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Week Five Picks

October 4th, 2012

Six road teams giving points this week. And so where am I picking upsets? Not in those games. No, sir. Not me. That would be smart. And I’m either dumb as a post or a gigantic glutton for punishment. Or both. Here’s what not to expect.

Arizona (-1.5) at St. Louis
I was absolutely not a believer in the Cardinals heading into this season. But QuantCoach keeps telling me take turnovers out of the equation and the Cardinals are effectively the same as the 49ers. And I’m starting to see what he’s talking about. The Rams do a pretty good job taking the ball away (or at least they do by way of picks; they’ve yet to recover an opponent’s fumble), but the Cardinals have done an even better job so far this season of holding onto the ball. So I’m inclined to take Arizona and give the point and a half. Heck, I’ll double it: Cardinals by a field goal.

Atlanta (-3) at Washington
The Falcons are 4-0 by the very skin of their teeth. And if the Native Americans defense weren’t so bloody awful, I’d probably be looking at this one thinking that kind of luck can’t hold on forever. Atlanta has exhibited little ability to stop the run, which unquestionably is going to be a problem for them in a game that pits them against one of the better rushing offenses in the league. But Washington can’t stop anything and that’s gonna hurt like hell with Matt Ryan in the building. I expect to the Falcons find a way to win in yet another very close game. Atlanta by a point.

Philadelphia (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
You’re right, Michael Vick really was significantly less awful against the Giants on Sunday night than he’d been through the first three weeks of the season. That becomes a trend when it happens two or three times in a row. Until then, Vick remains in a category with Tony Romo: quarterbacks who are every bit as likely to cost their teams a win as earn them one. And as uneven as the Steelers may be, their defense eats quarterbacks like that alive. Pittsburgh by six.

Green Bay (-7) at Indianapolis
You’re going to hear and read about the Colts trying to win this one for their coach. And maybe there’s something to that. But I tend to think that if the Colts pull off a win, it’ll have less to do with them willing it to happen and more to do with the Packers’ offensive struggles. Green Bay’s O line has some issues with pass blocking (that’s why even after a game in which he took none, Aaron Rodgers continues be the most sacked quarterback in the NFL, averaging four a game). And the Packers’ rushing offense is … well, it sort of just isn’t, actually. If it weren’t for the fact that Indy’s still developing offense is probably thoroughly outmatched by the Green Bay D, I’d actually be tempted to pick the home team to pull off an upset here. Still, I just don’t quite see it. Not straight up, anyhow. Packers by four.

Cleveland (+9) at NY Giants
The Giants would like to forget about their failure to pull off a comeback victory Sunday night. The Browns probably should forget about any thoughts of logging a win before mid-season. New Jersey by 14.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Minnesota
I’ll be honest: I haven’t bought in to the whole Vikings thing yet. That’s neither here nor there for this week, though. Because Christian Ponder has been playing very good football and Minnesota is finding ways to win games. And there really just isn’t anything that the Titans do well. Vikings by nine.

Miami (+3.5) at Cincinnati
If you can stop the run OK and you can create turnovers, you can beat the Dolphins. Every time. Now, guess which team isn’t good at either of those things. Bing! Miami in the upset. Let’s say by three.

Baltimore (-5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs have a giveaway/takeaway differential of -13. That’s the worst in the league. And the second worst, Dallas’ -7, isn’t even close. The math for Kansas City is tilted by the fact that the Chiefs have only two takeaways on the season. But still, that’s 15 giveaways in four games. And you don’t win football games when you turn the ball over close to four times a game. You just don’t. Baltimore by 10.

Seattle (+3) at Carolina
The Panthers are another team that gives the ball away too damned much. They’re -6 on the season in giveaway/takeaway. But the Seahawks don’t have it in them to capitalize on that tendency. Nor does Seattle have the offense to take advantage of Carolina’s weak D. Panthers by four.

Chicago (-5.5) at Jacksonville
There are, I would say, no fewer than 26 teams in the league that I would pick to beat Chicago this week. It’s the Bears second straight road game. They’re playing on a short week. And I just don’t think their win on Monday night, decisive though it may have been, was all that impressive. Tony Romo was a bigger factor in that game than Jay Cutler. Trouble is, none of the teams I would pick to beat the Bears this week is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Simple formula gets me there: When you can’t score, and you can’t keep your opponents from scoring, you can’t win football games. Crazy, but true. Tired Bears still win it by four.

Denver (+7) at New England
I know this is the game everybody wants to talk about this week, what with the renewal of the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning rivalry and all. And if I were a smarter man, I’d probably jump all over that (considering I have this book out about Brady being the best of all time, and Manning not). But I don’t see this game as likely to provide one of the more memorable Brady-Manning moments. Because as I’ve said before, I think Manning’s Broncos are likely to be a tough out all season long at home, not such much through most of the season on the road. The last time Denver played a road game, Manning threw three picks en route to a 27-21 loss to Atlanta. And the Patriots D has been as good as the Falcons D this season at picking off passes. If this game were in Denver, I might pick a close win by the Broncos. But it’s in Foxborough, so I’m going with the Patriots straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Buffalo (+9.5) at San Francisco
I’m just not sure there’s anything I could say about this game that would be worth my time or yours. San Francisco by 21.

San Diego (+3.5) at New Orleans
Given his druthers, do you think Drew Brees would pick breaking Johnny Unitas‘ supposedly untouchable record of 47 straight games with a touchdown pass, or leading the Saints to their first victory of the season? (I know they’re not mutually exclusive; just putting it out there.) I bet he’d pick a win. I’ve got a feeling he’s gonna get the record. That first win? Maybe in two weeks. Chargers by two.

Houston (-8) at NY Jets
Here’s where the bottom finally drops out on Mark Sanchez. And the 2012 Jets. And, ultimately, the Rex Ryan era. The Texans are probably slightly better than the team that just destroyed the Jets in New Jersey. And the Jets are now without yet another key player. So I’m gonna go with Houston by 35.

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