It's the Browns' bye week, which means that I won't be emotionally conflicted into picking them to cover the spread again. I've done it every week this season to which the Browns are 4-4-1 against the spread (respectable, actually).
Another perk of the bye week is that I don't feel compelled to rant and complain about Pat Shurmur again. I'm on record as saying that Shurmur isn't a good NFL head coach and there's no chance he'll be here next season.
I doubt he'll be fired before the end of the season (which I actually don't mind) but he won't make it a week after the final game before he's cleaning out his office.
Since the Browns don't have a game to talk about and they're all on vacation themselves I'll take this welcomed opportunity to not talk about them anymore either. (If you really want to read some Browns you can check out my column from last week casting Browns players in the Star Wars franchise.)
On to the lines...
(As always, gamble at your own risk. The home team is in CAPS and the lines are brought to you by SportsBook.com.)
PATRIOTS (-11) over Bills
Last week I layed double digit points twice and won and I'll start out this week by doing it again. (By the way, last week my lines were cut from my column and are lost in the stratosphere. You'd believe me if I said I went 11-2, right?)
When these two teams matched up in Week 4 in Buffalo the Patriots blew them out 52-28. With this one in Foxboro I don't see any reason why the same won't happen again. Not to mention that this game is Bill Belichick coming off a bye week, which obviously gives a big lean to New England.
Oh yeah, and the Bills stink. So there's that too.
Giants (-4) over BENGALS
The past three weeks Eli Manning hasn't been particularly good with a passer rating below 80.0 in each game. He was particularly dreadful last week against Pittsburgh: 10-24, 125 YDS, 0 TD, 1 INT, 41.1 RAT.
With that said, the Bengals are the fifth worst team in the NFL in opponent passer rating at 99.0 (and they've played Brandon Weeden and the Browns twice). If Eli is going to get back on track this week is as good a time as any to do it.
This is also the Giants' last game before their bye week and they won't want to go in on a two-game losing streak. (You like that analysis? What team would want to go into the bye on a two game losing streak? These are the gold nuggets that you can only get here.)
BUCCANEERS (-3) over Chargers
Did you know that Josh Freeman has the ninth highest passer rating in the NFL at 95.1? That's only 0.7 points lower than Drew Brees. At 4-4 Freeman has my playoff sleeper pick Tampa Bay alive and well in the hunt for the postseason.
The Chargers are also 4-4, though much more disappointing with some really bad loses on their record, including a 27-3 loss to Atlanta and the 7-6 loss in Cleveland. Philip Rivers was great last week against the hapless Chiefs but hasn't been anywhere close to an "elite" QB this season.
I'll also point out that this year the NFC has been much better than the AFC. It's not really close which conference is better. I'll take Tampa Bay at home and lay the field goal.
And also I hear that some Doug Martin guy who plays for Tampa Bay is pretty good. Not sure who is though.
PANTHERS (+4) over Broncos
Despite all the negative media attention around Cam Newton and despite the fact that they only have two wins this season, the Panthers haven’t been terrible. Five of their six losses were by five points or less. They’ll be returning home this week off of a big win on the road in Washington where they only yielded 13 points to Robert Griffin III and the Redskins.
The Broncos have been very good this year mostly on the strength (I guess you can call it “strength”) of Peyton Manning’s right arm. But Denver will be flying cross country and playing in the early game, plus they’re due for a midseason letdown.
(And I can’t take all favorites. It’s like marking every answer on the test “C” even you when you believe it’s the right answer. You have to find reasons to mix it up.)
Titans (+6) over DOLPHINS
I don’t feel like the Titans are very good per se, but are we really ready for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins to give six points, albeit at home? I’m not, give me the points.
RAVENS (-7.5) over Raiders
Is there a less reliable team in the NFL than the Raiders? You could make a case for the Ravens, who they’re playing this week, oddly enough. But for the life of me I can’t figure out Oakland. I feel like I pick their game wrong every single week.
What I do know for sure is that I finally feel vindicated in passing on Darren McFadden in fantasy football this season after taking him the last two years and getting burned by injuries. He’s always “questionable” to play, and never does.
Out of spite for having to pick their games I’m picking against the Raiders.
Oh yeah, and the Ravens are actually a good team, especially at home. So there’s that too.
Oh yeah, and the Raiders are flying cross-country playing the early game. The last time they did that they lost by 24. So there’s that as well.
Falcons (-2.5) over SAINTS
It’s a game between division rivals and featuring Drew Brees going up against a pretty good Falcons defense. The Saints are at home and will be jacked up to give Atlanta their first loss of the season.
But, it’s also Matt Ryan and a very good Falcons offense going up against the worst defense in NFL history (on pace at least). Knowing what I know about the Saints I can’t take them to win this game in good conscience. I think their pathetic defense gives up a game-winning drive in the closing minutes to Matty Ice and the dirty birds.
This has great potential to be a very high-scoring, entertaining game.
SEAHAWKS (-6) over Jets
Is it possible that Bill Simmons could have been on to something with his Seahawks Super Bowl pick? I’m not willing to go that far but this Seattle squad is actually really good, especially at home.
A week ago they convincingly beat the Vikings, who are certainly better than the Jets. What troubles me here, though, is laying that many points, and the Seahawks haven’t blown many teams out this year.
But again, it’s the Jets, so I’ll just let it ride.
EAGLES (+1.5) over Cowboys
It’s been a really tough year for Michael Vick and the Eagles. If they’re ever going to get the ship back on track it needs to be this week.
Can you believe that just two weeks ago the Eagles were actually favored against the undefeated Falcons? Now they’re an underdog at home against a team with an identical 3-5 record. My how the mighty have fallen.
Rams (+11) over 49ERS
Yes, the Rams are not a good football team. And yes, the 49ers are a very good football team, and they’re at home.
But this is a divisional game! I have to believe that Jeff Fisher will instill some pride in his boys and at least keep this one close.
And when I say "close" I mean "Closer than 11 points is all I really care about. Feel free to play as bad as you want, just keep it within 11 points."
BEARS (-1) over Texans
Best game of the week without a doubt. If you love defense this is the game for you. Both of these teams are frightening, intimidating and dominating on the defensive side of the football.
On the surface when you break it down it seems like Houston should win this game. The defenses are essentially a wash so in theory it will come down to which offense is actually able to produce.
The Texans are a fantastic running team that focuses on ball control and not turning the ball over. They maximize possessions at all cost. To that point they only have six turnovers all year, best in the NFL.
Chicago has been less successful in that area, doubling up Houston's total with 12 turnovers.
However, despite the high turnover numbers the Bears still own the best give/take away differential in the NFL at 16. That means, of course, that they have an astounding 28 takeaways this season, twice as many as Houston (14, for the mathematically challenged).
Those absolutely gaudy takeaway numbers underscore something bigger that is going on in Chicago.
The Bears are a great team. It isn't exactly something that can be quantified with numbers and stats completely. In fact, the numbers almost disprove this notion.
Jay Cutler and the passing attack are not very good—29th in the league in passing yards, in fact. The offensive line struggles, to put it kindly. Cutler has been sacked 28 times this season, second most in the NFL, one behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
Cutler's 85.3 QB Rating ranks 18th in the NFL, worse than guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kolb and Carson Palmer.
His counterpart in Houston, Matt Schaub, has the seventh best QB Rating at 96.8 and has only been sacked 10 times, the fewest in the NFL for anyone who's thrown at least 150 passes.
But despite what the numbers I love to crunch so much tell me, I just can't get past the feeling that this Bears team is a little bit special. They've felt like this for the past three seasons actually and if Cutler hadn't gotten injured the last two the national opinion of this team might be far different.
When you strip away the names of the players, the stats, the media slant, and just watch them play football you come away believing that the Bears are the better team.
Take it for what you will, but I really like the Bears in this game. I just have that feeling.
What were we doing again?
Chiefs (+12.5) over STEELERS
They’re baiting me with a line this big, right? I’d have to be sucker to fall for it, right?
Well, okay I’ll go ahead and take the points anyways. After all, I don't gamble, so it's not real money...just my reputation in Romeo Crennel's hands.
Last week: 6-7
Browns picks: 4-4-1
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.