Last Week: 5-9
5-9 in Week 5 was not the highlight of my gambling season. I do, however, find some comfort in the fact that 4 games easily could have gone the other way.
1) Dwight Lowery’s game-sealing and spread-covering interception.
2) Mason Crosby field goal off the post for the win and the cover.
3) Alex Smith faltered on a game winning/tying drive.
4) Dwayne Bowe dropped TD pass.
But like all the greats, I have a short memory. On to Week 6.
ST. LOUIS RAMS (+8) over San Diego Chargers
As I mentioned last week, San Diego still finds itself fully entrenched in its annual early season slump. Despite last week’s stinker, St. Louis fans can remain extremely positive for one simple reason. They play in the AFC West. Any time a rookie, undrafted QB is leading the charge for a division leader, you know the division has problems.
Home field advantage will play a huge role in this game for two reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, the Rams fan base knows that a division title is not out of the realm of possibility. Add in the excitement surrounding Sam Bradford and we’re looking at a deceptively effective home field.
Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5) over HOUSTON TEXANS
The Giants manhandled Houston by turning NFL rushing leader Arian Foster into 2009 Brandon Jacobs. Last week against Indianapolis, Mike Hart and Joseph Addai combined for an unimpressive 100 yards on 28 carries thanks to the Chiefs’ 6th ranked rush defense.
Since their fast start, Houston is 1-2, with their lone victory coming in a close game against Oakland. But until Todd Haley fully accepts that Jamaal Charles and his 6.5 yards per carry deserve more carries than Thomas Jones and his 3.9 YPC, Kansas City will never reach their full potential. Their only hope for a division title is to pull away far enough from San Diego before they get it together (which is only a matter of time).
To be perfectly honest, I think a losing season is exactly what Houston needs. Gary Kubiak would be fired and some personnel turnover would occur (not including the core players). The team as it currently stands has proven for the last 3 years that they are not equipped for the playoffs, let alone a playoff run.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-2.5) over Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco might have harnessed his inner Tom Brady against their last legitimate opponent (Pittsburgh), but not until the 4th quarter. For the first 45 minutes he looked like a deer in the headlights. It was only because Pittsburgh’s offense did not support the talent to put away the Ravens that the Ravens managed to hang around.
Well, Tom Brady and the New England offense, even without Randy Moss, can light up the scoreboard. Add in New England’s notoriously huge home field advantage and the addition by subtraction via Randy Moss and this New England team resembles what carried them to a mini dynasty: team players buying into what Belichick sells and ignoring outside distraction.
New Orleans Saints (-4) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
I picked Cincinnati last week to cover against Tampa under the assumption that the Bucs could not handle tough teams. Well, I was right in one respect. Cincinnati is not a tough team. Consecutive losses against Cleveland and Tampa Bay prove their inability to live up to the hype they created for themselves.
Talk about a wake up call for New Orleans. If I were in that locker room after the Cardinals game, I would have been more shocked than anything else. Despite their propensity for playing down to the level of their competition, Drew Brees will look more like himself this week than last. Don’t expect San Diego Drew to show up again.
Atlanta Falcons (+2.5) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Kevin Kolb finally took the leash off his neck and challenged Vick for the starting job (pun intended). Assuming Andy Reid does not want the entire city of Philadelphia rising up to usurp his coaching throne if Vick does not start when healthy, Kolb will continue to ride the bench. But until then, Kolb is running the show. But Atlanta’s defense is no San Francisco. They’ve taken Pittsburgh and New Orleans to overtime on the road and will not roll over for the Eagles.
NEW YORK GIANTS (-10) over Detroit Lions
No Giants’ game has been decided by less than 13 points. So whichever way this one goes, expect a blowout. Detroit’s offensive outburst was no fluke. They’ve already scored 35 or more twice and Jahvid Best has already lived up to his hype and more.
The Giants offense, on the other hand, has struggled. Of their 34 points against Houston, most came in garbage time when the game was already decided.
These observations would indicate my picking of the Lions, but one factor has swung me the other way: the Giants’ pass rush. Detroit’s offensive line has been hidden by Shaun Hill’s luxury of throwing the ball near Calvin Johnson at any sign of trouble.
But the Giants have the luxury of not blitzing, allowing them to drop 7 in coverage and triple team Calvin. For an example of exactly what they will do against the Lions, look no further than Week 5 against the Texans and Andre Johnson.
CHICAGO BEARS (-6) over Seattle Seahawks
While the bye week and Jay Cutler’s concussion might point towards a Seattle victory, Seattle is 0-2 on the road thus far, losing each game by a convincing 17 points. And only a few coaches possess the ability to truly benefit from the bye week (i.e. not just getting healthy, but better gameplan). Pete Carroll is not one of them.
If Tom Brady and the New England offense lights a flame under Deion Branch, we will finally get the proof we’ve all been looking for to affirm that Seattle ruined Branch’s career. Even though he’s never eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark (okay, he had 998 one year), he’s an extremely strong #2/mediocre #1 receiver that never reached his potential in Seattle.
Pre-ACL tear, Branch had the talent to impact the team and provide the Seahawks with the #1 receiver Bobby Engram could never become. But Seattle’s offense neglected his reliable hands and attempted to make him into the deep passing threat he never wanted to become. They wanted him to become Steve Smith (Carolina) instead of the Wes Welker that he always was.
Miami Dolphins (+3) over GREEN BAY PACKERS
Miami’s 2-0 road record, Aaron Rodger’s concussion and the epidemic of injuries that hit Green Bay worse than the Warren Sapp cheap shot on Chad Clifton seem to predict a Miami victory. It’s really a shame that the injury bug has hit the Packers so hard, especially since the NFC North is ripe for the taking. When this team is fully healthy, or at least somewhat healthy, expect them to run away with the division. But for now, injuries will take their toll.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-13.5) over Cleveland Browns
Hostile Pittsburgh crowd + Colt McCoy’s first ever start + Colt McCoy’s horrendous preseason + Ben Roethlisberger = Pittsburgh 48, Cleveland 3.
New York Jets (-3) over DENVER BRONCOS
I can’t decide if Vegas respects the Broncos too much or the Jets too little. Ray Rice and the previously anemic Ravens running game walked all over Denver. Imagine what the Jets running game can do. This time last year the Broncos would have welcomed a visit from LT and his lackluster running skills. Not the case now.
Part of me wants to believe that Denver’s home field advantage may play a part due to the high altitude. An even bigger part of me knows that Denver fans are clinging to the hope that the Broncos remain relevant, further pushing their fanhood to the brink. What does that mean for the Broncos? Crazier fans. But New York’s defensive prowess will prove to be too much to handle.
Oakland Raiders (+6.5) over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
I initially dubbed the Detroit Lions the new Oakland Raiders due to their ability to cover big spreads without winning, but Oakland has refused to give up their title. Excluding their opening day loss to Tennessee, no Raider game has been decided by more than 8 points.
Tom Cable has officially surpassed all coaches on the “coaches who should have been fired a while ago but may now in fact keep their jobs” list. The other men lucky enough to find themselves here are Marvin Lewis, Gary Kubiak, Jack Del Rio and Lovie Smith. For all of Al Davis’ supposed impatience with head coaches, is no one else surprised that he’s allowed a wife/woman beater to remain atop his franchise for this long?
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-1.5) over Dallas Cowboys
Wade Phillips has officially lost control of his team. Any time your GM/owner must repeat that your job is safe, you know you are on the hot seat. The bigger problem Wade cannot remedy, however, is the lack of locker room leadership. Being a player’s coach is all fine and dandy, but players need to know that they are accountable to someone.
Everyone in Baltimore knows that if they mess up, they’ll get an earful from Ray Lewis. Dallas does not have that imposing personality to lead the team in good times and bad. Tony Romo, the supposed leader, has been virtually silent. If Roy Williams, the same man whom the Cowboys planned on replacing with a 1st round draft pick, is your most outspoken player, you know you have some team issues to sort through.
Indianapolis Colts (-3) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Peyton Manning’s recent inability to block out crowd noise makes me nervous to pick his Colts, especially against a Washington team that continues to count its blessings after winning games they should not have won. But now that there is a logjam atop the AFC South, do not expect Peyton to roll over.
The last time the Colts lost the division was, well, I have no idea. I fully expect the wrath of Peyton Manning to unleash itself on an unsuspecting Redskins’ team. Washington will not sneak away with victory in this one.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (+3) over Tennessee Titans
Never bet against the home underdog on Monday night. That and MJD has not hit his stride on an already 3-2 Jaguars team.
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