2018 NFL Picks Week 5: OT (and the Patriots) Can Go to Hell
Last Week: 5-4-2
I’d like to complain about the way those overtime games played out, with Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Cleveland going from two wins and a push to three losses, but I suppose it’s the nature of a 10-minute OT. Instead I should probably figure out what I’m doing with the Patriots, as their 14-point victory last night dropped my season record with them to 0-4. If I pick them to beat up the Lions or keep it close with Blake Bortles, they fall apart. If I think they’ll struggle to contain Miami’s speed or pull away from the Colts, they’ll pummel both. Maybe they’re just a bad road team this year.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure gambling addictions are based on the idea that your next big win is right around the corner, so let’s get to the picks!
Indianapolis Colts +10.5 at New England Patriots
My thought process here was essentially the same as it was for Miami last week, which should have been the first red flag. New England’s defense played surprisingly well for the second straight week, only letting Indianapolis within two scores in the closing minutes. It looks like Josh Gordon might prove a valuable addition, and coupled with Julian Edelman’s return from a PED suspension…no, I’m just going to avoid New England for a couple weeks until I figure out what they’re doing.
Cincinnati Bengals -6.5 vs. Miami Dolphins
I don’t know if the Patriots exposed anything about the Dolphins last week beyond “they’re not as good when they play real teams”. My initial write-up had Miami coming back to reality after playing the Jets, Titans, and Raiders in the first three weeks, and I think they’re well-grounded now. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is 3-1 with wins over the Ravens, Falcons, and Colts and a road loss to the Panthers. Andy Dalton has always performed better when he has time to throw, and Miami’s 30th-ranked adjusted sack rate suggests he’ll be comfortable. Listing the Bengals as less than 7-point home favorites against a mediocre team seems odd, but I’m happy to ride Cincy (3-1 this season) until public perception adjusts.
Carolina Panthers -7 vs. New York Giants
The Giants are bad, right? The Saints did everything they could to let New York hang around last week, kicking field goals on their first four drives, and they still won by 15 points in New York. Now the Giants go on the road to face the 2-1 Panthers, and they’re getting less than a touchdown. Notice anything funny about the “Advantage” column up there? And the Panthers are at home, coming off a bye week. This is probably my favorite pick of the week.
Baltimore Ravens -3 at Cleveland Browns
This is the opposite of the test the Browns faced last week, when they traveled to Oakland to take on a soft defense in Baker Mayfield’s first career start. He’ll be at home this week, but he’ll be facing a (shocking, I know) high-level Baltimore defense welcoming back perhaps their best cover corner in Jimmy Smith. The Ravens are 5th in Total DVOA and the Browns are 28th. Could Joe Flacco submarine Baltimore’s hopes in this game as he has the past five seasons? Of course! But the defense and Justin Tucker should be enough to get the Ravens a road win.
Jacksonville Jaguars +3 at Kansas City Chiefs
Absolutely the most exciting matchup of the week, pitting the league’s top-rated offense through four weeks against last year’s top-rated (and this year’s 2nd-ranked) defense. The fans at Arrowhead will be going crazy, but for all of Blake Bortles’s faults (and there are many), he’s been in pressure situations and survived. Last season he won a road playoff game in Pittsburgh, and the 2017 Steelers’ defense looks like the ‘85 Bears compared to this Chiefs team. Patrick Mahomes will acquit himself well, but I think Jacksonville will be able to keep Kansas City somewhat in check and come away with a road win.
Denver Broncos +1 at New York Jets
Sportswriters and fans are known for calm, measured responses to the outcomes of individual games, so naturally everyone was prepared for a rocky road following Sam Darnold’s debut in Detroit. Since the 48-point outburst, the Jets have scored 12, 17, and 12 points against the Dolphins, Browns, and Jaguars. Denver’s defense isn’t what it used to be, but they should be able to keep the Jets under 20 points again. Case Keenum hasn’t exactly been lighting it up in his new digs, but the Broncos have enough offensive talent to get up to 24-28 points and win this one.
Tennessee Titans -3.5 at Buffalo Bills
If there’s one positive outcome to Buffalo’s shellacking of Minnesota when I picked the Vikings to cover as 17-point favorites, it’s the lingering effects on their lines. Last week, the Bills comfortably failed to cover a 10-point spread in Green Bay, losing by 22 points despite a middling performance from Aaron Rodgers. To be clear, I don’t expect anything better than middling from a Tennessee offense ranked 26th in DVOA and 29th in points per game, but I don’t expect anything more than we saw last week (16/33, 151 yards, 0 TD/2 INT) from Josh Allen. The Titans defense has been surprisingly stingy, and they’ll harass Buffalo into more mistakes than they can recover from this week.
Los Angeles Rams -7.5 at Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have two wins this year, against the Cowboys and the Cardinals. The Rams are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 18 points per game. The line here is a reflection of the old line of thinking that divisional battles will always be tougher than the quality gap would suggest, but as a Bears fan with intimate knowledge of the Chicago-Green Bay “rivalry”, I can assure you no such effect exists. Sean McVay and Wade Phillips have had 10 days to gameplan for a Seattle team now missing Earl Thomas. This one will be ugly.
Minnesota Vikings +3 at Philadelphia Eagles
A rematch of the 2017 NFC Championship game, which Philly won 38-7. I’m giving in to the desperation narrative here, as the 1-2-1 Vikings can’t afford another loss at this point. The Eagles’ offense is still finding its footing with Carson Wentz back under center, and their defense has struggled to contain teams like the Titans and Buccaneers. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will expose some of the Philadelphia secondary’s weaknesses, and Minnesota’s defense should bounce back after a tough game against the Rams with 10 days to recover and prepare.
Arizona Cardinals +4.5 at San Francisco 49ers
The Cardinals have to win at some point, right? How about on the road against CJ Beathard? Last year, the Cardinals rode Drew Stanton into Levi’s Stadium and came away with a ten-point victory, and now they’re 4.5-point underdogs. Against CJ Beathard! Josh Rosen might get his first taste of NFL success against San Francisco’s 22nd-ranked defense, even if his offensive coordinator seems determined to use David Johnson’s talents as inefficiently as possible. I actually like the Cardinals to win outright.
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, 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.