Week 5 Review

Posted: 10/07/2014 by levcohen in Football

If each week has a theme, and each week really doesn’t have a theme, then the theme of week five of the 2014 season has to be the week of the comeback. The Browns (down 28-3 at one point), Panthers (21-7), Giants (20-10), Saints (31-20), and Bills (14-0) all came back from double-digit deficits to win, while the Rams nearly pulled off the biggest regulation comeback in regular season history against the Eagles, as they roared back from 34-7 down and had a chance to win on their last drive before their offense stalled. In that way, it was a really weird week. What this week really did was further separate the three teams that I now consider elite. Two of those are old news: the Denver Broncos (41-20 win over Arizona) and the Seattle Seahawks (27-17 over Washington). The third? No, it’s not the Bengals, who were crushed in Foxborough, nor is it the Patriots, who did the crushing. Instead, it’s the San Diego Chargers, who are one of three four win teams and thrashed the Jets 31-0 on Sunday. The Chargers have a win over Seattle and could easily be undefeated (they nearly beat Arizona in Arizona in week one), so it seems pretty safe to put them in that elite group. About that “elite” group, though: those are the three best teams in football, but it’s clear that there aren’t any terrific teams in the NFL this season. There are no undefeated teams left, and no team has really separated itself from the pack like Oakland and Jacksonville have done in the opposite direction. Let’s see how I did in week five:

Houston Texans (3-1, 3-1 ATS) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1, 3-1):
Spread: Cowboys favored by 6.5
Over/under: 47
My prediction: 24-20 Cowboys.
Result: It doesn’t often work out this way, but my hedging (picking Dallas to win and Houston to cover) worked out this time. The Cowboys needed overtime to fend off Houston, but they kicked a game-winning field goal to win it 20-17 and improve to 4-1. This battle of Texas didn’t really tell us much about either team, but it did show that, while both are competitive, neither is a great team and both have been aided by easy schedules.

Buffalo Bills (2-2, 2-2) at Detroit Lions (3-1, 3-1):*
Spread: Lions favored by 6.5
Over/under: 43
My prediction: Bills win 21-20
Result: Another 3/3, as my biggest upset pick of the week panned out. It didn’t look good midway through the second quarter when the Lions went up 14-0, but Dan Carpenter nailed a 58-yard field goal to win the game 17-14. The game-winner came after the Lions coughed up chance after chance to put Buffalo away, with three Alex Henery (now cut) missed field goals to blame. The offense also stalled with Calvin Johnson out, but this is a game the Lions should have won. Instead, this felt more like the Lions teams of the past few years who have had great potential but have fallen well short of expectations. This is a big road win for the Bills, who are very much in the playoff mix in the weak AFC East.

Baltimore Ravens (3-1, 2-1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (2-2, 3-1):
Spread: Colts favored by 3
Over/under: 49
My prediction: Colts win 31-24.
Result: I’ll be honest: I got a 2/3 here, but the game didn’t exactly go the way I thought it would. Instead of turning into a blowout, it was 6-3 at halftime and ended just 20-13. A close game between two good teams, the difference between Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco was more pronounced than ever, even in an off day for Luck. Flacco missed some chances (sacked on multiple third or fourth and one plays), while Luck generally seemed in control (completed 65% of his passes, sacked just once) despite throwing two interceptions.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2, 1-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4, 0-4):
Spread: Steelers favored by 6
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: Steelers win 30-20.
Result: Over/under wrong again in a 17-9 Pittsburgh win. The Steelers aren’t very good, but the Jaguars are much worse.

Chicago Bears (2-2, 2-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-2, 2-2):*
Spread: Panthers favored by 2.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: Bears take it 23-17.
Result: An 0/3 here in a really weird game between two similarly inconsistent teams. The Bears jumped out to a 21-7 lead before Robbie Gould missed a 35-yard field goal that would have made the game 24-7. That’s when the Panthers made their comeback, as their defense forced three straight turnovers on Chicago’s last three possessions, turning a 24-21 deficit into a 31-24 win. Again, both of these teams have had inconsistent seasons, and the Bears in particular have been disappointing. These teams both seem headed for mediocre seasons, which could win the weak NFC South (good for the Panthers) but not necessarily the North (not too great for Chicago).

Cleveland Browns (1-2, 2-0-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-3, 1-3):*
Spread: Titans favored by 1
Over/under: 44
My prediction: Browns 23-20.
Result: Just the over/under wrong. It’s important to note that the Browns ended as one point favorites, but I’m going based off the spread when I posted this as I’ve done in the past. When I post these teams’ records against the spread in the future, though, I’ll do so against the closing lines. As for the game itself, the Browns continued a trend of playing in high-scoring close games by coming back from the aforementioned 28-3 deficit and winning 29-28. Brian Hoyer continued to cement his starting spot, while the Titans couldn’t muster any offense after Jake Locker’s injury. The Titans have an easy home game against the Jaguars this week, but seem destined for double-digit losses. Meanwhile, the Browns aren’t likely to make the playoffs, but they have been fun to watch and should continue to keep games close.

St. Louis Rams (1-2, 1-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-1, 2-2):
Spread: Eagles favored by 6.5
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: Eagles 30-27
Result: 3/3, as the game ended 34-28 after the Eagles looked set to cover for most of the game. The Rams aren’t good, but the Eagles aren’t good right now either. Don’t be fooled by the 4-1 record; this team has a lot of work to do, especially offensively.

Atlanta Falcons (2-2, 2-2) at New York Giants (2-2, 2-2):
Spread: Giants favored by 3.5
Over/under: 50.5
My prediction: Giants 33-26.
Result: Over/under wrong (notice a trend?). This game went pretty much the way I thought it would be, as it went under by just half a point (the final score was 30-20). The Giants’ offense looked good again, but that might be because the Falcons have a really bad defense. Again, I don’t think Atlanta will make the playoffs, even out of the weak NFC South. They certainly have come crashing back to earth with consecutive losses since their week three thrashing of Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3, 1-3) at New Orleans Saints (1-3, 1-3):- LOTW
Spread: Saints favored by 10
Over/under: 48
My prediction: Saints 31-14
Result: Remind me never to pick the Saints as my lock again. The Buccaneers took this game to overtime before the Saints finally won it 37-31, and this is yet another sign that New Orleans isn’t the force we thought they would be heading into the season. Then again, in a wide-open division, they seem to have as good of a chance as any to go 9-7 and take the NFC South crown.

Arizona Cardinals (3-0, 2-1) at Denver Broncos (2-1, 0-3):
Spread: Broncos favored by 7.5
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: 31-17 Broncos
Result: 3/3. Again, this game went as I thought it would, albeit under slightly different circumstances (I don’t think the Cardinals wanted rookie Logan Thomas to be playing so soon. He played very poorly). The Cardinals kept it close throughout, at one point cutting the deficit to 24-20, but the Broncos scored the final 17 points and won 41-20. The Broncos are just as good as they were last season, while the Cardinals have proven in the first few weeks that last season’s 10-6 record was no fluke. Even in Denver and with their third string quarterback in the game, the Cardinals hung around for most of the contest. That says a lot about Arizona.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-2, 3-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2, 2-2):*
Spread: 49ers favored by 4.5
Over/under: 44
My prediction: Chiefs 23-20.
Result: Just the over/under correct this time, as the 49ers won and barely covered in what ended as a 22-17 game. While they don’t look like the team they have been the past few seasons, the 49ers have been good enough to knock off solid teams in consecutive weeks. When they start to get some key defenders back, watch out. Meanwhile, the Chiefs played well in the loss, holding a lead into the fourth quarter. They also showed an ability to move the ball down the field, which is an encouraging sign for a team that isn’t necessarily known for its offensive proficiency. In the end, they didn’t have enough to defeat the 49ers, but it wasn’t necessarily a loss that spells bad news in the future.

New York Jets (1-3, 0-3-1) at San Diego Chargers (3-1, 4-0):
Spread: Chargers favored by 6.5
Over/under: 44
My prediction: Chargers win this one 28-17.
Result: Just the over/under incorrect. This game ended 31-0, and it could have been even worse. It was an absolute mauling, and the Jets didn’t move the ball past midfield until the fourth quarter. All you need to know about this game comes in the form of two statlines: Geno Smith was 4/12 for 27 yards and an interception, while Michael Vick was 8/19 for 47 yards while being sacked twice. The Jets were actually able to run the ball decently well, but it doesn’t matter how well you can run it when your quarterbacks play that badly.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-0, 3-0) at New England Patriots (2-2, 1-3):*
Spread: Bengals favored by 2
Over/under: 46
My prediction: Patriots win 23-20.
Result: Again, just the over/under incorrect. While I thought this would be a close game, it turned into an absolute blowout, with the Patriots winning 43-17. The Bengals again seemingly shrank in the spotlight, while the Patriots rose to the occasion and quieted any talk of a Brady-front office feud, at least for now.

Seattle Seahawks (2-1, 2-1) at Washington Redskins (1-3, 2-2):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 7.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: Seahawks 27-17.
Result: Nailed it for (I think) the second time this season. I thought it would end 24-17, which would have cost me the win against the spread, but the Seahawks kicked a last-minute field goal to stretch their lead to 10 points and won 27-17. Seattle is, again, a great team, while this loss pretty much eliminates Washington from an otherwise-surging NFC East (they are now three games behind leaders Philadelphia and Dallas and two behind New York).

Upset picks:
Bills over Lions
Bears over Panthers
Browns over Titans
Patriots over Bengals
2-2… 8-9 total

Lock of the week:
Saints over Buccaneers
1-0… 4-1 total

13-2 on game predictions (that’s more like it).. 49-27 total
12-3 against the spread.. 40-34-2 total
6-9 on over/under (never going to figure this one out).. 28-47-1

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