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Pudge’s Picks – Week 5

October 5th, 2013

It all seemed to be spiraling down the drain on Thursday night. After two weeks of picking against the Cleveland Browns, I decided to take them in their NFL Network matchup against the Buffalo Bills. But then Brian Hoyer went down with an injury, and the Bills were off to a quick 10-0 lead. And with Brandon Weeden coming into the game, it seemed doubtful that they would be able to mount the comeback to cover the 4.5-point spread. Well, thank goodness for the Browns special teams and defense. The Bills scored only one offensive touchdown under E.J. Manuel, thanks to a long run by C.J. Spiller. And then Manuel got bounced out of the game in the third quarter, and we discovered at least one quarterback that is worse than Brandon Weeden: Jeff Tuel.

So I’m off to a 1-0 start this week. But in truth picking Thursday games haven’t really been the problem this year, as I’m now 3-2 there. It’s been Sundays that have plagued me as I’ve wound up with losing records on each of the past three weeks thanks to abysmal weekend picks. And I’m not backing off on my promise I made Thursday. If I don’t go at least 7-6 on today’s picks, then next week I’m going to make the opposite picks. I will analyze the games as I normally would, and then pick the opposite of the team that my analysis would indicate.

New York Jets (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-3)
Monday, October 7 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

Line: Falcons (-9.5)

There is no doubt in my mind that the Falcons are far and away the best 1-3 team in the league. It would be a toss-up between the Jets and Arizona Cardinals as to who is the worst 2-2 team. The positive thing for the Jets in this matchup is that they have a very good defense that could give fits for the inconsistent and struggling Falcons offense. But I’m also hopeful that this is the week the Falcons start to put it all together and get out of their rut, by being more balanced, scoring in the red zone, and generally just looking like the playoff team that most people envisioned we’d see in 2013. The Jets have struggled on the road to score points, mainly because they have a young quarterback. But a 10-point win is a fairly big margin which gives me pause considering Atlanta’s offensive inconsistencies. But I’m going to ride or die with my team and pick them to cover. Especially given the injuries the Jets have at wide receiver, which will cause them to struggle to generate offense and score enought points.

Spread Pick: Falcons
Straight Pick: Falcons

New Orleans Saints (4-0) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Bears (-0.5)

The Saints are pretty beat up with five players out and two questionable this week, although besides cornerback Keenan Lewis, none of their injuries are to major players. But I think the Bears defense will match up favorably against the Saints offense at home. The issue is going to be whether Jay Cutler can protect the ball, as he threw a trio of picks in last week’s loss to Detroit. The Saints have yet to score a red zone touchdown on the road this year, and the Bears are one of the better red zone defenses around. I think it results in a close Bears win. I suspect Robbie Gould will be the difference maker in this game.

Spread Pick: Bears
Straight Pick: Bears

Detroit Lions (3-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-2)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Packers (-6.5)

We will learn a lot about the 2013 Lions this week if they manage to pull the upset on the road against the Green Bay Packers. Consistency has never been their M.O. throughout Jim Schwartz’s tenure, and with some of the injuries they have in the secondary it looks like another game where Aaron Rodgers should rack up big yardage. But what’s interesting is that Rodgers has thrown for 300-plus yards only once in his last five games against the Lions. So apparently, Chris Houston doesn’t suck when the Lions play the Packers. But Green Bay is coming off a bye and they have won four straight in those circumstances, and are 7-1 off their bye week under Mike McCarthy. Most of those wins actually came on the road, so playing in the confines of Lambeau should benefit them.

Spread Pick: Packers
Straight Pick: Packers

Seattle Seahawks (4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-1)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Colts (+2.5)

Another early Sunday start for the Seahawks, which likely means a slow start for their offense. But based off their recent games, I would expect them to come on strong late and pull out the victory. But they are facing the Colts, and when it comes to finishing strong, Andrew Luck is one of the best in the league. Although he hasn’t really shown it this year, with a 40.6 passer rating in the fourth quarter. I want to believe in Luck and Trent Richardson showing out and giving them the win, but the Seahawks have managed to find ways to win this year.

Spread Pick: Seahawks
Straight Pick: Seahawks

Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at New York Giants (0-4)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on FOX

Line: Giants (-2.5)

The Eagles looked great in Week 1, but have been at best an average team in their last three losses. The Giants have scored 7 points in their last 8 quarters of play, so it’s not like they are on the upswing either. The Giants front is beat up with Chris Snee being done for the year, and center David Baas being out of the lineup again. Brandon Mosley and Jim Cordle are expected to start for them. David Wilson has shown some improvement every week, and they need to finally get him going this week against a weak Eagles run defense. If not, then it’s possible the Giants could start the season 0-8 and Tom Coughlin might wind up being the first head coach fired.

Spread Pick: Giants
Straight Pick: Giants

New England Patriots (4-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Bengals (-1.5)

Gronkowski, Amendola, and Ridley won’t play this week, but Thompkins, Edelman, and Bolden should be able to pick up most of the slack for the Patriots offense. The Bengals defense is not bad by any means, but they aren’t the sort of dominant unit I suspected they would be this year. This should be a low-scoring affair, but given how well Aqib Talib and the Patriots secondary bottled up Vincent Jackson and Julio Jones the past two weeks, I think A.J. Green could be marginalized this week too. If that happens, then Cincinnati has no real offense. So unless their defense really decides to show up and become that dominant unit, this should be another Patriots win.

Spread Pick: Patriots
Straight Pick: Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (3-1)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Titans (+2.5)

Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting for the Titans. Do you need another reason to pick the Chiefs?

Spread Pick: Chiefs
Straight Pick: Chiefs

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) at St. Louis Rams (1-3)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Rams (-11.5)

It’s very telling that despite this being the best shot that Jacksonville has to win a game before Thanksgiving, they are still double-digit underdogs. The issue isn’t whether the Jaguars can win, it’s whether they can cover. Why would I ever pick the Jaguars? Look, Sam Bradford certainly has the capacity to suck and the Rams offense is bad enough that you would think they would struggle to win by two scores even against an underwhelming Jaguars defense. But I repeat, why would I ever pick the Jaguars? If I’m going to go down, there’s no way I would choose to go down with the Jaguars.

Spread Pick: Rams
Straight Pick: Rams

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Miami Dolphins (3-1)
Sunday, October 6 at 1 pm ET on CBS

Line: Dolphins (-2.5)

Baltimore’s issue is that their offense isn’t very good. Ray Rice has done next to nothing, and Joe Flacco just isn’t good enough to carry their passing attack without help from the ground game. With Paul Soliai coming back that should help bottle up the Ravens ground attack. I would like Miami even more if I was sure Cameron Wake would also be returning this week, but he’s still questionable and a toss-up to play. I do think this will be a close ballgame as I doubt Flacco turns the ball over six times this week like the did last week. But Baltimore is so bad on the road, that it’s hard to think they turn things around this week. But I’m going to pick them simply because I believe the Ravens pass rush will get after Tannehill and create some plays.

Spread Pick: Ravens
Straight Pick: Dolphins

Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2)
Sunday, October 6 at 4:05 pm ET on FOX

Line: Cardinals (+2.5)

This will be a test to see if the Panthers have turned a corner under Ron Rivera. They should be able to go on the road, and with their front seven against that weak Cardinals offense line, should be able to control this game. The problem for Carolina is their offense is predicated on running the ball, and the Cardinals run defense is one of the best in the league. So the question for Arizona is whether Carson Palmer can protect the ball and allow Larry Fitzgerald to make plays. The fact that Carolina is coming off a bye doesn’t give me any greater confidence since they are 0-2 under Rivera off the bye, including a 27-point blowout at home against Tennessee in 2011. Again, if Carolina is a different team under Rivera, they will find a way to win. But I’ll believe that when I see it.

Spread Pick: Cardinals
Straight Pick: Cardinals

Denver Broncos (4-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Sunday, October 6 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS

Line: Cowboys (+7.5)

Denver’s unbeaten streak will probably extend at least through their bye in Week 9. The thing about unbeaten teams is that at some point they play a close game against a tough opponent, but manage to win it in the end. I don’t think Dallas is going to be that tough out though. More than likely, that tough game for Denver will be against Indianapolis, Kansas City, or New England in the coming weeks. I do think Dez Bryant can do some damage against Denver’s defense, but I don’t think it will be enough. That Cowboys defense, with a rookie starter at safety in J.J. Wilcox, just doesn’t look strong enough to stop the Broncos’ offense. But the one positive is that Chris Clark may be facing DeMarcus Ware quite a bit. And if Ware looks like the Ware of old and dominates that matchup, Dallas has a shot because the only way you beat Denver is by pressuring Peyton Manning.

Spread Pick: Broncos
Straight Pick: Broncos

Houston Texans (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Sunday, October 6 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

Line: 49ers (-6.5)

Houston looks to be reeling after that embrassing chokejob against Seattle last week. And 49ers got a nice bounce-back win against the Rams and a few days extra rest. This game is going to be a defensive battle, and given the issues both teams have at quarterback and the lack of reliable weapons on the outside considering Andre Johnson is still nicked up, this game will come down to who can run the ball the best. And with Duane Brown still not 100-percent, I put my money on the 49ers. I don’t love the 6.5-point line, but by picking the Texans that means I have to rely on Matt Schaub to play well on the road and keep this game close. And that’s just a bad bet.

Spread Pick: 49ers
Straight Pick: 49ers

San Diego Chargers (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-3)
Sunday, October 6 at 11:35 pm ET on NFL Network

Line: Raiders (+4.5)

Once again, Major League Baseball has preempted an NFL game. One day I would like Roger Goodell to man up against Bud Selig and force baseball to understand its place in American sports, which is on its knees, kneeling in front of pro football. The Raiders are getting Terrelle Pryor back, and the left side of the Chargers offensive line will feature Mike Harris and Johnnie Troutman. Lamarr Houston should eat, and eat hardy. I keep picking against the Chargers, and they keep making me pay. But Mike Harris is starting, I repeat Mike Harris is starting.

Spread Pick: Raiders
Straight Pick: Chargers

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