Week Six Picks
It’s all about turnovers this week. Or most of it is. Or … well, at least that’s the way I see it. Of course, I’m kind of obsessed with turnovers to begin with, which raises the question, why are you even listening to me? Here’s what not to expect.
Pittsburgh (-6) at Tennessee
I’m sure this game looked pretty good on paper back when the schedule was put together. That’s when people thought the Titans were toward something. The only thing Tennessee’s building now is a tally of points scored by their opponents. The Titans give up an NFL-worst 36 per game. And in related news, the Titans trail all 31 other teams in net points, with a -93. I don’t expect to see the scoring trends magically reverse themselves here. Pittsburgh by 14.
Cincinnati (-1) at Cleveland
I know the Bengals just dropped one at home to the Dolphins (as I predicted they would). That looks pretty bad. But let’s be honest: Perhaps the best thing you can say about the Browns in relation to the Dolphins is that Cleveland is marginally less awful about turning the ball over. And that thing is, you don’t so much worry about turnovers when you play the Bengals, because they have such limited ability to take the ball away. The Browns are worse than the Dolphins at everything else. I don’t see the Bengals outpacing the Steelers for a wild card spot at this point, but neither do I expect to see them fall quite so far into the AFC North basement as the Browns. Cincinnati by a field goal.
Indianapolis (+3.5) at NY Jets
Here it is, folks. Stoppable force vs. movable object. Neither offense can run the ball worth a tenth of a pickled damn, which is going to prove frustrating to someone, because neither defense could stop a running joke. So this game happens in the air. I honestly don’t know which team is gonna come out ahead, and I suspect I won’t until about 5:30 Sunday afternoon when the thing finally wraps up. But I guess in a passers dual, I’ll take the team with the promising young quarterback over the team that doesn’t seem to have a quarterback. Indianapolis by one.
Kansas City (+4) at Tampa Bay
I know I’ve said effectively this same thing about this same team before, but it just keeps on being true: You can’t win games in the NFL when you consistently turn the ball over the way the Chiefs do. Kansas City has lost a league-worse 10 fumbles. In five games. You don’t need me to do the math on that one for you, right? (Aw, hell, just in case: 10/5=awful.) Factoring in their nine picks, you get to a giveaway/takeaway differential of -15, also worst in the league. Until they fix that, the Chiefs are going nowhere. Buccaneers by 10.
Oakland (+9) at Atlanta
It appears the AFC West is becoming the new NFC West. (That’s not a compliment.) And the Raiders are back from an early bye to demonstrate that even when you’re well rested, having no ability to run the ball, throw the ball, stop the run, or stop the pass will tend to prevent you from winning football games. Falcons by 14, minimum.
Dallas (+3.5) at Baltimore
Let’s spin the Wheel of Romo to see how Tony will cost his team any chance of winning this game. Brrrrrrrrrrrr-rut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dut-dah: Botched exchange leads to a turnover deep in Cowboys territory! Thank you for playing Wheel of Romo! A strong defensive effort by the Cowboys is wasted as the Ravens come out on top by six.
Detroit (+4) at Philadelphia
The Eagles aren’t playing good enough football to be in first place in the NFC East. But the Lions aren’t playing good enough football for that to matter. More’s the pity for the Giants, who actually have to face a good team this week. Turnover machine Michael Vick and the Eagles offense will do everything they can to lose this game, but they’ll still come out ahead, if only by a point.
St. Louis (+3.5) at Miami
Last week I picked the underdog Dolphins to win on the road (got it right). This week, I’m looking for the home favorite Dolphins to lose. Why? Well, mostly because while there aren’t a ton of things the Rams do well, they are pretty good at picking off passes. And Ryan Tannehill is pretty good at throwing interceptions. I don’t see a ton of other factors that separate these teams, so I’ll go with that. St. Louis by three.
New England (-3.5) at Seattle
Don’t look for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to put up their usual 33 points in this game. Yes, it does appear that the Patriots have bounced back from their close losses in weeks two and three. And, yes, New England appears to have created a balanced and complex offense that will force opponents to pick their poison. That should serve them well through the balance of the season. But it doesn’t mean you can count on the Patriots hanging a ton of points on every team they face. The Seattle defense is big and fast. The Seahawks stuff the run and bat down passes at the line of scrimmage. They may actually have the kind of D that can pick its poison and spit it back out. Unfortunately for Seattle, the Seahawks’ offense isn’t quite there yet. They move the ball well on the ground behind Marshawn Lynch, but they don’t score many rushing TDs (just two so far this season). More to the point, the Seattle passing attack is nothing anyone needs to worry about. And any time the Patriots D can focus on taking away the one thing an opponent does well, that opponent is in trouble. Seattle also has a habit of turning the ball over, which is particularly deadly when you face the Patriots, who are tied with Atlanta for second in the league in total takeaways (14). I expect a game that’s relatively close, but that ends with the Patriots ahead by a touchdown.
Buffalo (+4.5) at Arizona
Miserable bit of scheduling for the Bills, who play their second consecutive road game against an NFC West opponent. That’s gotta hurt. I expect Arizona to do pretty much what San Francisco did, though I don’t think they’ll score quite as many points. Let’s say Cardinals by 23.
Minnesota (+2) at Washington
It looks like Robert Griffin III is going to be able to play. That’s good news for the Native Americans. Less good is that Griffin still doesn’t play defense. And since neither does anyone else in a Washington uniform, I’ll go with Minnesota by four.
NY Giants (+6.5) at San Francisco
We all know what the 49ers need to do if they want to hold off the Giants this time around: Convert at least some third downs and, you know, hold onto the damned ball when it really, really matters. Once again, the Niners are the better team here (if only by a little). Of course, that only matters if you execute, but I expect San Francisco to execute this time around. If this were a playoff game, I might think different (and at this point I’d probably have faith that the Giants would find a way to win). But it isn’t the post-season. San Francisco by four.
Green Bay (+3.5) at Houston
So let me see if I’ve got this straight: The Packers have a Swiss cheese offensive line and, consequently, the second most sacked quarterback in the league. (Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 21 times this season, one fewer than Kevin Kolb and six more than any other QB. That puts him on track to take 67 sacks this season, which wouldn’t just shatter Rodgers’ own club record for a single season — 50, 2009 — but would be the fourth highest single-season total of all time. It would also match Rodgers’ combined sack totals from 2010 and 2011. All of which is to say, “Duck, Aaron! Duck!”) Green Bay also has an unproductive, and further diminishing, running attack. And the Packers are traveling to face a team with a defense that’s tied for fifth in the league in sacks (16) and that’s second in defensive passer rating (65.3). And despite all of that, somehow Green Bay’s only getting three and a half. Is that right? Note to the oddsmakers: These ain’t the Packers you used to know. Houston by 10.
Denver (+1.5) at San Diego
Two straight weeks on the road for Peyton Manning‘s Broncos. That’s not an easy task for Denver. Neither, it seems, is securing the football. Turnovers once again bite the Broncos on their hind quarters and the Chargers take a two-game lead in the AFC West. San Diego by six.