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Friday, August 17 2018

NFL Predictions 2014: Week 5


Just when I thought I had a grip on this wild season, last week happened. It was definitely a streaky performance, starting with an ugly pick on TNF. The Giants crushed the Redskins and, like most people, I did not see it coming. Injuries played a part, and on a short week it turned into an avalanche. The early games on Sunday I dominated, picking six out of seven winners, and five out of seven against the spread. Then the straight up results went out the window as I missed three of four afternoon outcomes and both SNF and MNF. Fortunately, I was four out of five against the spread in those contests, so there was that.


Overall, I went just 7-6 picking winners (33-28 overall) and I am frustrated. Computers are having similar struggles, so I take a little bit of solace in that. Against the spread I kicked it in gear at 9-4 (30-31 overall) and have almost made up for my horrific first two weeks. Thanks to switching two picks to under (both misses) because I am stupid, I went 4-9 on the over/under (33-28 overall) to give away some of my cushion. I remain +4 in my yearly challenge to stay even with Vegas.

Minnesota (2-2) @ Green Bay (2-2): I was throwing dirt on the Vikings last week. They went zombie on me, rolling up a 41-28 win over the Falcons and compiling 558 yards in the process. Sometimes a team can put up a big points total without the production to back it up. This was a show. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater can get the ball down the field and the only issue now is if he is healthy enough to start on a short week. If not, it will be deposed starter Christian Ponder. Another rookie, running back Jerrick McKinnon, displayed some big play ability to help lift the offense. Now they take their show on the road against a team that is similar in some ways.

The Packers have the skill position players and quarterback to get it done offensively, but their defense is suspect. Does the run of TNF blowouts come into play here? I am thinking about it, for sure. Elite quarterback Aaron Rodgers just helped Green Bay cruise past rival Chicago on the road. This is a spot for them to let down and overlook an opponent. However, Minnesota's big win and the fact that this game is under the lights at Lambeau Field trump that for me. I think the Packers are rounding into form. I am worried about the quarterback situation on the other side, and think the Falcons being a bad team outdoors had a lot to do with the result swaying public opinion. It is another one-sided game for CBS and they are starting to wonder if getting TNF was such a great idea: Green Bay 28, Minnesota 13 (GB -8/under 47.5)

Houston (3-1) @ Dallas (3-1): Football is back in Texas! There is no way I would have anticipated a showdown of 3-1 squads here, not with the awful defense for the Cowboys and uncertain offense for the Texans. It all starts up front for Dallas. They are pushing people around with their offensive line, and if they protect the football it is okay if their defense is not very good because teams are forced to play from behind and do not get much time with the ball. On SNF, the Saints were overwhelmed in part by losing the turnover battle 3-0, but also because of their inability to run the ball whatsoever whereas the Cowboys ran effectively. They still gave up over 400 yards, so the 38-17 final is a product of finishing chances more than total domination.

Elsewhere in the Lone Star State, Houston edged Buffalo 23-17 in a game with both teams barely over 300 total yards and 5 combined turnovers. The Texans had the edge in that department thanks to J.J. Watt's 80-yard interception return for a touchdown. Obviously that was the difference in a game they won over a team with very poor play at quarterback. Young E.J. Manuel was benched because he was so inaccurate against them. Tony Romo is prone to mistakes, but he is a veteran with a running game at his disposal. Obviously, Watt will need to be accounted for. I hesitate to say this is an easy task. How about manageable? Dallas has a defense built on smoke and mirrors. Houston has a decent offense considering their quarterback is still Ryan Fitzpatrick who plays like he is gambling with money he stole from someone else. Multiple turnovers, and neither team wins that battle by much. Good running games. Not a real exciting contest: Dallas 26, Houston 16 (DAL -3.5/under 47.5)

Buffalo (2-2) @ Detroit (3-1): The Kyle Orton era has begun! Seriously, if not for the Raiders I am pretty sure the Bills would be the most laughed at franchise in the NFL. It is fine to want to give your team the best chance to win, and perhaps Orton does that in the short term. What's the goal for this season then? Do they want to be 8-8 instead of 6-10? Maybe they are delusional enough to think they can steal a playoff berth, but doing this at the risk of the development and experience of their young quarterback seems questionable to me as an outsider. They picked Manuel and need to know if he is going to be their guy in 2015 and beyond. Without more work it will be hard to make the decision, and squeezing out extra victories puts them out of position in the draft to secure one of the top prospects. Oh, right. They do not even have a first-rounder because they gave it away for a wide receiver. Laughable.

The Lions have been laughed at a lot. Experts have been worn out trying to predict their breakout season. Shutting down the Packers two weeks ago and grinding out a rare outdoor road win last week over the Jets are signs of this being a season where they make some noise. Their lack of a running game is a concern, but the defense has held up their end of the bargain thus far. After making Geno Smith look so bad last week he was swearing at fans walking off the field, they are ready to come after Orton who was basically retired a few months ago. He might wish he gave up the millions as he is lying on his back with thousands of fans roaring. Seriously, the Bills do stand a better chance at a win with a veteran at the controls. They do have some talent. However, in this spot I do not believe they are the more likely team to win. Matthew Stafford failed to get the ball to Calvin Johnson last week and he will correct that here: Detroit 31, Buffalo 21 (DET -6.5/over 43)

Cleveland (1-2) @ Tennessee (1-3): Remember when the Titans opened the season by whipping the Chiefs 26-10 in their stadium? Apparently it was a mirage. Since then, they have allowed exactly 100 points in three losses, or almost triple what they have scored (34) while losing three straight games. Sure, they are now starting Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback, and soon might be turning to rookie Zach Mettenberger so that does not help. It is more than that. They were eviscerated by the Colts last week. Now here come the feisty Browns who have battled in all three of their games against good competition, and have spent the week off resting up. 

I am always nervous when I look at a game like this with a home team falling apart, and a visiting team primed to roll them up. It never seems to work out that way. Cleveland is frustrated with their loss to Baltimore and they have to know this result will chart their path from here on out. If they drop to 1-3 in a rugged AFC North division, it is likely too much of a hole for them to dig out of. Getting to 2-2 gives them a fighting chance. Of course, Tennessee already must feel their season slipping away and will be in desperation mode playing with nothing to lose. Rookie running back Bishop Sankey is going to get more looks, but the unsettled quarterback situation is a problem. Even on the road, I like what the Browns bring on defense. They are ready to deliver this win, and while I would not put a dime of found money on this outcome, I have to make a pick: Cleveland 20, Tennessee 17 (CLE +3/under 44.5)

Baltimore (3-1) @ Indianapolis (2-2): Analysts are actually calling the Colts overrated, and I find that pretty hilarious. Their championship dreams probably ended when Robert Mathis went on injured reserve, but this is still a very good football team with a quarterback we need to start calling elite. Andrew Luck is a baller. They were six feet short of 500 yards last week, their second 40-plus scoring effort in a row. Sure, the Jaguars and Titans are struggling, but they whipped them. It is not as if they were not competitive in close losses to current 3-1 squads Denver and Philadelphia either. They are going to be in the hunt when the playoffs roll around, and in this stadium can beat anyone.

The Ravens took their game to another level last week, pummeling the Panthers 38-10. Two backup running backs combined for 124 yards on 29 carries. They took advantage of an offense with similar backfield health issues, but the big difference was veteran wide receiver Steve Smith going off against his former team. It was a knockout, but going on the road in a dome is a slightly different deal. Indianapolis has issues running the ball, so I can see Baltimore controlling the action for stretches of time. Joe Flacco knows where to find Steve Smith, but Luck has T.Y. Hilton so if it becomes a high-scoring affair I like the home team. It might: Indianapolis 28, Baltimore 24 (IND -3/over 46.5)

Tampa Bay (1-3) @ New Orleans (1-3): If you only watched the NFL last week, this might actually be a situation where you have no idea which team to pick. The Bucs turned in a strong road win at the Steelers, while the Saints were blown away at the Cowboys. In reality, nothing is what it seems and one week is no measure of any team. Tampa Bay, for virtually three consecutive quarters of game play, was outscored 24-7. They won by stealing a 10-0 lead and turning in a stunning touchdown in the final moments. It was hilarious watching their former coach Bill Cowher get worked up in the CBS studio talking about this game and them blowing a lead. He was pretty good at protecting leads when he was in charge, but the game has changed. They never did get ahead by 11, but during his tenure the team was 108-1-1 when up by at least that much. I actually remember the tie, which came against Michael Vick's Falcons.

Anyway, back to the story. Tampa Bay is still not that good. They played a team that overlooked them and squeezed out a victory. Mike Glennon provided a spark, and healthy players certainly helped their cause. New Orleans, is not as bad as they showed in the first month of the season. They lost some talent in free agency and depth has been a problem. The defense is not holding up their end of the bargain, and neither is the offense quite frankly. Even in their lone win of the season, they were held to just 20 points by the Vikings at home. I keep saying this because I continue to believe it, the Saints are going to snap out of this funk. Maybe this is not the spot for them to let it all hang out with a convincing victory. It should be a position where they get a win and keep the playoffs within reach. The "must win" applies here: New Orleans 30, Tampa Bay 21 (TB +11.5/over 48)

Atlanta (2-2) @ NY Giants (2-2): I feel as if I have a good read on this game. The Giants are riding a serious wave after destroying the Redskins 45-14 and having played on TNF are well rested. They forced 6 turnovers and will not get that many in this one, but offensively things are clearly working for them compared to preseason and bleeding into the early season. The Falcons just had their clocks cleaned, giving up 558 yards to the Vikings who had a rookie playing in his first game at quarterback and backup running backs. Their defense is a mess. Worse for them, the offensive line just lost two more starters meaning the players slated at both tackle spots and center for the 2014 season are out. Can New York fire up that pass rush? It is looking that way.

Usually when a team is unable to block up front, the running game suffers. Steven Jackson is not a rusher who can carry defenders at this point of his career, by any stretch of the imagination. Quarterback Matt Ryan has a couple solid wide receivers, especially Julio Jones, but will he have time to throw the ball? I doubt it. His opposite number Eli Manning has a hard running Rashad Jennings helping him out, and home field advantage here is huge. Atlanta is dreadful outdoors. They proved it last week in spades. I see no reason to believe they buck the trend in this spot. Blasting Tampa Bay was nice, but it was in their dome, as was the shootout win over New Orleans. Not here: NY Giants 24, Atlanta 20 (NYG -1.5/under 51)

St. Louis (1-2) @ Philadelphia (3-1): Last week, the Rams scored as many points on offense as the Eagles did. The Rams did not play. Philadelphia had three return touchdowns in San Francisco, and somehow had a chance to win in the end but their offense was completely stifled. Can the Rams replicate that effort? It would be easier if they had a better pass rush, or the home (dome) field advantage. In this spot, I look for the creative offense of the Eagles to solve what ailed them last week. LeSean McCoy is itching to go off.

Austin Davis is going to be the starting quarterback going forward, and the certainty should help him along with a bye week's worth of preparation. He is still facing a hostile crowd. Philadelphia's defense has allowed an average of 29 points over the past three games, but grabbing a lead could put them in position to really change the dynamic of what St. Louis has to do on offense. It was fun to watch him trade punches with Tony Romo two weeks ago, ultimately losing 34-31, but in this situation I see nothing of the sort. The home team is going to jump up and stay up. Philadelphia 33, St. Louis 20 (PHI -6.5/over 47.5)

Chicago (2-2) @ Carolina (2-2): This game has potential. Nothing is more fun to watch than two competent teams butting heads after having their tails kicked the previous week. The Panthers were smacked 38-10 by the Ravens and the Bears had it handed to them 38-17 by the Packers. Which team is going to rebound? Immediately you think about the home team. I'm not so sure. Carolina is struggling on offense, and they are flat out of running backs. Just once have they scored more than 20 points this year, a 24-7 win over Detroit, and in today's NFL that is simply not even points to win on a consistent basis. The past two weeks they have given up a total of 77 points.

On paper, Chicago's offense should be more productive, but they have averaged a reasonable 23 points a game. Wide receiver injuries have slowed them down and the offensive line is not where they want it. The combination has caused the running game to stall. They have the talent to get it right. Caroilna has the defensive talent to stop them, but recent evidence points in the opposite direction. I look for a down and dirty tussle, the likes of which we do not really see in the new NFL. The visitors get the nod because their offense is going to take it to this defense: Chicago 27, Carolina 21 (CHI +3/over 45.5)

Pittsburgh (2-2) @ Jacksonville (0-4): Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles has the job now, and a team I thought heading into the season would be feisty might play with a little more spunk. Since the first half of week 1, the Jaguars have been obliterated. They have not scored more than 17 points in a game this season, but I am confident the streak ends here. The Steelers have allowed at least 26 points in three out of four games. Their history of dominating rookie quarterbacks aside, this is no steel curtain. Bortles reminds me a little of Ben Roethlisberger. They are big guys who can get the ball down the field. Big Ben's less mobile, but he creates time shedding blockers with his size.

On offense, I know Pittsburgh can move the chains against a reeling defense. At some point, Jacksonville is going to bite back. Choosing when that happens is key. I do not see it here. Head coach Mike Tomlin has to be disappointed in his team choking against Tampa Bay last week. He will have them focused for a bad team this week as a result. Yes, it's on the road, but that is not such a big thing for a team that already went to Carolina and routed them. In a season with way too many routs early on, they get a sound victory: Pittsburgh 27, Jacksonville 21 (PIT -4/over 45.5)

Arizona (3-0) @ Denver (2-1): Is this a Super Bowl preview? No, but it has some of the same elements. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare and certainly have aspirations. In defeat, the Broncos proved they can play with the Seahawks, even in their stadium. A week off probably came at a good time for them because it allows them to clear the slate. It came at a good time for the Cardinals as well, trying to get quarterback Carson Palmer healthy. Unfortunately, it will be Drew Stanton again. Thus far, their defense has carried the day allowing a total of 45 points in three games. Can they shut down an offense much more potent than any offense they have seen, and do so on the road? I sincerely doubt it.

For me, this is a simple pick. Denver is the better team, at home with a massive edge at quarterback. Arizona has made it thus far with a bit of smoke and mirrors. They are not a dominant team in all phases. During the bye week I assure you the Broncos found all the game film on Stanton and will rush him relentlessly. It should result in a turnover edge for the home team, and with the ball Peyton Manning can create points. Maybe a few field goal "stops" keep the visitors in it, that's about it: Denver 27, Arizona 14 (DEN -7/under 49.5)

NY Jets (1-3) @ San Diego (3-1): Before the season, it felt as though these teams might have the records they currently have. The Chargers are a talented team, certainly capable of winning their share of games and it has worked out that way. The Jets have holes, and even at 8-8 last year were a bit of a mirage. Quarterback Geno Smith is regressing a bit and does not have enough skill around him to compensate for his deficiencies. Their only win came over Oakland at home in the first week and those guys just fired their head coach. To their credit, they have hung tough even on the road in Green Bay. However, this is a results league and I do not see a lot of wins in their future.

For San Diego, they need to take advantage of a New York team going on the road for just the second time and all the way across the country this time. They are resting comfortably, coming off an easy win over Jacksonville. The issue for them might be overconfidence. It could get interesting if the visitors can stuff the run against a team with injuries issues in their backfield, but Philip Rivers is off to a good start this season. He has spread the ball around and certainly can do some damage against a soft secondary. Travel is the big concern for me calling this closer: San Diego 28, NY Jets 17 (SD -6/over 43.5)

Kansas City (2-2) @ San Francisco (2-2): The big story here is the return of quarterback Alex Smith. He helped return this franchise to prominence, only to be cast aside. I think he is fine with it. He just got paid and enough time has passed for him to be more concerned with the task of winning the game. I probably threw dirt on the Chiefs a little too soon. They beat the pants off the Patriots for the MNF audience to see. Now off that emotional win they travel on a short week. The 49ers got a big win last week too, but theirs seemed to have flipped the light switch on in a sense. Their defense, with so much talent in street clothes, came through. Perhaps they found a home field advantage in their second outing at Levi's Stadium.

Colin Kaepernick is not a quarterback I ever see winning a Super Bowl, but I feel the same way about Alex Smith. Both teams are better off if the game is out of their hands. For most teams in the league, that is the case. Even with the rules the way they are, it is tough to find quality quarterback play. Kaepernick is missing something. He was supposed to be better with an improved supporting cast and it has not happened. Smith just needs to protect the ball and his team is going to be in this game throughout, assuming they play like they did the past two weeks. I expect a close game and not too much scoring. The momentum stays with the home team: San Francisco 23, Kansas City 20 (KC +7.5/under 44.5)

Cincinnati (3-0) @ New England (2-2): The poor Bengals. They spent their week off gearing up for a national television appearance on SNF against a high profile opponent. Little did they know, it would be against Tom Brady coming off an embarrassing loss on MNF. The Patriots come home after getting crushed 41-14 in Kansas City and if you know anything about this team, know that they are very, very good following a loss. Cincinnati might be running into a chainsaw here. They certainly feel like the better team here, but the better team is not always the right pick.

Tom Brady has made a career out of proving people wrong. When people are saying he is finished, he gets mad. This nonsense with wide receiver Aaron Dobson seems like a distraction. He is not going to play, and Brady could care less. He will find his velocity and get the ball where it needs to be. The Bengals can rush the passer and disrupt him, but it will not be like it was at Arrowhead Stadium. The head coach known as "hoodie" will fix the problems on the offensive line, and game plan around them. His defense is going to figure out what went wrong. All of it is going to be turned around, because that is what they do. Believe it when you see it, this team is not done: New England 24, Cincinnati 23 (NE +2/over 46)

Seattle (2-1) @ Washington (1-3): Is rest a bad thing? The Seahawks had a nine-day break after opening the season on TNF and lost at the Chargers. Now they go across the country following an open week trying to take down a team also experiencing a long break after they were last seen on TNF. The Redskins seem to be on the brink of falling apart completely. For a time it seemed as if they had hope. The blew out the Jaguars, who now appear to be hopeless, and stayed with the Eagles until falling 37-34. Everything went wrong when the Giants destroyed them, and now here comes a championship team ready to treat them the same way.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has bravely admitted he was a bully growing up. in some ways, you do have to have a bully mentality to be the best. In this situation, his team needs to do what they do against a team with holes and injuries. Kirk Cousins is starting to fade as teams compile tape on him. Jay Gruden's brother Jon does the call here and for some reason I look for Washington to show up here and at least make a game of it for a while. Alfred Morris is a tough runner, a rarity in the league these days. His opposite number Marshawn Lynch is just as tough, and if the score turns in favor of the visitors by a large margin early all bets are off. I do not think it does. This is a snooze, and the home team can relax knowing their "franchise" quarterback Robert Griffin III will not be lost to injury against this team again because he is already out: Seattle 27, Washington 16 (SEA -6.5/under 46.5)


NFL Predictions 2014: Week 5 | 15 comments | Create New Account
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NFL Predictions 2014: Week 5
Authored by: dbsmall onFriday, October 03 2014

Last week was rough all around.  I went 7-6, after a last minute switch that would have left me at 8-5.


I'm still 39-23 for the season, so that's good.


This week:


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