Spread ‘Em: NFL Week Six Picks
Posted by Andrew Zercie on October 16, 2009
It seems that this season, more than any other I can remember, making picks against the spread has been relatively easy. I’ve gone 19-9 in the last two weeks, and my record for the season stands at 47-29. I must be doing something right. Hopefully, my faithful readers out see that I’m not just lucky, I’m consistent.
Keep in mind though, that all picks are for entertainment purposes only. I’m not in the business of making guarantees, just sound judgments.
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…well…there’s always ESPN, right?
Here now are the week six picks, with the home team in bold.
Kansas City (+6.5) over Washington
The Chiefs can’t run the ball. They needed to force four turnovers to even be competitive at home against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Matt Cassel’s performances have been spotty at best. The Chiefs’ defense hasn’t stopped anyone.
And yet, I’m taking Kansas City this week.
What am I thinking?
I’m thinking there are fewer storm clouds hovering over the Chiefs. I’m thinking the Chiefs are hungry to get their first win. I’m thinking Kansas City coach Todd Haley will give Jamal Charles more touches and continue to phase out Larry Johnson. I’m thinking Daniel Snyder will pace the sidelines and wonder who his coach will be next year.
Chiefs 20, Redskins 17
Cincinnati (-5) over Houston
I have some hesitation in picking Cincinnati. With some challenges behind them, and the Bears and Ravens coming to Cincinnati in the coming weeks, this has all the makings of a classic “trap game.” For the uninitiated, “trap” games happen when good teams look past mediocre or poor teams toward the tougher games on their schedule. The good team relaxes and, if they’re not careful, they lose.
However, the Texans aren’t built to win against the Bengals. They don’t run the ball, and their offense is based on moving the ball through the air. Additionally, Houston’s defense is ineffective against the run and the pass. If the Bengals get caught in a shootout, they will survive. Most likely though, Cincinnati will control the time of possession, thanks to Cedric Benson, and keep Houston’s offense off the field to mitigate any damage their skill players may cause.
Bengals 31, Texans 21
Pittsburgh (-14) over Cleveland
The Steelers return home, coming off a game against the Detroit Lions that wound up too close for comfort, and face a team they should pulverize. Cleveland can do little right, yet somehow managed to win a road game in Buffalo last week. They had their Super Bowl, and the Steelers had their wakeup call, in a sense. Troy Polamalu returns, Rashard Mendenhall has revitalized the running game, and the Steelers should cruise to victory.
Steelers 34, Browns 10
Minnesota (-3) over Baltimore
It wasn’t too long ago that many were proclaiming the Ravens the Next Great Team to come out of the AFC. Two losses later, the Ravens are in danger of falling behind the Bengals and Steelers in the AFC North race. They need this game badly.
The Vikings’ run defense should stifle the Ravens’ tandem of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, forcing the Ravens into more passing situations. While Baltimore has a solid offensive line, the Vikings’ defensive ends have been on fire lately, especially Jared Allen. I expect the Vikings’ defense to be a big factor in this game.
Also, Adrian Peterson relishes challenges. Facing the vaunted Baltimore run defense certainly qualifies, and Peterson has the ability to gash the Ravens for 100 or more yards. If he does, this could go from a close contest to a surprising blowout.
Vikings 24, Ravens 18
St. Louis (+10) over Jacksonville
The Rams are in the middle of one of the worst stretches of play in NFL history. St. Louis has lost 14 straight dating back to last season. They are mistake-prone and can’t stop anyone on defense. Then again, the Jaguars aren’t much better.
Jacksonville is just 3-7 in their last ten games, dating back to last season, and the Jaguars are coming off a 41-0 drubbing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. They have struggled on defense thus far and have proven to be wildly inconsistent this year.
As bad as the Rams have been, I don’t trust the Jaguars to put together the type of performance necessary to win by double digits. While I expect the Jags to ultimately win, I think the Rams will show a little pride and make it tough on them.
Jaguars 24, Rams 17
New Orleans (-3) over NY Giants
Many believe this could be the game of the week. Me? I’m not buying it.
If anything, this game could cement the notion that the Saints are the team to beat in the NFC this year.
I know I said a few weeks ago that the Giants look like the best team in the NFL, but upon further review, their schedule to this point doesn’t suggest they are a juggernaut. The best team they’ve played has been the Dallas Cowboys, and they snuck out of Dallas with a 33-31 win. By comparison, the Saints roughed up the Jets and Eagles, and have yet to play a close game this season.
Eli Manning will play with an injured foot for the remainder of the season, and this game is on turf against an opportunistic New Orleans defense. With the way the Saints play against the run, I can see them forcing Manning into some poor choices when throwing the football.
On offense, the Saints are versatile, gaining yardage on the ground and through the air with equal ease. While Pierre Thomas may struggle against the Giants, Drew Brees and his wide range of receiving options should pick up the slack.
Saints 27, Giants 21
Carolina (-3.5) over Tampa Bay
As bad as Jake Delhomme has been (13 interceptions in his last five games), the Tampa Bay defense has been worse. I expect Delhomme to have a pretty good day and for Steve Smith to find the space necessary to make big plays.
The Buccaneers can present problems for the Panthers, too. Since neither team can stop the run, Tampa Bay can control the tempo of the game by using their running backs and holding onto the ball. However, inexperienced QB Josh Johnson will be tested by Carolina’s defense, and forced to convert third downs. If he can do that, this game will be closer than many think. I’m betting that he won’t be able to come through.
Panthers 28, Buccaneers 17
Green Bay (-13.5) over Detroit
The Packers are coming off their bye week and should get left tackle Chad Clifton back for this game, so Aaron Rodgers should be better-protected. After losing two weeks ago to the Vikings, Green Bay needs a win to get back on track. Rodgers should have a field day.
I wanted to pick the Lions to cover in this game, but the crisp weather, the unknown availability of WR Calvin Johnson, and the extra week of preparation and rest for Green Bay are all factors in how well Green Bay should play in this game.
Packers 35, Lions 20
Philadelphia (-14) over Oakland
How bad are the Raiders? They are two-touchdown underdogs at home. Frankly, I think the spread on this could have been 20, and I’d still have taken the Eagles. They trump Oakland in every facet of the game by a significant amount. So long as they play mistake-free football, the Eagles should cruise to an easy win.
Richard Seymour must be counting the days until free agency.
Eagles 37, Raiders 10
Seattle (-3) over Arizona
The Arizona Cardinals are allowing a whopping 303 passing yards per game. Granted, some of that is due to teams trying to rally against the Cardinals, and the quickest way to move the ball is through the air (for instance, the Houston Texans last week). Still, how effective can the Cardinals’ defense be if they’re allowing teams to throw on them and get back into games in the first place?
That statistic should be a scary one for Cardinals fans though, as Matt Hasselbeck demonstrated last week that he was both healthy and on-target with his receivers. With both teams relying heavily on the pass, due to ineffective running games, I expect this game to be a shootout. Being at home, where they seem to play inspired football, should be an advantage for the Seahawks, a bigger one than the spread suggests I think.
Seahawks 31, Cardinals 24
NY Jets (-9.5) over Buffalo
It seems like it’s been ages since the Bills nearly defeated the Patriots in Foxboro and showed signs of being a legitimate contender in the AFC East this season. After their horrendous loss to the Cleveland Browns last week, the Bills’ season is quickly spiraling out of control. It’s only a matter of time before Terrell Owens disparages Trent Edwards, right?
Meanwhile, the Jets have gone from being the darlings of the New York media, to losing two straight and needing this game to stay atop the AFC East. After having their running game stuffed by the Saints last week, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington should rebound against the Bills’ porous run defense (155 rush yards allowed per game). This will take pressure off QB Mark Sanchez and reduce his opportunities to make potential mistakes in the passing game.
Jets 24, Bills 13
Tennessee (+9.5) over New England
The Patriots are capable of blowing the Titans out of the water, don’t get me wrong. Tom Brady could absolutely pick the Titans’ poor pass defense apart in this game. I also have no faith in the Titans’ ability to move the ball in passing situations.
The basis for this pick, however, goes back to my disclaimer. I sometimes rely on flawed logic and person opinion when I make these picks, despite whatever research I do leading up to writing. The weather on Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., is supposed to be lousy: cold, rainy and windy. While Brady and Co. have been able to pass the ball in bad weather conditions in the past, the Patriots don’t run the ball particularly well. Usually, in bad weather situations, it helps to run the ball as opposed to relying almost exclusively on the pass, as New England does.
I still say the Patriots win, but I think the weather, and a possible last-ditch effort by Tennessee to save their season, factors in here.
Patriots 24, Titans 17
Atlanta (-3) over Chicago
The key to this game for the Bears will be containing Michael Turner. Last week, he nearly churned out 100 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns against a San Francisco defense that was supposed to be good. If Turner gets loose for a few big runs early, it will allow Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan to pick apart the Bears’ secondary.
The fly in the ointment for the Falcons could be the play of Jay Cutler, the Bears’ QB. If he’s turnover-free in this game, the Bears have a realistic shot at upsetting the Falcons and thrusting themselves into the conversation about which teams are the best in the NFC. In two of his last three games Cutler hasn’t thrown an interception, and he’s been efficient (100+ QB rating) in every game since the season-opener.
All that said, between the home-field advantage, the receivers Ryan has at his disposal, and the likelihood for Turner to break a couple of long runs, the Falcons are the pick.
Falcons 24, Bears 20
Denver (+4) over San Diego
Denver’s beaten three winning teams (Bengals, Patriots, and Cowboys), all of whom have legitimate playoff aspirations. They have one of the league’s best defenses thus far, and the offense is improving.
San Diego is 2-2, but their wins come with disclaimers. Their first win came at Oakland, and required late-game heroics. The second win came against the Dolphins, and required an injury to Miami starting QB Chad Pennington to put the Dolphins’ offense in the hands of an inexperienced backup before the Chargers could take the lead.
And yet, San Diego is favored? I must be missing something here.
The Chargers give up an average of 151 yards per game on the ground, and over 360 yards per game overall. Denver’s running back tandem of Corell Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno must be giddy at the thought of facing this defense.
I know the Chargers are getting LaDanian Tomlinson back for this game, but they’re not getting the 2006 version of him. They’re getting the 2009 version: the broken-down, over-the-hill, lost-a-step version. To top it off, this version of LT is facing one of the top run defenses in the league. Good luck with that, LT.
Denver is better in all facets. They can move the ball, control the clock, take care of the ball, and stop the other team from gaining yardage and scoring. All San Diego has going for them is home-field advantage, an extra week of rest and preparation, and sandy beaches. I’ll take the better football team, thanks.
Denver 27, San Diego 13