Friday, October 7, 2016

NFL Week/Episode 5 Primer (With Picks): The Empire Strikes Back

Pretty sure the bad guys win at the end of this one...
  By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

We've had to wait a month, but we're here.

It was an agonizing, excruciating four weeks (for Patriots fans, everyone else seemed to enjoy it). But we all battled through it. We hunkered down. We watched Red Zone. We checked, re-checked, and re-re-checked our fantasy teams. We persevered through a few terrible prime-time games, a game in London, and the sudden collapse of the Panthers and Cardinals. But we finally made it.

Tom Brady, at long last, is back.

This is going to be fun.

Game(s) of The Week:

Houston at Minnesota (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Despite their best efforts, Houston sits at 3-1 and have looked reasonably professional in all three wins. At the very least, they take care of business against the bad-to-mediocre teams. Something to keep an eye on, however, is the sudden disappearance of DeAndre Hopkins. He has just five catches for 60 yards over the last two weeks combined, and now the Texans are going up against perhaps the best defense in the league.

Atlanta at Denver (4:05 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Suddenly, Atlanta might be legit and possibly the best team in the NFC that doesn't wear purple. At the very least, it will be interesting to see Superhuman Julio Jones against Superhuman Denver Secondary.

Cincinnati at Dallas (4:25 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Cincinnati seemed to get back on track last Thursday in their win over Miami, and have had an extra-long week to prepare for this game. Dallas, meanwhile, has won three straight and has looked as efficient as ever on offense.

New York Giants at Green Bay (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

At the very least, it's two competent quarterbacks with great receivers squaring off. That is, somehow, a rarity in the NFL in 2016. Weird, I know.

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

MINNESOTA (-7) over Houston

JC: With J.J. Watt out of the lineup and an offense that's 29th in scoring (no, seriously, look it up) and had a season-high of 359 yards of offense last week against the Titans, I just can't see them keeping it close against this Minnesota defense. 20 points should be an easy cover for these Vikings.

JP: The Vikings D is far better than we thought in the preseason (I thought they'd be Top 10, but not overwhelming), and as much as we all laughed about the Sam Bradford trade, he actually hasn't been bad. Is Minnesota the best team in the NFC? What's happening?!?!

Tennessee (+3.5) over MIAMI

JC: Tennessee has shown some friskiness. They've been close in every game they've played, even out-gaining Minnesota and Oakland in losses. They play ugly, but ugly games tend to be close, and DeMarco Murray has seen a quiet and pleasant resurgence so far this year. I don't think the Titans are good, but I definitely know that Miami is bad.

JP: I think betting against Miami is a pretty solid strategy at this point.

New England (-38.5) over CLEVELAND

JC: Actually, the spread is only -11, but there isn't a spread that I would not take for Tom Brady's pissed-off return against the worst team in the league. This game has 52-10 written all over it.

JP: I'll stick with -11, but yeah, especially against Cleveland.

Washington (+4) over BALTIMORE

JC: I'm still rolling with the hypothesis that Baltimore are semi-frauds and not the be trusted. They barely escaped against Cleveland and Jacksonville and then lost at home against Oakland in a West-Coast-Team-Traveling-East-For-An-Early-Game situation. Washington has started to find a bit of a groove on offense, so let's see what they can do here.

JP: It's the Battle of the Beltway! At least, I think that's what they call it down there. Either way, I agree that Baltimore is a fraud, and if you're giving me more than a FG, I'll take it.

INDIANAPOLIS (-4.5) over Chicago

JC: The Colts have to put together at least two consecutive good quarters at some point this season, right? They've looked half-decent at home, at least on offense, and Chicago's defense has looked pretty bad whenever they've played someone half-decent. I think this is when Andrew Luck puts the Colts back in the vicinity of the map.

JP: Last week's win aside, the Bears are still hot garbage. If Indy can't cover this spread, I officially give up on the Colts this year.

Atlanta (+5) over DENVER

JC: Trevor Siemian missed practice Wednesday, but threw Thursday. If he can't play, rookie Paxton Lynch will get the nod. Not that it matters, neither one of them is that good. For the fifth week in a row, I'm going to refuse to give Denver the respect that they obviously seem to deserve, but this time, I'm riding with a team that has scored 93 points in the last two weeks and is still getting almost a touchdown, so I feel semi-justified here.

JP: I've usually picked Denver against you, but I actually think Atlanta has the juice to move the ball a little bit on the Broncos, given the Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones connection is as explosive as ever, and they have two really good backs. I would still pick Denver to win straight up, but this should be a close one.

San Diego (+3.5) over OAKLAND

JC: Are the Raiders actually good, or do they just pull close games out of their rectum at the last minute? That's certainly what they did Week 1 against New Orleans and then last week against Baltimore, and they come into this game ranked 32nd in passing yards allowed and 32nd in opponents' yards per rush. I think San Diego will be able to move the ball here and keep it interesting.

JP: That half-point does it for me. Both these teams play so many close games, so if I get more than a FG with one, that seems like the safe bet.

Cincinnati (-2) over DALLAS

JC: I like Cincinnati coming off a long week and having A.J. Green, while Dallas looks like Dez Bryant will be out again this week. Cincinnati's run defense has been impressive the last two weeks, so Dallas could find themselves out of options.

JP: Cincinnati should just be better than Dallas, and you're right, maybe that win over Miami and the long week will be just what it takes to get the Bengals back on track. I still like the Cowboys, but Cincy's front-seven should be able to wrangle Dak.

New York Giants (+7) over GREEN BAY

JC: Green Bay's season-high in passing yards is 201 yards. That's it. I don't really see them blowing too many people out until they can figure out how to move the ball in chunks. They're 26th in yards per drive, I can't lay a touchdown with an offense like that. 

JP: Yeah, the Giants are inconsistent, but 7 is too rich for my blood. I'll take the points.

Tampa Bay (+7) over CAROLINA

JC: It was tough to find a reliable line on this game, with Cam Newton's status in question. Either way, I'm not comfortable with Carolina laying a touchdown against anybody, really. Their only win is over San Francisco, and they gave up 571 yards of offense last week. I was never holding much Carolina stock, but I'm selling it.

JP: Tampa's gonna win this thing straight up. 

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

JC: SAN FRANCISCO (+3.5) over Arizona

I figured, with Carson Palmer out, the passing game would suffer. I figured, with Mike Iupati and Evan Mathis out, the running game would suffer. I figured, the defense wouldn't continue their crazy streak of forcing turnovers. I figured, San Francisco's secretly-pretty-okay offense would be able to keep the game close. As always, I'm a moron.

JP: Arizona (-3.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

Eh, I just figured Arizona NEEDED this game, and that San Francisco is pretty bad.

JC: PITTSBURGH (-7.5) over New York Jets

Until the Jets can figure out how to not shoot themselves in the foot (here's a hint: don't start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback), I'm willing to lay a few points. The Jets are dead last in yards per pass attempt allowed, which doesn't bode well for this matchup at all.

JP: New York Jets (+7.5) over PITTSBURGH

Still betting against my team, as is tradition.

JC: DETROIT (+3.5) over Philadelphia

Here's a fun fact: the Eagles have not surrendered a passing touchdown all season. Here's another fun fact: no team has ever gone an entire season without allowing a passing touchdown. I like Philadelphia - I think they might be good. But I don't think they're Only-Allow-9-Points-Per-Game good, and I definitely don't think they're Give-More-Than-A-Field-Goal-On-The-Road-Against-A-Competent-Team good - yet.

JP: Philadelphia (-3.5) over DETROIT

Nope, the Lions lost me last week when they lost to the freakin' Bears. Philly is legitimately good, so they should be able to beat a bad team by a touchdown, even on the road.

JC: LOS ANGELES (-2) over Buffalo

Sure. Because this Rams season has made so much sense. Of course they'll go to 4-1.

JP: Buffalo (+2) over LOS ANGELES

Really hard to get a feel for either of these teams, but I'll take the points, and the team that just beat the Patriots. 

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 5-10
Season: 27-35-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-3
Season's Disagreements: 8-9

Joe's Record:
Last Week:7-8
Season: 28-34-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1
Season's Disagreements: 9-8

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