Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 5 Picks

It's a stupid song! Get over it!

In looking ahead to Week 5, here are three things that stand out to me…

1. Must Win Games – It’s somewhat of a stretch to call any of these games “must win” considering it’s only Week 5, but several teams will be staring down their 2011 mortality if they can’t find a way to pull one out this week. Perhaps no team needs a win more than the Eagles, who are apparently vacating their “Dream Team” status. I definitely believe they can overcome a 1-4 start and still make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s likely. Joining them in the ranks of desperation are the Cardinals (can’t afford to fall behind San Francisco any more) and the Bears (a MNF loss to Detroit would put them 3 back of the Lions and potentially 3 back of the Packers).

2. Grudge Week! – I do love a good rematch and Week 5 gives us not one, but two of them! After the Jets shocking upset of New England in last year’s playoffs, New York returns to the scene of the crime with a significantly less talented roster…and also with Mark Sanchez still playing QB. Good luck, Rex Ryan. Once that game is completed (and after a digitally altered prostitute version of Faith Hill serenades us while giant clips of football players running in weird places plays in the background), the Packers return to Atlanta to excavate the mass graveyard they buried Matt Ryan and his teammates in. My advice to Falcons fans...wear black.

3. Fork in the Road for Denver – Not that I’ll be tuning into the game or anything, but it bears monitoring if only for the Tebow factor. A lot has been made of the fairly non-existent QB controversy in Denver. The organization wants Orton to be their guy (and definitely not Tebow), while the majority of the fan base feels the exact opposite way. With the season already looking bleak and Orton struggling early on, the two philosophies could come to a head if the Chargers take control of this game early.

As for the Week 4 picks…can we not talk about those this week? Please? The 1:00pm games were a complete and utter disaster for me. Meanwhile, Prince pulled out his crystal ball and put the wood to me. And yes, I’m still stinging from it. Hopefully I can come back strong. Let’s review what happened last week.

(Remember, Prince and I are going head to head with our picks. No prize has been determined yet, but ideas are happily accepted.)

Week 2 Results (point spread in parentheses)

Landrum: 9-7 (6-9)
Prince: 11-5 (9-6)

Week 4 Winner: Prince +5

Results through Week 2 (point spread in parentheses)

Landrum: 38-26 (27-30)
Prince: 40-24 (28-29)
Overall Leader: Prince +3

I’d like to thank the Cleveland Browns, Devin Hester, Kyle Orton’s INT’s, and everyone else who made this blowout loss possible. Moving on, let’s see what we got for Week 5:

Philadelphia at Buffalo (PHI -3)

Jon: Philadelphia (PHI -3)
Prince: Buffalo (BUF +3)

Confusion reigns supreme in this one as we desperately try to figure out whether Buffalo is a good team with a bad roster and if Philadelphia is a bad team with a good roster. As I mentioned above, the stakes are pretty high for the Eagles coming into this one. With the Giants and Redskins playing well, a 1-4 start would be awfully tough to overcome. I’d like to think they learned a lesson from their collapse last week, but it would be foolish to discredit Andy Reid’s ability to blow a 4th quarter lead. I’m taking the Eagles simply because I think they’re significantly better than the Bills.

Kansas City at Indianapolis (IND -1)

Jon: Kansas City (KC +1)
Prince: Kansas City (KC +1)

I talked about this game a bit (A LOT) in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes column, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it. Indianapolis has done an admirable job of hanging in there against some decent teams, but all the research I did pointed to Curtis Painter being the luckiest man alive last week. Not that Kansas City is that good (or good at all), but they have significantly more talent than the Colts do at this point. Too bad, because they could DEFINITELY use Andrew Luck next year.

Arizona at Minnesota (MIN -3)

Jon: Minnesota (MIN -3)
Prince: Minnesota (MIN -3)

Prince picked his team, which probably means another epic 2nd half collapse. Even though I picked them as well (another good harbinger for Arizona’s chances), I’d gladly take a hit for the pleasure of witnessing Prince’s continued misery. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll happen. Sure, Minnesota has the ability to lose ANY game, but have you seen Kevin Kolb this year??? He’s bad. Really bad. Watch for McNabb to finally have a big game and for the Vikings to roll.

Seattle at New York Giants (NYG -10)

Jon: New York (NYG -10)
Prince: New York (SEA +10)

In his continued effort to ruin my life, Tarvaris Jackson dealt me a defeat against the spread for the 4th week in a row. Believe me, it’s getting pretty old. So what does do? They make the Giants a freakin’ 10 point favorite! 10 points! I hate giving that high a number, but Seattle on the road is a recipe for disaster. Anybody remember how they did at Pittsburgh? Yeah, I got the Giants by a lot. (Note: I’d also like to issue early congratulations to Prince for beating me here. Good work, buddy.)

Tennessee at Pittsburgh (PIT -6.5)

Jon: Tennessee (TEN +6.5)
Prince: Tennessee (TEN +6.5)

First of all, I’d like to know what Pittsburgh has done to warrant being a 6.5 point favorite. Let’s see, they beat Tarvaris Jackson at home (super impressive) and barely hung on against Indianapolis (Super Bowl, here we come!). On the other hand, Tennessee has a better record and has an impressive blowout victory over Baltimore (who crushed Pittsburgh earlier in the year). OK, glad we got that straight. 6.5 points it is.

Second of all, I’d like to clear the air and point out that I’m not making a rash judgment on Pittsburgh’s “demise” by picking against them here. For all I know, Pittsburgh is going to pull everything together at some point and make another run at the Super Bowl. Wouldn’t be shocking at all. However, it’s hard to pick a team when you’re not sure who’s actually playing for them. We know Roethlisberger will be in the lineup, but how effective can he be with a bum foot (especially behind that line)? What we don’t know is who will get the lion’s share of the carries with Mendenhaal being banged up. The questions aren’t limited to offense either. The Pittsburgh D has struggled mightily early on, especially against the run. With James Harrison definitely out, will they be able to pull it together to shut down Chris Johnson. There are just so many questions…

New Orleans at Carolina (NO -7)

Jon: New Orleans (CAR +7)
Prince: New Orleans (CAR +7)

I am dangerously close to being a full blown member of the Cam Newton fan club. I promised I’d withhold judgment till after Week 6, but the evidence is starting to mount and I’m going to have to prepare some kind of retraction for my preseason hatred. As good as Newton has been, however, the Panthers have fallen short in 3 of their first 4 games. Don’t blame that on Cam though! Blame that on a defense giving up 25.5 points per game! Given this defensive ineptitude, it’s not hard to imagine New Orleans putting up a ton of points. But wait, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that New Orleans defense isn’t much better, giving up 24.5 points per game. As has been the case in all of Carolina’s games (at least those that haven’t involved a hurricane), a shootout should ensue. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Drew Brees usually wins those types of game.

Cincinnati at Jacksonville (JAX -1.5)

Jon: Cincinnati (CIN +1.5)
Prince: Cincinnati (CIN +1.5)

Is there any way this game could be less compelling? Watching Blane Gabart play football is a lot like staring into the sun. Of course, I feel pretty much the same way about watching the Bengals. Seriously, if Cincinnati somehow finds a way to win the AFC North, I’ll never watch football again. Ever.

Oakland at Houston (HOU -7)

Jon: Houston (OAK +7)
Prince: Oakland (OAK +7)

-7 seems like an awful lot for a team that just lost its best player. With Andre Johnson I’d probably take HOU -7, but I can’t possibly go that high with Matt Schaub targeting Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones all day long. Houston is a superior football team all around and Arian Foster seems to be fully recovered from his hamstring injury, but Darren McFadden has been the quintessential one man squad so far this season. There’s going to be a lot of running in this game, and probably fewer points than the average game, but Matt Schaub’s ability to complete passes to member of his own team gives Houston the edge it needs in a close affair.

Tampa Bay at San Francisco (SF -2.5)

Jon: San Francisco (SF -2.5)
Prince: San Francisco (SF -2.5)

I like Tampa Bay, I really do. It’s just that their early season performance has me really questioning how good they are. Even at 3-1. Specifically, their MNF game against Indianapolis is troubling in that they struggled to defeat a clearly inferior team. With Curtis Painter at the helm. In addition to that, I’m starting to wonder whether Raheem Morris is a good coach or not. The Bucs consistently slow starts are indicative of poor coaching. For the first time in a decade the 49ers have no such concern. Jim Harbaugh is probably going to coach the pants off Raheem Morris (Get it, 49ers fans?  Pants off? Get it?). San Francisco knows this is a huge opportunity to put a vice grip on the division and I think they get the job done at home.

San Diego at Denver (SD -6)

Jon: San Diego (SD -6)
Prince: San Diego (SD -6)

Adding to the troubling Denver QB situation is the fact that Philip Rivers and the Chargers are due for a big game. San Diego’s annual September swoon is now over and it’s now the portion of the season when they make everyone believe this is the year they break through in the playoffs, only to choke down the stretch. It’s as guaranteed as the changing of the seasons and the migration of birds.

New York Jets at New England (NE -8)

Jon: New England (NE -8)
Prince: New England (NE -8)

The Jets have been thoroughly unimpressive so far in 2011. If not for a Tony Romo Special in Week 1, the Jets would be at 1-3 and facing an enormous amount of scrutiny and criticism. Instead, they’re at 2-2…and facing an enormous amount of scrutiny and criticism. Hey, you open your mouth up as much as Rex Ryan does and you’re gonna take heat when you don’t back it up. I’m not gonna play up the “New England is mad” card like everyone else. What I will play up is the “New England is a lot better than the Jets and Mark Sanchez is absolutely terrible” card. So yeah, I’ve got the Pats winning by several TD’s.

Green Bay at Atlanta (GB -4.5)

Jon: Green Bay (GB -4.5)
Prince: Green Bay (GB -4.5)

Geez, Green Bay by 4.5 seems like a gift! I’m sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with me, but I’m gonna come out and say it anyways. Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in football. Better than Tom Brady. There, I said it. One of the things Prince and I talked about on our “Bold Predictions” podcast was how calm and cool Rodgers is when he’s playing. Basically, he’s not human. He’s a machine. Yet, despite his enormous success, it still seems like he flies under the radar a bit. How that is possible in today’s world I will never know. The fact is, Rodgers performance through the season’s first 4 games is perhaps the greatest 4 game stretch put together by anyone in the history of football (Note the word “perhaps.” I’m making no definitive statement. I haven’t done the requisite research to do so.) . Much like last year, I don’t think the Falcons have any prayer of keeping Rodgers in check. And, with the way the Falcons offense has struggled thus far, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to score enough to stay in this game. I won’t be shocked if this is a repeat of the playoff game last year.

Chicago at Detroit (DET -6)

Jon: Detroit (DET -6)
Prince: Detroit (DET -6)

This might be the best MNF game yet this year! Unfortunately, it’s overshadowed by the tragic loss of Hank Willia…OK, I can’t even finish that sentence! People, IT’S A FREAKING SONG! A bad one at that.

Anyways, back here in Sane People Land, the 2-2 Bears are pretty much staring disaster straight in the eyes. Most teams are still very much in it at 2-3, but a loss here coupled with a Green Bay win would place them 3 full games behind the co-division leaders. Yikes! For Detroit, you can’t ask for a better situation. The Bears shell of an offensive line has no chance against the Lions front four, meaning Jay Cutler might actually lose a limb at some point in this game. Shy of scoring 3 TD’s from defense and special teams (aka. the Bears REAL offense), the Lions should cruise on Monday night. A hint of warning, however, must be issued to Detroit after spotting Minnesota and Dallas huge leads. You simply can’t dig yourself a huge hole and expect to win week after week. Eventually, the other team doesn’t throw TD passes to your backup LB. That having been said, Dallas IS the greatest 3 quarter team of all time so there’s no shame in going down early. In fact, that might have been Jim Schwartz game plan. No, seriously, it might have been.

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