Thursday, October 04, 2007

NFL picks, week 5

Arizona (-3.5) at St. Louis - If you'd told me a month ago that Arizona would be favored in this game, I would not have believed it. Given the way that the teams have played thus far, the line actually looks low. It is always risky to bet on a team tasting success for the first time to go on the road as a favorite and handle it well, but the Rams have done nothing thus far to suggest that they're a threat to anyone. It's a trap, but I'm going to fall into it anyway. Cardinals win and cover.

Atlanta at Tennessee (-8) - Atlanta played the game last week that I've been expecting from them. Now that they've done it, I don't really expect a repeat. 8 is a lot to give with the Titans, who are not going to be offensively spectacular. I think that they'll win, but the Falcons will end up keeping it relatively close, inside the spread.

Carolina at New Orleans (-3) - Is there a way to bet both of these teams to lose? As much as last year looks like a fluke for New Orleans, I'm thinking that they've got to win one eventually. I also think that, when they do play well, they'll explode on someone, and win big. I'm guessing that it's this week.

Cleveland at New England (-17) - There will come a time when the Patriots and the betting public force the line to a point where I won't think that they'll cover. (Warning - I'll pick them anyway.) But this isn't that time. When a team is averaging a margin of victory of more than 20 points, well, you ride that roll until it ends.

Detroit at Washington (-3.5) - OK, good, awful, scinillating - the Detroit Lions are Forrest Gump's mama's box of chocolates. Joe Gibbs is one of the great coaches in the history of the NFL, but this stint in Washington has been a disappointment thus far. I can see either team winning this, and no good reason to pick either. The Lions are far more likely to both win and lose by blowout; the Redskins are far more likely to play a close game. This week, the close game wins out, and Washington wins by 4-7.

Jacksonville (-2) at Kansas City - I was trying to come up with something that would convince me that Kansas City is a good team. Winning at San Diego? Nope. Beating Jacksonville at home? Nope. They could run the table, win the Super Bowl, and I'll still think that they've gotten lucky against weak competition. But I'm not expecting that...

Miami at Houston (-5.5) - Houston was favored last week, and got their butts kicked by the previously winless Falcons. They're favored by a larger margin this week, and they'll handle it better. Miami's going to help a lot of struggling teams get better this year. Two weeks ago, it was the Jets, last week, the Raiders. This week, it's Houston's turn.

N.Y. Jets at N.Y. Giants (-3) - How do beat the Jets? Cover the middle of the field within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, and dare the Jets to beat you over the top or on deep outs. They can't do it. The Giants can be beaten deep, but not by the Jets. Chad Pennington may be one of the smartest and most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, but he can't throw the ball more than 20 yards without it floating. The Jets have got to have perfect drives that take lots of plays to score. They won't have enough of them. Giants cover.

Seattle at Pittsburgh (-6) - Both of these teams have lost to the Cardinals, in Arizona, by similar margins. Seattle actually was closer to winning in the desert than Pittsburgh was. The Seahawks are also nursing a grudge, operating under the delusion that the officiating cost them the game the last time these two teams met, in Super Bowl XL. Regardless (and I'd love to be wrong) the Steelers win pretty easily.

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis (-10) - I could actually see the Buccaneers putting a scare into the Colts this week. If Sanders, Harrison and Addai are all out. And if John Gruden, unlike Mike Shanahan, has the sense to keep running the ball and if Gruden, unlike Shanahan, has the guts to go for it on fourth and short in the red zone as opposed to settling for field goals. I'm rooting for the Bucs to win. I'm picking the Colts to win. But Tampa beats the spread.

Baltimore (-3) at San Francisco - Finally, the Ravens face an offense the allows them to continue the pretense of being big and scary defensively. Baltimore thrives when allowed to be bullies - the 49ers are weak enough offensively to allow just that. Baltimore wins and covers.

San Diego at Denver (pick 'em) - The "bests" of the west. Are they both behind Oakland and Kansas City right now? That's hard to believe, but there's been no evidence to the contrary thus far. Denver's got the better coach, and home field advantage. As unimpressive as the Broncos have been thus far, if the Chargers can't beat the Chiefs at home, what reason is to expect them to go in to Denver and win? I can't see one.

Chicago at Green Bay (-3.5) - Chicago's 2006 run to the Super Bowl was built on an occasional spectacular performance from Rex Grossman, and a defense that would overcome his mistakes the rest of the time. They've got 0 of those assets this week, and that's about the same as their odds of keeping it competitive in Green Bay this week.

Dallas (-10) at Buffalo - Congratulations to the Buffalo Bills, because that was a performance that no one expected last week. They were in position to lose, and keep losing. They overcame a tremendous amount of adversity to come out of that game with a win. Unfortunately, that one's going to have to hold them for a while. They'll play tough again, but not tough enough to stay within two touchdowns of a Dallas team that looks like a real team and not an NFC pretender.

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