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Week Five Picks

October 4th, 2018

There are lots of reasons I don’t gamble on football. One is that I don’t gamble on anything; it does nothing for me. Another one, though, is that I’m not good at it.

I went 10-5 last week picking straight up. That’s not terrible (though it’s certainly not great by any measure). Against the spread, though, I was 6-7-2. And that’s just plain awful. If I were putting actual money on these games and faring this poorly, I’d have to stop just to save myself from bankruptcy. But where the only cost is pride I never had to begin with, I can press on.

I head into week five with season records of 36-25-2 (.587) straight up and 28-32-3 (.468) against the spread.

I’m sure I can do worse.

Here’s what not to expect over the next five days.

Indianapolis (+10) at New England
This may not be news to you, but the last time the Colts visited Foxborough there was a, um, well, a bit of a thing. Seriously. It really has been that long. Seems crazy given that these teams used to have a rivalry, but it’s been better than three years since the last meeting in New England, and two weeks shy of three years since the Pats and Colts played at all. It’s also been nearly nine years since the Colts last beat the Patriots in any building, and most of 12 since Indianapolis last came out ahead in New England. And the Colts have never pulled off a win of the Patriots with Andrew Luck as their quarterback. None of that has a thing to do with this game, of course. Three years is forever in NFL time. So long that if it weren’t for recent off-field history, one might well conclude these teams were functionally strangers to each other. And, you know, had this game taken place in Indianapolis two or three weeks ago when the Patriots still had a lot to figure out, the Colts may have been able to pull off a win. Had it taken place in Foxborough a week ago, I might have expected a close game. Records notwithstanding, I don’t see a lot that separates the Colts from the Dolphins. Indy and Miami have played at effectively the same level, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses, against a slightly different set of opponents. Given that, given what we saw Sunday afternoon when the Patriots hosted the Dolphins, given the fact that the Colts are traveling on four days rest after playing through a full overtime in week four, and given that the Patriots just got an important weapon back, I have a hard time imagining the Colts are going to be able to keep up for 60 minutes. I expect to see a competitive first half, but I think the Indy starts to wear down after halftime, at which point it becomes the Sony Michel show. Even playing ball control for much of the second half, I think the Patriots come out on top by two touchdowns.

Baltimore (-3) at Cleveland
A year from now, this may well be a game. Right now, it isn’t. For the Browns to succeed, Carlos Hyde needs to succeed. And I’m not sure Hyde can have a big day against the Ravens’ D. Ravens by six.

Jacksonville (+3) at Kansas City
Unbalanced as these two teams may be, I can envision them meeting again in mid January with a lot on the line. And if that comes to pass, the outcome here may well determine the venue. That may be bad news for the Jaguars. Because even though the Jacksonville offense is slightly less unimpressive than the Kansas City defense, I don’t think it’s by enough to overcome home field advantage. Chiefs by a point.

Tennessee (-3.5) at Buffalo
It’s starting to look like the Titans might be for real. It’s abundantly clear that the Bills are not. Tennessee by a field goal.

NY Giants (+7) at Carolina
Pin the Giants’ problems on Eli Manning if you like. But if you do, you’re missing the point. Eli Manning is playing exactly like Eli Manning. And that kind of consistency is pretty much the best one can expect from a 37-year-old quarterback. Certainly, it would be foolish to expect Manning to suddenly start playing like Drew Brees, regardless of whether that’s what fans might want. It wouldn’t be foolish, on the other hand, to think the Giants would try to develop a run defense. This is something they haven’t quite managed to do. And I expect it’s going to bite them on the ass is a major way once again this weekend. Panthers by 16.

Denver (+1.5) at NY Jets
Neither of these teams is very good. Jets by three.

Atlanta (+3) at Pittsburgh
I know the over/under on this game is an insane 57.5, but if I were betting, I’d still bet the over. There’s simply no reason to believe either of these teams is suddenly going to discover defense. Home team by a point.

Green Bay (-1) at Detroit
The Lions this season clearly are going to be the team that always does the exact opposite of what I expect. Which means they’re destined to win this game. Packers by four.

Miami (+6.5) at Cincinnati
The Dolphins weren’t quite good enough to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati before they were exposed by the Patriots. It’s just that now everyone knows it. Cincinnati by nine.

Oakland (+5.5) at LA Chargers
The Chargers so far this season have been uneven. As time goes on, they’ll prove fatally flawed. The Raiders? They’re just bad. Chargers by four.

Arizona (+4) at San Francisco
You can’t not beat the Cardinals. San Francisco by three.

Minnesota (+3) at Philadelphia
It’s too early in the season for this literally to be true, but it feels like the Vikings need this game. They’re not getting it. The Eagles fire up the ground game, control the clock, and come out on top by a touchdown.

LA Rams (-7) at Seattle
I’m not disputing the Rams’ greatness, but it would be nice, sometime this season, to see them face a good opponent. That’s not happening this week. Los Angeles by 13.

Dallas (+3) at Houston
I suppose one of these teams has to win. Or at least, you know, I can’t really pick a tie. So let’s go with the home team. They seem to be slightly better anyhow. Maybe. Houston by two.

Washington (+6.5) at New Orleans
I think the well-rested Racists make this a game. Saints by three.

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