2016 NFL Picks: Week 6
Last Week: 3-3
- Oakland Raiders -1 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
- Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 at Washington Redskins
- Chicago Bears -2.5 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
- Seattle Seahawks -6.5 vs. Atlanta Falcons
- Pittsburgh Steelers -7.5 at Miami Dolphins
- Indianapolis Colts +3 at Houston Texans
- Green Bay Packers -4.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys
- Cincinnati Bengals +9 at New England Patriots
The good news: last week's 3-3 finish was the best we've managed this season. The bad news: it doesn't help us move closer to the targeted 60%. But that's okay, because I think I've identified the problem: I've been learning too much.
Okay, that's not exactly true. Learning is always good, despite what this election cycle and its coverage would suggest. My other subject of study, the Bachelor franchise, would also beg to differ (my other other subject of study, Game of Thrones, is all street smarts). What I mean is that I've been reacting too much. So instead of digging into the whos, whats, and hows of last week's failures, let's get right to the picks.
Oakland Raiders -1 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I'm not reacting to: Oakland's narrow escape against San Diego last week, because San Diego is incredibly skilled at hanging with anyone before forcibly removing their fans' hearts in the final minutes.
This one seemed pretty easy to me. The Raiders have been better than the Chiefs by almost any measure, and sit on a 4-1 record as they prepare to host the 2-2 Chiefs. It's tempting to think the Chiefs are close to turning things around and going on a run like they did last season, but until Justin Houston is healthy and back to terrorizing quarterbacks, it just isn't realistic. Yes, the Raiders have the 29th-ranked defense by DVOA, but consider this: they've played offenses ranked 1st, 5th, 6th, 13th, and 27th. Other than Baltimore, that's a tough slate. On the other side of the ball, only 7 teams are worse-equipped to take advantage of a soft defense; Kansas City is 25th in offensive DVOA despite playing teams who rank 20th, 15th, 30th, and 13th in DVOA. One more thing: a standard Las Vegas line includes a three-point adjustment for the home team. This suggests they favor the Chiefs on a neutral field! I don't.
Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 at Washington Redskins
I'm not reacting to: Philadelphia's loss to the Lions last week, because they came out of their bye week slowly and almost salvaged a win anyway.
Yes, the Eagles lost to the Lions last week, and yes, I picked them to win. Here's the thing: Yax and I will yell, "LIONS" for a wide variety of reasons, because they have an infuriating ability to play up or down to their opponent's level. Rather than demoting the Eagles, I'll commend them for nearly pulling it out after spotting Detroit a 14-point lead in the first half. They may have even covered if not for a late Ryan Mathews fumble! Philadelphia is still a good team, making them a bad matchup for the DC Grudens (shoutout Joe House). Washington is 3-2 on the strength of a mediocre schedule and a middling offense. The Eagles will be the strongest defense they've faced this season, meaning they'll have to tighten up on defense to stay in the game. Did you hear a whistle just now? All aboard the Wentz train!
Chicago Bears -2.5 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I'm not reacting to: the Bears 1-4 record, because I'm delusional.
I know the Bears are bad, I really do. I just think Jacksonville is worse! Why do we think the Bortortle can go on the road and win a game? I don't want to think too hard about this one, I just can't contemplate my team losing at home to the Jaguars. Let's move on.
Seattle Seahawks -6.5 vs. Atlanta Falcons
I'm not reacting to: the Falcons impressive start, because Seattle has been ruining optimism in their home stadium for years now.
This sounds a lot like my Denver pick last week, when the Falcons not only covered 6.5 points but won outright. The Seahawks feature a similarly formidable defense, but their quarterback is Russell Wilson, not rookie Paxton Lynch. I promise I don't enjoy eating crow despite my insistence on picking against the 4-1 Falcons; if this game was in Atlanta, I'd probably stay away entirely! But in Seattle, with the contributions of the 12th man, a resurgent Jimmy Graham, and the usual cast of characters in the Seahawks secondary? I think a touchdown margin could be just right, and I'm hoping desperately it isn't because I just watched Doug Baldwin and Joel McHale on Any Given Sunday with Bill Simmons.
Pittsburgh Steelers -7.5 at Miami Dolphins
I'm not reacting to: the Steelers loss to the Eagles, which happened before LeVeon Bell's return.
This line would certainly be higher if the game was in Pittsburgh, but I'm not sure there should be much of a difference. The weather in Miami is typically good, which benefits a fast offense; the Steelers have the 4th-ranked offense by DVOA and the Dolphins have the 30th-ranked; the fans in Miami...I mean, have you ever met a Dolphins fan in the wild? I know I haven't, and the ones I've seen have been wearing jerseys from the 1980s. If you're doubting me on this one, name the four best players on the Dolphins. When you get stuck at two, jump on board this bandwagon.
Indianapolis Colts +3 at Houston Texans
I'm not reacting to: Andrew Luck's rare failure to pull a rabbit out of the hat against the Jaguars in London.
The Brock Osweiler show is truly horrifying to watch. Will Fuller has emerged as an Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate, DeAndre Hopkins presumably still has hands, they added a promising Running Back in Lamar Miller, and their shiny, new $72M quarterback has led them to the 32nd (dead last!) -ranked offense in the NFL. Without JJ Watt, their defense has slipped as well. The best way to slow down Andrew Luck is to hit him often, which Colts GM Ryan Grigson seems oddly okay allowing you to do. Houston might hit him a few times, but I'll take the three points and expect an outright win or a garbage time cover.
Green Bay Packers -4.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys
I'm not reacting to: Dallas's impressive start and Green Bay's inactivity last week.
I have to admit, this one is more about feel than statistics. The Cowboys have executed their offensive gameplan to perfection in recent weeks, running the Bears, 49ers, and Bengals into submission. Dak Prescott has continued to impress and, more importantly, avoid turnovers. The Packers are the best team they've faced to this point, though, and Aaron Rodgers is more than capable of picking Rod Marinelli's spit-and-shoe-polish defense apart. I think the Packers will get out to an early lead and force Dallas out of its comfort zone, leading to turnovers and Dallas's second (somehow they lost to the Giants in Week 1) loss of the season. Stupid, sexy Rodgers.
Cincinnati Bengals +9 at New England Patriots
I'm not reacting to: common sense and recent games.
I'm regretting this pick already. Cincinnati has drifted through this season in a fog en route to a 2-3 record. The Patriots, meanwhile, exceeded expectations by starting out 3-1 before Tom Brady returned from suspension and led them to a 20-point trouncing of the Browns. Sure, lots of teams can beat the Browns by double digits, but the two-headed Tight End monster of Gronk and Martellus Bennett is waking up now that Brady is back. On defense, Bill Belicheck excels at taking away a team's primary offensive option and forcing them to fall back to inferior plans; the Bengals have A.J. Green and not much else. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping this one means enough to Cincy to keep it close.