)

I haven’t been this confused by a line in a long time.

In three games, the Eagles put up: 29 points (on the 25th ranked defense, Cleveland), 29 points (on Chicago, 17th) and 34 points (on Pittsburgh, 18th). The Lions happen to be the 32nd best defense…dead last. The Eagles are coming off a bye.

And somehow Philly’s only expected to put up 24 points?

I say they get to at least 27, and since Philly also has a top five defense so far, I think they hold Detroit to 17ish and easily cover the tiny spread.

Chicago at Indianapolis (-4.5) | over/under 48

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Chicago 21, Indianapolis 18

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

So here’s where I’m really confused: Last week Chicago put up all of 17 points at home against Detroit, the worst defense in the NFL according to FootballOutsiders. By doing that, the Bears offensive efficiency–again, according to FootballOutsiders–jumped 10 spots from 29th ranked to 19th. Since I always lob in DVOA stuff when it supports my arguments, I felt obligated to show you an example where it seems to make no sense.

Anyway, if this Bears team was literally any other team, I’d love to bet them straight up with confidence. The Colts are the first team in NFL history to have a game scheduled the week following a game in London. No bye for them. These past 10 days were probably pretty grueling and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a solid amount of laziness from them on Sunday.

But can the Bears really take advantage of all that? That’s the million dollar question. Ultimately I’m picking the Bears purely because I think Vegas is going to need them to cover and I’d rather be on the side of Vegas in this particular situation.

Tennessee at Miami (-3.5) | over/under 43.5

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Miami 16, Tennessee 13

The Bets: Under (43.5) / Under 53.5 in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

You wanna take the easy way out on this crappy game and just assume Miami being distracted all week by a gigantic fucking hurricane heading their way is setting them up to be wholly unprepared for this game? Yeah? Me too.

By the way, the under is pretty much a lock.

Washington at Baltimore (-4) | over/under 45

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 26, Baltimore 24

The Bets: Washington (+14) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Pumping the brakes on this Ravens resurgence is just about the easiest thing to do. Their opening schedule looks even more laughable than it did four weeks ago. And their week 3 game against Oakland–a 28-27 Raiders win–seems more representative of how this one should play out against Washington.

Even if you’re confident that the Ravens are better, they’re just not the type of team that’ll be blowing opponents out this year. You can take the Washington +14 to the bank (where they’ll promptly tell you that they don’t cash sports bets and send you away).

Houston at Minnesota (-6.5) | over/under 40.5

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Minnesota 20, Houston 15

The Bets: Minnesota (-0.5) in a 2-way tease / Under (40.5) / Under (50.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

As my podcast partner Maty Sugs continues to rise from his untimely gambling death last week, he pointed out to me that Houston has scored five offensive touchdowns on the year, while the Vikings have gotten into the endzone six times (ranking them 32nd and 31st in the NFL, respectively). If you tease this under to 50.5, you’re forcing these teams to combine for 7+ touchdowns. That feels like a near impossibility. Go ahead and tease the under.

And yeah, the Vikings should move to 5-0 so I’m putting them into a 2-way tease.

NY Jets at Pittsburgh (-7.5) | over/under 48

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 30, NY Jets 17

The Bets: Pittsburgh (-1.5) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Pittsburgh (-7.5)

I don’t care if this is an obvious spot for the Jets to surprise everyone and play a competitive game. I can’t possibly pick them because Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 4/10 touchdown to interception ratio, a quarterback rating of 57.6 and a completion percentage of 55.8 (and drops to 51.6 if you take out the one game where they faced a below average defense).

I joked on this week’s Teasy Money Podcast that we might see a 70-0 beatdown by the Steelers. But realistically I think it’s your run-of-the-mill blowout, something in the range of a 14-point win for Pittsburgh.

I’m unwilling to touch the over/under, and I don’t see why I’d bet Pitt at -7.5 when I can get them in a teaser.

Atlanta at Denver (-6) | over/under 47

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Denver 30, Atlanta 27

The Bets: Over (47) / Over (37) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Of the five games this weekend where both teams are 2-2 or better, this should be the most fun one to watch. That’s because rather than Denver’s defense completely shutting down Atlanta on their way to a low-scoring win, I’m hopeful this will go the other way and Denver will have to put up 30 to just barely squeeze by the Falcons. Maybe I’ve been roped into another moment where Atlanta will pull the rug out from under me, but I think they can slowly wear down Denver and find some weak spots.

I can see why you’d think this will be on the lower scoring side, but I have a gut feeling on the other side. Bet the over, stay away from choosing either team.

Cincinnati (-1.5) at Dallas | over/under 45

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 24, Cincinnati 19

The Bets: Dallas (+7.5) in a 2-way tease / Dallas (+11.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

I initially expected a tight game with Cincy winning, but upon further review I think Dallas is actually the better team. The Bengals have played uninspiring offense outside of a couple big A.J. Green games. And now with Tyler Eifert reportedly having a setback in the form of a back injury, I don’t see the offense turning a major corner anytime soon.

And Dallas really feels like a team built not to suffer any blowout so I love teasing them in case they play a little worse than I’m expecting.

Buffalo at Los Angeles (-3) | over/under 40

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 21, Los Angeles 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Buffalo (+3)

These two teams appear to be doing the exact opposite of what we expected going into the season. Yeah, the Bills at 2-2 aren’t a major surprise, but common sense would have had them beating Baltimore & the Jets and losing to Arizona & New England. But they went opposite on us. And the Rams are 3-1 while I absolutely expected a 1-3 start with them only beating the 49ers (they one team they’ve actually lost to).

Since I don’t find any excitement in either team and I have no interest in betting on this game, that analysis is good enough for me. Since the Rams should win this game, I’m going with Buffalo.

San Diego at Oakland (-4) | over/under 50

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: Oakland 28, San Diego 26

The Bets: San Diego (+10) in a 2-way tease / Over (44 or 40) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with San Diego (+4)

This game is really simple. Of their combined eight games played so far, only one has been decided by more than a touchdown (a Chargers win over the Jaguars in week 2). So you can count on another close game. If betting San Diego straight up at +4 worries you a little, then I suggest you tease them to +10/+14 or tease Oakland to +6, because you know this game isn’t ending in a blowout.

It also feels like teasing the over down to 40 in this game is a great move because the non-teased over has hit in three out of four games for each team so far.

And finally, congrats to Oakland for getting through an opening month that saw them play three road games in the Eastern time zone and win all three. That’s quite the feat.

 

NY Giants at Green Bay (-7.5) | over/under 48

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: Green Bay 26, NY Giants 21

The Bets: Green Bay (-1.5) in a 2-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with NY Giants (+7.5)

Well would ya look at that? It seems the public has gone ahead and driven the Packers up to a stupid number once again. What an easy game to dissect as a professional bettor. The Giants just looked like dogshit on national TV on Monday night (recency bias!) and the Packers are irresistible to the masses especially when coming off a bye.

But what I see is a team not quite as good as Minnesota facing a now-desperate Giants team. And at the very least, if I bet the Giants now, the backdoor cover is totally in play. Seems like an easy choice.

My only hesitation is that the Giants have the most thin-skinned player in the NFL on their team and he might just do something dumb enough to swing this entire game. Wildcard behavior is never good when gambling.

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-6.5) | No current over/under

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 17

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

This is the second week in a row where a game still doesn’t have a point total as of Thursday afternoon. That’s wild.

Obviously we’re waiting on news regarding Cam Newton’s health. It looks like he missed practice on Wednesday while dealing with concussion symptoms. Lucky for Carolina, this is a Monday night game so they have an extra day to figure things out.

But I don’t get extra time to figure it out. And that’s fine because I couldn’t make sense out of these two teams if you gave me a month to do research. I’m just going to assume that Sunday night’s game between the Giants and Packers will be exciting & competitive, and you know how the NFL works…we can’t possibly have back-to-back good games in Primetime. So that’s the only reason I’m picking the Panthers by double digits. Please don’t follow my advice on this one.

Here are the season-long stats I’m tracking:

  • Favorites are 26-36-1 against the spread
  • The point total has landed on Over 33 times, Under 28 times and Pushed 2 times
  • I’m 31-32 against the spread

Enjoy week 5.

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Week 5 NFL Picks: Can Vegas Slow Down the Juggernauts?

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The Year of the Injury.

The Year of Bad Coaching.

The Year of Terrible Kicking.

The Year of Too Many Penalties.

The Year Draftkings Almost Ruined Football.

The Year of the Backup Quarterback.

We’re only a month into the regular season and I’ve already heard so many variations of “This is The Year of [fill in the blank with something negative].”

You can all waste your time obsessing over those problems if you want. I’d rather focus on my favorite version of “The Year of BLANK”: The Year of Dominant Teams.

Using the past five years as my guide, it looks like on average there are two teams that are still undefeated after five weeks. Well, this year we have six teams yet to lose a game as we head into week 5…and all five that are playing this weekend (Carolina at 4-0 is on a bye) are favored to win yet again.

Last week we had seven undefeated teams and six of them were playing (New England was on their bye). One team lost outright (Arizona), one team won but didn’t cover (Denver) and the other four easily covered as favorites.

It would be a gigantic understatement to say you’d be doing quite well if you’d been betting these undefeated teams with their point spreads all along. Check out these numbers:

  • Cincinnati, Atlanta and Green Bay are each 4-0 against the spread this year.
  • Add in the other three undefeated teams’ numbers, and you get a combined 20-2-1 against the spread record from Cincy, Atlanta, Green Bay, New England, Carolina and Denver.
  • And you could make the case that Arizona and the Jets belong in this conversation. Both teams have 3-1 win-loss records, and they also both have 3-1 against the spread records.
  • If you want to consider these teams as the eight best in the NFL, their combined gambling record is 26-4-1 through four weeks.

WOW.

Is it guaranteed that these teams will keep winning? Of course not. Is it a sure thing that they’ll keep covering the spread at this rate? Nope. In fact, Vegas will be doing everything in its power to make sure these teams regress back to an average rate of covering. But that might take some time. So my suggestion is to keep hammering these teams in your bets, your pick ‘em leagues and even your survivor pool until further notice. With so many bad head coach and quarterback situations in the NFL this year, maybe we’re looking at a season with a huge gap between the good teams and everyone else. We may be in a rare situation where parlaying and/or teasing all these excellent teams actually makes sense. Usually those kind of bets are for suckers. (Talk to your local degenerate for explanations on parlaying and teasing.)

Here’s the part where I admit that my week 4 results weren’t fantastic, and if yours weren’t either, I’m warning you not to get too down on yourself. Last week was an extremely difficult set of games. I went 7-7-1 against the spread, dropping my record for the season to 34-27-2. But I anticipated the struggle, limiting my bets and lowering my expectations. In my Survivor Pool, 10 different teams were selected out of 18 participants. No consensus on who would roll to an easy win whatsoever. These weeks happen. Don’t let it shake your confidence. Remember, you spent way too much time in July and August studying every written word about football. You DVR’d all the preseason games for every team and ignored your family to watch football on a Tuesday night in mid-August. You know this. Now go do it. (That was a pep talk for myself more so than for my readers.)

Here are the week 5 lines.

Indianapolis @ Houston (-4.5)

The Pick: Houston

The Score: Houston 20, Indianapolis 9

I bet Andre Johnson was looking forward to playing in Houston and showing his old team just how good he can still be when he has a good starting QB and the right team behind him. Maybe next year, Andre. First of all, Andrew Luck is out again for this game. Second, Johnson has all of seven catches for 51 yards this year. And third, his current team is almost as big of an embarrassment as his former team. So much for the revenge game.

The obvious choice here is to take Houston, but let’s not pretend anyone’s actually confident in them. Why would it be unfathomable for Matt Hasselbeck to have an OK game against the Texans? Because Houston’s defense has been good this year? Hardly. According to footballoutsiders.com, Houston ranks 26th in the league in defensive efficiency (22nd against the rush, 23rd against the pass). But combine Hasselbeck spending time in the hospital earlier this week with the chance that the Texans finally get their running game going, and I feel slightly better leaning towards Houston than Indy.

OK, I’m ready to call it a loss on yet another preseason prediction of mine: J.J. Watt for MVP. I feel like for the rest of eternity, whenever someone tries to suggest a defensive player for league MVP, we’re going to point to how awful the 2015 Texans have been. The guy playing at a higher level than any other player in history at his position can’t even make his team average, slightly competitive, better than dog poo. Houston is atrocious and there’s nothing Watt can do about it. He can’t be that cure-all that even a decent quarterback can be. So let’s all agree the MVP is for a quarterback or record-setting offensive player.

Chicago at Kansas City (-9)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: Kansas City 30, Chicago 23

The Chiefs lost by 15 points last week to a team they expected to be very competitive with (Cincy). The week before, they lost by 10 to the Packers, in a game where the Packers were leading by as much as 24 in the 4th quarter. The week before that is when they blew a home game to the Broncos in epic fashion. They’re 1-3 and only a win over the harmless Texans kept the first month from being an unmitigated disaster for Kansas City.

And yet, you can’t really blame Chiefs fans for holding out some hope. After that week 1 win, they faced three straight opponents who are pretty much all locks for the playoffs. If you believe ESPN.com’s Power Rankings, the Chiefs just faced the 2nd, 3rd and 5th best teams in succession. And two of those were road games.

Their next four games look a lot better: Chicago, at Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Detroit. That’s three home games and four potential wins. There are no more excuses for the Chiefs. If they can’t win with an especially dominant display of offense at home against the Bears, then even Kansas City fans should ditch this team until 2016.

Full disclosure: I was initially picking the Chiefs to cover, but when I got to the end of my picks and realized I had chosen only five underdogs, I forced myself to find one game to swap. This feels like a decent game to choose because the Chiefs could still fall into that mediocre range, and the Bears probably aren’t as terrible as their first three games of the year.

Seattle at Cincinnati (-3)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 27, Seattle 23

I feel like my hands are tied with this game. Anything over three and I could have talked myself into Seattle making it a close game. Anything less than three and I would have gone big on Cincy because I’m just so damn sure they’re going to win by exactly three. Since I can’t predict a push, I’ll go with the Bengals because once again this game is not on Primetime TV, meaning Andy Dalton should be just fine.

By the way, how about me “crushing” my picks in the Survivor Pool so far this year. After an easy week win 1 where I took the Jets over the Browns, I went with the Ravens in week 2 (LOSS, but the other 17 people in my pool also lost so I stayed alive), the Panthers in week 3 (a win over New Orleans only when Josh Norman made a semi-miraculous interception in the end zone when the Saints were driving for the winning touchdown), and the Seahawks in week 4 (a win only because the refs totally bungled the Calvin Johnson goal line fumble).

So yeah, I’m not so sure I “know how to pick ‘em.”

Washington at Atlanta (-7.5)

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 41, Washington 24

We just saw what a firing-on-all-cylinders Falcons team can do, especially at home against a weak opponent. That seems to be exactly what we’ve got in this game. Washington enjoyed three of its first four games at home, and playing well against Miami and Philadelphia doesn’t seem like as big of an accomplishment as it once did.

Plan accordingly for an Atlanta playoff berth. It’s happening. On top of being 4-0, Footballoutsiders.com has the Falcons’ schedule as the easiest in the league the rest of the way. After playing Washington it goes like this: at New Orleans, at Tennessee, vs Tampa Bay, at San Francisco, vs Indianapolis, vs Minnesota, at Tampa Bay. That feels like 9-3 at worst going into the final month where they face Carolina twice. With reasonable health, the Falcons are a 12-4 team. Dan Quinn, congrats on your Coach of the Year win.

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay (-3)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 20, Tampa 16

Something tells me this isn’t going to play out like much of a home game for the Bucs. They’ve lost 11 straight at home (dating back to December 2013). And already this season their play seems to be trending in the wrong direction. Not sure the fans are coming out full force for this in-state rivalry. And of course it’s not much of a road trip for the Jaguars. I think this plays like a neutral field game, and in that case, the Jaguars are the better team. I’ll take the three points gladly.

New Orleans at Philadelphia (-4.5)

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: Philadelphia 28, New Orleans 20

While these two 1-3 teams might look similar on the surface, the Eagles are much better according to most relevant stats. They’ve had a little bad luck, but at least their defense has played OK and they actually have the healthier quarterback situation. In fact, New Orleans’ defense is probably just what the doctor ordered for Sam Bradford.

That reminds me, we are now in something like year 8 of “Rob Ryan fails miserably at building a good defense.” It’s one of the surest things in all of sports.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-7)

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Cleveland 31, Baltimore 10

This one is easy for me. Under no circumstances would I pick the Ravens to beat any team by more than a touchdown right now. I know it’s not unthinkable, and I might be walking into a classic Cleveland Browns trap where they play like a halfway decent team just before having a no-show in a huge divisional game. But from a pure talent standpoint, along with execution through the first month of the year, the Browns should keep this close.

St. Louis at Green Bay (-9)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: Green Bay 24, St. Louis 22

If everything breaks perfectly for the Rams, I think they just might be able to keep this within a touchdown. But I need their defensive line to play so well that they’re getting to Aaron Rodgers all day without having to send extra blitzers. I need Todd Gurley to be the focal point of an offense that slowly marches down the field and keeps Rodgers on the sideline. I need Jeff Fisher to pull out one, maybe two, trick plays that he’s always good for in a game like this.

If all of that happens to absolute perfection, I think St. Louis can proudly lose a close game to a nearly untouchable team.

Buffalo (-3) at Tennessee

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 23, Buffalo 14

There’s a chance I’m misreading this and the Bills are just going to come out and crush Tennessee. But to me, the combination of the Titans’ two weeks of rest and Buffalo spending the early part of this week trying to figure out how not to get penalized 150 times per game should be a huge advantage for the Titans. I feel like Tennessee should have a major preparedness edge in this matchup.

And it’s still very unclear what exactly Buffalo is this year. We gave them the benefit of the doubt in a home loss to the Patriots, but they just suffered a worse loss at home to the Giants. Did Rex’s cockiness combined with one good game in the opener against Indy really trick us into thinking this team was competent? The answer is starting to look like a resounding “yes.”

Arizona (-2.5) at Detroit

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 34, Detroit 14

Yeah, I’m not letting myself overthink this one. Arizona isn’t one of those teams that automatically looks a lot worse on the road. In fact, they’ve won the majority of their road games in Carson Palmer’s starts over the past few years. I’m not worried about the road or anything else going against the Cardinals this weekend. They should roll. And Detroit should only have to wait one more week for their first win. They’ll host Chicago in week 6.

New England (-10) at Dallas

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 54, Dallas 27

Hey, Roger Goodell, don’t think I don’t see exactly what you’re doing in this game. Deploying Clete Blakeman to Dallas as the head referee for this game. The same guy who royally screwed the Patriots during the 2013 season. The same guy who was one of the referees “measuring” the air pressure of the balls at halftime of last year’s AFC Championship Game. And the league’s biggest nemesis, the Patriots, are rolling into Texas with an undefeated record. Meanwhile Jerry Jones, one of your most obnoxious and influential owners, cried all Summer about how Brady should be suspended for four games. I wonder if the Pats are going to get a fair shot in this game. Hmm…

Meanwhile, I’m undeterred. I’m not remotely scared of Greg Hardy and Rolondo McLain playing for the first time on the Dallas defense and being fresh because all 53 players on the Patriots will be rested. And they actually got an injured starter on the offensive line back this week. So even more depth for the deepest team in the league. Oh, and apparently at least one Cowboys player gave Tom Brady some bulletin board material this week. It’s all there, folks. The makings of an absolute blowout. Don’t get left behind.

Denver (-5) at Oakland

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Oakland 10

When will the Broncos finally lose a game? As soon as their defense plays only OK for once, that’s when. The moment another team’s able to put up four touchdowns on Denver, it’s over. Their offense is one of the worst in football and Peyton Manning is rating out as one of the worst quarterbacks. There’s no secret here. But will the Raiders be able to hang that first L on Denver? In a word, no. Maybe when the Browns host the Broncos next week? Maybe. But we’re here to talk about this week. And this week I think Denver shuts down Amari Cooper (easily) and wins yet another low-scoring game.

San Francisco at NY Giants (-7)

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 29, San Francisco 11

If I hadn’t abandoned my preseason thoughts so quickly, I would have seen that Giants win in Buffalo happening last week. At the very least I should have known the Bills were giving way too many points to a Giants team that could have easily been 3-0 if they had caught a few breaks. I had New York going to the playoffs, and it still looks reasonably promising. They’re 2-2 and after this game against the 49ers, they play at Philly, then host Dallas (no Romo), then back-to-back road games in New Orleans and Tampa Bay. Even if they go 3-2 in these next five games, they’ll be in great shape in the NFC East.

As for the 49ers, I wish I could find a website that would let me bet how many more starts Colin Kaepernick gets before they pull him for Blaine Gabbert or Terrelle Pryor. I would choose “two” as my answer. He starts this week, and then he starts against 1-4 Baltimore at home. When those games both go horrifically, he gets pulled. If you’ve watched any extended San Francisco action this year, you know Kaepernick is playing historically bad. He actually looks like someone who has never taken a snap in the NFL, which is weird considering he was a play away from winning a Super Bowl a few years ago.

Anyway, thanks for yet another appointment-TV kind of game on Sunday night, NBC!

Pittsburgh at San Diego (-3)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 26, San Diego 21

The Steelers will be coming off 11 days of rest, nearly a full bye week’s worth of time off. As for the state of the Chargers, I’m pretty unimpressed with their two home wins–by five over Detroit and three over Cleveland. I’m beyond nervous to back Michael Vick ON THE ROAD, but I could see this being remembered as “the Le’Veon Bell Game.” With the way the Chargers are giving up rushing yards, if Bell doesn’t touch the ball at least 25 times in this game, the Rooney’s should “Philbin” Mike Tomlin before the team plane lands in Pittsburgh Tuesday morning.

Here’s the weekly tally:

  • 8 Favorites, 6 Underdogs
  • 5 Road Dogs, 1 Home Dog
  • 6 Home Teams, 8 Road Teams

Enjoy week 5!

NFL Week 5 Picks: Too Many Large Point Spreads

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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.

Fools.

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!!