2017 NFL Picks: Week 5
The improvement continues! Week 4 was our first winning week of 2017 thanks to the dramatic finish of the Kansas City-Washington Monday Night Football game, which ended with Justin Houston's difficult, unnecessary, and perhaps even inadvisable, scoop-and-score.
Now, most people watch that play and simply enjoy seeing high-caliber athletes bumbling about before the game ends exactly the way it would have without any shenanigans. But at least two segments of the public were more invested: gamblers and fantasy football players.
The line on this game was Kansas City -7 and the Over/Under was 48 combined points. In one bizarre play, the score went from 23-20 to 29-20 and the combined points went from 43 to 49. Had a single player on the field just fallen on the ball (as they're coached), both gambling outcomes would have been different.
More importantly to everyone, the late touchdown gave my fantasy defense an extra 8 points, boosting me over fellow QQ contributor Maddock by a mere 1 point.
Otherwise, Week 4 was pretty uneventful. The Panthers beat the Patriots, the Texans scored 57 points with a rookie playing quarterback, and the New Orleans defense pitched a shutout in London. Business as usual, right? Before I have to watch Mitch(ell) Trubisky make his first career start for my Bears against the Vikings on Monday, let's see who I'm picking this week:
Buffalo Bills +3 at Cincinnati Bengals
I'm as surprised as everyone else, but the Bills are legitimately good. The minds over at Football Outsiders posted their first DVOA rankings of the year, and Buffalo ranked 6th, just behind Detroit and ahead of Houston. Their offense has been good enough to support their top-ranked defense, and that should be plenty to get a win in Cincinnati this week. Last week I wrote that the Bengals probably weren't as bad as their first two games against Baltimore and Houston suggested while justifying my picking them over the Browns; playing the Browns is a lot different than playing the Bills this year. I'll take the better team, the better quarterback, the better coach, and the points.
Carolina Panthers +3 at Detroit Lions
I'm not as excited for this pick as I was before Cam Newton's oddly disrespectful and condescending comments, but here we are. The Panthers' defense might be better than the Vikings' unit that just held Detroit to 14 points, and the Panthers' offense has only looked good against the Patriots, who have made everyone look good all year. The Lions are probably better than I'm giving them credit for, but they're not as good as my friends or some paid NFL writers think. Let's see what happens when they face a strong defense and a competent quarterback at the same time.
Los Angeles Chargers +3.5 at New York Giants
The 0-4 Giants are favored by more than a field goal against the 0-4 Chargers. No one should care too much about the outcome of this game, but it's a little fun reflecting on the strange draft-day trade of Eli Manning for Phillip Rivers. They're both looking old and inconsistent now, but the Chargers' problem has been winning games, not staying close in them. They've lost 15 games since the start of the 2016 season; 12 have come by one score, and seven have been decided by 3 points or less. Will they find a creative way to lose to the Giants? Probably, but it won't be by 4+ points.
Kansas City Chiefs -1 at Houston Texans
The 57 points Houston scored against Tennessee last week was a franchise record. It was also Texans' quarterback Deshaun Watson's third career start. That's an extremely exciting combination, but context is important. Houston's best offensive performances this year came against the Patriots and the Titans, whose defenses rank 32nd and 31st by DVOA, respectively. They're still impressive, especially for a rookie, but Kansas City's 11th-ranked defense should pose a much greater challenge, along the lines of the 9th-ranked Bengals' defense that held Watson and the Texans to 12 points in his first start. Houston should give the Chiefs' banged-up offensive line some trouble, but at the end of the day I expect the NFL's best team through four weeks to continue their march to Andy Reid's favorite time of year: the bye week.
Baltimore Ravens +2.5 at Oakland Raiders
This one is pretty easy. Derek Carr got injured last season, and the Raiders' went from 12-4 to losing to Brock Osweiler. He was injured last week, and EJ Manuel is now Oakland's starting quarterback. Baltimore's offense has been terrible, but their defense has been very good; before Carr's injury, Oakland's offense had been adequate and their defense had been very bad. Swap in Manuel for Carr, and they quickly become terrible on both sides of the ball. Sure, Joe Flacco looks incapable of taking advantage of any defense, but the Ravens should still pick up a road win here.
Seattle Seahawks EVEN at Los Angeles Rams
The Rams under Jeff Fisher were largely terrible, finishing no higher (and often much lower) than 14th in DVOA since 2010. They were oddly tough for the Seahawks, though, winning four of their past six match-ups. They've never won by more than six points, though, and there's a new coach in Los Angeles. I think Jared Goff runs into his first speed bump of 2017 here, turning the ball over often enough to compensate for the Seahawks' offensive line struggles and keeping the score close enough for the more experienced Seattle team to come out on top.
Green Bay Packers +2.5 at Dallas Cowboys
The Packers have won 6 of the past 7 meetings between these two teams, including last year's Aaron Rodgers showcase in the Divisional round. The Cowboys haven't looked like the 2016 version of themselves since that loss, going 2-2 with wins over the lowly Giants and the struggling Cardinals. More importantly, the Packers are coming off a long week after their Thursday night demolition of my Bears and returning Mike Daniels along with their offensive tackles. Throw in the injury to Sean Lee and his absence's impact on the Dallas defense, and this game has all the makings of a disaster for the Cowboys.
That's all for this week! Kick back, relax, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.