Hammering it Out: Week 5 Predictions

After 4 weeks of predictions, Jared has correctly picked 35 of 64 games correctly.

What I’ve learned:

Frankly, the spread is incredibly difficult to pick with any kind of accuracy, especially when the oddsmakers have the spread really close (anything under 3.5 points, methinks). The reason I pick the spread is to make it challenging. Some of the best in the business only average 1 or 2 picks more per week than I do, and they use actual Vegas odds, which tend to have tighter margins in close games and wider margins in predicted blowouts. I use ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em odds as a reference.

That aside, last week I learned what I think most of us have come to understand, and that is, this is going to be by far the most interesting football season in recent memory.

At this point, as far as the AFC is concerned, I think there are two teams miles away from everyone else, New England and Baltimore. Everyone else appears to be significantly weaker.

In the NFC, things are simply wild. I think Green Bay is far and away the best team in the Conference and if I have to pick, I’m saying New Orleans is far behind but still the second best team in the Conference.

Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-1) +2.5

Frankly, I don’t like what I’ve seen from either of these teams so far. The Bills struggle against teams with any kind of defensive prowess, while the Eagles have struggled on all fronts. I see this game as a “get it together” game for Philadelphia. Buffalo presents zero defensive pressure. This bodes well for Michael Vick and Company. Eagles win big here. -Jared

Eagles win by 3 or more

I don’t trust what I have seen from the Eagles. They should be much better than they are with their personnel. Before they can improve they need to figure out what they are — run first, pass first? They need to find some way to protect Vick better. Their defense has also been suspect.

This game comes down to points scored to points against. While the Eagles are scoring an average of 25 points — which is about the number Buffalo gives up — they are also giving up 25 points on average to a team that is scoring 33. Buffalo wins this game. -Travis

Bills Win: Take the points

Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) -2.5

This game gets my vote for snoozer of the week. What I mean is, this game is going to be mistake-filled with lots of 3-and-outs by both teams. I like Cedric Benson and A.J. Green. Cincinnati’s defense is respectable enough to limit Jacksonville’s opportunities. -Jared

Bengals win but this game isn’t close in my eyes — and I don’t understand the line here at -2.5. One of the league’s worst offenses is facing the league’s best defense. The only good area for the Jaguars is their run game (7th best) but the Bengals have a strong run defense (7th). -Travis

The Jaguars will improve with Gabbert in time but — like Dalton in Cincinnati — it is a process for a young QB to improve. Cincinnati will win this game by 2 scores at least.

Bengals Win: Take the points

Tennessee Titans (3-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) -7.5

Pittsburgh is in a bad position. Their offensive line is not protecting, their best running back is injured, and the defense is struggling. Tennessee, on the other hand, has had success regardless of the fact that Chris Johnson has yet to score a touchdown. Pittsburgh is a hard place to play, so I think Pittsburgh wins, but doesn’t cover the spread. -Jared

Steelers Win: straight up

The Titans have looked like the better team in 2011. The Steelers have struggled against Baltimore and Houston — which have been their only true tests. Pittsburgh is averaging 16 points for and 18 points against (not good).

On the other hand, the Titans do not have an efficient pass offense right now — the loss of Britt doesn’t help — but Chris Johnson is starting to wake up. The Titans defense is the best in the league in points allowed — 14 points per game. -Travis

Titans Win: Take the points

Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) at Indianapolis Colts(0-4) -2.5

The only team worse than the Colts right now, statistically, is Kansas City. What I’ve seen so far is a great chemistry between Pierre Garcon and Curtis Painter. On the other side of the field, Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe have a similar chemistry. I like Indianapolis to get a much-needed win at home and breathe some life into the downtrodden Indianapolis faithful. -Jared

This may be the only game that the Colts win. The biggest concern I have for Indianapolis is that I’m not sure how bad the offensive line will be after it lost its two high-profile rookie tackles. Stats-wise both teams are virtually equal. -Travis

Colts Win: Give the points

Oakland Raiders (2-2) at Houston Texans(3-1) -6.5

This has my vote for game of the week. Both teams present a great running game and respectable, but not great, defenses. For Houston, we’ll see what happens to their offense with Andre Johnson out. I see Arian Foster and Darren McFadden having big games. Houston wins but doesn’t cover. -Jared

This should be a good game.The Texans should have the advantage but it does hurt them to not have Andre Johnson. Without having to prepare for Johnson, the Raiders defensive line should be even more potent as they will be able to focus on stopping Arian Foster. Schaub will get his yards and I expect that Owens Daniels will have a big game. I think Houston will have to grind this one out ’til the end — assuming Campbell continues to limit turnovers.

Texans win: Straight up

Arizona Cardinals (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (0-4) -2.5

I don’t think Arizona’s offense is great, but they have shown the ability to move the ball both through the air and on the ground. Minnesota is in dangerous territory, having jumped out to early leads in every game so far, only to squander those leads in the second half. Minnesota presents a tough rushing defense and could stop Arizona from running the ball. This is a tough game to call, so I’m going to take Minnesota, but not to cover. -Jared

Minnesota Wins straight up

I call upset. Its obvious the Cardinals have struggled out of the gate but they have too much offensive talent for the struggles to continue. Arizona does have a mediocre defense but so do the Vikings — both defenses are nearly equal in average yards allowed. I cannot see how the Minnesota offense will be able to keep up with the Cardinals offense. -Travis

Cardinals win: Take the points

New Orleans Saints (3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-3) +5.5

I might be one of the few people who will say that I feel bad for Cam Newton. He is in a very competitive Division. This year, while offering a lot of hope, stands to be pretty dismal for Carolina. New Orleans should make an NFC Championship appearance and that progress doesn’t stop here. The Saints have too much going on for Carolina to keep up, no matter how well Cam Newton plays. -Jared

Saints win by 6+

Cam Newton has done really well for a rookie but this week he faces another big challenge. The Saints and Panthers offenses and defenses are  about equal in yardage averages, but Brees and the Saints have been much better at not making costly mistakes (turnovers). The Saints defense will likely force a few mistakes this week, which will be enough to win the game. -Travis

Saints Win: Give the Points

Seattle Seahawks (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1) -9.5

Seattle is struggling on both sides of the ball and don’t present much of a challenge to anyone but themselves. Eli Manning is going to have a field day on this weak Seahawk secondary. The Giants are starting to recover from early season injuries and appear to be finding their groove. I’ll take the Giants and the spread. -Jared

Giants win by 10+

The Giants are a team riddled with injuries who can still score points and field a defense that keeps the opponents out of the end zone. A surprising stat is that Seattle’s Tavaris Jackson has a 62.2 completion percentage this year. However, Jackson suffers the Curtis Painter/Kerry Collins turnover disease — specifically fumbles. His supporting cast that is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt doesn’t help. -Travis

Giants win: Give the points

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-1) -1.5

This game will come down to who can run the ball on who. Neither of these teams are great passing offenses, but happen to be able to run the ball. On the flipside, both teams defend the run pretty well. I like both Jim Harbaugh and Raheem Brock as coaches, but I think Harbaugh is doing more with less. 49ers win and keep the dream alive. -Jared

49ers win by 2+

This game will come down to the passing offense. Both teams have done very well against the run — Bucs 11th and 49ers 4th in run defense. Alex Smith will have to get a passing game going. Vernon Davis could have a big game. The Buccaneers should start throwing the ball to Williams more in this one.

The line for this game is correct as this one is close to a crapshoot but I think the better QB will prevail. -Travis

Buccaneers Win: Take the points

San Diego Charger (3-1) at Denver Broncos(1-3) +4.5

While I understand that Philip Rivers is struggling, he is only doing so because of the absence of Antonio Gates. Frankly, elite quarterbacks like Rivers don’t struggle very long. This week, San Diego comes in a puts a whoopin’ on Denver. The chants for Tebow are about to be deafening. -Jared

Chargers win by 5+

Philip Rivers has the same number of INT’s as Orton (6) and 3 less TD’s (5). San Diego’s Ryan Mathews has 1 less reception than Vincent Jackson. The Broncos are giving up more yards than they gain on offense. The Chargers have the advantage in every area I can see, unless Orton goes off and the Denver defense plays much better than the first 4 games. -Travis

Chargers Win: Give the points

New York Jets (2-2) at New England Patriots (3-1) -9.5

I wish I felt like New York had a shot in this game. I fully understand that the Jets have had the Patriots’ number in recent history. Frankly, Bill Belichick makes Rex Ryan look like an amateur. New England will win this game big. -Jared

Pats win by 10+

This should be a close and exciting game. The Patriots do have some legitimate concerns on defense but the Jets offense is a favorable match-up. The issue is that while QB Mark Sanchez is trying to take more of a leadership role, it isn’t translating into more success. Sanchez is a game manager. The Jets need to have a good running game if they hope to win games and Shonn Greene hasn’t gotten it done. -Travis

Pats Win: Take the points

Green Bay Packers (4-0) at Atlanta Falcons (2-2) +5.5

Atlanta is so far from being on Green Bay’s level that it isn’t even funny. Look, I want the Falcons to be competitive. Against just about any other NFC team, they are just that. This isn’t just any NFC team. Green Bay is the hottest team in the NFL and that doesn’t stop here. Atlanta generates no pass rush at all and Green Bay will capitalize on that, score a bunch, and blow out Atlanta. -Jared

Packers win by 6+

I want the Falcons to win this game but I don’t see it happening.  This game will be a high scoring affair. There should be a lot of passing in the game, as both defenses struggle to stop opposing signal-callers. Both teams are struggling to run the ball but I think the Packers offense is more potent right now. -Travis

Packers Win: Give the points

Chicago Bears (2-2) at Detroit Lions (4-0) -5.5

Some things are evident. Frankly, if Chicago has to throw the ball to win, they lose. Detroit wins when they throw effectively. Detroit is a more complete team at this point on both sides of the ball. The Lions are starting to develop a bad habit of getting in a hole early in games, so they’ll win, I just don’t see them blowing the Bears out. -Jared

Detroit wins straight up

While I really like the Lions and think they have a legitimate shot at going to the playoffs, they can’t afford to get behind by 10 or 20 points like they have the previous two games. Detroit has averaged 10 points more on offense and 5 points less allowed on defense than the Bears. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has a 62% completion mark behind a mediocre line that has allowed 5 sacks in 4 games. On the other hand, Cutler has thrown for 54% — which is almost 10% worse than Seattle’s Tavaris Jackson — and has been sacked 15 times in 4 games. -Travis

The one chance that the Bears have to win this game is to be able to run the ball not turn it over.

Lions Win: Give the points