Master Procrastinator

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Spread ‘Em: NFL Week Five Picks

Posted by Andrew Zercie on October 8, 2009

Early candidate for Coach of the Year?

Early candidate for Coach of the Year?

I was back on track last week, going 9-5 in the games played. It would be nice to have back-to-back strong showings to build on my 37-25 record on the season.

As always, I base my picks on flawed logic, personal opinion, age-old gambling trends, and matchups. If you’re looking for high-end analysis…I do what I can with what I’ve been blessed with.

Here now are the week five picks, with the home team in bold. Picks are for entertainment purposes only, of course.

Minnesota (-10) over St. Louis

A small part of me wanted to pick the Rams in this one. There will be a natural letdown from Brett Favre and his teammates because they won’t be pitted against the Green Bay Packers this week. Additionally, the Vikings played their last game on Monday Night Football at home, giving them a short week to prepare and travel.

Upon further review though, the Rams have scored 24 points on the season, and have been outscored through the first four weeks by a combined 84 points. They’ve been shutout twice already and, given the quality of their opponent this week, could be in for another blowout loss.

Vikings, 31-6

Dallas (-8.5) over Kansas City

After getting outmuscled and outplayed in Denver last week, the Cowboys move on to Arrowhead Stadium, another tough venue for a visiting team to play in. However, the Chiefs are not talented enough to challenge the Cowboys. Dallas will likely have Marion Barber closer to full strength in this game, which should allow the Cowboys to grind out a large chunk of yards on the ground, putting Tony Romo in more favorable passing situations.

I would not be stunned to see the Chiefs keep this game close; there is talent on Kansas City that is developing and improving. The Cowboys should come into this game looking to atone for last week though, and they may put this one away early.

Cowboys, 27-13

Carolina (-3.5) over Washington

I was torn in making a pick for this game. The Redskins were recently placed on my “Do Not Bet On” list, based on their poor performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week four. Carolina, thanks to their turnover-prone QB Jake Delhomme, has not proven to be a safe pick this year either.

Ultimately, I am taking Carolina because the Panthers have two things working in their favor:

1) They come off the bye week, which means they had extra time to prepare.

2) They are playing the Worst 2-2 Team In NFL History, the 2009 Redskins.

When I write that I rely on age-old gambling trends, I don’t joke: teams that host games following their bye week usually cover the spread. Hello Carolina!

Panthers, 24-14

Philadelphia (-15) over Tampa Bay

This game feels like a high school homecoming game. Remember the homecoming game? The home team almost always scheduled a doormat for homecoming so that they could have a guaranteed win on the schedule for all the alumni to enjoy.

There’s more to this pick than the whole “homecoming game” vibe. The Eagles will benefit from coming off the bye week and hosting this game. They will be well-rested. Donovan McNabb will play, and Brian Westbrook will be the healthiest he’s been all year.

Picking a team that’s favored by 15 points though, whether they are home or away, means the bettor has absolutely no faith in the ability of the underdog to cover the spread. That’s exactly how I feel about the Buccaneers, who have yet to show they can stop the run, stop the pass, or move the ball effectively to build sustained drives on offense.

Eagles, 34-9

NY Giants (-15.5) over Oakland

The over/under on men doing yard work during the early games on the NFL schedule this week is 45 million. I’m taking the over. Man, there are some ugly games on the docket.

I digress…

My only fear about picking the Giants is that I do so without knowing that Eli Manning will play. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants held Manning out of this one and used David Carr as the quarterback, knowing that they can win regardless of who’s under center. Of course, for the sake of the spread, and my pick, I’m rooting for Eli to play. Otherwise, this may be a wasted pick. It’s a risk I’m willing to take though.

Giants, 31-10

Cleveland (+6) over Buffalo

The Browns nearly pulled off an upset over the Cincinnati Bengals last week, and may pull off the feat this week in Buffalo, thanks in large part to the Braylon Edwards deal.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: Edwards was the Browns’ most talented offensive player. However, I found it odd last week when he didn’t catch a single ball last week from Derek Anderson, a quarterback that had developed a strong rapport with on the field. Then, Edwards wound up on the police blotter and, about 24 hours later, he wound up in a Jets uniform via trade. It’s enough to make one wonder if the Browns’ front office should apply for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in the category of “Fastest Disassociation with Soon-to-Be Suspended Receiver in NFL History.”

Free of the burden of Braylon Edwards now, perhaps the Browns march into Orchard Park, NY, and surprise the Bills. Addition by subtraction? When one is making a pick between two teams in tailspins, one looks for any edge they can think of. So, I’ll go with the “Better Without Braylon” angle.

Browns, 17-14

Cincinnati (+8.5) over Baltimore

When I made my decision on which team to pick in this game, I used the following logic: is it easier to make a case for a Bengals upset, or a Ravens blowout win?

The Ravens could come into this game with something to prove; several members of the team believe they should have beaten the Patriots last week. A fired-up Ravens’ defense could spell doom for the Bengals.

While I fully expect the Ravens to win this game, I think the Bengals’ defense is better than in years past and, quite possibly, it can limit what the Ravens can do offensively. Additionally, the Ravens can be scored upon, and the Bengals have a quality offense.

Looks like the case for a close, competitive game wins.

Ravens, 24-20

Pittsburgh (-10.5) over Detroit

The emergence of Rashard Mendenhall against the San Diego Chargers last week revitalized the Steelers’ running game. Now, with Mendenall the lead back, the Steelers have a full complement of offensive weapons. They should have little trouble scoring points this week.

The Lions are a work in progress. They are a better football team compared to last season, but remain young, inexperienced, and lacking in talent in some key areas. They may make a few plays in this one, but I don’t expect a close contest.

Steelers, 31-14

Atlanta (+2.5) over San Francisco

The Falcons come into this game fresh off the bye week. Their running game, which was their bread-and-butter last season, has struggled thus far. I’m sure a good portion of the last two weeks was spent figuring out ways to create holes for RB Michael Turner. As good as the 49ers are against the run, I believe he’ll have his best day of the young 2009 season.

Atlanta’s defense, which has given up nearly 400 yards per game, should benefit from missing 49ers star RB Frank Gore, who is out with an ankle injury. Glenn Coffee is a solid backup to Gore, but the Falcons will likely make QB Shaun Hill beat them by passing the ball.

I expect a close game; the 49ers have a playoff-caliber defense themselves. However, I think the 49ers’ lack of playmakers on offense will cost them.

Falcons, 24-21

Denver (+3) over New England

Both the Broncos and Patriots come into this game with something to prove.

For the Patriots, they need to prove that their revamped defense (4th in yards allowed per game) is playoff-caliber. Tom Brady, four games into his comeback from missing the 2008 season, needs to prove that he can make plays in the face of a high-quality defense, something he wasn’t able to do against the Jets in week two.

The Denver Broncos need to prove they can withstand the rigors of their upcoming schedule. The defense needs to show it can slow down Brady and a talented offense. Ultimately, the Broncos need to win this game to not only prove the remaining naysayers they are for real, but to build on their current 3-0 record within the AFC.

Denver won’t go 16-0. However the combination of being at home, playing great defense, and remaining mistake-free on offense will be too much for the Patriots to overcome.

Broncos, 21-17

Arizona (-5.5) over Houston

The Cardinals are another team coming off a bye week and hosting a game. I find it difficult to bet against teams in this situation, no matter how they’ve played thus far in the season.

Both these teams have struggled at various times and are, in many ways, similar. Neither of these team have done well running the ball; both teams are pass-oriented on offense. Neither team can stop the opposition from effectively moving the ball through the air. This has all the makings of being a shootout.

One key difference though is in run defense, where the Cardinals have limited opponents to a shade under 80 yards per game, while the Texans give up an average of 165 yards per game. With two weeks off to game-plan for the Texans, this could be a breakout game for the Cardinals’ running backs.

Cardinals, 27-20

Jacksonville (+1) over Seattle

Just two weeks ago, I was of the belief the Jaguars were reeling. Two weeks later, the Jags have won two in a row and, looking ahead, could conceivably be 6-2 heading into their matchup with the NY Jets in week 10. My, how things have changed.

The Seahawks are vulnerable in this game because they struggle at stopping the run, and the Jaguars boast the dynamic running back, Maurice Jones-Drew. While Matt Hasselbeck returns to start at QB for Seattle, he isn’t bringing a star running back or a dynamic passing game with him.

Jaguars, 28-21

Indianapolis (-3.5) over Tennessee

I was surprised to see the spread was so low for this game. It’s as if Las Vegas is still setting the lines based on last year still (see Broncos vs. Patriots as another example).

The Colts are 4-0; the Titans are 0-4. Peyton Manning is off to one of the best starts of his career, while Kerry Collins looks like a journeyman QB hanging on by a thread to his starting job. The Colts’ offense is gaining over 400 yards per game. The Titans’ defense is among the league’s worst to this point.

I suppose if Tennessee won their next 12 games, they have a shot at the playoffs. Don’t look for that to happen though, because their schedule is brutal.

Colts, 27-18

Miami (+2) over NY Jets

The Dolphins thumped the Buffalo Bills last week. The Jets held their own against the Saints but, ultimately, came up short.

So far this season, the Dolphins have been significantly better at home this year. In addition to their rout of Buffalo, they nearly knocked off the Colts in a well-played week two loss. Miami will look to run the ball, control the time of possession, and try not to make any turnovers.

 As well as the Jets have played in the early going, this will be an important game for this team. Like the Baltimore Ravens teams of a few years ago, the defense will carry the Jets as far as they will go. The Jets need to be challenged and face some adversity. Miami will happily provide the Jets what they need, and more.

Dolphins, 20-13

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