2017 NFL Picks Week 6: Stop Waiting on Roethlisberger and the Steelers
Now that was a week worth writing about! Were it not for the Bills' curious decision to leave a rookie in single coverage on A.J. Green, we might have had a perfect week. Alas:
I'm not the first person to be disappointed by the Bills, so I can't take it personally. The other six road teams we picked all won outright, bringing us up to even on the year until I went and ruined it by picking the Panthers on Thursday Night Football. Once again, getting involved with Philadelphia went poorly for me, but let's see if the remaining six picks can keep us moving in the right direction!
Carolina Panthers -3 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
There's only one reason I feel bad about making this pick: I didn't tell any of you to immediately go bet against me. I'd have a winning record over the last two years if I never picked an Eagles game, and I could easily just omit them every week. If I do dip my toes back in the swampy waters of Philadelphia again, I'll let you know in advance so you can load up against me. Just buy me a drink with a piece of your winnings.
Chicago Bears +6.5 at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens came through for me last week, and nothing from Mitch Trubisky's debut made me think Chicago is headed for some Texans-esque turnaround on offense. Sure, that two-point conversion play was kind of nifty, but he still completed under 50% of his passes and turned the ball over twice. Baltimore's defense is even better than Minnesota's, but I think the Bears can keep this one close like they did on Monday. Joe Flacco isn't scaring anyone, and despite a fast start against EJ Manuel last week, they almost let the Raiders bring it back to a one-score game. The NFL's 24th-ranked offense shouldn't be favored by almost a touchdown against many teams, and despite my distaste for the manner in which my Bears have run the organization in recent years, I don't think they're Cleveland-level bad (yet).
Detroit Lions +4.5 at New Orleans Saints
The biggest concern for Lions fans and my pick this week is Matthew Stafford's health. If he's injured, it's hard to imagine the Lions winning. I'm still surprised to see the line at 4.5 points, in part because I don't consider the Saints' win over Miami two weeks ago impressive. I haven't been overly impressed by the Lions since...well, ever, but it's hard to deny their ability to make games close. Since the beginning of 2016, Detroit has lost only two games by more than one score. They've also won their last three games against the Saints, including two in a row in New Orleans. Whether the Lions win or lose will likely be decided in the final minutes, and in that case, 4.5 points sounds great.
Los Angeles Rams +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars
I've definitely said this before: if you're getting points against Blake Bortles, take the points. Yes, the Jaguars looked great against Pittsburgh last week in a 30-9 victory. It's really hard to lose a game when the opposing quarterback throws five interceptions, though. It's not like Jacksonville discovered a new way to use Bortles and open up the offense; he was 8/14 with less than 100 (95) yards passing. Don't get me wrong, that's a banner day for Blake, but I don't think the Rams will be stupid enough to call 77% pass plays against a defense ranked 1st against the pass and 31st against the run. Todd Gurley should have a big day, and if we're lucky, Jaguars hype will recede to a reasonable level.
Washington Redskins -10 vs. San Francisco 49ers
The Niners have been a bad version of the Lions this year, losing their last four games by a total of 11 points. The last two were in overtime against bad teams in the Cardinals and the Colts. Unfortunately, Washington has the best offense and defense of any team San Francisco has faced this season. I wasn't expecting it coming into the year, but Washington has the league's 4th-best defense by DVOA after Week 5. Add in San Francisco's trip across the country for a 1 PM ET kickoff and Washington's long rest after a bye, and this game has all the makings of a blowout.
Denver Broncos -10.5 vs. New York Giants
The Giants' offense was ranked 22nd by DVOA after last week's loss to the Chargers, and they're coming into this game without Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, or Sterling Shepard. The Broncos defense is formidable again this year, so it's hard to see New York getting much traction offensively in Denver. Their offense, meanwhile, has performed considerably better at home since the beginning of 2016, averaging 23.7 points in Denver versus 18.9 points on the road. If they can reach 25 against the NFL's 27th-best defense by DVOA this week, they should be able to cover against Eli Manning and whoever they sign off the practice squad this week.
Kansas City Chiefs -4.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
When do we stop waiting for Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense to wake up? They're ranked 15th in DVOA through five weeks, and they haven't scored 30 points in a game yet this year. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are averaging 32.8 points per game and showed no signs of slowing down last week against a previously impressive Texans defense. Kansas City is at home (where they're 8-2 since 2016 with all 8 wins coming by 5 points or more) and looking like the best team in the league by both the eye test and advanced stats. Accounting for the standard 3-point home field advantage, this line suggests the Chiefs are 1.5 points better than the Steelers. At the beginning of the year, that would have seemed curiously partial to the Chiefs. At this point, it's just plain curious. I'm going with Alex Smith.
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.