2019 NFL Picks Week 5: Going on the Road

2019 NFL Picks Week 5: Going on the Road

Last Week: 7-8

YTD: 33-30

This Week:

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“You can’t always get what you want” is an important axiom to remember in 2019. Am I thrilled to be picking Andy Dalton, Gardner Minshew II, and Marcus Mariota? Absolutely not. But sometimes the lines lead you to strange places, and you have to follow them like Sandra Bullock’s children in Birdbox. You forgot about that movie too? Cool, let’s get to the action!

Seattle Seahawks -1 vs. Los Angeles Rams

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The Rams have been a bit of a letdown from their Super Bowl form last year, but I was shocked to see them below the Seahawks in DVOA. Even with the caveat of Drew Brees’s injury, they’d logged three wins against three quality teams in the Panthers, Saints, and Browns, and two of those came on the road. Seattle barely squeezed by Cincinnati who now looks to be challenging the Dolphins in the tanking sweepstakes and then snuck past the Steelers with Mason Rudolph throwing most of their passes. They even lost to the Saints at home with a full game of Teddy Bridgewater. It seems like this line is an overreaction to the Rams’ ugly-but-still-close loss to the Buccaneers last week. I’m not ready to turn all the way around just yet, especially with the Seahawks losing the last three meetings between these two teams. Rams +1

Carolina Panthers -3.5 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Panthers picked up a solid win on the road against Houston last week, but I don’t think Kyle Allen can keep living on the edge forever. Gardner Minshew II kept the magic going for the Jaguars last week in a come-from-behind road win in Denver. If the shoddy Jacksonville offensive line can keep Minshew alive against Carolina’s first-ranked pass rush, this can remain an ugly-but-low-scoring game. This was a tough call, but I think the line should be right at 3. Here’s to the extra half-point! Jaguars +3.5

Washington +15 vs. New England Patriots

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Look at the beautiful slate of DVOA ranks Washington has put together so far this year. I was confused by their edge over the Pats in special teams until I remembered the muffed punt-touchdown that helped ruin my New England -23.5 pick over the Jets in Week 3. A play like that can have a huge impact on a team’s special teams DVOA this early in the season, and I’m not too concerned about the Patriots letting it remain a problem all season long. Aside from that, New England should enjoy a return to form offensively going against a non-Bills defense and their top-ranked defense won’t give up anything easy to new Washington started Dwayne Haskins. Patriots -15

Tennessee Titans -2.5 vs. Buffalo Bills

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The Bills are currently benefiting from a problem I’m very familiar with as a Bears’ fan; people overestimating the drop-off from your mediocre starting quarterback to another mediocre starting quarterback. Buffalo’s defense is still exceptional, and whether Josh Allen or Matt Barkley is under center, I think they’ll have an offensive game plan designed to scrape by. The Titans seem committed to remaining mediocre in all three phases, and Marcus Mariota is going to struggle against this top-flight defense. See the result from Week 5 of last season up there? Yeah, that sounds about right. Bills +2.5

Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5 vs. Baltimore Ravens

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The Mason Rudolph version of the Pittsburgh Steelers has relied heavily on stellar line play and the revival of the wildcat to stay close with the 49ers and slowly pull away from the moribund Bengals. Baltimore has looked better all season, with close losses to explosive offenses. I don’t expect Pittsburgh’s tricks to work as well this time around, and their defense should give up plenty of yards to Lamar Jackson and Co. in what suddenly looks like a must-win game. The gap in total DVOA is too large to overlook here. Ravens -3.5

Cincinnati Bengals -3.5 vs. Arizona Cardinals

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Cincinnati would be a laughingstock this year if it weren’t for the Dolphins. A close loss in Seattle in Week 1 threw us off the scent, but the Bengals followed it up with three losses by a combined score of 89 - 37. Arizona is also off to a winless start, but they’ve generally lost to better teams. It isn’t an inspired pick, but Arizona can do some things moderately well (play special teams and rush the passer) while Cincy struggles at basically everything. I actually think they’ll win outright, so I’m happy to see the spread. Cardinals +3.5

Houston Texans -5.5 vs. Atlanta Falcons

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I was grossly disappointed in the Texans last week as I watched them flail about against the Panthers at home. Atlanta certainly hasn’t looked any better, with a hideous home loss to the Titans last Sunday. Still, I think this spread is a bit too high. The Texans can get after the passer but can’t protect their own; the Falcons can keep Matt Ryan upright but have no clue how to pressure their opponent. Both teams have mediocre offenses and defenses, and the biggest difference between them in DVOA is special teams. I like those kind of splits with a spread over five points. Falcons +5.5

New Orleans Saints -3 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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How long can the Saints ride Teddy Bridgewater? Their defense has looked much better to my eyes than their 24th-place ranking would suggest, while their offense has looked…well, 18th place is about right. Similarly, I would have guessed the Bucs’ defense was far worse than 6th-place after giving up 30+ points in three of their first four games, but small sample sizes lead to some crazy results. The craziest result I can imagine seeing here is a 0-interception game from Jameis Winston. Saints -3

New York Giants +5 vs. Minnesota Vikings

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Danny Dimes followed up his debut with a misleading 24 points against Washington last week. His completion percentage wasn’t bad, but he averaged less than 7.5 yards per attempt and threw two interceptions to just one touchdown. Minnesota’s defense under Mike Zimmer is far too good to allow such a performance to lead to so many points, and Dalvin Cook should have no trouble against the Giants’ middling run defense. This will be the real welcome to the NFL for Daniel Jones, and it won’t go well. Vikings -5

Oakland Raiders +5.5 vs. Chicago Bears

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This line made a lot more sense to me when I thought it was in Oakland; learning it was in London made me once again sad the NFL is still running this experiment. The gap between these two teams is wider than Khalil Mack (thanks again, Jon Gruden) and it would take a bout of food poisoning from some bad fish and chips to help close it. If last week is any indication, Chase Daniel will be a perfectly suitable fill-in for Mitchell Trubisky, and the offense will still be able to generate some big plays against Oakland’s below-average defense. The Bears will also be harassing Derek Carr from the jump, and he hardly needs any motivation to throw his check-downs quicker. Let’s see those defensive touchdowns! Bears -5.5

Philadelphia Eagles -14 vs. New York Jets

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Even if Sam Darnold is cleared to play by Sunday, he’ll still be in the early recovery phase. I’m not sure Darnold at his best is enough to push these teams up to a level playing field, and that goes double with Alshon Jeffery back on the field and DeSean Jackson working his way back. If the Eagles can manufacture any semblance of a defense here, they’ll get ahead early and pull away quickly. Eagles -14

Los Angeles Chargers -6.5 vs. Denver Broncos

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Did you see the Broncos lose to Gardner Minshew II and the Jaguars last week after taking a 17-3 lead? No? Did you see them lose to the Raiders or Packers on the road by multiple scores? There isn’t much to be said about Joe Flacco at this point, and even with Von Miller waking up last week, the Denver defense isn’t going to bail them out. We all know the Chargers can do some weird things, but they covered a big spread in Miami last week and now they’ll be at home for a team with Joe Flacco. It won’t be THAT weird. Chargers -6.5

Dallas Cowboys -3.5 vs. Green Bay Packers

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I went back and forth on this pick a couple of times, but the best case I can make for the Packers is the creepy feeling I get at the back of my neck when I think about Aaron Rodgers down by a score with the ball in his hands. I think it’s safe to say we’re dealing with a different Rodgers in 2019, especially after four straight weeks scoring under 30 points. Throw in Green Bay’s 27th-ranked rush defense going against Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys’ offensive line (even without Tyron Smith), and it starts to look like Dallas can get ahead and pull away steadily from there. Cowboys -3.5

Kansas City Chiefs -10 vs. Indianapolis Colts

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I would be shocked if the Colts won this game, especially traveling to Arrowhead for a Sunday Night Football showing. In fact, the only thing that would surprise me more is seeing the Chiefs’ defense stiffen up enough to really let their offense pull away. I expect Frank Reich to have a gameplan strong enough to reach 25 points, and I think they’ll chew up enough time and possessions to keep the Chiefs from reaching 36. Sure, it could end up 45-25, but I like the points too much here. Colts +10

San Francisco 49ers -3 vs. Cleveland Browns

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I’ll give you a moment to rinse your eyeballs out. Yes, the San Francisco 49ers are currently ranked 2nd overall in Football Outsiders’ primary statistic, owing largely to a top-flight defense that hasn’t struggled to get after opposing quarterbacks. I just think their luck will run out at some point, and I don’t think Baker Mayfield will gift them two pick-sixes like the Bucs did. A big win over the Bengals and a close call against the Steelers doesn’t make me feel any better, and the underlying numbers for the Browns are strong. If they can get a bit of rhythm in their offense like they did against the Ravens last week, they’ll bring the Niners’ hype-wagon to a screeching halt. Browns +3

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.

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