It was a disappointing Week 5 for the picks column and the Cleveland Browns alike. Unlike the Browns who jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Giants, my picks went a combined 0-6 in the early games on Sunday en route to a 3-10 week.
Much like Pat Shurmur and the Browns, this column has nowhere to go but up!
Well at least I’m not on an 11 game losing streak and called a QB roll-out on 3rd and one. Let’s hit the Week 6 lines…
(Gamble at your own risk, home teams are in CAPS, and lines are from SportsBook.com.)
BROWNS (+2) over Bengals
I don't feel good about it at all. With a line this small I’m basically picking the Browns to win, which given their recent history, is a pretty daunting thing to do.
Despite the 0-5 record, the 2012 Browns are playing better football than they did a season ago. When you look at the overall team stats they don’t look like the worst team in the NFL. They rank 24th in total offense and 28th in total defense. While that certainly isn’t good at all, both the Titans and Jaguars rank below them in both categories.
At this point I'm just grasping at straws with this team, but I don't mind the way they've played at all in actuality.
Brandon Weeden threw two very ill-timed interceptions that, had they gone the other way, would have had a profound impact on the game.
The defense, already without Joe Haden and Phil Taylor, lost Dimitri Patterson, D’Qwell Jackson, and Athaba Rubin to injuries during the game. It’s tough to recover from that no matter what team it is.
And Shurmur made another few questionable coaching decisions.
The record is what it is and you can’t change that. But I can't shake the feeling that this Cleveland Browns team doesn’t feel like a winless team.
The 2009 Browns? Now that felt like a winless team. In 2009, we went into every week feeling like there was almost no chance for the Browns to compete unless something crazy happened. It was as if they needed a miracle to win a game.
I don’t feel that way about this team. In fact, there hasn’t been a game yet this season where I didn’t feel like there was a distinct possibility that the Browns could win. And the thing is too, they’ve been in these games with several of them going down to the wire.
While I’m as frustrated as any Browns fan, I refuse to buy into the pessimistic attitude that permeates the fans and media of this team.
And you know what? This line tells me that Vegas believes the Browns have a very good chance of winning this game, and that’s good enough for me.
So screw all the nay-sayers, I’m taking the Browns for the win this week!
After all, they have to win eventually, right?
Colts (+3.5) over JETS
This feels almost too easy, which means that I should probably go the other way. The Jets really are not very good and the Colts just knocked off the Packers last week showing pretty clearly that they at the very least aren’t terrible.
I know that Indianapolis was riding high and emotional with their coaching situation and they were at home so that performance could be fools gold. But the Jets defense is a little banged up, especially with Darrelle Revis out, and Andrew Luck clearly has developed fantastic chemistry with Reggie Wayne. Oh yeah and the Jets don’t have any QB’s or WR’s.
That’s it, talked myself into it. I’m taking the Colts.*
*I reserve the right to change this pick if Rex Ryan finally comes to his senses and puts in Tim Tebow to work his magic.
BUCCANEERS (-4.5) over Chiefs
I really hate the Chiefs. They played the Ravens tough at home last week which naturally means that they’ll go on the road this week and stink up the joint. I can’t believe I’m actually laying points with Tampa Bay. Don’t screw me again, Romeo.
Raiders (+9) over FALCONS
This is a classic case of the West coast team that already isn’t very good flying across the country to play in a one o'clock game against an undefeated team in a dome and getting blown out. Right?
Wrong. Because every time it feels that simple it never is. Look, I’m on record as being a skeptic of this Falcons team. They’ve been lucky several times this year already including last week. If Robert Griffin III doesn’t get injured I’m not sure that the Redskins don’t win that game.
I’m not saying the Raiders will win but the Falcons will keep them in it.
RAVENS (-3.5) over Cowboys
This line feels way too generous in favor of the Cowboys, probably factoring in that they’re coming off a bye week. The Ravens played pretty terribly last week and that doesn’t often happen multiple weeks in a row with this team. And I’m not buying the Cowboys as being really good. If they can’t go into Seattle and win then what should make me think they’ll win in Baltimore? And then of course there's the fact that the Ravens haven't lost at home in something like ten years.
Lions (+3.5) over EAGLES
The Lions are coming off a much needed bye week after a less than spectacular start to the season. The Eagles, on the other hand, haven’t been great either, especially on offense. I’ll be honest, I have no idea who to pick in this game. It is by far the most confusing game of the week to me. So, when in doubt, take the underdog.
Rams (+4) over DOLPHINS
This is another tough game to handicap because both of these teams are pretty young and inconsistent. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been terrible the past couple weeks especially considering he has one wide receiver to throw to. But Jeff Fischer’s defense has been pretty stout so far this season and I think they’ll give the rookie QB some issues. I’ll take the Rams with the points to at least cover on the road.
SEAHAWKS (+4) over Patriots
Seattle is the only other team this week besides the Browns that is getting points at home. It is so tough to pick against a home underdog, especially such a tough home team like the Seahawks. The last time I picked against them at home, the replacement refs got involved to punish me for my poor decision.
On the other hand, it’s even tougher to pick against a Patriots team whose offense has just looked unbeatable in their past six quarters of football. You can move the ball on that defense though and I believe Pete Carroll will lean on his running game to keep Brady, Welker and Gronkowski off the field and keep the score close.
CARDINALS (-4.5) over Bills
While I’m not sold on Arizona as being a great team, I am supremely confident that the Bills are not a good team at all. This line is a bit of an overreaction to the Cardinals losing their first game of the season last week. If I only have to lay 4.5 points at home against the Bills I’ll do that every time.
Giants (+6.5) over 49ERS
San Francisco is getting a lot of respect with this line. If memory serves me right didn't the Giants beat the 49ers in San Francisco in the NFC title game? This is also about the point in the season where the G-Men typically start to take their jobs seriously.
This should be an absolutely fantastic game and a tough defensive battle. Even though it seems like everyone and their mother is taking the points, which usually means you should go the other way, I can't pass on getting almost a touchdown with the defending champions.
Packers (+3.5) over TEXANS
It's put up or shut up time in Green Bay. The Packers' vaunted offense has been pedestrian in 2012, ranking only 21st in the NFL in total offense. Houston meanwhile is ranked 3rd in total defense. Looking at these two teams to this point in the season it's actually surprising that the Packers are only getting 3.5 points.
But I can't shake the idea that Aaron Rodgers and that offense should be dominating like they did last year. It'll be a tough test for them but I think they start to figure it out this week in what is, believe it or not, a virtual must-win game even this early in the season. This is also the toughest test that that the Texans have faced all season. We'll see if they're up to the challenge.
Broncos (+1.5) over CHARGERS
Yes, please. If I can get Peyton Manning at night AND Philip Rivers at night AND get points, it's basically a no-brainer. Neither of these teams have been anything special so far this season, but Manning looks better every game in my opinion and Rivers' history has shown us all that he struggles in big games. And Peyton Manning is the man for night time games.
I like the Broncos big in this game. I'll even go as far as to say that this is an absolute lock of a pick. Which, if you're a betting individual, means you should bet heavily on the Chargers.
Vikings at REDSKINS
There's no line on this game because of the Griffin injury. I like the Vikings to win either way because the Washington defense is pretty awful. But with no line, alas, I have no pick.
Last week: 3-10
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.