It is time for my fifth week of NFL picks against the spread. I am coming off a second consecutive 8-7 week. I called outright upsets the Bills and Saints. However, I foolishly put my faith in the Browns while continuing to doubt the Vikings. I am off to another good start this week with Arizona’s blowout win Thursday night. For the year, I am now 29-33-2. When picking against the spread anything close to .500 is respectable. So, I am happy. My picks for this week are in bold and outright upsets have asterisk.
Bears at Colts (-4.5) – You will not find a game all year between two teams with more issues. The Colts are on the verge of the season that would see everybody in the organization lose their jobs with the exception of quarterback Andrew Luck and owner Jim Irsay if it continues this way. The Bears picked up a surprising win with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer against Detroit last week. Make no mistake, they are still banged up and not doing anything well. If the Bears can somehow get this win, John Fox may have something to think about when Jay Cutler gets healthy. However, I just do not think the Colts are as bad as a home loss to Chicago would make them. Ind 24 Chi 13
Texans at Vikings (-6.5) – I am finally picking the Vikings this week. They are very good, but the lack of any kind of sustained offensive rhythm still makes it hard for me to accept this team as one of the best in the league. Unless this defense is truly great, which is entirely possible, they will eventually break down from carrying the rest of the team. It will be interesting to see who picks up the slack in terms of catches for Minnesota with top threat Stefon Diggs likely out. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler and the Texans offense just do not have anything they can trouble an elite defense like the Vikings. Min 20 Hou 9
Patriots (-10.5) at Browns- Yes, Tom Brady is back, but he is also human and Cleveland continues to play people tough in losses. I expect Brady to be a little rusty. Thus, the Browns find a way to keep this within such a massive spread. NE 24 Cle 15
Jets at Steelers (-7.5) – Is there a team that has regressed more from last year than the Jets? It really does not make much sense. They were above the .500 and made no significant personnel changes, at least none that were clearly for the worse. They are turning the ball over at an alarming rate Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown nine interceptions in the last two games. If you have issues that need fixing, Pittsburgh is a terrible place to go. This will get ugly. Pit 34 NYJ 13
Eagles (-3.5) at *Lions – The Eagles are one of two teams in this league I cannot figure out. This team being undefeated with a rookie head coach and quarterback as well as very few established play-makers on either side of the ball defies logic. I expect the Lions high-powered offense to come out firing after laying an egg last week in Chicago. The Eagles remind me a little bit of the 2011 Bengals who made the playoffs behind then rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. That team also had its share of surprising losses. With that is my logic, I will take the Lions here. I still think this team is one of the most dangerous in the league. A 1-3 record is not indicative of the talent they have, particularly on offense. Det 31 Phi 27
Titans at Dolphins (-3.5) – This game will go on as scheduled despite Hurricane Matthew. There are much more important things going on in Florida right now than a football game between two lousy teams, but the Dolphins are my favorite bet of the week. As you may know by now, I love teens that were humiliated on national TV the following week. I was at the Dolphins game last Thursday in Cincinnati. They cannot possibly be any worse, and Tennessee skinks to begin with. I expect Miami to come out like gangbusters here. Mia 31 Ten 17.
Redskins at Ravens (-3.5) – Despite last week’s loss, I am still a charter member of the Ravens bandwagon. They found that nice little running game last week with Terrace West. That will only help Joe Flacco going forward. Also, for the first time in his career, he has about five legitimate pass catching targets at his disposal. The defense is work in progress, but it does not need to be great. Washington is banged up in the secondary and their win over Cleveland last week was not exactly convincing. They are a team that has not terrible at anything, but also not particularly good at anything. The Ravens will put up some huge offensive numbers here. Bal 34 Was 20
Falcons at Broncos (-4.5) – I keep looking for a week to pick against my Broncos. This isn’t it. Paxton Lynch will make his first career start for Denver here for a mildly injured Trevor Siemian. The formula is the same. He is driving a Ferrari, all he has to do is not strip the gears. Atlanta has been a pleasant surprise. I am very aware of what Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are capable of. However, it is almost impossible to pick against this defense at home. Den 28 Atl 20
*Bills at Rams (PK) – The Rams are the other team that is mystifying to me. After an embarrassing Monday night shutout start year, they have rattled off three straight behind a tremendous pass rush. However, they can only make up for the team’s offensive deficiencies for so long. They just do not have anything on the offensive side of the ball that makes me think that this start is anything more than a fun mirage. Even Todd Gurley has struggled to find running room, which makes their start all the more inexplicable. Do not ask me how this team is 3-1. I have no clue, but credit to them. Despite everybody burying him after two weeks, Rex Ryan has the Bills playing really well. Both these teams go about their business in the same way, physical, smart, and conservative. It is not flashy, but has proven effective for both teams as of late. I think the Bills do it just a little better. Buf 16 LA 14
Bengals (-2) at Cowboys- Both teams struggle in the red zone. Cincinnati has their star receiver, Dallas is missing theirs. I think this game will come down to who can make one big-play and avoid the red zone altogether to score a late touchdown. With Dez Bryant out again, the Bengals are far better equipped to do that. Cin 28 Dal 24
*Chargers at Raiders (-3.5) – For me, this is the most interesting game of the week. For the second time this year the public has fallen in love with the Raiders after an impressive road victory. The first time that happened, they went home and got their doors kicked in by Atlanta. If the Raiders want to sit at the big kid table, they have to win games like this. Until they show me they can, I will pick against them every time in this spot. Also, San Diego’s 1-3 record is a little misleading. They have led at the two minute warning in every game this season. SD 24 Oak 20
Giants at Packers (-7) – I thought this line would be closer. I know the Giants were terrible on Monday night against the Vikings, but that offense packs enough punch to scare anyone. Conversely, the last time we saw the Packers they did their very best to blow a 31- 3 lead against Detroit two weeks ago. Both teams are much better on offense than they are on defense. I think scoring will come easy for both Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. So, it is hard for me to see this game getting out of hand. That being said, the home team will still win it. GB 38 NYG 34
MNF: Bucs at Panthers (-5) – Derrick Anderson will start for the injured Cam Newton here. He is one of the league’s most capable backups. This game of two 1-3 teams features one team that is struggling, but has proven it knows how to win, and another that is still learning how to win. I am going to assume that anyone who reads this will know which is which. Car 24 TB 14