After having my best week to date in Week 4, I merely had an average Week 5 and actually lost money on my recommended wagers. As you may have read in my Week 5 recap article on Monday, I felt that I was on the right side in the Saints-Chargers game last week, but ultimately things didn’t work out.
The good news is that things seem to be getting back on track. I nailed the EXACT final score in the Jets-Texans game on Monday night, and almost predicted the exact final score in the Titans-Steelers game on Thursday. I hope the roll continues into Week 6, but truth be told, I hate the board this week. There are a number of games getting 50/50 action this week and that makes things a lot more difficult to predict because I can’t blindly bet against the public.
Anyways, here we go.
Bengals @ Browns: Last week, I made the mistake of blindly betting the Bengals because they were playing a non-playoff team. I won’t make that mistake again this week. The Browns already lost to the Bengals earlier this season, but that was without the services of Pro Bowl caliber cornerback Joe Haden. Haden returns from a PED suspension and will undoubtedly bolster the Browns’ secondary. The impact of this return is extremely significant because Haden held A.J. Green to just four combined catches in two games against the Bengals last season. Cincinnati is in the lower half of the league in rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt, and it’s been evident in the last three weeks that BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn’t equipped to be a featured back in this league. The Browns may be without the services of middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, but it won’t hurt them too much against a Bengals’ offense that has become pass happy. The Bengals’ ineffectiveness running the ball has caused them to become too reliant on the pass, and that’s particularly concerning because Andy Dalton seems to force balls into tight coverage far too often. Defensively, the Bengals give up a ton of yardage on the ground, and already let Trent Richardson go off for two touchdowns in their earlier matchup this season. Brandon Weeden also had his best game as a pro against the Bengals in Week 2, throwing for 322 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. With Cincinnati focusing on their Sunday Night Football game against the Steelers next week, they’ll look past this Browns team and find themselves losing to their interstate rivals. Browns 24, Bengals 20
Colts @ Jets: It’s unfortunate that these two teams are playing against each other this weekend because they’re both in the ultimate flat spot. The Colts are coming off of a massive, emotional comeback victory in which they rallied to knock off the Packers after trailing 21-3 at halftime. #chuckstrong. The Jets, on the other hand, put everything they had into their Monday Night Football loss against the Texans after getting blown out by San Francisco in Week 4. With both teams in a terrible spot, I’m going to go with the Colts because I think that they’re the better team and they have the better quarterback. Statistically, the only thing that the Jets do well is defend the pass, but that’s bound to deteriorate eventually with Darrelle Revis on injured reserve. Kyle Wilson has proven to be a bust at cornerback, LaRon Landry hasn’t been the same since suffering an Achilles injury in 2010, and Yeremiah Bell is at the tail end of his career. To make matters worse, the Jets pass rush is non-existent as they’ve registered just 5 sacks in 5 games this season. Andrew Luck should conceivably have all day in the pocket to make throws downfield. Meanwhile, his counterpart Mark Sanchez will constantly be under duress against a Colts’ pass rush that’s notched 12 sacks in 4 games. Sanchez is completely useless even when he has time in the pocket, so you can only imagine how things will play out if he’s under pressure all afternoon. It doesn’t help that he’s throwing to a bunch of wideouts that would have trouble making the cut for my flag football team. This is going to be an ugly game. Colts 19, Jets 10
Chiefs @ Buccaneers: There is some serious value with Kansas City this weekend. Brady Quinn gets the start in place of Matt Cassel this week and there’s no doubt in my mind that Quinn is actually the better quarterback, but the betting line doesn’t reflect that. Quinn is more of a game-manager than anything else, but he consistently protects the ball, having thrown only 9 interceptions in 13 career starts. The Chiefs have been doomed by turnovers all season long with Cassel at quarterback, so there’s definitely an upgrade with Quinn starting in Cassel’s place. Kansas City will rely heavily on their running game and while the Bucs are fairly stout against the run, they won’t be able to completely shut down the Chiefs’ rushing attack. On the other side of things, the Bucs have been doomed by poor quarterback play this season as well. Josh Freeman consistently holds on to the ball for too long and has been horribly inaccurate when making throws downfield. He’s been so dreadful this year that I’m not quite sure that Tampa Bay actually has the better quarterback in this matchup. To make matters worse for the Buccaneers, their running game has been lacking to start the season, as they’ve averaged only 3.6 yards per carry and 91 yards per game. The Chiefs’ defense has been much improved in recent weeks with the returns of Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers to the lineup, as evidenced by limiting Baltimore to a paltry nine points in last week’s contest. I just don’t see Tampa Bay moving the ball with any consistency, so I’m taking the Chiefs to pull off the road upset. Chiefs 20, Buccaneers 13
Raiders @ Falcons: I’m looking for reasons to take the Raiders here but I just don’t see this game being close. For starters, I think there’s been a little bit of an overreaction to the Falcons’ close calls in the last two weeks. In Week 4, Atlanta went up against a motivated Panthers’ team that was looking to rebound after an embarrassing performance on Thursday Night Football. Last week, the Falcons pulled out a tight road victory against Washington, even though Atlanta has been notorious for laying eggs on the road. This week, the Falcons are back in the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome against what I consider to be one of the worst five teams in football. I’ve touched on the Raiders’ cornerback situation in past blogs but I’ll re-iterate that Oakland may be starting the worst pair of cornerbacks in the history of football. Their situation is dire right now and they have absolutely no hope of containing Roddy White and Julio Jones, especially since their pass rush has only been able to muster three sacks this season. Offensively, the Raiders have a favorable matchup with Darren McFadden against a subpar Falcons’ rush defense. Atlanta surrenders a whopping 5.4 yards per carry and will have to try to put an eighth defender into the box to have a chance of containing McFadden. Against most teams, that would pose a problem, but against “Captain Checkdown” Carson Palmer, the Falcons won’t have to worry too much about getting exposed deep down the field. In the end, Atlanta is going to score at will and Oakland will have to keep up. I’m not a big fan of West Coast teams playing 1:00 games on the East Coast either, so that basically solidifies this one for me. Falcons 42, Raiders 20
Cowboys @ Ravens: The Cowboys are a huge public team and there’s always a huge overreaction to their most recent performance. Tony Romo’s five interceptions on Monday Night Football two weeks ago are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and subsequently, most people think there’s no way that Dallas keeps this game close. I think the Cowboys win this game outright. Dallas’ defense has been really good this season and that’s been without the services of their Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff who will finally return from injury this week. Along with Ratliff’s return, the Cowboys will also get outside linebacker Anthony Spencer back from injury, bolstering both their run defense and pass rush. The Ravens’ offensive line has really struggled in the last couple of weeks and with Dallas’ defensive front seven back at full strength, Baltimore will really have their hands full at the point of attack. Defensively, the Ravens are nowhere near the defense that they were last season as they’ve suffered drastically due to the injury of Terrell Suggs. The Ravens have only generated 9 sacks in 5 games this season and haven’t been able to breed a consistent pass rush all season. The Cowboys also get centre Phil Costa back from injury this week and their offensive line should provide Tony Romo with enough time to make consistent throws downfield. Rather than dismissing Baltimore’s last two games where they scraped by the Browns and Chiefs, people should look at the Ravens as a team that is not in good form right now. The Cowboys have been stewing for two weeks now, waiting to prove that their blowout loss to the Bears was a fluke. Cowboys 26, Ravens 21
Lions @ Eagles: I’m not really sure what to do with this game. On one hand, the Lions are coming off of a bye and they’ll throw the kitchen sink at the Eagles because they really can’t afford to fall to 1-4. On the other hand, Detroit reeks on the road and they’re really not a good football team. Philadelphia will win and cover if Andy Reid is willing to run the ball consistently. Anyone who’s watched any Eagles’ games in the past knows that Reid is inept and refuses to run the ball for long periods of time, so this is a big gamble. The Lions have a strong pass rush and their secondary is really underrated, especially with free safety Louis Delmas expected to return from injury this week, so the Eagles won’t get away with passing the ball all day. Considering the fact that Michael Vick is a turnover machine and that the Lions can’t stop the run at all, you’d figure Reid would be smart enough to give LeSean McCoy the rock early and often, but unfortunately that’s not a given. Everything that I just wrote about the Eagles can be written about the Lions as well. Jim Schwartz is a moron and refuses to the run ball, opting to allow Matthew Stafford to drop back and pass 50 times a game. Stafford is also a turnover machine, so you’d figure that Schwartz would take some pressure off the young signal caller by establishing the run, but that’s not the case. Philadelphia has played close games all season long so it’s hard to lay points in what figures to be a close game. It really wouldn’t shock me if the Eagles won this game in a blowout though. Eagles 24, Lions 23
Rams @ Dolphins: I can’t envision a scenario in which the Rams reach double-digit points in this game. Their offensive line is in shambles with Scott Wells, Rodger Saffold, and Rockevious Watkins on the shelf due to injuries. Their starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, is completely useless. Their number one wide receiver, Danny Amendola, is out for at least a month with a broken collarbone. Their starting running back, Steven Jackson, looks like he’s 68-years-old and goes up against the league’s number one rushing defense that surrenders just 2.7 yards per carry. I’m convinced that the Rams’ defense and special teams have a better chance of scoring points than their offense this week. I’m not joking either. Bradford completed two passes after Amendola got injured last week, and just in case you don’t remember, Amendola got hurt in the second quarter! Defensively, St. Louis is an above average group, but they really struggle to stop the run. Reggie Bush has only had one strong rushing performance this season but along with Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, the Dolphins’ rushing attack should be able to consistently move the chains. Ryan Tannehill has definitely exceeded my expectations for him and at this point, I’d much rather side with Tannehill over a bungling Bradford. Dolphins 23, Rams 3
Patriots @ Seahawks: It still amazes me that people don’t realize how much of a home-field advantage the Seahawks have at CenturyLink field. The Patriots will always be an appealing bet because they can score points at will on any given Sunday, but I really like the Seahawks to pull off the upset here. New England has been unstoppable in the last two weeks, but the defenses of the Bills and Broncos are not comparable to that of Seattle. The Seahawks have two big, physical cornerbacks in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman that are fully capable of jamming up the Patriots’ speedy receivers at the line of scrimmage. Tom Brady loves to get rid of the ball quickly, but he won’t be afforded that luxury this week as it will take time for his receivers to get open downfield. New England’s passing attack has also greatly benefited by their newly found running game, but that running game won’t be a factor this week against a stout Seahawks’ front seven that hasn’t surrendered more than 77 rushing yards in a single game this season. On the other side of things, the Seahawks won’t have much success moving the ball consistently either. New England’s defense is a pretty underrated unit that really doesn’t have any significant weaknesses. Russell Wilson is mainly a checkdown quarterback that likes to make a lot of throws underneath, and that seems to be the best way to attack this Patriots’ defense because of their ability to get to the quarterback. In the end, I think Seattle’s defense will force the Patriots into become a one-dimensional offense, while Russell Wilson does just enough to keep the Seahawks ahead. Seahawks 21, Patriots 19
Bills @ Cardinals: This is a tough game to predict because both team’s stocks are low right now. The Bills have been atrocious in the last two weeks, getting blown out by the Patriots and 49ers, but historically this has been a good spot to bet on a team because they’re playing for pride. The Cardinals, on the other hand, just got embarrassed by the Rams on national television and many “experts” have proclaimed that Arizona’s surprise run is over. Buffalo has really gotten away from their running game in the last couple of weeks and they figure to struggle rushing the ball again this week. Arizona’s defensive line is pretty strong and Daryl Washington is one of the best run stopping linebackers in the NFL. If the Bills can’t establish the run, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be forced to throw the ball to win the game and that’s a recipe for disaster. The same goes for the Cardinals. Arizona does not want to put Kevin Kolb in third-and-long situations, especially since he’s been sacked 17 times in the last two weeks, so they’ll look to run the ball as much as possible. With Ryan Williams on injured reserve, the Cardinals will have to make do with the combination of William Powell, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Alfonso Smith. Buffalo gives up a whopping 171.8 rushing yards per game meaning that Arizona should be able to move the ball consistently even with a group of backup running backs. The Bills’ top defensive ends, Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, have not lived up to their preseason expectations, and until they figure things out, the Bills will continue to get dominated at the point of attack. I think Buffalo will give a strong effort but I don’t like their chances in Arizona against a Cardinals team that’s had over a week to prepare for this game. Cardinals 23, Bills 14
Vikings @ Redskins: The Vikings are firing on all cylinders right now, but I think that this is a good spot to bet against them. It seems as though the public is finally off of the Redskins bandwagon, especially due to the fact that Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion last week. Subsequently, we luck out by getting the Redskins as less than a field goal favorite at home. Minnesota does a lot of things right, and their rush defense is one of the best in the league, but Washington presents a different type of rushing threat. The Redskins have moved the ball successfully on the ground in every game this season, and that’s because their quarterback is just as much of a rushing menace as their top running back. The Vikings are also really weak at the cornerback position with old man Winfield and Chris Cook occupying the starting positions. The Redskins love to take shots downfield on play action and I think they’ll be successful on more than one occasion in this matchup. The key for the Redskins in this game is to keep Adrian Peterson in check. Christian Ponder is a great decision maker and isn’t likely to turn the ball over in short yardage situations, so the Redskins will have to try to keep the Vikings in third-and-longs all day. This will only be accomplished if they can continue to stop the run as they’ve done for most of the season, limiting opponents to 87.8 yards per game on the ground. Minnesota is a better all around team than Washington, but I like this matchup for the ‘Skins. Redskins 24, Vikings 17
Giants @ 49ers: The Giants walked into San Francisco in January and knocked off the 49ers for the opportunity to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. While the 49ers are playing at a higher calibre than the Giants right now, not a lot has changed with these two teams. New York is known as a team that plays up or down to the level of their competition, and I think this week will be no different. San Francisco has been nearly perfect in their past couple of games and you can bet that Tom Coughlin is using the media’s proclamation of the 49ers being the best team in the NFC as great bulletin board material. If there’s one weakness with the 49ers defense, it’s their secondary. The Giants will welcome Hakeem Nicks back to the lineup on Sunday, and with the combination of Nicks and Victor Cruz, New York has a big matchup advantage over 49ers’ cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. The Giants don’t figure to run the ball well against San Francisco, but Ahmad Bradshaw can also be used actively in the short passing game against a very aggressive ‘9ers defense. The main question in this game is whether or not the Giants’ defense will finally show up to play. New York has a superb defense on paper, but they haven’t looked the part yet this season, mainly due to big injuries in their secondary. If New York can’t generate a consistent pass rush, Alex Smith will torch them down the field, but I’m counting on Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck to show up this week. I really think that this game will be very similar to the game we watched in the playoffs last season. Eli Manning is too hard to pass up as an underdog, and the Giants play so much better on the road than they do at home. I’ll go with the upset. Giants 20, 49ers 17
Packers @ Texans: In my opinion, this is the hardest game to predict this week. If you’re betting this game on what you’ve seen so far this season, the Texans should roll. But if you bet on football like you bet on the stock market, this is the perfect opportunity to buy low on the Packers and sell high on the Texans. Remember, before the season started, the Packers would have been favoured in this game, and even though the Texans are 5-0 this season, only one of those wins has come against a quality opponent. Houston’s offense is playing at a really high level right now and it’s because their running game is so effective. The Packers aren’t equipped to stop the run, especially with Desmond Bishop on injured reserve and B.J. Raji expected to miss the game due to injury. Green Bay couldn’t keep the Colts running game in check last week, so chances are they’re going to get trampled by Arian Foster and company. The one thing that favors Green Bay here is the Texans’ lack of a downfield threat. Matt Schaub is great at working play action but he rarely throws the ball more than 20 yards downfield because all of his receivers are possession receivers that can’t really stretch the field vertically. This will allow Packers’ safeties Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett to play closer to the line of scrimmage in an attempt to slow down the Texans’ running game. On the other side of the ball, you’d figure it’s only a matter of time before Aaron Rodgers goes off. This could be the game. The Texans’ defensive line is outstanding and can do a great job of applying pressure to the quarterback, but the loss of Brian Cushing is a huge blow. The Texans will now be starting Bradie James and Tim Dobbins at inside linebacker and neither should be a three-down linebacker at this point in their careers. Green Bay will focus all of their efforts on double teaming J.J. Watt and hope that the rest of their offensive line can hold up against the rest of the Texans’ front seven. I think that they can. Even without Greg Jennings and JerMichael Finley at his disposal, I trust Rodgers to move the ball consistently if he has time in the pocket. With the Texans coming off of a short week and this almost being a must win game for the Packers, I think that Rodgers and company find a way to pull it out. Packers 27, Texans 24.
I lost my survivor pick when New England blew it at home in Week 2, but I’ll continue providing my insight on a week-to-week basis. Last week, I went with the Giants over the Browns, and while things got dicey at the start of the game, the Giants ended up winning in a rout. I strongly suggested avoiding the 49ers and Vikings, but both teams won comfortably. In hindsight, it probably would have been a great week to use Minnesota.
My general rules of thumb for making survivor picks are:
a) No division games
b) No road teams
c) No underdogs
I should point out that I occasionally stray from these rules if there is one pick that I’m really confident in.
Most people will be considering one of the following seven games this week:
NY Jets vs. Indianapolis
Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City
Atlanta vs. Oakland
Philadelphia vs. Detroit
Miami vs. St. Louis
Arizona vs. Buffalo
San Francisco vs. NY Giants
I haven’t used any of the teams above, so I could conceivably go with anyone. A lot of people may see this week as an opportunity to take a weaker team like the Jets, Dolphins, or Bucs, but I prefer to go with the safest available option.
I think the only smart play this week is the Falcons over the Raiders. I think Atlanta wins that game about 80-85% of the time, while the next best play is somewhere in the 65-70% range. In order of confidence I’d go with the Falcons, Dolphins, Cardinals, 49ers, and Eagles. There’s no chance in hell I’d take the Bucs or the Jets.
Week 1 – Houston Texans – W 30-13
Week 2 – New England Patriots – L 20-18
Week 3 – Dallas Cowboys – W 16-10
Week 4 – Green Bay Packers – W 28-27
Week 5 – New York Giants – W 41-27
Week 6 – Atlanta Falcons
AGAINST THE SPREADSHEET
Week in and week out, you will get a look at my spreadsheet which shows my confidence in each selection.
The “Strength of Pick” column indicates how confident I am in my selection with 1 being the most confident and 14 being the least confident.
The ‘Initial Reaction’ column indicates my confidence when the game lines were first released late Sunday night/early Monday morning.
The ‘Mid Week’ column indicates my confidence on Wednesday.
The ‘Final Selection’ column indicates my final picks against the spread.
It’s one thing to show you a table indicating who I like in each game, but it’s another thing to actually show you where I’m throwing my money down.
I rate my plays on a scale of 3* to 6* with a 6* play qualifying as my top play. I would estimate that 1 out of every 25 plays earns a 6* distinction, with approximately 50% of my plays earning a 3* distinction.
I hate this week. I should probably pass on the board entirely, but there’s only 17 weeks in the season and I feel the need to make some plays. I’ll go with three underdogs this week.
3* Dallas Cowboys +3.5 (-105) – 5Dimes
You could probably hold out until game time and hope this line gets back up to 4. There seems to be some sharp money on Dallas, but the public may drive this line back up before game time.
3* Kansas City Chiefs +4 (-104) – Pinnacle
The line is at 4 at basically every major sportsbook right now. I’d bet it now. You lose more value if the line goes down to 3.5 than you gain if the line goes up to 4.5. Pinnacle has the best juice right now.
3* Seattle Seahawks +3.5 (-113) – Pinnacle
This line has gone down to 3 in a bunch of spots already so jump on a 3.5 if you can still find one available. This game reeks of a trap with the public hammering New England and sharp money driving the line down.
Here are the results of each individual selection I’ve made this season: