Okay, so I’m starting to feel a little better about myself. On what was a pretty difficult week to pick games, the Chump actually went 8-4-1 while his opponents both went 6-7, leading to the inexplicable urge to refer to himself in the third person.
I’ll stop now.
While I’ve fared well the last two weeks and narrowed the gap between myself and those ahead of me, there’s still a long season left and a huge mountain to climb to gain back any sort of respectability. Picking games at 41% on the season still leaves you heading home from Las Vegas with nothing but crumpled ATM receipts in your wallet and an ill-advised venereal disease from a night of fun you can hardly remember.
This week features another intriguing slate of games which at first glance don’t appear all that difficult which can only mean I’m staring another four pick week directly in the face. But seriously, we only have one road favorite among the entire slate of 1 and 4 o’clock games? Certainly more than one road team will win out of that lot, right? The question is…. which ones?
Our guest this week is Speedbeagle who has won my NFL Futures contest in the past. But can she pick week to week? She also hosts a season-long NASCAR pick ‘em pool but the guys we’re picking here wear an entirely different set of helmets. Beag claims to not use point spreads in her household which means she’s living in a fantasy world and probably only plays two-cent slots when she goes to Vegas but considering our last two guest prognosticators have taken it on the chin, KP and I have decided to let this one slide as long since she promises to treat us at the early bird special.
Now, on to this week’s selections…
SPORTSCHUMP’S FINALLY GOT HIS GROOVE BACK PICKS
MINNESOTA +8.5 at GREEN BAY
We finally saw what Green Bay was capable of last week when the Packers took on the Bears. Aaron Rodgers had no problems completing passes to anyone in a Packers uniform. Unfortunately for Bears fans, neither did Jay Cutler. Seriously, how bad is it when you’re 1-8 lifetime against a division opponent? I see Cutler writing a letter to commissioner Goodell and asking if the Bears can start playing in the NFC East. Unfortunately for Jay Jay, the commish has bigger fish to fry. Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings shocked the shit out of everyone last week by beating the Falcons. The rookie threw for 317 yards but ironically no touchdowns. The Vikes may have revealed a little too much of their playbook to a Green Bay team that’s not sound defensively unless they’re playing against Jay Cutler… or probably Teddy Bridgewater. Minnesota hasn’t won in Green Bay in five years and I don’t see that trend ending at the hands of a rookie quarterback. The Packers keep their hot streak alive and cover the 8.5 this Thursday night.
CHICAGO + 3 at CAROLINA
These two teams suck. Was that too blunt? Okay, so maybe sucking is the wrong term. Perhaps tremendously disappointing is far more appropriate. The Panthers looked like they were going to adjust nicely to life after Steve Smith until they ran into him in Baltimore last week. That ended poorly for Carolina. The Bears? Well, they’re about as unpredictable as the Florida weather. They’ve won both their road games so far this season but have lost both games at home. Go figure. Fortunately for them, they’re on the road this week which should mean an automatic W, right? Both teams are coming off harrowing losses and one of them is about to drop to 2-3. So which team will that be? Good question. I think the Bears are better equipped to bounce back so I’ll take them and the three as the Panthers continue to struggle.
CLEVELAND +2 at TENNESSEE
Titans quarterback Jake Locker should return Sunday after missing last week’s blowout loss to the Colts with a wrist injury. Not that it would have mattered much. Locker pretty much shit the bed in his last two games before getting hurt. Either way, Cleveland’s trip to town should provide the Titans with a nice little scrimmage helping Locker get back into playing shape. Running the ball against a poor Browns defense should be all Locker needs to get his confidence and accuracy back. I’ll take the Titans and lay the deuce.
ST. LOUIS +7 at PHILADELPHIA
Philly went from being Super Bowl contenders to having people call for Nick Foles head after one little loss to San Francisco. Oh Eagles fans, why are you so fickle? Perhaps scoring an offensive touchdown would cure that. This week they welcome the Rams to town. It’s probably a good thing Michael Sam is no longer still on their roster. God only knows what sort of welcoming committee the City of Brotherly Love would have for the guy. I don’t expect Philly to be all that welcoming to the rest of the Rams either. I see Coach Kelly going back to the drawing board and getting his team back on track offensively against what is still a pretty solid Rams defense. They’re just not of Philly’s caliber. Plus Philly is still pissed off about last week. I like the Eagles at home to cover the seven.
ATLANTA +4 at NY GIANTS
Here’s another game from Sunday’s slate that is unpredictable as hell. If you had asked me in Weeks One or Two who would win this game, I would have said the Falcons hands down. But the Falcons have taken a turn for the worse while the Giants have won two straight. Atlanta is having serious problems keeping their offensive line healthy which doesn’t bode well for them going into New York where the Giants will put consistent pressure on Matt Ryan. I really don’t like laying the four here but I think I see the Falcons continuing to struggle, particularly if they can’t protect their quarterback. Plus they just allowed 41 points to the Minnesota Vikings. Think what Eli Manning can do to ‘em. I’ll take the Giants and lay the four.
TAMPA BAY +10 at NEW ORLEANS
The Buccaneers turned some heads last week by going into Pittsburgh and beating the Steelers outright. That won’t happen this week and not only because they’re not playing the Steelers. They play the Saints who have struggled so far on the road but are near impossible to beat at home. The last two times the Bucs played in the Super Dome, the Saints dropped a 40-spot on ‘em. It might not be that bad this time around but it should be bad enough that the Saints cover the ten.
HOUSTON +6 at DALLAS
Speaking of the Saints, the Cowboys made them look pretty bad last week. It was almost enough to stop Jerry Jones from taking pictures with girls one-third his age or at least ensure none of them went viral. It looks like the ‘Boys have finally shored up their O-Line issues giving Tony Romo time to prove he’s not as bad as everyone thinks. The Texans on the other hand are starting Ryan Fitzpatrick and while the Harvard grad may be smarter than Tony Romo, Romo is the better golfer and lands more chicks. Throw in the fact that DeMarco Murray is pretty much unstoppable along with the fact that the Texans struggle to stop the run and I’ll take the Cowboys to continue their hot streak and cover the six.
BUFFALO +7 at DETROIT
I really like Detroit in this game. The only thing that scares me is that the Bills have decided to start Kyle Orton in place of the struggling EJ Manuel. While that may sound silly, Orton does have a history against the Lions having played in that division. Nah, who am I kidding? The Lions take this thing and cover the touchdown.
BALTIMORE +3 at INDIANAPOLIS
We have another tough game to pick here as both teams are playing pretty well. This isn’t necessarily a must win for either team. The Colts are a game behind the Texans in the standings but that’s ground they should easily make up. The Ravens are one loss behind the Bengals but I’m not sure I see Baltimore winning that division anyway. I want to see some toughness out of this Colts team to convince me they can actually win something meaningful this season. This could be the weekend we see that. I’ll take the Colts and lay the field goal.
PITTSBURGH -6 at JACKSONVILLE
The Steelers took one on the chin last week, losing to the previously winless Buccaneers in the final seconds. They’re rewarded this week by playing an equally bad team from Florida. Normally, I don’t like taking Pittsburgh and laying that many points. Steelers teams generally don’t score in droves even if they are playing against one of the worst teams in the league, aka, Jacksonville. Will the Steelers respond like Lovie Smith’s Bucs did after a harsh loss? Here’s the difference. The Steelers are still missing key defensive starters. I’m 1-3 on picking Jacksonville games this year as they have yet to cover a spread. I swear this will be the last time I take them and the points. They did their best to cover the 13 on the road in San Diego last week but couldn’t. The same happened in Week One against Philly. This week they finally cover the touchdown or I’m never picking them again.
ARIZONA +7 at DENVER
This should be a pretty decent game: one of the game’s best offenses against one of its better defenses. Both these teams are coming off their bye weeks so it’ll be interesting to see if Arizona can keep up their hot pace. They’ve been pretty stout against the run to start the season. Denver doesn’t rush the ball all that well but they do have this guy called Peyton Manning. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He’s Papa John’s best friend. While ‘Zona has allowed the second fewest points in the league so far, they’re going against a Broncos team that lost to the Seahawks and has had a week to think about it. I like Denver to cover at home.
KANSAS CITY +6.5 at SAN FRANCISCO
Another Week Five game, another near touchdown spread. They’re really making me work over here. The Chiefs are coming off their manhandling of the Patriots, a beat down so bad people are starting to wonder whether Tom Brady still has it. The Niners were pretty horrid offensively last week but still managed to eke out a victory over the Eagles. While the Chiefs looked good on Monday night, they’re playing on a short week and aren’t in Kansas anymore. I’m taking the Niners to cover.
NY JETS +6.5 at SAN DIEGO
We’ve been talking about the possibility of Rex Ryan getting fired for years. This might be the season it finally happens. The Jets look absolutely horrible. They’re 1-3 in a perfectly winnable division. And now they’re going up against a Chargers team that’s 3-1? The way Philip Rivers has been playing, I’m not sure why this spread is only six-and-a-half. I will lay all day.
CINCINNATI -1.5 at NEW ENGLAND
I’m not sure if you all saw Bill Belichick’s recent press conference but it was classic hoodie. He channeled his inner Rasheed Wallace and answered every question with the monotone “We’re on to Cincinnati.” He should be concerned. The Bengals have quietly become one of the best teams in the league, if not the best, at least on paper. They’re allowing 11 points per game and the Patriots can’t score meaning Belichick might not crack a smile for another week. I know the Pats are reeling here and the Bengals are just too good. Can you imagine the day you’d ever see a Bengals team favored in Foxboro? Guess what. That day is here. The Bengals pull it off and cover the line.
SEATTLE -7 at WASHINGTON
Someone asked me the other night who my second favorite NFL team was. I answered that I really didn’t have one (do people have second favorite teams?) but I did say that I rather enjoy watching the Seahawks play these days. That’s a good thing because they’ll be showcased this Monday night against a Redskins team that still can’t figure it out offensively. That means we could be in for another blowout. Jay Gruden is still struggling to find answers for this team. Unfortunately for them, they can’t play Jacksonville every week. I’m taking the ‘Hawks in another Monday night blowout and a game that could become unwatchable if it weren’t for the fact that the Seahawks were one of the teams playing.
SPEEDBEAGLE’S AND HER DOGS I REFUSE TO PICK GAMES WITH POINT SPREAD PICKS
I’ll be making my picks this week with the help of my canine cohorts, Katie (the Beagle) and Good Golly Miss Molly.
In our house, we don’t worry about points spreads; we just care about who wins. So here are our picks for Week 5:
Vikings/Packers: This game is a toss-up. Since my canine cohorts love anything that is related to cheese, we’ll pick GREEN BAY.
Bills/Lions: We’ll take the LIONS.
Ravens/Colts: Once upon a midnight dreary/ While I pondered weak and weary/ Who would get the higher score?/ Would it be the Colts from Indy/ Or the birds from Baltimore?/ Quoth the Ravens “Nevermore.” COLTS for the win.
Browns/Titans: This is our “who cares” game of the week, but since we have to pick one team or the other, we’ll pick Johnny Football and the BROWNS.
Bears/Panthers: DA BEARS
Texans/Cowboys: The battle for the Governor’s Trophy. As much as I don’t want to do it, I have to go with the COWBOYS.
Steelers/Jaguars: This is the no-brainer game of the week. STEELERS
Buccaneers/Saints: Sorry, Chump. No love for the Florida teams this week. SAINTS win.
Falcons/Giants: I have a friend who watched the Manning boys grow up in New Orleans. His advice- never go against a Manning, I have to agree on this one. GIANTS.
Chiefs/49ers: The Chiefs have a bye next week. No doubt after the Patriots last week and the 49ers this week, they’ll need the break. 49ERS
Jets/Chargers: Katie and Molly would lock me out of the house if I picked a team with Michael Vick on the roster (Katie holds a grudge- just ask NASCAR’s Carl Edwards). CHARGERS
Bengals/Patriots: The Brady bunch chalks up another win on their annual trek to the playoffs. PATRIOTS
Seahawks/Redskins: Growing up at my house, when we played cowboys and Indians, the Indians always won (my great grandmother was 1/4 Cherokee and she was raised on the reservation). Unfortunately, that won’t hold true this week. SEAHAWKS
KP’S IS HE GETTING NERVOUS YET PICKS
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-9.5)
Here’s a line I didn’t expect to say this early in the season: This game depends on the availability and health of Teddy Bridgewater. Yeah, it still sounds strange. But Bridgewater brought Minnesota to life with an offensive spark and a solid performance, knocking out the potent Falcons last week. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack also posted an explosive performance, ousting the Bears by three touchdowns. I like Green Bay playing at home, with an offense that is capable of putting up 30-plus week in and week out. The Packers are dead last in run defense, so Minnesota will likely try to move the ball on the ground, keeping Rodgers off the field. But for me, it still comes back to Bridgewater’s availability. The Vikings QB is questionable, and that at least means he’ll likely not be 100 percent. With that risk, I’ll take the Packers to cover at home.
Against the Spread: Green Bay Packers
Straight Up: Green Bay Packers
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans (-1.5)
The Browns had an additional week to get healthy and prepare for this game. The Titans, meanwhile, have suffered back-to-back blowouts, being outscored 74-24 over the last two weeks. Cleveland gives up a lot of yards on defense, ranked 27th against the pass and 29th against the run. But the Titans aren’t exactly an explosive offense, and in the end, I like Cleveland – a team that has already played well against the likes of the Ravens and the Saints. Browns win on the road.
Against the Spread: Cleveland Browns
Straight Up: Cleveland Browns
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers (-2.5)
The Panthers are getting beaten up defensively, especially on the ground over the last few weeks. With a defense ranked 27th against the run, expect a heavy dose of Matt Forte. Following a blowout loss the Packers last week, Chicago is in desperate need of a bounce back week. The Panthers are 28th in the league in scoring (18.2 ppg), and clearly need Cam Newton to be healthier, so he can be more of a well-rounded offensive weapon. Plain and simple, the Bears have too much balance on offense, and Chicago wins this one outright on the road.
Against the Spread: Chicago Bears
Straight Up: Chicago Bears
Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)
The Cowboys put up a clean and dominating performance against the Saints last week, likely leaving many to immediately jump on the Dallas bandwagon. Keep in mind, this was a New Orleans team that has struggled defensively under Rob Ryan. Houston by no means has a lockdown defense, but it has big playmaking ability with players like J.J. Watt. But overall, the key here is shutting down DeMarco Murray and the Dallas run game. The Cowboys are first in the league in rushing offense, averaging 165 ypg. Houston is 24th against the run, allowing 5.0 yards per carry. This, along with the home field advantage, are big pluses for Dallas. Cowboys cover at home.
Against the Spread: Dallas Cowboys
Straight Up: Dallas Cowboys
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5)
As I mentioned last week, with the Jags, it is pretty simple: look to the opposing team’s pass rush. Jacksonville has allowed an NFL-high 20 sacks in four games. That’s seven more than any other team! Pittsburgh is 18th in the NFL, with seven sacks. Not too special. Also, the Steelers were upset at home by a Tampa Bay team that allowed 56 points to the Falcons. Take what you want out of that. Pittsburgh has allowed the third most sacks on the year and its pass defense is a middle-of-the-pack group with just one interception. I’m clearly standing here trying to make an argument for Jacksonville, and while I think Blake Bortles will continue to grow at QB, I have to keep picking against the Jags until he is a proven commodity week by week. Steelers cover… but barely.
Against the Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers
Straight Up: Pittsburgh Steelers
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5)
This one is always a feisty rivalry for the fans in Baltimore, holding a long-term grudge since the Colts left their city overnight. On the field, the question is whether the Ravens can handle Andrew Luck and Indy’s top-ranked passing offense. The Ravens have allowed just three sacks on the season, and with Indy’s far from stellar pass rush, all signs point to Joe Flacco having plenty of time in the pocket. Baltimore has also allowed just three touchdowns through the air. This should be one of the better games of the week, and could be one that comes down to a late field goal. Take the Ravens and the points.
Against the Spread: Baltimore Ravens
Straight Up: Indianapolis Colts
Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions (-7.5)
The Bills have benched E.J. Manuel and will start Kyle Orton, who will take on the role of game manager, while the Bills likely focus on a run game that is ranked 13th in the NFL. Buffalo’s 31st ranked passing offense has clearly not got anything going this season. Detroit, meanwhile, has had a shutdown defense, ranking 2nd against the pass and 6th versus the run. The Lions also have a strong pass attack, headlined by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Get the ice bath ready, Kyle, this is going to be a long day. Detroit covers at home.
Against the Spread: Detroit Lions
Straight Up: Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-10.5)
Have the Bucs turned the corner, following an impressive upset of the Steelers last week? We shouldn’t get too hasty, considering this is still the team that gave up 56 points to the Falcons a few games back, and is 31st in points allowed and 28th against the pass. Drew Brees and the Saints could have a field day, much like Matt Ryan did. While that is likely to be the case, this spread is a bit high, especially when it is tough to trust Rob Ryan and a New Orleans defense that is giving up a ton of yards. Here’s guessing that Mike Glennon and the Bucs can keep this game in single digits.
Against the Spread: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Straight Up: New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (-4.5)
The Giants are finally clicking offensively, and now will face off against an Atlanta defense that is getting abused. Just look at the stats for Atlanta: 29th in points allowed, 31st in total yards, 30th in pass defense and 28th in run defense. This includes the blowout victory where the Falcons shut down the Bucs. With the Giants clicking and playing at home, expect another solid day to come from Eli Manning and Rashad Jennings. Also, there’s a possibility that Odell Beckham Jr. will play, adding another weapon to New York’s offense. With all this in mind, Atlanta’s 2nd-ranked passing offense 322.2 ypg) has the horses to turn this one into a shootout. Therefore, a close game is a good bet. Take Atlanta and the points.
Against the Spread: Atlanta Falcons
Straight Up: New York Giants
St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)
The first matchup I notice is the Rams’ third ranked pass defense versus Philly’s sixth-ranked passing offense. The more telling stat isn’t passing yards allowed by St. Louis, but the fact that opposing quarterbacks are posting a 105.1 rating against the Rams. Stats can be deceiving. St. Louis is also 30th against the run, which could mean that LeSean McCoy finally breaks out of his funk. With just one sack on the season, the Rams also are likely to fail to get enough pressure on Nick Foles. All signs point to the high-flying Philadelphia offense to have a big day at home. Eagles cover.
Against the Spread: Philadelphia Eagles
Straight Up: Philadelphia Eagles
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos (-7.5)
This is a tricky one for me. Arizona has proven itself in the first three weeks, and is rested coming off a bye. Andre Ellington could be healthier and more explosive, and while Carson Palmer is still out, Drew Stanton has been effective under center. The Cardinals have the talent in its secondary, but Denver has so many weapons on offense. Also, Arizona has managed just three sacks on the season, which likely means Peyton Manning will have all day to throw. Playing at home, I would typically go with the Broncos anyway. So, while I hate to underestimate Arizona again, I can’t help but take Peyton Manning and the Broncos, after having a week off to rest and prepare. Denver covers.
Against the Spread: Denver Broncos
Straight Up: Denver Broncos
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers (-7.5)
The Jets lead the league with 14 sacks, but will face off against a Chargers team that has allowed just five sacks in four games. Philip Rivers should therefore have time to throw on a New York defense that may be ranked 11th versus the pass, but has allowed a 104.1 QB rating and managed no interceptions. Translation: Rivers should have a big day. Rex Ryan’s seat gets hotter, as the Chargers win this one by double digits. San Diego covers at home.
Against the Spread: San Diego Chargers
Straight Up: San Diego Chargers
Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers (-7.5)
The biggest story out of San Francisco continues to be the headlines swirling around Jim Harbaugh and the relationship he has with his players. The Michigan job also continues to fill the rumor mill. Harbaugh denies it all, and this is a guy who admits to wearing $7 pants. On the field, the Chiefs are on a short week, but coming off a dominating win over the Patriots. The Chiefs will need its strong run game to find its way against a San Francisco run defense that is ranked second in the NFL. That’s the key to this game, and that’s why I like the Niners to win. Although, this should be a battle in the trenches, with a lot of focus on each team’s run game. Take KC and the points.
Against the Spread: Kansas City Chiefs
Straight Up: San Francisco 49ers
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots (-2.5)
New England is number one in pass defense (185.5 ypg), with just as many INT’s (6) as TD’s allowed. The Pats are holding opposing QB’s to a 75.1 rating. Still, the hate is swirling after a blowout loss to the Chiefs that has led to people saying that Tom Brady has lost more than a step. Here’s the conundrum: We have every single reason to doubt the Patriots, especially facing a Cincinnati defense that is 1st in points allowed (11 ppg). The Bengals have also allowed zero sacks on the season, and have had an additional week to prepare for this game. Statistically, we have every reason to go with the Bengals, and that’s why I’m going to do so. It’s always my strategy. Something just tells me that in the end, I’ll regret it. Bengals cover (stated in an unsure voice).
Against the Spread: Cincinnati Bengals
Straight Up: Cincinnati Bengals
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins (+7.5)
Will the real Kirk Cousins please stand up? Are you the guy that threw for over 400 yards against the Eagles, or the player that had five turnovers versus the Giants? The likely answer is somewhere in between. Seattle is a much more ferocious and talented defense that Cousins is facing. But you knew that. Yes, Washington has an improved defense and plenty of talent on offense, but let’s be honest… if you’re taking the Redskins here, then you’re taking a big chance. Or you’re a homer. Good luck with that… I’m taking the safe route. Seattle covers… and dominates on the road.
Against the Spread: Seattle Seahawks
Straight Up: Seattle Seahawks
Bye Week: Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins