Week 5: 10-4, 2-2 on recommended picks
Overall: 48-29 (62%), 12-8 on recommended picks (60%)
10-4 is another solid week picking games, but I’m still struggling with which games to recommend. There are still more high-level upsets going on this year than in the recent past.
Which really begs the question I asked on our radio show this past week – is there a changing of the guard at the top of the NFL going in right now?
You may know that I picked Houston over San Francisco in the Super Bowl. Those picks are still looking very solid – but the Niners’ earlier loss to the Vikings looked like a stunning upset at the time.
Now Minnesota is looking like a very good – if not elite team. So is Atlanta at 5-0, despite a couple of recent narrow escapes. Ditto for Baltimore at 4-1. Maybe it’s time to add Chicago and Arizona, who are both also 4-1, to that list? Or at least acknowledge that those teams are more likely to be playoff-bound than most had predicted at the start of the season. For that matter, how about the NFC West – a division most regarded as the weakest in the NFL – having all 4 of its teams with winning records and a combined 14-6?
At the other end, what do we make of perennial powers like the Patriots, Steelers, Packers and Saints? Are the Saints a doormat at 1-4, or does their win over the Chargers and -13 point differential point to a likely surge in the standings? Are New England, Pittsburgh and Green Bay just off to slow starts from which they will ultimately recover – or will any or all of them struggle to make the playoffs?
And what about Detroit and Tennessee? They were supposed to be playoff bubble teams – but they are both playing their way into holes too deep to recover from. The Titans are downright awful right now – while that was expected in places like Jacksonville and Cleveland, it’s not a typical outcome in the Music City.
Is it time to admit Miami is better than we thought? Which way will the Jets and Bengals go in the coming weeks?
There are a lot of questions out there as the power shifts, and the inconsistent teams either find their games, fall apart, or more likely ebb and flow all season.
In the meantime, I strive for a 4-0 week on recommended games, which was becoming more routine late last season, but has proven much more elusive after 5 weeks so far, in a week I don’t see too many obvious picks:
1. Eagles over Lions
For the second straight week, the Eagles take on a team coming off a bye. The result last week at Pittsburgh was not good, but not necessarily awful. The Lions, like the Steelers, also are a well-regarded team with a losing record. The difference is that Detroit simply has not played well. And their quarterback has a bad foot. And the QB pretty much throws to one receiver. In short, the Lions should be one of the easier teams for the Eagles to defend against, put pressure on, get sacks and turnovers and win the game rather easily – at least more easily than the 4 combined points their 3 wins have come by.
2. Cardinals over Bills
The Cards finally lost last week. They probably overachieved to get to 4-0. In fact, both Eric and I picked the underdog Rams to beat them. That doesn’t mean that I think Arizona is a mirage – and with the visiting Bills in disarray (their 2-3 record belies the fact that they have given up 145 points in their 3 losses and have beaten only the lowly Browns and Chiefs this season), the Cardinals should get back in the win column this week.
3. Buccaneers over Chiefs
If the Bills are lowly, what does that make the Chiefs? How can a 1-4 team, which finds itself trailing a lot, rush for nearly 200 yards per game? Here’s the answer – Matt Cassel’s 9 picks to 5 TDs. Will we see Brady Quinn this week over center? Would it matter? For its part, Tampa Bay is 1-3 and gives up over 300 yards per game through the air. For a losing team, their allowing only 70 yards per game rushing is notable. KC will probably see their running game neutralized, be forced to throw, move the ball and turn it over just enough for the Bucs to squeak out a win.
4. Falcons over Raiders
One of these weeks, the Falcons’ luck will run out and they’ll lose a close game. This week hosting Oakland – who can’t stop anybody – does not figure to be a close game. The Raiders give up over 300 yards passing and over 400 total yards per game. That doesn’t bode well with Matt Ryan across the line of scrimmage. Makes you wonder how Oakland beat Pittsburgh (actually they outgunned them
and took advantage of a banged-up Steelers defense).
Other week 6 picks:
PIT over TEN
BAL over DAL
CLE over CIN
MIA over STL
NYJ over IND
SEA over NE
SF over NYG
MIN over WASH
GB over HOU
SD over DEN