by Ryan Meehan
Week Six is here, and this past week we saw both remaining undefeated teams go down hard to perennial contenders. But while members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins popped champagne bottles at retirement communities all across this great country of ours, teams all across the league began jockeying for position amongst each other. The NFC East was expected to be a weak division where the Eagles fought off Dallas to the point where they’d be guaranteed to be in the postseason. Now that division is getting to be just as thought provoking as the NFC West, and in the AFC we have two teams with one loss each and Denver isn’t on top. But while the NFL is changing, many things are staying the same. We’ll get a good mix of both of those things in week six, so let’s take a gander at what I expect to happen this week.
Thursday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts (3-2) -2.5 at Houston Texans (3-2) (46)
This might actually be the first decent Thursday night game of the year. On a neutral site, this could very easily be a blowout given the way that Houston’s offense has been stagnant when it counts the most. This would be one of these times, seeing as how next time these two teams meet it’ll be in Indianapolis and much more of a challenge. The Texans are puzzling because they have good receivers and an above average running back, but for some reason it doesn’t look as good live as it does on paper. I saw an interesting debate on ESPN Tuesday between Eric Allen and Jerome Bettis regarding who is more valuable to their team: Andrew Luck or JJ Watt. Once again, the fine folks at ESPN missed a huge point – That while Watt’s position isn’t protected, Luck’s is. Therefore he’s the more important player to their respective squad. Because the NFL loves touchdown passes and they can’t directly cause any sort of brain damage, Luck is going to appear more important because he knows the league will make sure that if a guy like Watt so much as breathes on him without tucking him in and telling him a bedtime story he’ll end up with a $25,000 fine. But the real issue here is that I don’t trust Fitzpatrick, and that’s just one of the reasons Vegas is giving Indy 2.5 points on the road. I’ll take them to cover.
Colts 24, Texans 20
New England Patriots (3-2) -3 at Buffalo Bills (3-2) (45)
The Patriots are coming off of a week in which they endured a ton of criticism regarding whether or not Tom Brady’s age is beginning to show and whether or not he was happy with his position in New England. Then Sunday Night Football started and shit got real. Fast. I was wrong about whether or not they’d be able to make it work, but I looked at my Dad about ten minutes into the broadcast and we both knew this team because we’ve seen it so many times before. The Patriots are a real 3-2 team, unlike the Bills who have been able to defeat three relatively weak teams in the Bears, Lions, and Dolphins. I don’t particularly see them in this for the long haul, even if by some miraculous happenstance they end up winning this game. They won’t, as New England only needed those four quarters to get back on their feet and become the killing machine we know them so well to be. New England’s defense is still questionable a majority of the time, but their offense is in good enough shape to be able to pull this off by at least two touchdowns. I don’t know what the people who made these odds are smoking, because even at home the Bills haven’t given me any reason to believe they are anywhere near elite. With Kyle Orton in charge? Child, please… Patriots cover, Buffalo will be running for cover by midway through the third quarter.
Patriots 32, Bills 17
Baltimore Ravens (3-2) -3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) (43)
The Ravens’ three game winning streak came to a halt last week, and the Bucs lost another close game against the Saints. Believe it or not, I think that the New Orleans game really prepped the Bucs for this game well. They face a very overrated defense, and even though they lost they have a decent amount of momentum headed home. I expect them to come up big here, and I’m not even going to call this an upset because it really isn’t. Baltimore has found their running back in the absence of Ray Rice, but there’s something very unsettling about Joe Flacco to me. He has this amazing postseason record, yet seems to be comfortable floating around .500 in the regular season. What the hell is that about? It’s not like he’s on a team full of stars in a bad division, or like he has Brady-like God given talent. Why does he end up struggling so much in the first sixteen games of the season against teams he should clearly beat? That’s why I can’t trust him here, and I think that after that beatdown at the hands of the Falcons a few weeks back Tampa has vowed to make themselves a completely different team. I like them to take this one at home.
Buccaneers 26, Ravens 22
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) +1 at Cleveland Browns (2-2) (47)
I had a little bit of faith in the Steelers, but in their two losses they have failed to produce any substantial offensive showing so it’s hard for me to buy them as a team that will be over .500 in a month. But I do like them to win this game, even though Coach Ryan’s team will be hosting. I wouldn’t get anywhere near the spread on this one, because this game could really go either way and will be close regardless of the outcome. I think the problem that Cleveland runs into is that whenever they get a couple of wins built up to the point where they can make a run, they run head first into a team like the Steelers who knows them almost better than they know themselves. No matter what personnel changes the Browns make, the teams in their division seem like they are right there every step of the way reading their mind. I have to pick the Steelers even though I don’t want to realistically pick either team. Let’s just put it this way: If there’s any game this week that could end in a tie, this one is it.
Steelers 23, Browns 21
Carolina Panthers (3-2) +8.5 at Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) (45)
The Panthers reaped the benefits of the Bears’ most recent display of public suffering last week, so you can’t really give them too much credit for winning that game even though they came back from two touchdowns down. Cincinnati is kind of in the same boat, because it didn’t matter who the NFL rolled out to face the Patriots Sunday – they were going to be destroyed in epic fashion. The Bengals are still a great road team, and Cam Newton is hardly Tom Brady. Newton was effective against the Bears, but then again due to mistakes he kept getting excellent field position. Cincinnati loves to try and beat the opposition at that game, and has one of the better special teams units in the league for when Pippi Longstocking can’t convert in non-four down territory. Remember, the Bengals are aiming to be have their home stadium being every bit as intimidating as Century Link Field when it comes to advantage. I think the big stage combined with the fact that the Bengals are the first real team the Panthers have faced is going to be too much for Carolina to deal with. And even though I am not confident in either Queen City’s ability to score a lot of points and/or cover the spread in this game, the Bengals advance to 4-1 by the end of the day.
Bengals 27, Panthers 20
Denver Broncos (3-1) -10 at New York Jets (1-4) (47)
If you’re into horror movies you’re in luck, until you realize that a football is kind of a boring murder weapon. On one side we have Peyton Manning, who is on his way toward breaking just about every career record that he hasn’t already shattered. On the other side, we have two quarterbacks who are probably nowhere near as good as he is when frankensteined together. Thank God there isn’t a scientist that would even attempt to make that happen, because it might cause some kind of black hole where it’s mathematically possible for two quarterbacks to total more incompletions than attempts. It’s probably crazy to think that Rex Ryan is actually in a situation where he may be wishing that he had Mark Sanchez back on his roster. But not nearly as crazy as the fact that I’m sitting here and referring to him as the Jets’ current head coach in October of 2014, even though I believe if things keep on the road they are headed down this will be the last month I’ll be able to say I can do so. I’m surprised this is only a ten point spread, so I’ll take the Broncos to cover on the road. But I would advise staying away from the point total here, because you never know when Denver will pull Peyton and whether or not the Jets will be able to put up any points at all.
Broncos 45, Jets 10
Detroit Lions (3-2) -2 at Minnesota Vikings (2-3) (44)
The Lions lost to the Bills at home last week, and it happened in heartbreaking fashion. It also happened despite a desperate attempt to distract Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter with a laser pointer…Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more bizarre than that, a news story surfaced on Tuesday that troubled soon-to-be former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson allegedly used money from his charity to fund an orgy that was attended by a minor. That story is here:
Perhaps it’s fitting that the only news worth noting with regards to this game is coming in the form of something other than skill, as the Lions are the worst team in the league over .500 and the Vikings aren’t going to rebound well from the Green Bay loss after ten days. And although I can’t stand either of these teams, at least Detroit has a real quarterback so I’ll take them to cover. I wouldn’t watch this game even if my remote control was broke, and don’t expect it to be a high energy match-up.
Lions 23, Vikings 16
Green Bay Packers (3-2) -3 at Miami Dolphins (2-2) (49)
The Packers are one of those confusing teams that define why the NFC North is not viewed as a serious threat. After losing to the Lions, they came out and dismantled the Bears and then four days later beat Minnesota within an inch of their life. They should win this game easily but although Rodgers plays well enough to win the division the rest of that team needs to be cattleprodded here and there in order to get things going on the road.
Packers 27, Dolphins 23
Jacksonville Jaguars (0-5) -6 at Tennessee Titans (1-4) (42)
Finally, the Titans get the break they so desperately need. After one measly win against the Chiefs to begin the season, they’ve lost every game for a month straight and desperately need a free one. Enter the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are becoming so much of a punching bag that it’s barely funny ripping on them. Plus their owner is the richest man of Pakistani descent in the world, and I don’t really feel like digging myself out of that hole. It’s a shame Tennessee can’t trade one of their home games to play Jacksonville on the road twice this year, because that’s a deal almost anybody would take at this point. Wouldn’t you? How is the point total 42 in this matchup? Are they going to play tee ball after the game is over, and then Vegas plans to add those points as well?
Titans 11, Jaguars 6
San Diego Chargers (4-1) -8 at Oakland Raiders (0-4) (43)
After abusing the Jets in almost every possible way last week, the San Diego Chargers go into Oakland the most quiet of all the 4-1 teams. With the Patriots proving to be superior to Cincinnati last week, you’d have to think that the Chargers are the only team in the AFC outside of Denver that could give Belichick and company a run for their money. As for those matchups, we still have to wait until early December when they play those teams back to back but I have to think that they can hang based on what I’ve seen so far from them. When it comes to the Raiders, thank God that for their sake nobody cares about the Raiders. This is just one of the many upcoming games on their schedule that features one of legions of teams that are set to fuck their entire world up and leave them bleeding to death in an alley. If that wasn’t bad enough, they just celebrated their week off (the only time all year you can actually bet on the Raiders not losing) so the beating will be constant as well as often. I love the Chargers covering here even on the road – this one is a lead pipe lock and it’s a shame San Diego won’t be on TV more until the end of the season. Lord knows they’ll be there at the end of it…
Chargers 34, Raiders 16
Chicago Bears (2-3) +3 at Atlanta Falcons (2-3) (53.5)
Since both of these teams choked away their respective games last week after double digit leads, this pick is going to be a little bit more difficult than the rest of them. Chicago’s was a little bit more predictable as we’ve seen that look in Cutler’s eyes many times before. You know, that look that says “We just got worked” or “That was fantastic, we just won by 30 points!”, or “A meteor is about to hit earth and we are all going to die”. They are all the same look: That same dead to the world gaze that suggests calm and poise, but instead conveys lack of interest and complacency. The Falcons really had a set of unfortunate circumstances that caused them to throw away that game against the Giants, but can still score a lot of points out of the box. They don’t really play defense at all, but they don’t need to at home against a dude who seems to think he gets paid by throwing to guys in different uniforms. I like the Falcons to get back to .500 and for the always loud and obnoxious Chicago sports media to be bagging on Cutler like they expected more from him, even though if they were real experts they should have known exactly what they were getting in the first place. Of course, if they hadn’t of built him up to be God the second he came to town maybe this wouldn’t be such a disappointment to begin with. Atlanta covers.
Falcons 30, Bears 24
Dallas Cowboys (4-1) +9.5 at Seattle Seahawks (3-1) (47)
I don’t always agree with a lot of the things NBC analyst Tony Dungy has to say, but he made a great point on Football Night in America Sunday. If Seattle is going to be beaten at home, it has to be done on the ground due to the Legion of Boom and their frightening pass defense. You could argue that the team who has the best shot at doing so is Dallas, who is getting killer play from running back DeMarco Murray almost every week. But the oddsmakers are still skeptical here, even after the Seahawks were able to only muster up 27 points against a Redskins team that let a Giants squad hang 45 on them at home. However as we all know, Seattle’s home field advantage and deafeningly annoying fanbase is going to make it hard for Dallas to get their fifth win. The only way I can see that happening is if Murray can get 130 and Dez Bryant can rack up ten catches for over 100 yards. Although there is a real possibility that Murray could be a fantasy stud, there’s no way that the latter of those two things happens. It’s going to be an absolute blast to watch Bryant and the Seahawks secondary trash talk until the cows come home, and this one could get really chippy. This is the game of the week if you can only watch just one, and I like Seattle to win but not cover. The score I am predicting is a result of Dallas failing a two point conversion after a late touchdown. When the whistle is blown on that conversion, the mob goes wild and this game is effectively over.
Seahawks 20, Cowboys 15
Washington Redskins (1-4) +3.5 at Arizona Cardinals (3-1) (41)
Arizona had a rough pairing last week, as Peyton Manning made them look like anything but the top ten defense they really are. Their biggest worry is going to be who will start in this game, as Drew Stanton was injured against Denver and I believe Carson Palmer has in fact passed away. Not that we would hear about it if he did, as the Cardinals are in that “Chargers/no-man’s land” territory where you won’t hear a damn thing about them until they hit ten wins. No matter who is starting under center, I can’t imagine that it’s going to be super difficult for them to cover the spread here at home against the hapless Redskins. In Washington, things have gone from bad to worse to your lawyer telling you every member of the jury is Zambian and suggesting castration as punishment for your parking violation. It’s bad…and even Jay Gruden’s genetics can’t spare the Skins from the awful truth that their nickname is the least of their current worries. And I’m sure there should be no distractions regarding that matter in Arizona, where there is a hearty Native American population. Cardinals cover, not really sure why this isn’t at least six. I’m still taking the Senior Sun Devils here, even if Jake Plummer starts this game.
Cardinals 27, Redskins 13
Sunday Night Football: New York Giants (3-2) +2.5 at Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) (50)
Another homer pick, but hear me out. Chip Kelly said in his press conference after the game last week that ugly wins are still wins, and although I agree with that statement ugly wins can say a lot about where your franchise might be headed. This could be a matter of concern for the Eagles, who by all means should have had that St. Louis game in the bag five to ten minutes before the Rams’ last drive. Philly was able to get things going on the ground (to a certain degree but definitely more improved than the previous week against the Niners) but the Giants are learning how to tackle again so they might have a problem here. New York has won three games in a row after a dismal preseason and 0-2 start, but still has a problem getting muscle memory going early in games. Therefore, the Eagles’ best shot here is to get ahead early, so they can at least attempt to build up the cushion they had in the Rams game. In order to do that, they’re going to need to focus on both Larry Donell and Odell Beckham who might both be on their way to a great year, even though due to his performance against Washington in week four he was getting double teamed by Atlanta harder than an adult film star that’s $70,000 in debt. The Giants always play Philadelphia with a certain degree of hatred, but this year they may actually have the talent to back that up. The X-Files fan in me wants to believe that this will happen, so I’m taking the Giants and the under for the point total.
Giants 27, Eagles 21
Monday Night Football: San Francisco 49ers (3-2) -3 at St. Louis Rams (1-3) (43.5)
The 49ers keep squeezing their way out of close games, and the Rams seem to be dead set on giving a clinic on how to lose such contests. After appearing to get blown out last week by the Eagles, they actually made a game out of it that they could have won if Austin Davis hadn’t overthrown that pass on fourth down. The Rams are chronically going to be subject to games like this as long as they are in the NFC West. With that division being the best in football, they are slated to be a team that finishes 4-12 or 5-11 for the next decade whereas if they were in the AFC East they could be over .500. Their defense isn’t that great though, and it’s not out of the question for a team that has as many weapons as the 49ers do to beat up on them and break thirty. It’s also not out of the question for Kaepernick to be thinking about his next tattoo and let this one slip away, but after the last two games I have to think that Frisco is indeed back on the right track. I’m not really sure why the spread is so small, it’s not like the Rams are unstoppable at home. Niners cover, avoid point total as anything could happen here.
49ers 31, Rams 16
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.