Week 6 Picks

Posted: 10/18/2015 by levcohen in Football

The past few weeks, I’ve written about how there seemed to be very few great on-paper matchups. I was going to do the same this week, but I realized that I’d have to do the same every week if I were to use the same criteria. Why? Because while there seem to be more great teams than usual this season, there also might be fewer good teams. I think there are five great teams in the NFL (New England, Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Arizona), a few more teams we know are at least pretty good (Pittsburgh, Seattle) and then a bunch of question marks. A few of those question marks will pop, and maybe I should write a post about those question marks in particular, because they are probably the most interesting teams in the NFL right now. But right now, using my old criteria of a good on-paper game I’d only call games featuring two of those seven teams worth circling on the schedule. With all of that said, I looked at this week’s 13 games (after Thursday Night) and decided that this week’s slate of games is, for a number of reasons, actually full of intriguing matchups. First of all, we’re spared the hardship of seeing the Saints (played Thursday), Romo-less Cowboys (BYE), Raiders (BYE), or Buccaneers (BYE). Second of all, the putrid teams who are playing this week are mostly playing each other. Jacksonville is playing Houston, Chicago is playing Detroit, Miami is playing Tennessee, and Baltimore is playing San Francisco. Aside from those four games, every single game is at least somewhat intriguing. Heck, all four of those games have spreads of 3.5 or fewer points, so even the bad teams will likely play close games. The best matchups this week? Probably Arizona-Pittsburgh, Cincinnati-Buffalo, and New England-Indianapolis simply because it’ll be fascinating to see how many points the Patriots score. I’m super excited for this week.
BYE teams- St. Louis, Dallas, Oakland, Tampa Bay
*= upset pick

Washington Redskins (2-3, 3-2 against the spread) at New York Jets (3-1, 3-1):*
Spread: Jets favored by 7
Over/under: 40.5
My prediction: Are we sure the Jets are better than the Redskins? I mean, look at New York’s first four games. They’re 3-1, which looks great, but they’ve played one of the easiest schedules in football, destroying the Browns, Colts, and Dolphins (three bad teams at this point) while falling to the Eagles, who also happened to lose to Washington. The Jets have always lacked a great homefield advantage, and their one loss has come at home. They also have Ryan Fitzpatrick as their quarterback and an offense that I don’t think will be very effective against a surprisingly good Redskins defense. In a low scoring game, give me the Redskins in one of the biggest upsets (against the point spread) I’ll pick all year. Redskins win 20-17.
Redskins cover
Under

Arizona Cardinals (4-1, 4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2, 4-0-1):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 4.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: I really wish Ben Roethlisberger were playing in this game for the Steelers, because I think with Big Ben this could become one of the games of the season. With Michael Vick, though, I’m, er, less confident in the Steelers against a ferocious Cardinals team that has a +100 point differential through five games. The Steelers still have weapons in Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and the returning Martavis Bryant along with an improved defense, which is why I like them to make a run to the playoffs when Roethlisberger returns, but the Cardinals are a much better all-around team with Big Ben out. Cardinals win 31-16.
Cardinals cover
Over

Kansas City Chiefs (1-4, 1-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-2, 3-1):
Spread: Vikings favored by 3.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: I looooove the Vikings here. They’re coming off a BYE, they’re playing a 1-4 team that just lost its best player, and they have looked very good at home this year. If this line were six points, I’d think about taking the Chiefs. But at 3.5? Vikings all day. I have a soft spot for the Vikings this year, and I’ll take Minnesota 27-13.
Vikings cover
Under

Cincinnati Bengals (5-0, 4-0-1) at Buffalo Bills (3-2, 3-2):*
Spread: Bengals favored by 3
Over/under: 43
My prediction: This is another game that would look very good if both teams had its starting quarterback. But the Bills will be without Tyrod Taylor, which means that E.J. Manuel will be tasked with knocking off one of the best teams in football. So is Buffalo screwed? Probably, but I’m taking them anyway! The Bengals are a great team, but I think they are going to slip up one of these weeks, and this feels like it could be the game in which Andy Dalton shows some of his flaws. Buffalo’s defense is really good, but their pass-rush hasn’t been as good as it was last year to this point. Could this be the week that they get some pressure on the opposing quarterback? It might be, although CIncinnati’s offensive line has been very good. I expect a close, back-and-forth affair that will end with a 21-20 Bills win.
Bills cover
Under

Chicago Bears (2-3, 2-3) at Detroit Lions (0-5, 1-4):
Spread: Lions favored by 4
Over/under: 44.5
My prediction: I think these teams are about even, and both of them are pretty bad. This is a pretty unpredictable matchup, with Matthew Stafford returning to the field after a second-half benching last week and the Bears coming off of two close wins against bad teams. I’ll hedge and take the Lions to win 27-24 with the Bears covering.
Bears cover
Over

Denver Broncos (5-0, 4-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-3, 3-2):
Spread: Broncos favored by 3.5
Over/under: 42
My prediction: The Broncos failed to cover for this first time last week, but I’m going to keep rolling with them this week. Their defense is really good, although it remains to be seen how they will respond to the loss of star pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware. I’m still waiting for Peyton Manning (the worst QB in the NFL per Football Outsiders) and the last ranked offense to wake up, but they might not even need to against a Browns team that has looked solid but is still starting Josh McCown (and an injured one, at that). Broncos win 26-14.
Broncos cover
Under

Houston Texans (1-4, 1-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4, 2-3):
Spread: Jaguars favored by 2.5
Over/under: 43
My prediction: Who knows? Two bad teams here, but I have a bit more confidence in the Jaguars. Jaguars win 27-21.
Jaguars cover
Over

Miami Dolphins (1-3, 1-3) at Tennessee Titans (1-3, 2-2):*
Spread: Titans favored by 2
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: This is weirdly similar to the last matchup. Both of these teams are below-average, and the home team is again favored by less than a field goal. The difference here is that the Dolphins were actually supposed to be good before the season and now have a new head coach. I think some of their talent could show itself here with a new coach, leading to a 21-17 Dolphins win.
Dolphins cover
Under

Carolina Panthers (4-0, 3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-3, 1-3-1):- Lock of the Week
Spread: Seahawks favored by 7
Over/under: 40.5
My prediction: It’s not often that you see a 2-3 team favored by a touchdown against an undefeated squad, but these are special circumstances; the Panthers have played the second easiest schedule in the league and have faced a quarterback murderer’s row of Blake Bortles, Ryan Mallett, Luke McCown, and Jameis Winston, while the Seahawks are coming off a close loss in Cincinnati in a game they should have won. I’m still not convinced that the Seahawks are all that great this year, and I’m sure I’ll pick against them plenty this season, but I like them here in a must-win situation at home against a team whose top receiver is Ted Ginn. This could be another Bears-style beat-down (the Seahawks won that one 26-0). Seattle’s the better team here, and they’ll show it in a 24-13 throttling. In fact, because I don’t want to be bland and pick one of the double-digit favorites as my lock, I’ll also lock up the Seahawks here.
Seahawks cover
Under

San Diego Chargers (2-3, 1-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-0, 5-0):
Spread: Packers favored by 10.5
Over/under: 50.5
My prediction: It’s getting really difficult to pick against the Packers at home. Even when Aaron Rodgers isn’t at his best (he threw his first two picks at home in years last week), the Packers still cover at home, as they did in last week’s 24-10 victory. I have to think they’ll do so again against the Chargers, a team that’s looked really bad this year, especially defensively, which isn’t a good sign for a team heading to Lambeau to face the Packers. Packers win 31-17.
Packers cover
Under

Baltimore Ravens (1-4, 0-4-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-4, 2-3):*
Spread: Ravens favored by 2
Over/under: 43
My prediction: Are the Ravens really five points better than the Niners on a neutral field? I don’t think so. In fact, everything I’ve seen has indicated that the Niners are just as good (bad?), so I’ll take the Niners at home. Another game I won’t be watching, though. Niners win 26-20.
Niners cover
Over

New England Patriots (4-0, 3-1) at Indianapolis Colts (3-2, 1-4):
Spread: Patriots favored by 10
Over/under: 53.5
My prediction: Is this spread four points too high? Probably. Will I feel stupid when a rejuvenated Andrew Luck leads the Colts to a backdoor cover against the Patriots? Most definitely. Is there any chance I’ll take the Colts in this game? Absolutely not. I think we all know Bill Belichick pretty well by now, and Bill Belichick likes running the score up on teams, especially against the Colts, his longtime rival. This game, though? We could see a new definition of “running up the score.” After the Colts blew the whistle on the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in what turned into the Deflategate scandal (which was much less of a scandal than it was made out to be), you can be sure that Tom Brady and the Patriots will want their revenge. Oh, and since Luck was drafted by the Colts, the Patriots are 4-0 against them (two in the playoffs) and have outscored them.. wait for it… 189-73. I’m not picking against that team this week. Patriots win 41-21.
Patriots cover
Over

New York Giants (3-2, 3-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-3, 2-3):
Spread: Eagles favored by 5.5
Over/under: 50
My prediction: Uh, why are the Eagles giving so many points here? Sure, they beat up on the Saints last week, but it is well established that the Saints are not a good football team, especially on the road. The evidence still overwhelmingly states that the Eagles aren’t a good team right now. Meanwhile, the Giants could easily be walking into this game 5-0, with Eli Manning playing extremely well. I think the Giants have the better offense while the Eagles have the better defense, so home field could end up being the difference, but I don’t think Philly will win by more than four points. I really wanted to pick them here because I like their chances on Monday Night, but this spread is just too high. Eagles win 23-20.
Giants cover
Under

Upset picks:
Niners over Ravens
Dolphins over Titans
Bills over Bengals
Redskins over Jets

Lock of the week:
Seahawks over Panthers

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