Time to offer up some picks for Week 6 in the NFL, and there plenty of fascinating matchups.
Season Record: 56-21 (.727)
Last Week: 6-7
Carolina Panthers (1-4) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3) – Clearly this is a must-win for Atlanta, which has already suffered as many losses in the regular season this year as they did all of last season. All the ingredients are in place for the Falcons to make a big run with QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WR’s Roddy White and Julio Jones, TE Tony Gonzalez and a defense that made some additions throughout the off-season. At home will help them, but they take on a Carolina team that is gaining confidence behind rookie sensation Cam Newton at quarterback, and the major question with the Panthers will be can they get their RB’s DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to be consistent along with WR Steve Smith to make this team get on a run around mid-season?
The Pick – Atlanta 28-17 (Falcons -3.5)
Indianapolis Colts (0-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) – Seeking a rare three-game winning streak, the Bengals host an Indianapolis team still looking for its first win after blowing a double-digit lead at home a week ago to the Kansas City Chiefs. QB Curtis Painter, filling in for the injured Peyton Manning, has played better in recent weeks for the Colts, but the Bengals have a somewhat underrated defense with DE Carlos Dunlap and LB Rey Maualuga (team-high 38 tackles) leading the way. On offense, Cincy should run it at will with Cedric Benson. When he gets 25 carries or more, the Bengals are 11-1.
The Pick – Cincinnati 20-13 (Bengals -4.5)
San Francisco 49ers (4-1) at Detroit Lions (5-0) – Fresh off a victory over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, the Detroit Lions remain one of only two unbeaten in the entire league along with fellow NFC North member Green Bay. The Lions are 5-0 for the first time since 1956; none of the team’s current players were even born then! Wideout Calvin Johnson, otherwise known as MegaTron, is having a record-setting type of season, becoming the first player to reach nine touchdown catches through five games. San Francisco’s defense has been mighty good, limiting Tampa Bay to just three points last week while the offense was in total sync. The running of Frank Gore will give a strong Detroit d-line a challenge, but ultimately, the Lions being at home with a lot of momentum and more big-play potential in the passing game give them the edge in another close call.
The Pick – Detroit 23-16 (Lions -5)
St. Louis Rams (0-4) at Green Bay Packers (5-0) – The defending Super Bowl Champion Packers haven’t lost a game since last December, winning six in a row on their way to capturing thee Lombardi Trophy last season and opening up 5-0 this year. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense are clicking on all cylinders, and the defense continues to get timely takeaways. Sam Bradford and the Rams are better suited to playing in the dome at home rather than outdoors. That will likely show again in a lopsided result in this NFC matchup as the Rams simply don’t have enough defensive puzzle pieces to slow down Green Bay.
The Pick – Green Bay 38-13 (Packers -14)
Buffalo Bills (4-1) at New York Giants (3-2) – All the signs point towards the Bills taking this one. Buffalo has played terrific all year with Ryan Fitzpatrick surprising the league with his play at the quarterback position, the running game being solid, and of course the defense coming up with key takeaway after key takeaway. In fact, Buffalo has an NFL best 12 interceptions on defense this year, and they play a New York team that turns the ball over quite a bit. The Giants are also without RB Brandon Jacobs, DE Justin Tuck, CB Prince Amukamara and offensive guard Chris Snee. But something tells me the Giants bounce back from the disappointing home loss to the Seahawks and win it in the fourth quarter on an Eli Manning drive late.
The Pick – NY Giants 31-24 (Giants -3)
Philadelphia Eagles (1-4) at Washington (3-1) – Here’s a game where Washington has exceeded expectations to this point, while Philadelphia has failed to meet them, so the visitors probably will play with a sense or urgency knowing they need this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Redskins have been an early season surprise, and a major reason why is their improving defense, which was bolstered in the off-season by the drafting of Ryan Kerrigan, a pass rusher out of Purdue that complements Pro Bowl level performer Brian Orakpo, and signing of d-lineman Barry Cofield. Plus, the Skins secondary has been healthy and pretty effective against the pass. They will be challenged by a speedy Philly offense with RB LaSean McCoy, WR’s DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, and the dual-threat quarterback Michael Vick, who torched Washington in their building last year on MNF.
The Pick – Philly 27-14 (Eagles -3)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) – Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a huge week against Tennessee. Anticipate his great play continuing versus a Jacksonville defense that is missing a few starters due to injuries. Mike Wallace is quickly developing into Pittsburgh’s speedy, big-play threat on the outside. Starting a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert against a Steelers defense that can overwhelm inexperienced players is not a recipe for success for the Jags, though they could keep it close as long as they don’t turn the ball over and the offensive line creates running room for RB Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Pick – Pittsburgh 24-14 (Jags +12.5)
Houston Texans (3-2) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1) – The Houston Texans are trying to win the AFC South division crown and a victory here no the road would do wonders for their odds of accomplishing that this year, plus keeping Coach Gary Kubiak off the hot seat. Baltimore, off its bye week, has an offense that is doing more than it has in the past to help out their usually stout defense as RB Ray Rice is coming into his own, perhaps an MVP candidate if the Ravens are able to claim homefield throughout the playoffs, and getting this win is critical in their pursuit of a #1 seed. Without their deep threat in Andre Johnson (hamstring injury), arguably the AFC’s best wide receiver, it’s going to be much more difficult for the Texans offense to operate on the road against a tenacious defense like the one they face here in Baltimore.
The Pick – Baltimore 21-17 (Texans +7)
Cleveland Browns (2-2) at Oakland Raiders (3-2) – It was an emotional week for the Oakland Raiders last Sunday as they pulled off a road comeback in Houston, a win that dedicated to deceased Owner Al Davis. Hue Jackson’s team did a lot of great things, and one of Davis’ draft picks, safety Michael Huff, clinched it with his interception in the end zone. Oakland has plenty of team speed, particularly on offense where RB Darren McFadden is the focal point. The Cleveland defense has to be able to prove they can neutralize it, and some power running of their own offense would help considerably. Watch for the Raiders’ defensive line with Richard Seymour (2 sacks last week), Lamarr Houston and company to be the difference in this one.
The Pick – Oakland 28-20 (Raiders -7)
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at New England Patriots (4-1) – Off their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys’ next opponent isn’t much of a gift as they head to Foxboro to take one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots. QB Tom Brady is putting up video-game like, MVP type numbers on offense, and WR Wes Welker should eclipse the 100-yard catch mark by December. Dallas could very easily be 4-0 at this point in the year if not for an absolute meltdown of epic proportions (worst in franchise history) a couple weeks back against Detroit, and blowing a lead on the road in Week 1 vs. the New York Jets where a blocked punt killed them. Tony Romo and the Dallas offense has to step up, but more importantly, the Cowboys have to get pressure on Brady with DeMarcus Ware and others to have a chance.
The Pick – New England 35-21 (Pats -6.5)
New Orleans Saints (4-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) – The winner here will be in first place at week’s end in the NFC South. Two years removed from winning a Super Bowl, the New Orleans Saints are trying to make this a special season again, and quarterback Drew Brees engineers an offense that is extremely dangerous. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they have gotten off to sluggish starts all year, and often times relied on Josh Freeman to stage fourth quarter comebacks. You have to wonder about Tampa’s psyche after being blasted by San Francisco 48-3 a week ago. It’s probably a foolish pick, but this has the feel of one of those games in the NFL that doesn’t make sense considering New Orleans has won four in a row and Tampa is struggling.
The Pick – Tampa Bay 31-27 (Bucs +6.5)
Minnesota Vikings (1-4) at Chicago Bears (2-3) – It’s a homecoming of sorts for Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb as he returns to the place he grew up. Will it be a winning one, though? Minnesota has dropped 11 of their last 13 road games. Meanwhile, the Bears are 9-1 in their past ten meetings with the Vikings. Chicago has had trouble in games against other divisional foes Green Bay and Detroit in protecting their quarterback, Jay Cutler. As long as they keep him upright and give him time to throw, they should prevail. However, a monster game from Adrian Peterson running the ball, some sacks by Jared Allen off the edge and winning the turnover battle could easily result in a road upset.
The Pick – Chicago 26-17 (Bears -2)
Miami Dolphins (0-4) at New York Jets (2-3) – It has been a week full of negativity for the Jets following that loss to New England, the departure of wideout Derrick Mason and now WR’s Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress are disappointed with the team’s play as well as their blocking up front on the offensive line. After sporting one of the best running games around, the Jets have been unable to run the ball with the type of success we saw the previous seasons under Coach Rex Ryan. Miami receiver Brandon Marshall might’ve rattled the cage of the Jets with his comments leading up to this game; he may now be on the trading block and the Dolphins seem to be in the Andrew Luck/#1 overall draft pick sweepstakes.
The Pick – NY Jets 42-10 (Jets -6.5)
Here are my picks for Week 5 in the NFL, both straight up and against the point spread… so far I’m 50-14 overall on the year (78.1%), inlcuding 12-4 last week. Might be due for a bad week, but hoping it’s not this one… let’s look at the games.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-1) – The ‘Dream Team’ has struggled mightily in Philadelphia, blowing a double-digit lead at home vs. San Francisco a week ago en route to their third consecutive loss. Buffalo’s offense is dangerous and exciting, but I look for the Eagles defense to finally buckle down and get the job done on the road. The Pick – Philly 24-17 (Eagles -3)
New Orleans (3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-3) – Following a season-opening loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Saints have won three in a row. New Orleans is averaging an NFC-best 454 total yards per game and QB Drew Brees has completed 20 passes or more in an NFL record 24 straight games. Slowing down New Orleans could be a tough task, even for an improving Carolina team led by rookie sensation Cam Newton. The Pick – New Orleans 31-20 (Saints -6.5)
Oakland Raiders (2-2) at Houston Texans (3-1) – The smart pick is to go with Houston, a team full of playmakers and weapons on offense, and a defense that has shown improvement under new coordinator Wade Phillips. But Oakland is playing with emotion, dedicating this game to Al Davis, the team’s longtime Owner that passed away at the age of 82 on Saturday. Look for the Raiders to find a way to “Just Win Baby,” as Davis would say, perhaps on a late field goal. The Pick – Oakland 27-24 (Raiders +6.5)
Kansas City (1-3) at Indianapolis Colts (0-4) – Hard to believe these two teams won their division and made the playoffs just a season ago. Indy has been seriously deflated by the absence of Peyton Manning at QB, while the Chiefs have had some injuries of their own with RB Jamaal Charles and DB Eric Berry out. KC pulled out a win over Minnesota last week, and the Colts have been close in recent weeks against the Bucs and Steelers. The Pick – Indy 16-10 (Colts -2.5)
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) - Few teams in the league have a running back as good as the Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew, who has rushed for 391 yards and five touchdowns already. Cincinnati has confidence off a comeback win over Buffalo a week ago. We’ll see a couple of rookie signal callers go to battle in this one; Andy Dalton for the Bengals and Blaine Gabbert for the Jags. The one that makes the fewest mistakes will give their team the edge to get the victory. The Pick – Jacksonville 19-13 (Jags -2)
Arizona Cardinals (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (0-4) – The loser of this game can basically kiss the playoff good-bye, and honestly, the winner’s chances of getting to the postseason aren’t that great either. Both are a far cry from where they were a few years ago when Arizona made it to Super Bowl XLIII (43) during the Kurt Warner era, and the Vikings only two seasons ago lost to eventual Super Bowl Champ New Orleans in overtime in the NFC Championship game. Adrian Peterson and the Vikes ground game will be too much in this one. The Pick – Minnesota 28-21 (Vikings -3)
Seattle Seahawks (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1) – Since a season-opening loss at Washington, the Giants have won three in a row, including a a comeback from 10 points down last week at Arizona and a sound victory over division rival Philadelphia on the road the week before. Eli Manning and company are starting to really get things going, and even better for Big Blue, they are getting healthier. Expect New York’s pass rush to overwhelm a Seahawks team that has struggled to move the ball and score points at times. Should be the blowout of the week. The Pick – NY Giants 31-7
Tennessee Titans (3-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) – This is a fascinating game to me. After falling to Jacksonville in the opener, the Titans have been rather impressive, especially on offense, winning three consecutive games and beating a tough Baltimore team during that stretch that absolutely clobbered the Steelers back in Week 1. Going on the road is not easy, and they have to do it without blossoming WR Kenny Britt, out the rest of the year due to injury. Pittsburgh is very banged up, but I think their defense will make enough plays to prevail and contain Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck, having a great year with 1152 yards and 8TD’s passing. The Pick – Pittsburgh 21-17 (Steelers -3)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-1) – A lot of people are surprised to see the Niners where they are, atop the NFC West by two games under first-year Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, who came to the Bay Area team after coaching at Stanford. QB Alex Smith is improving some, and RB Frank Gore is mighty tough as is LB Patrick Willis on defense. Tampa Bay has found themselves trailing in games, yet their young and talented signal caller Josh Freeman usually rallies them in the fourth quarter, home or away, and that will likely be the script here once again. The Pick – Tampa Bay 26-21 (Tampa +3)
San Diego Chargers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (1-3) – These are two teams going in opposite directions. San Diego has hopes of going far in the postseason after missing the playoffs a year ago. Philip Rivers leads an offense capable of scoring points in bunches, even when star tight end Antonio Gates is on the shelf due to injury. Denver, meanwhile, can’t get stops on defense, surrendering 49 points to the Packers last week. It could be another field day for the Lightning Bolts’ offense. The Pick – San Diego 31-17 (Chargers -4)
New York Jets (2-2) at New England Patriots (3-1) – As great as the New England offense is, quite possibly the best in football with QB Tom Brady, WR Wes Welker and others, their defense is one of the worst around. That’s welcomed news for a Jets offense that couldn’t block at all in last Sunday night’s blowout loss to Baltimore that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated (34-17). New York gets back All-Pro center Nick Mangold, and that is huge as they try to get their running game back on track and give QB Mark Sanchez enough time to make plays in the passing game. I sense a shoot-out, and while New England is the better team right now looking to avenge their home playoff loss to the Jets from lats January, my gut tells me the Jets pull an upset here. The Pick – NY Jets 30-27 in OT (Jets +9)
Green Bay Packers (4-0) at Atlanta Falcons (2-2) – This is an absolutely terrific Sunday Night Football game and a re-match of last year’s NFC Divisional matchup where Green Bay stunned an Atlanta team that finished with the best record in the conference. The Falcons’ last appearance on Sunday Night Football on NBC resulted in a comeback win over Philly that prevented them from falling to 0-2. Both QB’s – Aaron Rodgers for the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers and Matt Ryan for the Falcons – are accurate, poised players and have quality targets at their disposal. The difference? It may very well be the running of Michael Turner to keep that Green Bay offense off the field just enough for the Falcons to squeak out a win in a shoot-out. The Pick – Atlanta 35-28 (Falcons +6)
Chicago Bears (2-2) at Detroit Lions (4-0) – My playoff sleeper team, the Detroit Lions, are looking fantastic right now behind QB Matthew Stafford and arguably the league’s best wide receiver, Calvin Johnson (a.k.a. MegaTron). Johnson has two touchdown catches in each of the first four games to give him eight for the season, something never done before in the history of the NFL. Chicago will have to make this an ugly, physical game and get hits + pressure on Stafford to disrupt the timing of a Lions offense that is clicking on all cylinders. Where this game will be decided in my opinion is how Chicago blocks that tough Detroit defensive front led by Ndamukong Suh. Jay Cutler will have to play at a high level to grab a win on the road in a hostile environment, and the Lions fans are sure to be pumped for their first Monday Night Football game in a long time. The Pick – Detroit 31-21 (Lions -5.5)