I could sugarcoat or equivocate, but what would be the point. I had another lousy week, OK? Had the Saints-Dolphins game pegged and had Browns-with-points over Bengals, but not a lot else went right. I did get unlucky, with at least four teams I’d picked blowing late leads. (Thanks for that, choking Texans and miserable Matt Schaub! Not that I’m bitter). Now hopefully some of that luck will turn. The past two weeks have been a freefall, but I trust the bungee cord is about to kick in. Optimism: The Last Resort of the Hopeless. (Note: Thursday-game pick was Bills (+4) over Browns, 23-20).
RAVENS (2-2) AT DOLPHINS (3-1)
Super Bowl-winning coaches all get a Genius Card but there is an expiration date, and we’ll have to take John Harbaugh’s away if he continues with last week’s lunatic idea to have error-prone Joe Flacco throw 50 passes and have Ray Rice run five times. Ravens will surely try to get their ground game untracked here. Trouble is, Miami’s defense, healthier than last week, is stout against the run. This presents a problem for Harbaugh, although his offense could get a boost from the return of WR Jacoby Jones, who might play unless another stripper clocks him with another champagne bottle. These are two pretty even teams but Miami has won three in a row at home, during which Ryan Tannehill has a 103.7 passer rating. These are also two pretty bad offensive lines, but Miami’s pass rush is better able to take advantage, presuming Cam Wake plays as I expect he will. I’ll admit I sort of talked myself into this pick. I give the visiting Crows a major upset shot, especially with Miami on a short week. But I also believe the Dolphins are motivated for a big home showing after embarrassing themselves in New Orleans Monday night.
BRONCOS (4-0) AT COWBOYS (2-2)
If the Game of the Week committee had a head it would be spinning by Week 5’s giddy options. At least four games are GOTW-worthy, but how can you miss with a Cowboys home game vs. Peyton Manning and an over/under approaching 60 points? I mean, Manning and Tony Romo might combine for 900 yards passing. Seriously. Manning had a one-for-the-ages September in which Denver’s 179 points were the best season-opening four-game total since Dallas put up 183 in 1966. And Romo has a 14-1 TD/pick ratio in his past five home games. But here’s the thing: Cowboys’ pass defense isn’t very good. Has already allowed 10 scoring throws. Ranks 27th. That adds up to Denver staying unbeaten, although I do like Dallas to end Stallions’ 15-game streak of regular season wins by at least seven points. Manning was intercepted four times when last he faced Cowboys, in 2010. We know he can win easily. Let’s see him work for one.
SEAHAWKS (4-0) AT COLTS (3-1)
“AAWWK!” cries the Upset Bird, soaring, old-time-y aviator goggles fixed atop a jet-black beak. “Andrew Laaawwwk!” Seattle has won nine straight regular-season games by an average score of 33.6 to 11.9 and is 4-0 for the first time ever. Something gotta give. It almost did last week when Hawks needed the gift of Matt Schaub’s awfulness to beat Houston. Seattle is simply due a stumble, and Indy is well-positioned, having won its past two games by 64-10 and on a 7-1 run at home. Andrew Luck vs. Russell Wilson is a big-time QB duel in the Kids Division. Give me the kid in his own crib. “Let’s continue the ’crib’ metaphor by suggesting Colts defense will ’rattle’ Wilson,” suggests U-Bird. “Baby! Baaawwwk!”
JAGUARS (0-4) AT RAMS (1-3)
This would be a first-ballot contender, were there are a Bad Game Hall of Fame looking for charter inductees. Winless Jacksonville is miserably awful, led by a man (Blaine Gabbert) with a 30.7 passer rating. St. Louis — good only by comparison — has lost three games in a row by a combined 101-29 score. Jags get WR Justin Blackmon back from suspension and will find a way to keep this loss respectable. Somebody will prevail only because somebody has to, but it’ll be like winning a poker hand with a pair of threes.
SAINTS (4-0) AT BEARS (3-1)
Yes, I saw what Drew Brees and N’Aawlins just did to Miami, one day after Matthew Stafford cut up the Chitown D. Nevertheless, with Bears home and Fleur de Lis on a short week, give me the homies in what feels like an upset even though it’s a rare pick-’em game. Sean Payton is 0-3 at The Soldier, and Brees is 0-4 there with six picks. I hope the trend is my friend. (I also hope/assume Brandon Marshall is playing).
PATRIOTS (4-0) AT BENGALS (2-2)
Upset! I know three of the Patriots’ four wins have been narrow. I also know losing run-stopper Vince Wilfork leaves a huge void. But I just trust Tom Brady SO much more than I trust sloppy Andy Dalton, and now it looks like Brady might have Danny Amendola back. English have won six in a row on the road, and Bill Belichick is 13-3 all-time vs. ’Gals.
Lambeau hosts an Air Show. Matthew Stafford has more passing yards in his first 50 career games than anybody ever, but Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers, the greatest Aaron since Hammerin’ Hank. Rodgers is 8-0 vs. Lions with a 114.9 rating. Oh, almost forgot: Green Bay has won 14 of past 15 in series and 22 in a row at home. Yes I said 22. Motown still a fair bet against the point spread, though.
This is Week 5’s toughest call for me. So much logic points to the Chiefs, but most everything on the gut/hunch level says Titans as a home dog I’d regret not taking. Sometimes you follow the gut. (Maybe this should have been my upset of the week instead). Chiefs are first team since 1980 Lions to be 4-0 after losing 14 or more the year before, but Tenners have won four in row at home, and Ryan Fitzpatrick for injured Jake Locker isn’t a big dropoff. Venue call.
This could have been our Mutt game, considering the Eagles have lost three straight and the winless Lilliputians are off to their worst start since 1987. Two teams that whip themselves with turnovers. And two bad defenses allowing 36.5 points (NYG) and 34.5 (PHI). Birds have steered this fallen NFC East rivalry the past several years, but — for admittedly no great reason — I’ll take the homies. Eli Manning rates 115.2 his past four at home vs. Phils and is due a non-embarrassing performance.
I love that this for some reason is one of the games being televised in Miami. I don’t trust either of these teams in a pick I think is coin-flip close, but I think Carolina puts up a pretty decent defense against a ’Zona offense that has struggled lately and just traded away its starting left tackle. Panthers also coming off a bye.
TEXANS (2-2) AT 49ERS (2-2)
Two Super Bowl hopefuls sittin’ here a bland 2-2, all humbled. Drives up the desperation to a degree this should be a game worthy of the prime-time stage. Love Niners at home outright, with extra time to prepare, but Texans too talented to not like getting a touch. By the way, did you hear that SF safety Donte Whitner is changing his surname to “Hitner”? That alone is almost reason enough to root for Houston.
Red Bull ready? No-Doz? We in the East would be up until around 3 a.m. watching this game live, if we chose, thanks to the delayed start on account of the A’s baseball playoff game. I doubt it’ll worth the effort, especially for Raiders fans. Oaks get Terrelle Pryor back, but Bolts have won 16 of past 19 in series, and Philip Rivers is playing better than ever.
The Monday night crew will have to tap-dance a bit to proffer this as a sexy matchup. Falcs have been one of NFL’s big early-season disappointments, but the self-detonating Jets appear magically as a likely remedy to help Atlanta avoid its first three-game losing skid since 2007. Matt Ryan is 34-6 at home, and Geno Smith [Bad Pun Alert] churns out more turnovers than most busy bakeries.
OFF THIS WEEK