Thursday, October 13, 2016

NFL Week 6 Primer (With Picks): Momentum

Are Matt Ryan and the Falcons for real?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The first four weeks were tough. Neither one of us had a week better than 8-7, and we both entered the week at least six games under .500.

Once we rounded the NFL's quarter-pole, however, we turned things around. We each went 10-3-1 against the spread, and Jeremy even swept the 1 o'clock games on Sunday with a spotless 7-0 record against the spread. For the most part, we seem to have a good grasp on the league right now. That being said, we'll probably go 5-9 this week.

The league is still pretty wide-open. The Patriots, Vikings and Steelers are unquestionably really, really good. The Falcons, Broncos, Raiders, Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks rate anywhere from "pretty good" to "really good." The Dolphins, Browns, Bears, and 49ers are all really bad and, for all intents and purposes, dead in the water. Everyone else is (vaguely) still alive, though.

There might be a few "loser leaves town" matchups this week. The Panthers and Saints both need a win to keep pace with the suddenly-really-good Falcons. Neither the Giants or Ravens look like division-winning material, so it's effectively must-win for both teams if they want to steal a Wild Card spot. Same for the Lions and Rams.

Also, with so many seemingly above-average teams in the AFC, the Chiefs and Raiders can't really afford too many losses. (Granted, the Raiders at 4-1 aren't at risk of their season going down the tubes with a loss here, but with the AFC West so competitive, they can't afford to drop winnable division home games - it's not "loser leaves town," but it's "loser needs to rebound.")

Game(s) of The Week

Cincinnati at New England (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

The Patriots look like they're clicking on all cylinders with Tom Brady back in the lineup, and Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett at full strength. But the Bengals sit at 2-3, in third place in the AFC North. This might be a kitchen sink game for them - they just can't afford to lose. They'll be going all-out. This should be an entertaining game.

Philadelphia at Washington (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Dallas appears to be the class of the NFC East, but these teams aren't that far behind. A win here keeps pace, so there's a lot to play for. And it's a divisional game with a long-storied rivalry, so that's fun, too.

Kansas City at Oakland (4:05 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

This is one of those games that you need to have Sunday Ticket or Red Zone for. With the national games on FOX, you probably won't be getting this game unless you happen to live in northern California or near Kansas City. But, this could end up being the best game of the day.

Atlanta at Seattle (4:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Atlanta took care of business last week in Denver, but they're going up against a Seattle team coming off a bye week and looking to remind people that they're the best team in the conference.

Dallas at Green Bay (4:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

If Dez Bryant is playing (and, probably even if he isn't), get ready for about 740 replays of the "Wait, was that a catch? What is a catch, anyway? Do catches even exist?" replay from the 2015 playoffs.

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

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) over Cincinnati

JC: As the Patriots have shown over and over (most recently - Week 3 against Houston), they can shut down an offense that only has one threat in the passing game. Cincinnati just hasn't looked good this season. Their only convincing win was a Thursday night game against Miami. With Brady back (and, seemingly better than ever), a 10-point win doesn't seem that outrageous.

JP: "On to Cincinnati."

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) over Baltimore

JC: Baltimore has lost two straight and hasn't really played a good start-to-finish game all season. The Giants haven't looked that much better, but they've played a substantially more difficult schedule (toughest in the league so far). I don't think either of these teams is that good, but I think the Giants are less bad. At least right now.

JP: Not sure what there is to like about Baltimore, but at least I know Odell is awesome when he isn't throwing a hissy fit. Hopefully he doesn't this week.

Jacksonville (+2.5) over CHICAGO

JC: The Bears' offense looked half-decent last week, but they were playing against the Colts, so I'm not sure you can really count that. The Jaguars are coming off a bye after finally picking up a win, and should be able to keep their offensive momentum going against a hilariously banged-up Chicago defense.

JP: Once again, Chicago is REALLY bad, guys.

San Francisco (+7.5) over BUFFALO

JC: I'll give Colin Kaepernick one shot in Chip Kelly's offense before I write off the 49ers for the year.

JP: That half-point got me, but I mulled this one over for a while. I genuinely think Buffalo and the Jets have gone in completely different directions since the season started, and Buffalo just might be decent.

Los Angeles Rams (+3.5) over DETROIT

JC: The Lions' offense has stumbled the last two weeks (263 yards against Chicago, 244 yards against Philadelphia), and might not even be that good when you consider their best game of the season came against Indianapolis. The Rams have put together a few impressive defensive efforts, and are at least vaguely making progress on offense. If the defense steps up, getting more than a field goal should be enough.

JP: Don't know what to make of either of these teams, so I'll take the points.

TENNESSEE (-7) over Cleveland

JC: The Titans might not suck. They can run the ball and they have an underrated front seven. Their only true weakness on defense is in their secondary, but there's no chance that Cleveland is the team to take advantage of it. Tennessee should be able to keep the ball on the ground and win by double-digits.

JP: Tennessee isn't great or anything, but I'm struggling to think of a "strength" for Cleveland.

HOUSTON (-3) over Indianapolis

JC: The Houston offense has been abysmal the last three weeks and anyone who spent a first-round pick on DeAndre Hopkins this year (yours truly included) is probably looking to jump ship, if they can. But there's no elixir quite like playing the Colts at home.

JP: What is the opposite of "unstoppable force meets immovable object?" Whatever it is, that's what will happen when Brock Osweiler and the Texans' offense take the field against Indy's defense.

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: SAN DIEGO (+3.5) over Denver

San Diego is better than you think they are. They're 1-4, but they have a better average scoring margin than Baltimore, Oakland, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and Houston. All of their losses have been close, and they put up yards and points. With Denver coach Gary Kubiak missing Thursday's game after a scary migraine episode that left him in the hospital Sunday and Monday, and Trevor Siemian still working his way back from his injury last week, there's enough in doubt for Denver's offense for me to roll with the Bolts this week.

JP: Denver (-3.5) over SAN DIEGO

I see all your points, but I just have a hard time seeing San Diego piling up points against Denver's defense. The Broncos are also coming off a loss and probably feel like everything's working against them, so they'll probably win by 17.

JC: Pittsburgh (-8) over MIAMI

I think Pittsburgh beating up on crappy teams is going to be one of the most consistent bets this season. They just throw deep so often that sooner or later they're going to connect. Unless their opponent has a dominant pass rush or an all-world free safety, the Steelers are going to make big plays downfield and put up points. Miami hasn't shown much of anything this season - they barely beat Cleveland, at home, in overtime. I don't see them giving the Steelers much trouble.

JP: MIAMI (+8) over Pittsburgh

I'll disagree, as is tradition.

JC: Carolina (-3) over NEW ORLEANS

This is undoubtedly a "loser leaves town" game. Neither one of these teams is going to make the playoffs after a loss here, and their chances at a Wild Card berth are slim as it is considering there are two strong teams in the NFC North, and perhaps a second strong team in the NFC West (if the Rams can keep it up or the Cardinals can rally) as well as the NFC East (Dallas and Philly both seem pretty good). If everything is on the line, my money is on Cam to pound a miserable New Orleans defense into submission.

JP: NEW ORLEANS (+3) over Carolina

So, uh, the Panthers unraveled quickly...
JC: WASHINGTON (+3) over Philadelphia

Wait a minute - the Eagles were favored by 3.5 last week, on the road, against Detroit, and they lost. Now they're on the road against Washington, a team that by any reasonable metric is better than Detroit, and the Eagles are still favored by 3? What?

JP: Philadelphia (-3) over WASHINGTON

Maybe I just have images of Philly destroying in my head (not to mention images of Pittsburgh waxing Washington), but I feel like the Eagles are legit. They'll pound a middle-of-the-road divisional opponent like they should.

JC: GREEN BAY (-4) over Dallas

Before we go anointing Dak Prescott the greatest thing since sliced bread and wondering out loud what Dallas will do with Tony Romo after they win the Super Bowl without him, first take a gander at the Cowboys' schedule so far this year. They still haven't played a legitimately good team and have played the league's second-easiest schedule (only Seattle has had a more favorable slate). I think the Packers should be able to take care of business against a Dallas defense that hasn't really been tested yet.

JP: Dallas (+4) over GREEN BAY


JC: Kansas City (+1) over OAKLAND

I'm sticking with my "Oakland isn't that good they just keep getting insanely lucky in close games and sooner or later they aren't going to have any more horseshoes up their butt" theory. The Chiefs could roll out their ball-control offense to keep Carr and Cooper off the field and win a surprisingly low-scoring game.

JP: OAKLAND (-1) over Kansas City

And I'm sticking with my "Oakland is for real, though a bit inconsistent, and super fun to watch" theory.

JC: SEATTLE (-6.5) over Atlanta

I figured that after Atlanta beat Denver in Denver, this line would reflect the ensuing over-reaction from the public, and I'd be able to fade the Falcons only giving a field goal or so. This line seems like it's at least a point too high, maybe even two, but I'm not willing to bet on Atlanta winning two road games in a row against elite defenses when their own defense might still be a mirage. When you add in Seattle coming off a bye week, it's just icing on the cake.

JP: Atlanta (+6.5) over SEATTLE

Remember two weeks ago when you told me that Atlanta was sneakily good, and Seattle might not be that good at all?... What happened?

JC: ARIZONA (-7.5) over New York Jets

The Jets' pass defense is [fart noises]. They've given up five touchdown passes of at least 40 yards and currently rank 31st in opponents' net yards per pass attempt and dead last in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings. When Arizona's entire offense built around their vertical passing game, this seems like a favorable matchup for them.

JP: New York Jets (+7.5) over ARIZONA

Nah, this line seems a point-and-a-half too large for me. The Jets do a lot of things wrong, but they can still score points, and I don't fully trust this Arizona team.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 10-3-1
Season: 37-38-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 10-11

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 10-3-1
Season: 38-37-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-2
Season's Disagreements: 11-10

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