Never Fear, Underdogs Are Here: NFL Week 5 Picks

NFL Picks

We are not gamblers. That doesn’t mean we can’t pretend. Some of these choices have actual thought put into them. More of these choices were made with gut, intuition, and a little thing called grit.

Employ these recommendations at your own peril. Gambling is ungentlemanly.

[Home team in caps. All lines per VegasInsider.com consensus. Bye: Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, New York Jets]

HOUSTON (-4.5) vs. Indianapolis

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Derek: [Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Thursday pick didn’t run last night. Here it is, in its full, inaccurate glory.]

Still no Andrew Luck, and apparently my main man Matt Hasselbeck was in the hospital with a virus until 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. I assumed he was just hungover from winning on Sunday, but surely that’s not the case if he’s still not good to go by Thursday. So, uh, Josh Johnson might play tonight. I prefer home teams in Thursday games unless the visitors are considerably more talented. With no Luck and possibly no Hasselbeck, are the Colts that much better than Houston? Texans cover.

Will: I was the unforeseen circumstances. That heavyweight Hasselbeck vs. Hoyer/Mallett matchup somehow slipped my mind. I suppose I would have taken the Colts, but it’s too late to take that pick seriously. Strike this selection from my record, and preferably, from my memory altogether.

TAMPA BAY (-3) vs. Jacksonville

Derek: The Bucs, for some reason, are way worse at home. Are they lose-to-Jacksonville bad? Like, Miami bad? Let’s not get carried away, but I do like the Jaguars here. I look forward to regretting it later.

Will: Now this is a football game! Winston! Bortles! Tampa! Jacksonville! The battle for the soul of North/Central Florida! Whooooa nelly! Woof, this is a bad game. I’ll take the points.

Buffalo (-2.5) vs. TENNESSEE

Derek: I don’t feel too good about either side, mostly due to both of these teams being super inconsistent thus far. I think the difference will be twofold. First, the Bills have a ton of injuries. No LeSean McCoy, no Karlos Williams, no Sammy Watkins. Watkins hasn’t put up great numbers, but the offense sure seemed to miss him last week. Now they have two running backs named Boobie and Boom.

Second, the Titans are coming off their bye. I’m a little scared of backing Mariota against Rex’s defense, but the few advantages I can find are in Tennessee’s favor. Titans cover.

Will: Fun fantasy football fact: I meant to select Sammy Watkins, but through some combination of absentmindedness and under-the-influenceness I clicked on Keenan Allen’s name instead. That mistake is working out very nicely for me. 

Anywho, I like to make my picks with narrative in mind. Whether or not that has anything to do with the actual game is a different story, and one that I choose not to read. This game feels like “What’s wrong with the Bills?” to me. They’re missing three significant offensive players, Tyrod Taylor may be asked to do a little too much, and one friend of mine who’s familiar with the NFL says that Percy Harvin is among the worst locker room guys in the whole league. That’s all reason enough for me to take the Titans.

BALTIMORE (-7) vs. Cleveland

Rick Osentoski – USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski – USA TODAY Sports

Derek: Justin Forsett could very well have a field day against the Browns, but that was the narrative last week and Melvin Gordon was quiet once again. Couldn’t the Browns just completely stack the box to stop Forsett? The Ravens’ starting wide receivers this weekend will be Kamar Aiken and … Darren Waller? Will Chris Givens be used just a week after joining the team? On the other hand, the Browns have been competent on offense. It might not be pretty, but I like Cleveland.

Will: I let out a nice, deep sigh when I saw this game. Did you know that the Browns have beaten Joe Flacco exactly once since he’s been in the league? That’s true. Did you know that the Browns give up exactly 461 rushing yards per game? That’s true. Did you know that the Browns haven’t gotten a first down since the Roosevelt presidency? That’s true, though I’m not sure which Roosevelt.

That said, seven is a lot of points for a team with no wideout you’ve ever heard of. Browns by 30.

ATLANTA (-7.5) vs. Washington

Derek: Err. Tough one. This spread is a bit high, and I’m wondering if this is a trap game for the Falcons since they have to travel to New Orleans on Thursday. The Redskins have been good against the run, so I’d say it’s unlikely Devonta Freeman’s streak of three-touchdown games continues. Yet, the Redskins have a very burnable secondary, and the Falcons have Julio Jones. I’ll take Washington to cover, but I don’t feel good about it.

Will: This is a tasty matchup. The question for me is simple: Are the Falcons for real? They’re 4-0 in real life, they’re 4-0 against the spread. Matt Ryan is a very real quarterback, and Julio Jones is an even realer receiver. Kirk Cousins is still way too involved for me to feel comfortable with Washington, even with the points. Falcons keep rolling. 

KANSAS CITY (-9.5) vs. Chicago

Derek: Holy mackerel, that’s a lot of points. I could see this if Jimmy Clausen was still starting for the Bears, but Cutler is usually at least good for some garbage time points. The Chiefs should win, but I don’t feel good at all about laying nearly 10 points. Bears cover.

Will: WOOF what a game. Both of these teams are 1-3 against the spread. Both are 1-3. Both have given up 125 points through four games. The Bears are a slow motion car wreck, and Arrowhead would seem to be worth another few points for the Chiefs, but I can’t possibly give KC this many points. Bears cover indeed.

PHILADELPHIA (-5) vs. New Orleans

Getty Images

Getty Images

Derek: Oh boy, a five-point spread. Drew Brees has a dubious track record outdoors on the road, but Sam Bradford has a dubious track record in professional football games. I don’t think the Eagles deserve to be favored by more than three against anyone. I’ll take the Saints.

Will: This is another weird one. Do both of these teams just suck? It seems like they just suck, right? It seems arguments that they don’t suck would center around their offenses finally getting it going; waiting for that feels like waiting for Trump to fall out of their presidential race. I’m tempted to take the points, but I’ll take the Eagles with the idea that the Saints hit bottom.

GREEN BAY (-9.5) vs. St. Louis

Derek: Did you see Todd Gurley last week? Further, are you aware that the Packers give up 4.8 yards per carry (30th in the league) and 115 rushing yards per game (23rd). Gurley should get 30 touches in this game, and there’s a decent chance he does destructive things with them.

The marquee matchup will be between the Packers’ o-line and the Rams’ d-line. If the Rams can do the unthinkable and get pressure on Rodgers, they may have a shot. If not, they may be too far behind to use Gurley the way they want to. Since they’re playing a good team, I say this is one of the games where the Rams look good on their road to 7-9. Rams keep it close.

Will: I completely understand and mostly agree with everything you said. The Packers, however, have covered every spread this season, and I don’t have the balls to pick against Rodgers at home. Pack keeps rolling.

CINCINNATI (-3) vs. Seattle

Derek: Horrible spot for the Seahawks. They’re coming off a short week and they’re playing in yet another game starting at 10 a.m. PT. But hey, I’ve been picking games logically all year and I’m under .500. Let’s change it up. The Seahawks are the clear choice.

Will: Okay, THIS is the week when Dalton and the Bengals fall apart. Seattle will get pressure on him, right? Kam Chancellor will fuck up some receivers, right? We’ll get a good Richard Sherman soundbite after this game, right? I say yes. Seahawks it is.

Arizona (-2.5) vs. DETROIT

Derek: Is this spread some sort of trap? Doesn’t it seem likely that the Cardinals are going to be angry and the Lions are going to be demoralized? We’re talking Bruce Arians vs. Jim Caldwell here. While acknowledging that Vegas has probably paid off the refs, I’ll reluctantly take the Cardinals.

Will: …I don’t understand this line at all. Does it imply that the Lions are better than their record, or the Cardinals are worse than theirs? I know the game is at Ford Field, but come on. Like, Arizona’s average score has been a 37-18 win, and Detroit’s has been a 24-17 loss. And it’s a 4 p.m. game, so it’s not even like the Cardinals are dealing with any time zone issues. I’ll very excitedly take the Cardinals

New England (-8.5) vs. DALLAS

Derek: The Patriots had an extra week to prepare for the vaunted Cowboy offense. As an ESPN talking head would say, “YOU KNOW WHAT BILL BELICHICK DOES? HE FINDS WHAT YOU DO BEST AND TAKES IT AWAY!!!!” So, I suppose the Cowboys’ best offensive weapon is … Joseph Randle? Jason Witten? New England will force Brandon Weeden to beat them, and that’s not a good spot. Unless the Cowboys turn to Christine Michael and he ends up being the cyborg everyone says he is, this one could get ugly. Pats all day.

Will: “New England will force Brandon Weeden to beat them, and that’s not a good spot.”

No, no it is not. New England by three touchdowns.

Denver (-4.5) vs. OAKLAND

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Derek: Even at the end of last year, when the Broncos weren’t playing well, they still found time to beat up on the Raiders. Since Peyton Manning joined the Broncos, they’re 6-0 vs. the Raiders and their smallest margin of victory was 13. While the Raiders could manage to get pressure against Denver’s porous (and injured) offensive line, and Peyton Manning could have flashbacks when he sees Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith, I don’t think the Raiders can score enough to keep it within a touchdown. Broncos win and cover.

Will: I like this game! I like the Raiders being semi-competent! I like Derek Carr, and I like Latavius Murray, and I like Amari Cooper. I like Khalil Mack. They have a bunch of very solid NFL players, which 1) represents significant improvement and 2) makes me, a Browns fan, sad and jealous. I feel that I will come to regret this, but fuck it: I’ll take Oakland.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-7) vs. San Francisco

Derek: Have you seen Colin Kaepernick play quarterback lately? The Giants may not even have to cover the San Francisco receivers. The Giants also have the top rated rush defense in the league, so Carlos Hyde will also probably be ineffective after the Giants put nine guys in the box. Just one long pass to Odell Beckham might be enough to seal it. I’ll take the Giants.

Will: Giants. For sure Giants. They’re my favorite team that might kinda suck. 

SAN DIEGO (-3) vs. Pittsburgh

Derek: The Steelers haven’t lost a game against the spread since November 30. That’s eight straight games. That streak can’t last forever, but the Chargers have also lost three straight against the spread. Philip Rivers leads the league in passing yards, but his team’s rush defense is one of the worst in the league. Not exactly good news with Le’Veon Bell coming to town on 11 days rest. The Steelers’ streak continues.

Will: Blehhh I hate Pittsburgh so much, and the Chargers didn’t exactly blow my pants off when they beat the Browns last week. At least Roethlisberger isn’t playing. Here’s hoping Michael Vick shows out. Pittsburgh covers on the road.

Last week

Derek: 7-7-1

Will: 10-4-1

Overall

Derek: 30-31-2

Will: 34-27-2



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