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Week Five Picks

October 3rd, 2008

Tough week. I’m not even sure what else to say. Except that I think we’re gonna see some incredible football. Hard hits. Big strikes. Whatever it is you like about football, you’ll probably get it on the highlight reels. And that ain’t bad. Just don’t try to figure out which teams are gonna come out ahead, because it’s damned near impossible in most of these games.

Tennessee (-2) at Baltimore
You know why I’m excited about this game? Because I don’t care a whit about either of these teams. What I mean is, I don’t care if either of them makes the playoffs, won’t have a bet on this game and won’t be at all heartbroken if I pick it wrong. Most of all, though, what I mean is that while I hope no one sustains any kind of serious injury, I don’t care who gets hurt. And, trust me, players are gonna get hurt. Because this game is gonna be bru-fucking-tal. These teams don’t like each other one little bit. They both have phenomenal, physical defenses. And they’re both trying to maintain standing in tough divisional races — Tennessee working to stay ahead of the Jaguars and Colts, Baltimore looking not to lose any more ground on Pittsburgh after suffering a tough, overtime loss in the ‘Burgh on Monday night. In the end, I think it’s that Monday night game that makes the difference here. Because I just don’t think you can rebound from one highly physical game in time to survive a second in six days. Titans by three.

Kansas City (+10) at Carolina
I’m sorry. I’m sure there’s something interesting that could be said about this game, but I’d actually have to think about it to figure out what that is. And I simply refuse to spend any time thinking about anything that has to do with the Kansas City Chiefs. Panthers by 13.

Chicago (-3.5) at Detroit
You know how sometimes in a movie or a TV show a character will appear to wake up from a nightmare only to discover they’re in yet another nightmare? Yeah, well, congratulations, Lions, on finally getting rid of Matt Millen. Good luck with the whole still being owned by the Ford family thing. Bears by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+7) at Green Bay
All I’m gonna say is bet the over. Because it doesn’t appear to me that either defense is at all well suited to stop the other team’s offense. Packers win 31-27.

Indianapolis (-3) at Houston
The Texans don’t do anything spectacularly. But they’re good enough at running the football and at rushing the passer to make this a game. Colts win, but only by the three they’re giving.

San Diego (-6.5) at Miami
Do you think the Dolphins we saw shock New England two weeks ago are the real deal? Neither do I. Chargers by 10.

Seattle (+7.5) at NY Giants
Can the Giants perform at the same high level without Plaxico Burress on the field? Nope. But that shouldn’t cost them much against the Seahawks, who simply don’t win games on the East Coast. Giants by three.

Washington (+6) at Philadelphia
Don’t put money on this game. The NFC East is way too competitive for anyone to have any real ability to predict what’s gonna happen in a given game. And lingering uncertainty about Brian Westbrook only makes it tougher. I’m taking Philly straight up and expecting Washington to keep it close, but there’s no reason to believe I’ll be right.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Denver
Three things I believe: 1.) The Buccaneers aren’t as good as they looked last week. 2.) The Broncos are much, much better than they looked last week. 3.) Brian Griese only has so many good games in him in any given season, and he’s pretty much maxed out. Denver by six.

Buffalo (+1) at Arizona
This game is a nightmare to pick. Here’s the problem: Setting aside the virtual statistical equality between these teams outside the of the win-loss column, I’m fairly certain the Bills are the better team. What I’m not at all certain about is whether that matters here. I’ll explain why in a second. First, though, let’s look briefly at how the teams stack up against each other on paper. The Bills and Cardinals offenses both rack up a lot of yards and score a lot of points (27.3 and 26.5 per game respectively). Their defenses are both fairly stout in terms of yardage surrendered. And even though the Cardinals have allowed an average of 10 points per game more than the Bills, a lot of that disparity is attributable to last week’s fiasco in the Meadowlands. (It’s early enough in the season for one freaky game to skew the stats.) The Bills appear to have done a better job holding on to the ball than that Cards, too, but that stat is also thrown off by last week’s game, in which the Cards, who were plus-three in giveaway/takeaway, going in, committed seven turnovers to the Jets’ one. All that said, it’s hard for me to look past the fact that the Cardinals are 2-2 and have yet to beat a good team while the Bills are 4-0 and seem to have beaten at least one good team (and on the road at that). It’s also hard for me to ignore what I’ve seen with my own eyes, which is that Bills execute better than the Cards on both sides of the ball. So I’m picking the Bills, right? Well, not so fast. You know, there’s that whole thing about how when the matchup isn’t lopsided the team that needs to win more usually finds a way to come out ahead. And the Cardinals, who come in off a two-game East Coast road trip that did not go well at all, definitely need this win more than the Bills. Besides, the Cards are at home, which matters in the NFL. So I’m picking the Cards, right? Well, not so fast. I’d probably hold my breath and just pick Arizona if knew Anquan Boldin were going to play. But I don’t know. In fact, it appears Boldin may well miss the game as a result of his sinus fracture. That’s a big deal, because the Bills’ D is tough and the Cardinals will need all the help they can get on offense. So I’m picking the Bills, right? Not so fast. Because there’s also the fact that … oh, hell, you know what, I could do this all day. To hell with it. I’ll take my chances with what I think is the better team. Buffalo scores the deciding points in the closing seconds of the game.

Cincinnati (+17.5) at Dallas
OK, Ocho Yappo, here’s the deal. Your team is 0-4 and not in any danger of getting better any time soon. You’re getting most of three touchdowns from your opponent. And, trust me, you’re not impressing anyone. So please, please, please either let your play speak for you (which I strongly suspect you’re too distracted to actually pull off) or shut the hell up already. Cowboys by 24.

New England (-3) at San Francisco
This one’s all about New England’s secondary. J.T. O’Sullivan is gonna take some sacks, but he’s also gonna have some opportunities to unload downfield. If the Patriots’ DBs can break up the majority of those throws, the Pats win. If they can’t, the Niners win. I expect to see the former. I also expect to see Matt Cassel start to take some chances (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse) and to find Randy Moss a bit more often. Patriots by six.

Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Jacksonville
The way these teams give up sacks, I’ll be shocked if both starting quarterbacks are still standing at the end of the night. Shocked. Whichever team keeps it’s QB on his feet best wins. I’m gonna look for that to be the one that isn’t playing on six days rest. Jags by three.

Minnesota (+3) at New Orleans
If New Orleans can resist the urge to try running the ball and Minnesota can resist the urge to try throwing it, this game could get real interesting. The Vikings’ problem will be that if they fall behind, they’re probably not gonna be able to catch up. And, with a record of 1-3 coming, that may prove to be the case with Minnesota’s season as well as this game. Saints by a touchdown.

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