How was your weekend, everyone?
Mine was great… and then Sunday came along.
And then Todd Bowles inexplicably punted, down two scores, with seven minutes left, from right around mid-field and handed the ball and the game to the Pittsburgh Steelers and doomed the Jets to a 1-4 record.
Let’s be honest, the Jets were going to lose anyway, BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT, TODD!
What else happened… hmm, let’s see. Well, that Tom Brady guy came back and completely obliterated the Cleveland Browns and sent Patriots fans into a joyous frenzy that Jets fans like myself haven’t experienced since, well, Brady’s suspension was upheld.
Then, seemingly every team I picked fell apart and I wound up going 6-7-1 against the spread.
But, anyway, it’s a new week and with it comes another opportunity to improve what’s actually a pretty impressive record against the spread at this point of the year, if I do say so myself.
So with that being said, let’s take our usual look back at the week before, then jump straight into Week 6’s games.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 6-7-1 (Season Record – 41-35-1)
Straight Up – 9-5 (Season Record – 41-36)
Locks of the Week – 3-3-1 (Season Record – 18-9-1)
As always, I’ve categorized these games based on my level of confidence in the pick as follows:
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBSSports.com, as of 10/13
(4-1) Denver Broncos @ (1-4) San Diego Chargers (+3) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Denver Broncos
Level of Confidence – Feeling pretty… pretty good
The Chargers are walking a fine line between being really unlucky and really inept. One super bizarro defeat here and there is understandable and it happens to the best of the best from time to time. But four of the most head-scratching, incomprehensible losses in the first five weeks of a season to mostly mediocre opponents is something else.
It’s a personality trait, not an anomaly.
You just can’t trust the Chargers to win a ball game until they prove otherwise. That’s why the Broncos are the play here.
I’m dropping the Broncos’ loss to the Falcons last week like I’m a Chargers holder with the game on the line. (Too soon?). I’m not looking at the Broncos any differently, especially since they were without starting QB Trevor Siemian, who is suiting up on Thursday night.
I think Denver goes out and wins one for the Gipper, coach Gary Kubiak, who is hopefully well on his way to a full recovery and a return to the Broncos’ sideline sooner than later.
No Way We Can Lose… Locks of the Week
(4-1) Pittsburgh Steelers @ (1-4) Miami Dolphins (+7.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Steelers
After witnessing the destruction that the Steelers levied upon the Jets last weekend, I cannot in good faith pick the Dolphins here.
If anything, Miami’s defense is a poor man’s Jets defense and Ryan Tannehill is a young man’s Ryan Fitzpatrick (look at that, same name too!).
If the Steelers come to play they’ll manhandle the Dolphins. If they merely show up at the stadium, they’ll probably win by 10.
Steelers win big yet again.
(1-4) San Francisco 49ers @ (3-2) Buffalo Bills (-8) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – 49ers (LOCK)
Straight Up – Bills
‘Here lies Rex Ryan and the 2016 Buffalo Bills’
That’s essentially what I wrote as the 0-2 Bills prepared to welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town three weeks ago in a game that seemed like it’d be a one-sided affair.
I thought the Bills were finished — a garbage team, full of hot air and ready to fold up like a cheap suit, but I was dead wrong.
The 49ers on the other hand, I’ve maintained might not be as bad as almost everyone thinks they are. That, I might have also gotten wrong upon further review.
So, can Colin Kaepernick save the day in his return to the starting role? Unlikely. He’s been riding the bench all year for a reason and it’s not because of his protests. It’s because he ain’t that good (and because of a now-remedied contract situation, but if he were good enough he’d be starting regardless of cash considerations. Plain and simple).
But hey, we’ll see. Bills are on the upswing, 49ers are not, but the Bills don’t strike me as a team that will blow out anybody. It’s not their game. They’ll win, but not by eight points.
(1-3) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (1-4) Chicago Bears (-2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Jaguars
I still think the Jaguars will get their ship righted and will be roughly a .500 team by the time the year ends. To make it happen and to avoid making me look like an idiot, they’ll need to win convincingly against a dilapidated Bears squad on the road.
The Jaguars’ offense has been pretty bad all year, ranking 26th in the league in yards per game and 19th in points per game. A lot of that falls on Blake Bortles, who many expected to take a big step forward this year with a solid wide receiving corps along with Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon in the backfield, but he hasn’t held up his end of the bargain.
Bortles ranks 25th in the league in total QBR among qualified starters, according to ESPN, and he has just seven touchdowns compared to six interceptions this year.
BUT… John Fox’s gang is ripe for the picking. They’re ranked 19th against the pass and in total yards per game and give up close to 120 yards per game on the ground on average.
Thing is, the Blake Bortles/Jacksonville Jaguars hype train — you know, the one that was rolling along all offseason before they played, uh, actual meaningful football games — is still idling in the station. But it’s revving its engine (do trains do that?) and I think it’s ready to get rolling once again.
Get on board.
(4-1) Dallas Cowboys @ (3-1) Green Bay Packers (-4.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Packers
Cowboys fans who have followed my picks this season could — and would be well within their right mind to call me a hater for constantly picking against the ‘Boys.
I’ve been waiting for Dak Prescott to have his first real rookie week in the NFL and it hasn’t come. But, I think this will be the week. You know what a rookie week looks like for rookie quarterbacks… that game where they look completely clueless, are under duress for 60 minutes and go 13-29 passing for 167 yards and 2 INTs… kind of like the game Paxton Lynch had against the Falcons this past weekend.
Lambeau field has done it to many rookies, so don’t feel bad when it happens to Dak this weekend, Cowboys fans.
Plus, his worst game of the year will come at the perfect time — right before the Cowboys’ bye week, paving the way for TONY ROMO to come back in and lead the Cowboys to glory.
Hey, it’s his team anyway, right, Dak?
(1-4) New York Jets @ (2-3) Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
At one point early this year, after picking the Jets in Week 1 and Week 2 straight up and against the spread (note: they covered both times and lost to the Bengals by a point), I was called a “homer” for choosing Gang Green.
Since then, I’ve picked against them straight up every week of the season, and reluctantly I’ve been right. So I’m not sure what the opposite of a “homer” is — a realist maybe? — but we’re certainly approaching that territory quicker than the Jets are hurtling back down to Earth after high expectations heading into 2016.
Anyway, that was the long-winded way of me telling you that the Jets are going to lose yet again on Monday night. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense have hardly been a juggernaut this season, but nothing cures what ails your passing game like going against the team that has allowed the highest completion percentage against them of anyone in the NFL.
Jets drop to 1-5 and the Cardinals improve to .500 and jump back into their divisional race.
Feeling pretty… pretty good:
(0-5) Cleveland Browns @ (2-3) Tennessee Titans (-7) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
The play just has to be the Titans here, right?
I mean, the Browns are winless, hapless and Charlie Whitehurst looked like a fourth-string qua… wait, what? He’s ACTUALLY their fourth-string quarterback.
Ok, ok, so Cody Kessler’s going to play, but he’s not going to be 100 percent.
Titans win and cover the spread at home and reach .500 (excluding 0-0, of course) for the second time in the Marcus Mariota era. Not exactly worthy of a ticker-tape parade, but hey, it’s a start.
(2-3) Cincinnati Bengals @ (5-0) New England Patriots (-9) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Bengals
Straight Up – Patriots
Hell hath no fury like Tom Brady scorned.
Look, the man is a beast. He’s 39, hasn’t played in a meaningful football game since he got the crap beaten out of him by the Denver Broncos nearly a year ago, but he comes out and just torches the poor Cleveland Browns in front of their home crowd.
That was impressive.
But there are two words in that sentence that make Brady’s banner day just slightly less impressive. Did you find them?
Yup… they’re “Cleveland” and “Browns.”
The Bengals have not impressed early on this year, but c’mon guys, they’re not the Browns. The Patriots were -10.5 against the Browns and you’re telling me the Bengals are only a point and a half better than that (not counting the three-point home vs. road swing)?
Honestly, the Patriots deserve to have a Geico commercial dedicated to them: “When you’re the Patriots, you just win… that’s what you do.” But laying nine points to the Bengals? I’ll pass.
Pats win, Bengals keep it close.
(3-1) Philadelphia Eagles @ (3-2) Washington Redskins (+2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up = Eagles
I got a fair amount of flak from Eagles fans last week after picking against them against the Lions, BUT WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?!?
Just kidding. I genuinely like the Eagles and Carson Wentz as I’ve mentioned before, but coming off a bye and hitting the road with a rookie head coach and QB spelled disaster in my opinion.
Now, the question is, how do they respond in a critical road matchup against the division-rival Washington Redskins?
I think well.
The Redskins still haven’t been that impressive in their wins this year and struggled against the Ravens more than I expected them too. It took a Jamison Crowder punt return for a touchdown get them the win against what I still believe to be a mediocre at best Ravens team (you can read more about that below).
The Eagles’ defense is no joke. They’ll make it a long day for Cousins and Co. en route to a 4-1 record.
(3-2) Baltimore Ravens @ (2-3) New York Giants (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Giants
The New York Giants’ lack of a pass rush has graduated from being a slightly worrisome early-season issue that would hopeful resolve itself, into a full blown catastrophe with seemingly no end in sight.
The Giants have four sacks all year and rank dead last in the NFL in the category.
Joe Flacco has been sacked 11 times this year, which is tied for 11th-most in the league, so he can be gotten to. If the Giants can finally get Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul going, which they’ll have an opportunity to do here, they win this game.
In a study of the 2014 season by Pro Football Focus, Flacco ranked near the bottom of the league when facing pressure, so that’s why it’s even more important for the Giants to get that pass rush going.
Of course, Eli Manning ranked the absolute worst of anybody in the league when facing pressure, so there’s that to consider as well.
All things considered, I like the Giants here. If you’ve read my prior picks pieces, you know I don’t think the Ravens are a very good team. They’ve yet to beat a quality foe and the Giants on the road are just that.
G-men win and cover the spread.
(4-1) Atlanta Falcons @ (3-1) Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
The Falcons’ offense is for real and Matt Ryan can once again be referred to as “Matty Ice.” These are irrefutable facts. What’s still to be determined is the legitimacy of the Falcons’ defense.
Their defense ranks 26th in the league this year in points per game and yards allowed per game but seem to have a knack for doing just enough to allow their offense to win the game for them.
That’s not exactly the hallmark trait of a Dan Quinn-led defense, but it’s a start.
Now the Falcons take their act on the road to the toughest place to play in the league in Seattle, which also happens to be the former home of their current head coach. To get a win here they’ll need more than just an offensive outburst and their defense will have to pull its weight and stop the Seahawks’ offense.
Clearly Las Vegas doesn’t think the Falcons can do it, as evidenced by that six-point spread, but I think Dan Quinn’s unit comes up big here and gets a win for their head coach in his former stomping grounds. It won’t be easy, but Falcons for the upset.
Heads or Tails
(3-2) Los Angeles Rams @ (2-3) Detroit Lions (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Rams
I’ve taken the Rams against the spread every week so far this year and there’s no end in sight. Quite simply, I like them to keep most games close with their defense and oddsmakers have been consistently pitting them as underdogs and giving them points.
Obviously Week 1 was an outlier when they got trounced by the 49ers, but if you remove that game from the mix and consider that a Case Keenum pick-six this past week was the only reason the Rams weren’t within a score yet again when the clock struck 0:00, you have a pretty sufficient body of evidence suggesting that the Rams will keep games tight.
On top of that, I think the Lions are beneficiaries of a gut reaction line here. That win over the Eagles apparently bought them a lot of goodwill from bookies but I’m not ready to jump on board just yet.
I think the Rams take one from Detroit here.
(1-4) Carolina Panthers @ (1-3) New Orleans Saints (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – New Orleans Saints
I can’t believe I’m posing this question about a team that went 15-1 and made the Super Bowl last year, but what’s to like about this Carolina Panthers team right now?
Their defense looks lost at best and listless at worst, while Cam Newton has struggled throughout most of the year to live up to the massive hype of his MVP season.
Now, they hit the road in what’s an absolutely must-win game against a high-flying Saints offense that managed to hang 38 points on the Panthers’ D in a 41-38 loss at the Superdome last year when they were in peak form.
So why should this trip to the Superdome be any different?
I’m expecting a lot of points, but a different winner; Saints beat the Panthers with both teams in the 35-45 point range once again.
(2-2) Kansas City Chiefs @ (4-1) Oakland Raiders (+1) – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Kansas City Chiefs
I fully expect the Chiefs to come out of the gate on Sunday afternoon like rabid dogs, or, at least they should after having two full weeks to soak in that brutal 43-14 defeat at the hands of the Steelers.
As a result, I think the amped up Chiefs steal one in Oakland.
Last year the Chiefs beat the Raiders in both meetings — including a 34-20 victory over the Raiders in Oakland in December. These aren’t last year’s Raiders, but the Chiefs are out to prove something after their blowout loss in Week 4 and I think they’ll do it against Oakland in what should be a wild game, as it always is between these two bitter rivals.
(2-3) Indianapolis Colts @ (3-2) Houston Texans (-3) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Colts
The AFC South, as it has been since Peyton Manning left the division for the AFC West, is abysmal. The Texans are the class of the division and I don’t think anybody is looking at them as serious title contenders, or, even as a threat to make a deep run through the playoffs.
The Colts, meanwhile, are probably the worst second place team in the NFL at the moment and haven’t showed any glimpses of being a good football team.
So, who wins this battle of the AFC Suck… whoops, sorry, South?
While I’m inclined to pick the Texans at home, I have a feeling that a 7-9 or 8-8 winner out of this division isn’t out of the question. So with that in mind, I say the Colts get the ‘W’ and knot things up with the Texans.
Let anarchy reign in the AFC South.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.