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Week Five Picks

October 6th, 2016

I had a bad feeling about week four. But I ignored it, because I pretty much always have a bad feeling about every week. And, really, what’s at risk?

The answer, I suppose, is my pride. As if I had any left. (Or maybe I never had any to begin with.) And, you know, maybe my ability to sell myself on the lie that I actually have any idea what I’m doing.

That’s all gone. At least for the nonce. I went 8-7 straight up in week four, which seems really bad until you look at my 5-10 finish against the spread. Now, that’s what you call awful. For the season, I’m now 38-25 (.603) straight up, 29-34 (.460) against the spread. Let’s see if I can’t make things even worse with this week’s picks, shall we?

Here’s what not to expect.

Arizona (-3.5) at San Francisco
One of these teams runs out of chances with a loss in this game. You’ve got to figure it won’t be the one that was expected to make a Super Bowl run at the start of the season. As long as Drew Stanton can avoid throwing a bunch of picks, I expect to see the Cardinals come away with a narrow victory. Arizona by a point.

Houston (+6.5) at Minnesota
The good news for the Texans is that even after they lose this game, they’ll still be in first place in the insanely weak AFC South. Vikings by nine.

Tennessee (+3.5) at Miami
Neither of these teams can hold on to the damned football. Then again, neither of them has demonstrated any ability to take the ball away from opponents either. One imagines something has to give here. But maybe not. Maybe it just comes down to Miami’s inability to stop Tennessee’s run game. Titans by a field goal.

New England (-10.5) at Cleveland
The fan narrative in New England has it that Tom Brady commences his “revenge tour” this weekend. And that may well happen. Brady surely is champing at the bit for the opportunity to take his Deflategate frustrations out on Patriots opponents. So things are likely to get ugly sooner than later. I’m not sure the revenge tour gets off to a smooth start, though. I expect Brady’s going to have some rust to shake off before he gets into a real groove. That may come in the second half here or it may take a game or two. (Or maybe I’m wrong and he gets going with the first offensive play in this game. If anyone can go from zero to 120 that quickly, it’s the Greatest Of All Time.) Here’s the thing, though. In terms of assessing this game, I’m not sure it matters all that much when the revenge tour officially commences. Because I don’t think this would have been much of a game with Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett starting behind center for New England. We’re a quarter of the way through the season, which is about the time you’ve got a significant enough sample for the predictive stats to start paining a picture. And here are the big three (all of them based on results the Patriots achieved with Garoppolo and then an injured Brissett at QB): Scoring differential, Patriots +7.7; passer rating differential, Patriots +15.1; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +4. That’s not a formula for a Cleveland win. And, you know, I may be stupid, but I kind of like the Pats’ chances with a rusty Brady better than their chances with a wounded Garoppolo or Brissett. The Patriots start slow, worrying the crap out of their fans, but ultimately come out on top by 13.

NY Jets (+7) at Pittsburgh
Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s interception percentage, 6.5, is the highest in the NFL by a full two points. (Fitz also leads the league in total interceptions. He’s thrown 10.) Ben Roethlisberger‘s touchdown percentage, 7.6, is second highest in the NFL. (Roethlisberger also is tied with Matt Ryan for most total TD passes, with 11.) In a quarterback-driven league, that’s about all I need to know. Steelers by 10.

Washington (+4) at Baltimore
I have a hunch the Racists’ lack of a defense may hurt them in this game. But, you know, it’s just a hunch. Ravens by six.

Philadelphia (-3) at Detroit
As far as I can tell, there isn’t a single area of the game in which the Eagles don’t have the edge here. Philadelphia by … I don’t know, a lot. Let’s say 20 just because it’s a nice round number (except for the pointy part).

Chicago (+4.5) at Indianapolis
It’s hard to pick a team that’s as bad as the Colts and attempting to play through jet lag. But, well, they’re hosting the Bears. Indy by two.

Atlanta (+5.5) at Denver
The Falcons have done well for a team with no defense. Here’s what happens, though, when a team like that runs up against an opponent with an outstanding D. Broncos by at least a touchdown.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Los Angeles
Fresh off their Super Bowl championship big win over a team starting a rookie third string quarterback with an injured throwing hand, the Bills seem to be feeling pretty good about themselves. They should enjoy it while they can. Los Angeles by three.

San Diego (+3.5) at Oakland
The Raiders lack of a defense is going to present a problem in this game. But it won’t be quite enough to cost the home team a win. In a very high scoring game, Oakland comes out on top by a point, maybe two.

Cincinnati (-1) at Dallas
Thus far this season, the Bengals have looked like one of those teams that beats bad teams and loses to good ones. So what happens when they go up against an opponent that’s probably a bit better than average? I think it depends on where the game is played. And since this one’s being played on the slightly better than average team’s home field, I’m going with them. Dallas by four.

NY Giants (+7.5) at Green Bay
I don’t know what Giants fans are saying about it, but I can tell you this: If the Patriots had been scheduled to play road games in Minnesota and Green Bay over the course of six days (with the Packers coming off a bye, no less), fans in New England would be certain the NFL had conspired against the team. Doesn’t seem exactly fair to New Jersey, either, if you ask me. But you play the schedule they give you, I guess. Packers by 10.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Carolina
Man, is the NFC South not a good division. Panthers by four.

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