Textbooks in hand, I walked nervously into my advisor’s office, some million moons ago. He wasn’t so much my advisor as much as he was the designated advisor for about 30,000 other students a year who chose to study liberal arts at the University of Florida.
I was a college junior and had recently declared political science as my major.
Somehow this earth-shattering announcement had made it back to his desk. Like an ill-advised charge where your credit card company calls to confirm your identity was not stolen, a red flag was sent up and I got the call to the principal’s office. I was literally acing every other college class I had enrolled in. In political science, I was getting solid C’s.
Like that girl who never agreed to go out with you, political science presented a challenge.
The advisor asked me “Are you Catholic?”
“No, sir,” I replied. “Jewish.”
“Hmm, I’m just wondering what sort of guilt prompted you to major in a field that you’re no good at.”
I told him it was just something I wanted to learn.
I recently recalled that experience for it reminds me of agreeing to pick game after NFL game when clearly, I’m no good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong feeling on some games but picking every single game across the board has proven to be as much of a challenge as political science. At least in poli sci, I was getting C’s.
Not so much here. Our year-to-date standings:
KP 33-30 (52%)
SportsChump 31-31-1 (50%)
Guests 31-32 (49%)
It’s got so bad that KP and I have to resort to bringing in NBA fans (Bleed in Week Three) and a NASCAR fan this week to give me a chance. For Week Five, we’ve brought in another dear friend from our Fox days, Speedbeagle, who now knows what a point spread is, we think. We here at SportsChump like to serve a purpose.
Beag’s only comfort comes in knowing she’s picking games against me so victory should be inevitable.
Off we go to Week Five.
SPORTSCHUMP’S AT LEAST THE NFL IS MORE FUN THAT POLITICAL SCIENCE PICKS
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-1)
I don’t care whether the Texans are playing against the Yeehaw Junction School of the Blind, they shouldn’t be favored. Did you see what Atlanta did to them last week? Devonta Freeman scored like eight touchdowns. Frank Gore must be licking his chops considering he almost cost his Colts the game last week. Andrew Luck missed the only start of his career last Sunday and is once again questionable but either way, the Colts have Matthew Hasselback as their back up. He’ll lead the Colts into Houston for a win, prompting some NFL team to offer the forty-year old quarterback a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
The good news is one of the teams in Florida is guaranteed a victory this week. Unless of course this game ends in a 0-0 tie which is perfectly reasonable considering how crappy these teams are. Tampa’s fake pirate ship is barely afloat with Lovie continuing to tell a disillusioned fan base that this team is improving. I think Lovie’s been playing too much golf considering the fact that he thinks lowering one’s score is a sign of improvement. I can’t quite give up on these Bucs just yet. They have to turn things around this week against a team they should definitely beat. They haven’t won at home in eleven tries. If they can’t beat the Jags, then they won’t be beating anybody for the rest of the season and Leonard Fournette might want to start looking at houses in Tampa Bay.
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (+2.5)
I’m a little worried about LeSean McCoy’s health. Not so much for the Bills but for my own fantasy team. His lingering hamstring injury kept him sidelined last week. Rex Ryan may not play him until he’s 100% and nobody knows when that will be. Fortunately, the Bills still have enough weapons to beat the Titans. They better use ‘em as their playoff clock is slowly starting to tick. If they want any shot at making the playoffs as a wild card (they’re not winning that division), this is a road game they’ll have to win. They do and cover.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
Is it too early to stick a fork in the Brownies? Mmmmm, chocolaty. They suffered a tough lost last week against the Chargers. As one depressed and dejected Browns fan texted me, this team is inventing new ways to lose. They’ll do so again in Baltimore against a team who desperately needs a convincing win to remind them they’re not as bad as the Browns.
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons (-7)
I said it last week, I’ll say it again. I’m riding the hot team and Atlanta is as hot as they come. They’ve scored the second most points in the league. Meanwhile, the Redskins are doing their very best to convince everyone we aren’t who we thought they were. They inexplicably beat the Rams earlier this season and just knocked off the Eagles… but I’m not buying it. I mean, Kirk Cousins is still their quarterback, right? Just checking. Give me Atlanta to cover yet again.
Chicago Bears at Kansas City Chiefs (-9)
You know what’s funny about Bears fans? They’re in total denial about how bad their team is. How many Bears fans do you know are slipping in Super Bowl Shuffle into their VHS machine to remind them of a fonder time? The fact that this team has to celebrate a last second victory against the Raiders is just, well, pathetic. The over/under in this game is 44.5. I like that way over. I also like the Chiefs to cover because I think both Alex Smith and Jay Cutler will be airing it out. The only difference is that Cutler will be doing so to the wrong team.
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (-5)
How nice of the league to schedule this game for two teams that so desperately need a win. Things in Philadelphia are clearly not working out and New Orleans’ window for success has all but slammed shut. While this has all the makings of a fun offensive game, I think I’d rather watch “Fried Green Tomatoes” than have to watch two teams that aren’t nearly as good as they’re supposed to be. I think I’ll take the Eagles here only because Brees is still banged up and Sam Bradford is bound to make a decent play. If he can’t beat the 1-3 Saints at home, expect Philly fans to start clamoring for Mark Sanchez… and Chip Kelly’s head.
St Louis Rams at Green Bay Packers (-9)
Will the real St. Louis Rams please stand up? They beat the Seahawks and Cardinals and lose to the Redskins and Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger? What the hell sense does that make? This might be the most enjoyable game of the weekend. I definitely want to see how Aaron Rodgers handles that Rams defense and vice versa. I like what they did last week on the road. I’m taking the nine here thinking the Rams keep it close.
Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)
I’m taking Seattle. I know Cincy hasn’t lost yet but this will be their biggest test. Plus there is bound to be some bogus call at the end of the game that will give Seattle the victory.
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+3)
Lions = Winless. They can thank the NFL refs for at least one of those. Jim Caldwell is getting that deer in the headlights look. How he didn’t openly protest last Monday night’s game is beyond me. It’s only a matter of time before he gets fired so why not make a scene on the way out the door? I don’t like anything about this Detroit team. Wait, I take that back. I like the fact that they’re worse than the Buccaneers. The Cardinals are better and they’ll prove it on Sunday by covering, prompting things to get even more depressing in Motor City.
New England Patriots at Dallas Cowboys (+8)
This line already moved to nine meaning wise guys like the Pats off a bye week to go into Dallas and make Jerry Jones struggle to make his plastically engineered face form a frown. Streeeeeeeeeetch! I’m inclined to agree with the wise guys. I don’t think Dallas can control the ball enough here to keep this thing close. And the Patriots are playing lights out. I’ll take them to cover just because they’ve been pretty much beating the crap out of everybody so why should that not continue?
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (+5)
I’m sticking to my guns. Always take the points and the home underdog in a divisional rivalry. That’s all the logic I need.
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants (-7)
I’m starting Eli Manning as my quarterback this week. He’s going to light up San Fran’s defense putting some distance between the G-Men and the rest of the teams in the NFC East. Can we just award them that division now? Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick is sending Jim Harbaugh postcards telling him how much he misses him. #khakis. Giants cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers (-3)
Chargers got away with one last week against the Browns. At 2-2, they can ill afford to lose this home game. The Steelers can’t either but at least they’ll take comfort in the fact that Cincy will lose to Seattle. Chargers cover at home while Steelers fans say their prayers that Big Ben will be back sooner rather than later.
SPEEDBEAGLE’S THESE CARS GO FAST VROOM NFL PICKS
SportsChump asked me to pick Week 5 games again this year; however, this year he requested that I make my picks against the spread rather than straight up(probably because I went 13 and 2 last year picking straight up). That being said, I agreed to step out of our comfort zone and pick against the spread (SportsChump is returning the favor by stepping out of his comfort zone to participate in my NASCAR fantasy game. Currently, he is holding his own against us seasoned NASCAR fans).
Colts v Texans(No Line)
Who to pick? The 2-2 Colts on the road or the 1-3 Texans at home? I’ll go with the Colts on the road.
Bills(-2.5) v Titans
Hmmm. The Titans easily defeated the Buccaneers, but they got beat by Cleveland and lost a close one at home against the Colts. The Bills lost to the Pats (who doesn’t?), beat the Dolphins, and lost to a Giants team still trying to find their stride. The Titans had a week off to regroup, and they’re playing in front of the home crowd. The line is wrong, and the Titans get the win.
Browns v Ravens(-7)
The Ravens are favored, but I think 7 points is being generous. The Ravens will win, but they won’t cover the spread.
Bears v Chiefs(-10.5)
The Bears barely eked out a win against the Raiders. In their other games, they have clearly been the inferior team. Kansas City hasn’t been all that stellar either, but the question is can they cover the 10.5 at home (that ½ point is killing me). Kansas City wins, but they fall short by that silly ½ point.
Seahawks v Bengals(No Line)
The Seahawks head to Cincinnati for a match up with the 4-0 Bengals. I have no clue why no one wants to set a spread for this game. The Seahawks by all rights should be 1-3, but they got a gift last week when the refs handed them the game against the Lions on a silver platter. Cincinnati wins.
Rams v Packers(-10.5)
The Rams have gotten a couple of close wins, but they’re no match for the Packers. Green Bay gets another solid win.
Jaguars v Buccaneers(-2.5)
If there was ever a game not to set a line on this one is it- the hapless Jaguars against the equally hapless Buccaneers. Tampa Bay gets one for the home crowd.
Saints v Eagles(-5.5)
The Saints are coming off a win over the Romo-less Cowboys, while the Eagles lost to the Redskins. This is another one that is anybody’s guess. The Eagles get the win at home.
Redskins v Falcons(-9)
The 2-2 Redskins are no match for the 4-0 Falcons. The Falcons win.
Cardinals v Lions(No Line)
Another game that no one wants to pick (and I for one am glad of it). This should be an easy win for the Cardinals, but the Lions are playing at home and they are pissed. The Cards win, but it won’t be easy.
Patriots(-7.5) v Cowboys
I hate the Patriots with a passion. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus of the NFL(Obligatory NASCAR reference). That being said, I’m also not a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys(and yes, you’re allowed to say that in Texas). Under normal circumstances, the Cowboys are always tough at home. This time around, both Romo and Bryant are out, giving the Patriots an easy win.
Broncos(-5.5) v Raiders
The Raiders will be tough at home and keep the game close. Will they keep it close enough? Denver gets the win and covers the points.
49ers v Giants(-7)
So far, the Niners haven’t had very good luck on the road this year, and the Giants are still trying to find their rhythm. The Giants cover the spread at home.
Steelers v Chargers(-3)
This is my “I Don’t Know What to Do” game of the week. Ordinarily, I would probably go with the Steelers, but the Steelers went and did something stupid before the season started- they signed Michael Vick. As a firm believer in pets are people too, I cannot in good conscience go with the Steelers(not to mention, Molly and Katie would be awfully upset with me), I’ll go with the Chargers and pray.
KP’S SLOWLY STARTING TO PULL AWAY FROM THE PACK PICKS
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-1.5)
What is Andrew Luck’s playing status? The only question that’s more important might be, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” If Luck does play, how many licks will he be able to take? That’s licks as in hits…get your mind out of the gutter. Speaking of hits, Houston has just six sacks in four games, despite having J.J. Watt to anchor its defense. The Texans also have major question marks under center, with neither Hoyer nor Mallett grabbing hold of the starting job. Indy is far from perfect these days, but with a tossup line, the Colts are the safer pick, even if Hasselbeck is running the offense.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis Colts
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons (-7.5)
Both teams have surprised. Dan Quinn continues to lead the 4-0 Falcons in the right direction and has to be considered the current Coach of the Year frontrunner. Meanwhile, the 2-2 Redskins are much improved and while Kirk Cousins remains a wild card, he has performed more consistently this season. Expect the Redskins to try to keep Julio Jones and Matt Ryan off the field as much possible, focusing on time of possession and its top-ranked rushing attack (139.5 ypg). Washington is also 2nd in run defense and 9th against the pass, though the defensive unit has yet to log an interception. Time of possession and some success running against an Atlanta defense that has allowed 7 TD’s on the ground, and this game could be closer than people think. Atlanta wins, but I’ll take Washington and the points.
KP’s Pick: Washington Redskins
Chicago Bears at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
The Chiefs get a breather after facing the Broncos and Bengals over the last few weeks. Alex Smith could use the break (and an extra ice bath), considering Kansas City’s O-line and its NFL-leading 19 sacks allowed. Chicago has just six sacks on the season and recently traded away Jared Allen. Still, both pass defenses have major holes, allowing a combined 21 TD’s through the air. Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery are all questionable, but the trio all has a legit chance to suit up. With an improved offensive arsenal, the Bears can (and will) keep this one close.
KP’s Pick: Chicago Bears
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
Steve Smith (back injury) is doubtful, leaving Kamar Aiken as Baltimore’s go-to receiver. That could leave the Ravens one-dimensional on offense, looking to Justin Forsett and the run game. Fortunately for Baltimore, the Browns are 31st against the run, allowing 141.5 yards per game on the ground. That includes 5 runs of 20 or more yards and two carries of forty or more. The Ravens are not the same team defensively, but playing at home in another must-win situation, covering looks likely.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore Ravens
Seattle Seahawks at Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5)
Yes, Pete Carroll and Co. escaped with another win (thanks to a blown call), but Seattle’s reward is the undefeated Bengals on the road. The ‘Hawks are downright nasty on defense, as those who watched saw on Monday night. Those same people also saw Russell Wilson running for his life, thanks to Seattle’s flawed offensive line that has given up 18 sacks on the year. The Bengals are 6th in the NFL in sacks and have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. This should be a grudge match and a game where Andy Dalton likely struggles, but give me the Bengals at home, anyway.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5)
TRUMP Game of the Week: As in, if watching it, you’re likely to blurt out something controversial and if betting on it, you could end up filing for bankruptcy. Jameis Winston continues to have rookie moments, while second-year man Blake Bortles keeps improving. The Bucs are second in passing defense, but 30th against the run. Whatever you do, have beer on hand for this one and if you want to celebrate the creamsicle-clad-Bay area, grab a Cigar City brew (but hold the crab legs). Give me Bortles and Co., simply because the Jags are a more consistent team.
KP’s Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (-5.5)
The Saints escaped with a much needed win over Dallas on Sunday night. Drew Brees was efficient, despite returning from injury. The key will be keeping him healthy. Meanwhile, more reports are emerging regarding Chip Kelly and the unrest in Philly. That will become a larger distraction if the Eagles continue to lose. Philadelphia is the most penalized team in the NFL, drawing 41 flags in four games. This game has sloppy shootout written all over it. Give me a late field goal by the Saints – and a piece of advice – play C.J. Spiller more! He’s too explosive to be third-string.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Rams at Green Bay Packers (-9.5)
Two names: Todd Gurley and Aaron Rodgers. Gurley showed why the Rams drafted him so high, rushing for 146 yards (on 19 carries) against the Cardinals last week, handing Arizona its first loss. Then there’s Aaron Rodgers, who hasn’t thrown a pick at home in ages. The two teams have combined for 34 sacks on the year (each with 17, 2nd most in the NFL). As crazy as it sounds, each team has also allowed six sacks. But there’s something about that performance from Gurley, as in, it feels like only the beginning. Nick Foles just needs to do enough to keep the Rams in the game and my gut says he will.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis Rams
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
The Titans are coming off a bye and have had extra time to rest and prepare for Rex Ryan and Co. Meanwhile, the Bills are battling the injury bug, especially with its running game, which could be without LeSean McCoy (doubtful, hamstring injury) and Karlos Williams (concussion). That leaves Boobie Dixon on the depth chart. Surprisingly, Tennessee’s defense is second only to Denver in third down conversions (31.3%) and 6th against the pass. Toss in the hit to Buffalo’s 6th ranked rushing offense, while facing a fresh Titans team at home and well… you know who wins this week’s “Boobie prize”. Sorry, the jokes and puns don’t get any better. Take Tennessee.
KP’s Pick: Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+3.5)
The Lions are the only winless team in the NFL, after a heartbreaking and controversial loss on Monday night. While Detroit’s fans drop piles of cash on bitter billboards, the Lions get a home game against another great team in the Cardinals. Detroit, meanwhile, is 31st in the NFL in third down conversions allowed (46%). That’s music to Carson Palmer’s ears. The Cardinals will have too many weapons to toss against a Lions team that can’t establish the run and hasn’t provided enough protection for Matthew Stafford. Arizona covers on the road.
KP’s Pick: Arizona Cardinals
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (+5.5)
The Broncos have won seven straight in the rivalry, with each victory by thirteen points or more. Despite the recent history, the youthful Raiders – specifically Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray – are very talented and capable of moving the ball down the field. But they likely will struggle against a Broncos defense that is first against the pass (185.2 ypg), allowing just 2 TD’s, while intercepting six. Denver has also held opponents to a 25% conversion rate on third down, easily the best mark in the league. Couple that with Oakland’s 31st ranked pass defense and it could be a great day for Peyton Manning and a long day for fans of the silver and black. Broncos cover.
KP’s Pick: Denver Broncos
New England Patriots at Dallas Cowboys (+8.5)
The Patriots are fresh off a bye, having an extra week to prepare for the injury-riddled Cowboys.
Dallas struggled defensively last week and could be without Sean Lee, due to a concussion that he suffered during the New Orleans game. Stats aside, does anyone really think that Brandon Weeden can keep up with Tom Brady, with no Dez Bryant on the field? Throw in the fact that the Cowboys lost more depth at the running back position and well, you know where this is going. No, not to Greg Hardy staring at posters of Gisele! It moves towards the Patriots cruising to victory.
KP’s Pick: New England Patriots
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants (-7.5)
Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 108.3 passer rating against the San Francisco defense. Only Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans have fared worse. The Niners like to run the ball (5th in rushing offense), but will be facing a Giants defense that is #1 against the run, allowing just 69.8 yards per game on the ground. Toss in Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning and a slew of other offensive weapons and it could be another long day for San Francisco. Giants cover.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)
Michael Vick wasn’t perfect last week, but he was serviceable. Pittsburgh simply gave the game away with poor special teams and awful play calling. This west-coast road challenge will be a tough one, facing a San Diego offense that gets Antonio Gates back from a four-game suspension. Expect an offensive battle between Rivers-Gates-Allen and Vick-Bell-Brown. It’s tough to trust Vick and even more difficult to trust Pittsburgh’s pass ‘D’, which has just two picks, while allowing 7 TD’s through the air. Gates’ return will prove to be too much for the Steelers to hang with. San Diego covers.
KP’s Pick: San Diego Chargers
Bye Week: Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and Carolina Panthers