NFL Week 5: Major Matchups in Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco
It may be hard to believe, but the first quarter of the National Football League season is in the books. For Week 5, there are some key matchups that will do a great deal of separating the contenders from the pretenders over the course of this season ((home teams are in CAPS, lines from the Mirage in Las Vegas and the choice for the game in BOLD).
Buffalo Bills (+4) vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS
What looked like a yawner when the schedule was announced in the spring, this game in Cleveland actually will feature two of the more intriguing stories of the NFL season to this point.
The Bills, behind rookie QB E. J. Manuel and the tandem running back setup of C. J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, have been a bit surprising this year even though they are currently in the basement of the AFC East at 2-2. The Browns, after many thought they tanked their season after their Week 2 trade of RB Trent Richardson and benching of QB Brandon Weeden, have run off two consecutive wins (against Minnesota and Cincinnati, two playoff teams from 2012) in getting to 2-2 themselves.
Even though they are on the road, I have bought into the Bills and their efforts to this point in the season. They look to be the much more complete offensive squad (2nd in rushing offense) but will face the 4th ranked rushing defense in the league. I would expect the Bills to keep this one at least close, if not win outright, and cover the spread.
New Orleans Saints vs. CHICAGO BEARS (Pick ‘em)
This is one of the highlight games of the weekend and, if it were in New Orleans, the pick would be tremendously different. The Saints are one of the five unbeaten teams left in the NFL, but their last trip outside of the Superdome was a scary 16-14 win over Tampa Bay in Week 2. These Bears are much better than the Bucs, even after a beating from the Detroit Lions last week, so expect the Bears to come out with something to show the league…by that, I mean a win.
New England Patriots (+1.5) vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS
To this point in the season, I’ve learned two key facts. One, never bet against Peyton Manning unless he has his arm in a sling and, two, same with Tom Brady. While Brady may not have the offensive weapons that Manning has, head coach Bill Belichick has been able to cobble together a stunning 4-0 start. Picking the outright winner here is going to be tough, so I am going to take the points and the Patriots in this game.
Detroit Lions (+7) vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Although the Lions, to this point in the season, remain a mystery, the touchdown spread is way too much to give to the Packers in this game. If Lions RB Reggie Bush comes out like he did against the Bears last weekend – after missing the prior game due to injury – the Packers are going to have a tough job in stopping both Bush and the combo of QB Matthew Stafford and WR Calvin Johnson.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) vs. TENNESSEE TITANS
Perhaps the change in scenery was all that head coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith needed. The Chiefs are one of the five teams still unbeaten in the NFL and, other than their squeaker over Dallas in Week 2, all have been convincing wins. QB Jake Locker is out for the next 4-6 weeks, putting former Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting role. There’s a reason he’s a backup now and the Chiefs will take advantage of that situation.
Seattle Seahawks vs. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (+3)
It’s hard to pick on the Seahawks this year. Although they have enjoyed tremendous success at home over the past two seasons under head coach Pete Carroll, the road used to be a problem. That has slowly begun to change, with wins against Carolina and last week in overtime against the Houston Texans, and it is hard to doubt that the ‘Hawks can’t go into Indy and pull this game off.
With this said, the Colts just aren’t going to lay down to them. This is going to be a grind it out affair between the 4th (Indy) and 5th (Seattle) ranked rushing attacks, leading to the difference maker in the quarterbacks. Even though ‘Hawks QB Russell Wilson is more mobile, I’ll take Colts QB Andrew Luck to be the difference maker and at least keep this close.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. ST. LOUIS RAMS (-12)
Ugh…one abysmal team against another that always looks like it is about to break out but then only disappoints you. Consider these facts, however: between two quarterbacks, Jacksonville has scored 31 points (average: about 7.5 per game). For the season, Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew has 138 TOTAL yards rushing (beaten by three players – Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush – last week alone) AND the Jaguars just traded one of their best offensive linemen, Eugene Monroe, to Baltimore this week.
If you’re betting on this game, you’re either a family member of one of the players or you just have too much cash lying around and want to waste it.
Baltimore Ravens vs. MIAMI DOLPHINS (-3)
In the past, this would have been a Ravens beatdown of the ‘Fins. Not this year – or at least this game – between these two. Ravens RB Ray Rice is still hobbled by his bum hip and, although the Ravens slipped by Buffalo last week, they won’t have enough firepower in this game. The Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Miami gang will rebound from their showing in New Orleans on Monday night and take this one by more than the spread.
Philadelphia Eagles (+2) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
If there is one “do or die” game on the Week 5 schedule, it is this contest in New Jersey. The Eagles have shown they can rack up some points with their offense, but their defense hasn’t stopped anyone. There are a couple of problems with the Giants, namely their offense and their defense. The winner of this game at least tries to keep pace in the NFC East; the loser (and I expect it to be the Giants) might just as well call the season over now.
Carolina Panthers vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (+2.5)
This is one of those games where you don’t know which team is going to show up. Are we going to see a refreshed Carolina team, coming off a bye week after a crushing win over the Giants? Are we going to see a Cardinals team that has a couple of nice wins over Detroit and Tampa Bay? Although Arizona traded OL Levi Brown this week to the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have an adequate backup (Arizona brass says Brown was “underperforming”) and shouldn’t miss a beat in taking this game with the ‘Cats from Charlotte.
Denver Broncos (-7.5) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS
This is another of the “marquee matchups” this week, although it won’t turn out to be that way. There is no reason to expect that the Peyton Manning juggernaut is going to stop anytime soon. The Broncos haven’t exactly faced stiff opposition on defense in starting the season 4-0 and the Cowboys’ 27th ranked passing defense doesn’t bode well for them. The best hope for the ‘Pokes is that they can actually keep Manning off the field, run the ball with RB DeMarco Murray and try to keep this score close.
Houston Texans vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (-7)
From all appearances last weekend in Houston, the wheels are beginning to come off the Texans bandwagon. QB Matt Schaub was booed mercilessly and, over the past week, there have been rumblings of discontent from Texas. After a long rest (they last played on September 26), the 49ers should be well prepared to take down this game against a beleaguered Texan unit.
San Diego Chargers vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (+5)
This game features two teams that, looking up the leaderboard, are watching two teams (Denver and Kansas City) run away with the division. Whoever wins this game will still have a (slim) shot at challenging those two teams.
With the change in game time to 8:30 Pacific Time, the “Black Hole” should be well juiced and looking for blood in this game. The Raiders will welcome back QB Terrelle Pryor after a week off due to a concussion and this will help them keep the game close. Chargers QB Phillip Rivers is having a rebirth of sorts this year, however, and the ‘Bolts will win, but the Raiders will cover the spread.
New York Jets vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (-10)
The Falcons are facing some desperate times. Coming off a loss to New England last Sunday night (and watching their rival New Orleans Saints get off to a spotless start), the boys from the Dirty South have to get their game in gear. Fortunately for them, the Jets are coming to town and shouldn’t provide much opposition in the Falcons’ effort to right the ship.
Last Week: Our third consecutive week of 50% or better picks, finishing at 9-5-1. If you can constantly stay ahead of the .500 line, you’re going to be successful at picking NFL games by the spread.
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