Am I going to celebrate going .500 with my NFL picks against the spread?
First off, I want to thank all of those that stood behind me through the adversity. I wouldn't be here without you.
Next—what? There's still the Week 5 picks to do? And I'm still 10 games under the breaking-even mark for the year?
I guess the show must go on so let's get to the picks with the hope of taking the next step forward!
And I'm still going to have a piece of cake. You can't take that away from me.
Last Week's Record: 7-7-1
Season Record: 25-35-3
All lines are provided by footballlocks.com. All advanced stats and rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.
"You really want to take a rookie quarterback on the road against a tough Cleveland Browns defense? Do you really think that's smart?"
Not particularly, but follow along with the logic.
The Buffalo Bills are getting 4.5 points on a short week. The Thursday games are poorly played contests which often leads to smaller margins of victory.
Plus, quarterback EJ Manuel is difficult to prepare for with his range of skills.
As you can see, I'm stretching a bit to make this work, but the truth is that I don't trust the Browns with that many points. They're bordering on a decent team and I've been pounding the drum for them most of the season, but I'm just not ready for that type of commitment.
Update: The Browns ultimately pulled out a battle of the backup quarterbacks by a score of 37-24.
Result: Browns covered the spread.
That's right. My man crush on the Tennessee Titans is reaching Ryan Fitzpatrick-ian levels. Despite the loss of starting quarterback Jake Locker, I'm not jumping off of this train.
The reasoning is simple.
One, the Titans play that smash-mouth, physical football that is about grinding out wins. Run the ball, protect the ball and play solid defense. The loss of Locker doesn't change any of those tenets.
Second, Fitzpatrick might not be a week-in-week-out starter, but he's certainly a capable backup. In his limited role on Sunday, he posted a 125 quarterback rating and tossed a touchdown. That's something head coach Mike Munchak can work with.
Lastly, they're a home dog against another team who likes to play it close to the vest. The likelihood of a blowout is remote at best.
Sure, the Miami Dolphins just got their doors blown off by the New Orleans Saints.
But no, that doesn't prove that the Dolphins' 3-0 start was a fluke. It just proves that the Saints are a force to be reckoned with.
I'm also somewhat positive that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco isn't going to throw five interceptions. Although, in this instance, I'm cool if that's what he wants to do.
But this game boils down to Miami being a better team.
The Ravens have the better defense, especially with Miami's defensive terror, Cameron Wake, battling a sprained knee. But Miami's defensive lapses are nowhere near Baltimore's offensive problems, where run blocking has become as elusive as a good game from Blaine Gabbert.
Lost in the excitement of a 4-0 start for the New England Patriots was the loss of defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. He tore his Achilles tendon, meaning he's likely done for the year.
Now, the Patriots have to fill a Rob Gronkowski-sized hole in the defense. Quite frankly, I'm not sure that can be done.
Plus, the Cincinnati Bengals have the smell of a team that give prognosticators fits. They have so much talent and are capable of beating anyone in the NFL, but they often don't rise to the occasion.
And we all know whose fault that is. Quarterback Andy Dalton needs to pull it together and take a step forward if the Bengals are ever going to ascend to the next level.
But honestly, I don't care about any of that. What I do care about is that a field goal wins at home against a flawed team missing arguably its best defensive player.
And wouldn't it be just like the Bengals to win this game?
How many points would it take to pick the Jacksonville Jaguars against anyone right now?
They've lost by 26, 10, 28 and 34 points. This week, they're on the road against the St. Louis Rams and are getting 11.5 points.
Yea, that's certainly not how many points it's going to take.
The Rams haven't played well this year, but they're not the Jaguars. So there's that.
And well, that's all you really need. Moving on.
Go ahead. Do it. Bet against the Seattle Seahawks and see how that works out.
Just like on the field, the Seahawks have yet to notch a loss against the spread. In Week 5, they're only giving 2.5 points against an Indianapolis Colts team that doesn't defend the run well.
You don't have to take my word on that. Go back and look at Indy's big win in San Francisco. You'll notice that Frank Gore averaged 7.5 yards per carry but was effectively taken out of the game plan.
I'm serious. Go look.
Yes, the Colts did harass quarterback Colin Kaepernick into a terrible afternoon, but Russell Wilson isn't going to rattle that easily. Head coach Pete Carroll will lean on his running game and defense regardless of the score because, as Seattle proved in Houston, they can win that way.
Oh, and by the way, that same Frank Gore averaged just 1.8 yards against Seattle.
Allow me a second to work through this quickly.
The Green Bay Packers have given up 88 total points in three games. They're also allowing opponents to throw for 311 yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions are averaging 309 yards through the air, fifth most in the league, and more than 30 points per contest.
Yet, I'm supposed to pay a seven-point premium if I want to take the Packers. Absolutely not.
Not when the Lions are creating such a tremendous pass rush and will face off against a rookie at left tackle.
Not when running back Reggie Bush is playing like he's back at USC.
Not when I'm a gigantic homer who was too scared to take his team last week.
Until further notice, there are a few teams that I'm not going against under almost any circumstances. For instance, the only way I'm not picking the New Orleans Saints is if they are giving something close to 20 points or are playing Denver or Seattle.
If you didn't notice, the Chicago Bears did not make that short list. And the Saints aren't even favored, so I'm not worrying about the other circumstance.
Last year, I bought into the Brees-will-lead-the-way-during-troubled-times-and-exact-his-vengeance-on-a-league-that-wronged-him hype. That's probably why I had such a hard time buying that same stock again this year.
But who knew new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was going to have this kind of an impact? Sure, say you knew all along in the comments, but I had never heard of linebacker Junior Galette until this morning.
Who's Junior Gallette, you ask? Just the fourth-highest rated linebacker in the league right now, tied with some dude named Terrell Suggs.
You're going to need at least three of those horse cops to pull me off this wagon—or a really shaky performance in Chicago that will have me pulling out what little hair I have left.
I tried to find a way to take the Dallas Cowboys getting all those points at home.
I thought about how well quarterback Tony Romo, with his eight touchdowns and only three turnovers, is playing this year.
I thought about how dangerous running back DeMarco Murray can be.
I even thought about the third-best rushing defense yards-wise.
But it didn't matter.
At least, not again.
Remember when we were all worried about the impact of losing linebackers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil? Doesn't that seem like years ago?
There are two things to keep in mind here.
First, Ron Rivera is still the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. That means taking them as a road favorite is willingly putting yourself at risk. He's way too capable of making a decision that makes you look at the dog for answers.
Second, linebacker Daryl Washington makes his season debut for the Arizona Cardinals. He automatically pushes the Arizona Cardinals defense up a tier.
Washington was the third-best inside linebacker last year, and he had to sit through a suspension to start this season. Here's betting he's chomping at the bit to get back on the field after a trying offseason that took the game out of his hands.
Actually, I lied.
There's a third thing. For a transient town, Arizona has a legitimate home-field advantage. Maybe all the transplants walking around the valley have converted, or the faithful are just loud and proud, but playing at University of Phoenix Stadium is not a treat for anyone.
Here's another bandwagon that I'm late for.
Somehow, new head coach Mike McCoy was able to exhume the corpse of Philip Rivers, put him back together and reanimate the former MVP candidate. Seriously, McCoy has created a Franken-back that has thrown 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
All hokey jokes aside (and hey, it's October now), the Chargers are humming on offense in a way that didn't seem possible just a month ago. While the defense hasn't been great, the unit seems to get stops when it needs to.
But not everything is good. The Bolts let the Cowboys average 5.8 yards per carry. Seeing as they're giving 4.5 points, allowing an opponent to control the clock and keep the game close is a scary proposition.
Oh, wait. The schedule says, "Oakland Raiders." We're good. Give the points.
This game has last week's London contest written all over it. It's a crapshoot between two pitiful teams that could easily go a number of ways.
So what should I do about it?
Take the best player and the points, when possible. Luckily for us, it is.
Running back LeSean McCoy must love head coach Chip Kelly's crazy-fast offense that runs the ball constantly. If not, he's doing a great job of hiding his disdain since he's leading the league by 47 yards.
Oh, and he's averaging six yards a carry.
Make sure you read that again. It's important.
As for the New York Giants, well, there's just not a lot to say.
The defense is one of the worst in the league against the run, and the offense doesn't run the ball all that well itself. So there's little they can do to control the clock against that unrelenting offense.
Now, don't you at least feel decent about picking the Eagles in this unpredictable matchup? My work here is done.
This feels like an overreaction from the oddsmakers.
Or maybe a smart play.
Vegas understands that fans will see the Houston Texans' 0-3-1 record against the spread and remember that the San Francisco 49ers righted the ship with a pounding of the Rams. They knew they'd jump all over the 49ers, regardless of the cost.
Well, I'm going cheap and not buying anything that expensive.
Not when the 49ers are still rocking one inconsistent wide receiver and an offensive line that hasn't played anywhere near as well as last year.
Not when the Texans moved the ball fairly well against the tough-as-nails Seahawks.
Would I bet the Texans' moneyline? Let's not get carried away. All it takes is one ill-fated Matt Schaub pass for San Francisco to protect its home turf, but hopefully, there will only be one of those resulting in seven or less points.
At least, that's what I'm banking on.
Who decided it would be a good idea to schedule the New York Jets for Monday night? Even Jets fans don't want to endure that.
Whatever the reason may be, the schedule is the schedule. I can't worry about the things I can't control, and I have to focus on picking games.
Actually, that was all a stall tactic. I needed a minute to sort out my feelings on this game.
Alright, got it. I'm taking the Atlanta Falcons and laying that huge nine-point spread.
I know. I don't feel great about it either. But the Falcons have to be in full-crisis mode now. There has to be a players-only meeting this week with guys standing on chairs pleading for the team to get it together.
Atlanta needs to make a statement and I believe it will. Otherwise, I'm crossing the Falcons off the list of contenders (and they're barely there now) and never giving more than three points with them.