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Monday, January 22 2018

NFL predictions 2013: Week 5

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Another week of mediocrity for me, but hopefully I will turn it around eventually. I was a serviceable 10-5 straight up (39-24 overall) but flat against the spread (7-7-1, 31-30-1) and over/under (7-8, 36-27). Probably not a good time for me to go to Vegas, where I will be the rest of the week not betting on any of these games. Well, maybe the Thursday night one. Maybe.

Buffalo (2-2) @ Cleveland (2-2): This is kind of a showcase for rookie E.J. Manuel even though it is on the road. Instead I expect unheralded Brian Hoyer to do most of the showing off. The life of a backup quarterback is not easy trying to make rosters and prove your worth, while waiting for an opportunity that may never come. Hoyer has seized the moment and right now anything is possible for these Browns. 

Yes, I’m almost serious. Cleveland has a big time defense and when they got rid of Trent Richardson it shifted their offensive emphasis to the passing game, coinciding with the return of Josh Gordon who went off in week 3. It’s possible to pair an aerial attack with a stifling defense, even though we usually think of a running game helping a team like this grind out wins. 

The Bills are no slouches, but their secondary is a mess with injuries and so is their backfield. If the Browns have no respect for the running game, and I suspect that to be the case, then E.J. Manuel is going to be scrambling for his life while trying to throw the ball to an average group of targets against a defense that can cover. I’m not one to dwell on last week too much unless it’s really relevant and the fact is that this defense just stopped an offense with A.J. Green, two dynamic tight ends and a pair of running backs who can play, led by a quarterback who has been to the playoffs. They should shut this group down cold: Cleveland 20, Buffalo 10 (CLE -4/under 41) 

New England (4-0) @ Cincinnati (2-2): The Patriots shoved their finger in the eye of their doubters on national television at Atlanta last week, at a place that is very tough to play. My deal with them is that in key spots like that they are a much better team. It’s the “mundane” games like this they tend to lose. The Bengals are a playoff team, smarting off a loss to the rival Browns. They play physical and this is going to be much different than the 30-23 affair we saw Sunday night out of Brady’s bunch.

I like Cincinnati to run right at the defense that just lost Vince Wilfork with their two backs, including former New England rusher Benjarvus Green-Ellis who might offer a few trade secrets this week to boot. New England could be getting an offensive boost if Danny Amendola and/or Rob Gronkowski suit up, but I don’t think it matters too much. This defense is going to get after Brady and that’s his weakness. It’s really no secret to anyone how to beat him, and I believe they will: Cincinnati 27, New England 20 (CIN +0/over 44.5)

Detroit (3-1) @ Green Bay (1-2): The Lions are flying high right now, even if they let the Bears score too many garbage points against them last week. It might be a hard fall this week against the rested Packers who really need this win. Time after time we have seen Detroit struggle in the elements outdoors. Their speed is somewhat neutralized and they seem to labor on offense. 

I know Green Bay is going to be ready for this one. They are ticked off after blowing a 30-14 lead and have been stewing on it for two weeks now. This could be an explosive effort out of Aaron Rodgers and company. I know Matthew Stafford has his offensive options as well, and he won’t go out without a struggle, but I have no issue riding the home team here: Green Bay 31, Detroit 21 (GB -6.5/under 53.5)

Seattle (4-0) @ Indianapolis (3-1): It feels like the Seahawks are going to collapse from exhaustion at some point. This is their third road game having already made trips to Houston and Carolina. The Colts already proved they could stand up against a good team, whipping the 49ers on the road. This is certainly a different animal here though.

My feeling is that Seattle comes out slow again and falls behind. Is Indianapolis the kind of team that can maintain the advantage Houston, with Arian Foster in their backfield, just blew? I’m not so sure about that. Andrew Luck is a very smart, competent quarterback with viable receiving options around him. He is a competitor and will want to beat Russell Wilson to prove he really was the quarterback to take first overall in the 2012 draft. Wilson doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to care about things like that, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I prefer the quarterback with an edge in a really close game and I’m biting on the “they have to lose at some point” theory because I have to believe this team is worn out by now, especially traveling again coming off an overtime comeback. It’s too hard for them to recover and win in this building. They are clearly not as powerful on the road without their 12th man so the Colts squeeze out a win: Indianapolis 20, Seattle 17 (IND +3/under 43.5) 

Baltimore (2-2) @ Miami (2-2): The Dolphins are back home on a short week trying to shake off their first loss. The Ravens have to be grateful a loss against a bad team (Buffalo) didn’t cost them their spot atop the muddy AFC North. It feels like Miami is surging up even after the defeat while Baltimore is sputtering, but I’m looking at the whole picture.

When I step back, I see the Dolphins are statistically in the bottom 10 for both defense and offense. The Ravens are there in offense, but with Joe Flacco in the fold that can turn around in a heartbeat, especially if Ray Rice goes. Neither team has run the ball well, and both are average in the passing game. This is a fairly even game. Miami loses time after playing at New Orleans on MNF, but of course Baltimore is coming to them. I have to flip a coin on this one, and I like the younger team to bounce back the way they had been doing before the loss to Drew Brees: Miami 24, Baltimore 23 (BAL +3/over 43.5)

New Orleans (4-0) @ Chicago (3-1): The Saints are hot, but similar to Detroit they cool off considerably outdoors in the elements. This is not a good matchup for them. The Bears just lost in a dome and will be happy to return home. Unlike most times they play a team like this in recent memory, now they have an offense to speak of. There are playmakers around Jay Cutler to attack Rob Ryan’s defense.

Speaking of which, it’s ironic that an ex-Raider defensive coordinator (Ryan) takes on an ex-Raider offensive coordinator (Marc Trestman). Somewhere Al Davis is watching with a sly grin. Keeping with the Raider theme, another former head coach of the Silver and Black, Jon Gruden, was talking about the New Orleans not being able to run the ball while they were creaming Miami, and how it would hurt them at some point. This is that point.

I expect Chicago to attack Brees because they won’t fear the run. Remember New Orleans barely escaping in Tampa Bay? Think about that game when analyzing this one, not the 38 points they just put up in the dome. I know the Saints are improved on defense, but this is a veteran quarterback with a balanced offense. They just need to protect the football and the win should be theirs for the taking: Chicago 23, New Orleans 20 (CHI +0/under 48)

Philadelphia (1-3) @ NY Giants (0-4): Both teams are coming off blowout losses and if they thought they had hit rock bottom they were wrong. Well, at least one team is going to be proven wrong. This is old school Tom Coughlin staring across the way at this kid Chip Kelly who probably didn’t know Coughlin’s name a year ago, or at least didn’t care. 

The Eagles are awful on defense. We knew this entering the season and it was masked in the opener when they got on the Redskins early. Their offense puts up a bunch of yardage when it doesn’t matter. The Giants are simply below average on both sides of the ball and turn it over way too much. If they can get through this game without a turnover I don’t see any way they lose to their bitter rivals.

Eli Manning is seething. He does not want to let his team’s season sink to oblivion, but he needs help from the running game and it hasn’t been there. A bad offensive line is made worse when a team can’t run the ball. This makes me nervous, but I think the gig is up for Philly. The Giants are going to hit them and I’m counting on the crowd to stay behind them and provide an emotional lift for their first win: NY Giants 31, Philadelphia 23 (NYG -1/over 54)

Kansas City (4-0) @ Tennessee (3-1): The Chiefs have to be feeling charmed at this point. They are perfect through the first month and now draw the Titans without starting quarterback Jake Locker who has improved dramatically this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a decent veteran, but lacks the mobility to threaten the defense the way Locker had been doing. His scrambling also extended a lot of plays, which is the whole reason draft pundits were talking about him from his days at Washington.

Stats don’t lie and Tennessee’s offense is in the bottom 5, so while this is a matchup of a pair of top 10 defenses the difference is Kansas City’s offense. They have Jamaal Charles who is everything Chris Johnson used to be. Still, I look for a serious defensive struggle here and even with a backup quarterback I expect the Titans to be in this game to the end. The Chiefs at 5-0? I can’t believe I’m predicting it: Kansas City 17, Tennessee 16 (TEN +3/under 39.5) 

Jacksonville (0-4) @ St. Louis (1-3): If the Rams ever had a chance to vent their frustrations it’s right here. The Jaguars are in shambles. I thought they would show some pride at home last week and keep it relatively close against Indy. Instead they were wiped out. The same goes for St. Louis, who was blasted San Francisco. Two inept offenses and a pair of below average defenses can either mean a shootout or a slugfest most of the time.

In this case, I look for the Rams to really flex on offense. The Jaguars have quit already. They have no interest in coming into this dome and playing hard to salvage a win. It’s over for them. St. Louis has rested and strategized in the hopes of keeping their season alive because Jeff Fisher doesn’t give up. I expect Sam Bradford to explode here and turn this into an easy win: St. Louis 31, Jacksonville 13 (STL -11/over 42) 

Carolina (1-2) @ Arizona (2-2): Defense figures to rule the day here. The Panthers are off a bye week and it’s a bummer for them because their first win, a blowout of the Giants, seemed to wake them up. The Cardinals stole a win last week at Tampa Bay, but expended a lot of energy in the process. In a tight, physical game I think that matters. 

Carson Palmer has made an impact on Arizona, but they still need at least the threat of a running game. Cam Newton lacks the options outside to generate much of a passing attack. It’s going to be interesting to see how Carolina’s offense functions if the run gets stuffed, and it might. I can’t really pick a quarterback here because both have their moments of glory and agony. The defenses are even, so I’m going home field and the Patrick Peterson factor: Arizona 21, Carolina 17 (AZ +2/under 42.5)

Denver (4-0) @ Dallas (2-2): This is exactly the kind of game that has people overreacting to last week’s action and assuming the Broncos roll. Signs point to it for sure because Peyton Manning and the league’s best offense look unstoppable. Tony Romo has a lot of talent in his huddle too, however, and it’s not like Denver’s defense is untouchable.

This has the makings of a thriller with teams matching scores until the final drive. Dallas has the ability to beat (or lose) to any team in the league. Denver is due for an average performance and that might be all it takes. Still, I can’t find it in me to pick against them. I just think it is going to be close: Denver 31, Dallas 24 (DAL +8.5/under 56)

Houston (2-2) @ San Francisco (2-2): Seattle just punched the Texans in the mouth. They blew a big lead and lost in overtime. The 49ers got back on track winning in St. Louis, and have rest a couple extra days to boot after the comfortable win. It’s going to be tough for Houston to bounce back and win a physical game here. There’s no reason to expect anything else out of these top 5 defenses.

Matt Schaub just doesn’t have what it takes to be an elite quarterback on a great team. He has never taken the next step that, for example, Joe Flacco took. Colin Kaepernick has a different issue. Teams adjusted to him exactly the way they did in Cam Newton’s second season. Things that worked in his first dozen starts don’t work now. He needs to take a step back and quit trying to lead the fantasy football stat sheet every week.

I suspect both teams are going to come out running. Houston will be attacking a team that has been weakened up the middle by injuries. They might just follow what Indianapolis did here a couple weeks ago and run them over, if they aren’t too worn out from last week. San Francisco has had time to adjust after that loss and I think their defense is too good to allow a similar result here. This is going to be a tough game, especially since both teams really don’t want a third loss this early in the year: San Francisco 20, Houston 17 (HOU +7.5/under 42.5)

San Diego (2-2) @ Oakland (1-3): This is effectively a SNF doubleheader because of the baseball situation. I don’t think playing at night changes anything other than firing up Philip Rivers who gets out of bed fired up. Terrelle Pryor I assume is ready to take on the Chargers again. He almost rallied the Raiders last year against San Diego only to fall a field goal short.

Right now Rivers is hot, and I expect him to stay that way against a defense still finding its way although clearly much improved overall. Pryor might be without Darren McFadden as a threat in running game and his offense is too reliant on him making unbelievable plays. They aren’t consistently moving the chains, and against a team that seems to be building momentum I don’t see them getting it done here. The Black Hole is awesome, but it’s not a huge home field advantage against a team flying up the coast. I think the Bolts grind this out: San Diego 24, Oakland 21 (OAK +4.5/over 44.5)

NY Jets (2-2) @ Atlanta (1-3): I don’t think anyone expected the Jets to come in with the better record here, but that’s the unpredictable nature of the NFL. Expecting the Falcons to lose consecutive games at home is foolish. They couldn’t get it done against the Patriots on SNF, but this is a rookie quarterback who keeps throwing multiple interceptions trying to beat them here. New York’s defense has been terrific, but Matt Ryan has plenty of offensive weapons to give them fits.

I think Atlanta’s big issue is not being able to run the ball, and their defense is a little soft too. That’s why this isn’t an outright blowout. The Jets might have some success running the ball and if they can win the turnover battle this has the potential to be a shocking outcome actually. I don’t see it going that way. I look for this crowd to get behind their team that is quite frankly on the brink of blowing their season and fuel them to an easy win: Atlanta 27, NY Jets 13 (ATL -9/under 43.5)

                

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