Thursday, October 3, 2013

NFL Week 5 Primer - We Still Aren't Very Good At This (With Picks)

Oh come on! Brian Hoyer and the freaking Browns beat the Bengals?!?! What is happening this year?!?!
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

So I guess we still aren't that great at this "picks" thing. We both entered Week 4 under .500 by at least four games, and neither of us picked up any ground. Jeremy (that's me; sup?) went 7-7-1, Joe (that's him; howdy-do?) went 5-9-1. For the season, that leaves the two of us tied (eight games under .500). Also, for the season, that's pretty embarrassing.

In fact, it could have been worse. For most of the early games, it looked like we should just give up forever. Kansas City (giving 5) didn't pull ahead until late in the 3rd quarter before salting the game away in the 4th. Arizona (getting 2.5) trailed for most of the game. Seattle (giving three) trailed for basically all of regulation before picking up a near-miracle push in overtime. The only early game we really nailed was Indianapolis-Jacksonville, and there was a point in time we really thought we were going to be 1-7 entering the late afternoon games on Sunday. Somehow, it turned itself around to a semi-respectable 3-4-1.

As for, you know, the actual football (as opposed to our pathetic attempts at gambling), it was a rather crazy week. Joe Flacco did his thing where he threw a few gorgeous deep balls, pulled his team within striking distance, and then promptly threw his fifth interception of the day. In case you forgot, his contract entitles him more guaranteed money than Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick - COMBINED - over the course of the deal.

Cleveland's defense, as it turns out, might just be really good. Or maybe we were too quick to anoint Andy Dalton the king of the AFC North. It's one or the other. Or maybe both.

All told, the AFC/NFC battle started to even out - the conferences were 4-4 against each other, with the AFC going 4-3-1 against the spread. This week's slate has five inter-conference games, including the two biggest spreads of the week.

Game(s) of The Week:

Philadelphia @ New York Giants (1 p.m. Sunday, FOX)
Baltimore @ Miami (1 p.m. Sunday, CBS)
Seattle @ Indianapolis (1 p.m. Sunday, FOX)
Detroit @ Green Bay (1 p.m. Sunday, FOX)
New England @ Cincinnati (1 p.m. Sunday, CBS)
New Orleans @ Chicago (1 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Holy crap look at that 1 o'clock slate. This is what NFL RedZone (or a bar that shows every game on a never-ending row of TVs) was made for. Even Philadelphia-New York (a "bad" game featuring two teams with one combined win) is a divisional rivalry with a real chance to be a shootout given how unspeakably awful the two defenses are.

Denver @ Dallas (4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Now that Peyton Manning has gone a quarter of the season without throwing an interception, he gets the nod for "Game of The Week" status until further notice. 

Houston @ San Francisco (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

This game looked way better six weeks ago. Now it's basically just "Which 2-2 team will justify their embarrassing loss to Seattle?"

BYE WEEKS: Tampa Bay, Washington, Pittsburgh, Minnesota (Combined Record: 2-14... Yeah, I won't miss watching these guys play)

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams in CAPS)

Buffalo (+4) over CLEVELAND

JC: Cleveland (for some) was a trendy pre-season sleeper, because of a secretly-pretty-good defense, half-decent offensive skill players, a solid offensive line, and a hilarious enigma at quarterback. Now that the enigma at quarterback has been replaced by an actual quarterback, that pre-season buzz (it was small but noticeable) might actually be vindicated.

But, wow, holy crap what a terrible Thursday Night game. It's been tough to watch the Thursday games even when the teams are good. Calling either one of these teams average is probably generous. Forget Cleveland's "resurgence," I'm grabbing the points.

JP: I have no freaking idea, but I'm rooting for the Bills.

Kansas City (-3) over TENNESSEE

JC: If Jake Locker hadn't gotten injured, I would really like Tennessee here. I think their defense would be able to swallow up Kansas City's predictable offense. But with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, it's much more likely that the opposite happens - Kansas City's defense swallows up Tennessee's offense and the Chiefs only need to score 13 points to cover the spread comfortably.

JP: Ditto on Locker, who was looking like a much improved player this year. Still think this one is close, because neither team will be particularly explosive, but I trust Alex Smith way more than Ryan Fitzpatrick when it comes to avoiding the big mistake.

ST. LOUIS (-12) over Jacksonville

JC: The Rams have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-18. And they're giving almost two touchdowns. And I'm still taking them. And I feel REALLY confident about it. That's how bad the Jaguars are.

JP: Yeah... I just don't see myself picking the Jaguars at all this year.

Seattle (-3) over INDIANAPOLIS

JC: Seattle was giving three to Houston and pushed. Now they're giving the same amount to Indianapolis, who would seem to be a better team than Houston through four weeks. Logic would dictate that the line is too high and I should take Indianapolis (especially as a home dog). But logic can go to hell, it hasn't served me at all this year.

JP: Don't look now, but Russell Wilson has fallen back to Earth after a remarkably efficient rookie season. The Seahawks' undersized signal caller currently ranks 17th in both QBR and completion percentage, while last season's No. 1 overall pick, Indy's Andrew Luck, currently checks in at No. 3 in QBR.

So, why am I picking the Seahawks, given how much better Luck is playing than Wilson right now? Well, Seattle is better in every other facet of the game.

GREEN BAY (-7) over Detroit
CHICAGO (+1) over New Orleans

JC: High-octane dome offenses forced to play outdoors.

JP: I'm still not buying what the Lions are selling, despite a big win over Chicago last week, and I have to think the Saints will come down to Earth offensively at some point. On the road outdoors against a good defense seems like that point.

Philadelphia (+2.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS

JC: Two crappy defenses? Just give me the points. Especially when it seems like the team giving the points is about to roll over for good.

JP: Not much to like about New York so far this year. At least Philly has put together a solid half of football.

Carolina (-2.5) over ARIZONA

JC: I'm not sure if Carolina coming off a bye week is actually to their advantage or not when their coach is Ron Rivera. But maybe he spent his time off reading Bill Barnwell and will actually learn that he's allowed to run offensive plays on 4th down and isn't required by rule to kick or punt.

JP: Cam Newton isn't blowing people away with his numbers this year, but he also isn't turning the ball over, or taking many negative plays. If they play a clean game, that should be enough to beat the Cards.

Denver (-9) over DALLAS

JC: Denver giving single digits against the crappy NFC East? Sure, I'll go along with this.

JP: Ditto.

SAN FRANCISCO (-6) over Houston

JC: This could be the end for Houston

JP: They're already burning Matt Schaub's jersey down in H-Town, and things could get uglier on the road this week against another physical NFC West team. Also, Niners safety Donte Whitner changed his last name to "Hitner," dropping that pesky W. Whether this is because he's such a big hitter, or because he's as brutal as a Nazi when you come across the middle, it doesn't bode well for the Houston receiving corps.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still in CAPS)

JC: Baltimore (+3) over MIAMI

A week ago, I called Miami the 2nd-best team in the AFC. Then they got stomped on by New Orleans. I still think Miami is good (perhaps even great), but without Cameron Wake their defense really loses some of its bite. If they can't pressure Flacco I don't think they can win.

JP: MIAMI (-3) over Baltimore

The Ravens' offense wasn't wowing me before last week, and then came "Flacco INT Fest 2013." The Dolphins couldn't win in the SuperDome... Big deal, when the Saints are good (they are) nobody wins there. I agree with you on Wake, but Baltimore is making last minute deals for a Jaguars left tackle (Eugene Monroe) to shore up their pass protection. Something tells me that won't work out so well for them.

JC: New England (-1) over CINCINNATI

This was the toughest call of the week. Every week, New England looks better than the week before, and Cincinnati played a shockingly bad game given their performance over the first three weeks. That makes me want to pick New England. But the lynchpin to the Patriots defense, Vince Wilfork (the dude who seemingly single-handedly kept their defense afloat over the last few seasons) is now out for the season. That makes me want to take Cincinnati. But as appealing as a home dog is (especially a home dog seemingly everyone picked to make the playoffs), I'll roll with the Patriots' steady improvement.

JP: CINCINNATI (+1) over New England

The Bengals are at home and need to get the bitter taste of last week out of their mouths. The Cincy D should be able to keep Brady and his no-name offense in check, and without Wilfork I could see the Bengals run game going off for a big day.

JC: OAKLAND (+5) over San Diego

Surprise night game! The A's playoff game threw a monkey wrench into the schedule and now this game will be at 11:35 Eastern on NFL Network. I probably will not watch. But with Pryor healthy against a crappy San Diego defense, I'll take the points.

JP: San Diego (-5) over OAKLAND

I like Pryor as a trump card for the Raiders against bad teams and when facing super-sized lines, but not against Phillip Rivers and a San Diego offense that is lighting it up right now. Do you know who is throwing the ball better than Rivers this year? Peyton Manning. That's it.

JC: New York Jets (+10) over ATLANTA

The Jets' first three weeks was giving off a strong whiff of friskiness. The Falcons first four weeks (with an albeit comically more difficult schedule) has seemingly exposed them as just an NFC also-ran, not the juggernaut they looked like last season. The Jets stumbled against Tennessee's defense, but we really haven't seen anything from Atlanta's defense that suggests they can consistently get stops. I wouldn't pick the Jets outright but 10 points seems a tad high.

JP: ATLANTA (-10) over New York Jets

I agree that 10 points seems a bit high, but the Falcons need a "get on track game," and I have a feeling they get up two scores and keep their foot on the gas. Plus, those crazy rookie QBs are always good for a few untimely turnovers to keep the blood flowing.

Three Team Tease(s) of The Week:

JC: Atlanta (to PK); Denver (to +1); St. Louis (to -2)
JP: (Void)

Jeremy's Records:
Last Week: 7-7-1
Season: 25-33-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1
Season's Disagreements: 8-8-1
Teases: 2-2

Joe's Records:
Last Week: 5-9-1
Season: 25-33-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-3
Seasons Disagreements: 8-8-1
Teases: 0-4 (Jeremy had made the executive decision that failure to pick a teaser will count as a loss)

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