You could call the Vikings winning at Detroit a slight upset in Week 4 of the NFL season. Maybe also St. Louis at home over Seattle, Washington winning at Tampa Bay and Chicago stomping Dallas in Big D. But none of those really were that surprising, and, in fact, it was a pretty chalk week in pro football for the first time this year. Thus, no big surprises likely were seen in your survivor pool competitions, although Atlanta, Green Bay and Arizona all easily could have lost at home against underdogs.
My top choices last week were Baltimore on Thursday vs. Cleveland (the No. 1 recommendation), Houston over Tennessee, Denver over Oakland and those Packers, who nearly got jobbed for the second week in a row by a terrible call – this time by the “professional” officials. I advised that you stay away from the Falcons, who somehow kicked a winning field goal vs. Carolina despite being on their own one-yard-line with a minute left, those Lions, Seahawks, Redskins and Cowboys. So a solid week all around.
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On to Week 5, with Dallas, Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay all on a bye. Not much missing there as none of them look like a playoff team and you certainly don’t want to risk your Survivor Pool on any of that quartet. All favorites are listed first.
NY Giants vs. Cleveland: The Giants lost a few games last year at home that they had no right to (Seattle, Washington and almost Miami). This would fall into that category if Cleveland pulled the big upset. But New York has no right losing to the winless Browns and can’t afford to fall to 2-3.
Cincinnati vs. Miami: Without looking, quick tell me which player leads the NFL in receiving yards? If you said the Fins’ Brian Hartline, you either cheated or are one of about 13 true Dolphins fans. I’m still not a believer in the Bengals, and it concerns me they allow an NFL-high 5.4 yards per carry and that Miami is among the rushing leaders behind Reggie Bush. Cincy should win at home, however.
Green Bay at Indianapolis: Really no reason to think the Colts have any shot here, although they did have last week off to prepare. I wouldn’t make the Packers my top choice of the week only because it’s a road game.
San Francisco vs. Buffalo: I tried to outsmart myself by putting this game in the bad category and come up with a reason why the Bills could travel across country and upset the Niners. I suppose it could be a mini-trap game as San Francisco has an NFC Championship rematch next week with the Giants, but I think you are safe here.
Arizona at St. Louis (Thursday): This absolutely screams trap game for the Cardinals, who should have lost last week vs. Miami. Short weeks usually favor the home team, and the Rams aren’t that bad. Coach Jeff Fisher will use as motivation that St. Louis has lost seven straight at home in this series.
Baltimore at Kansas City: Maybe I am outsmarting myself here, but I could see a Chiefs upset – if K.C. yanks lousy QB Matt Cassel. It probably won’t happen. But Kansas City is dangerous enough occasionally to not take a team playing in the Chiefs’ house.
Atlanta at Washington: If Matt Ryan has a 100-plus rating in his career, he has never lost (27-0). Considering the Skins are the second-worst team in the NFL against the pass, Ryan might have another triple-digit game. But for some reason, I think the Redskins pull the upset.
Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia: Too close to call, certainly. Can Michael Vick not turn the ball over for the second week in a row? I do think Eagles are more lucky than good as they are the first team in NFL history to win their first three games by a combined four points. The Steelers get back Polamalu, Harrison and Mendenhall, but I still don’t trust them, either.
Chicago at Jacksonville: Holy trap game, Batman! The Bears are riding high off Monday night’s impressive effort in Dallas. But it’s a short week, and Jay Cutler rarely has back-to-back stellar games. In addition, Bears might be looking past the Jags toward next week’s bye.
Minnesota vs. Tennessee: Matt Hasselbeck starts in place of the injured Jake Locker this week for Tennessee, and I say that’s an upgrade. Plus, Chris Johnson finally showed up last week, albeit in a blowout loss. Titans could pull the road upset.
New England vs. Denver: Manning vs. Brady for the 13th meeting all-time, with Brady leading, 8-4. However, Peyton has won four of the past six. Everyone seems comfortable with New England again after it crushed the Bills last week, but remember that offense had just seven points in the first half and that the Pats were down 21-7 before exploding. Broncos could win here.
New Orleans vs. San Diego: I find it almost unimaginable the Saints could go 0-5 and lose their third straight at the Superdome after totally dominating there in 2011. But I also find it hard to believe that wretched New Orleans defense can stop San Diego much. Should be the highest-scoring game of Week 5.
Houston at NY Jets (Monday): This is 100 percent a hunch, but I am guessing the Jets have their best effort since crushing the Bills in Week 1. Mark Sanchez has been terrible the past three weeks, and Houston’s defense leads the NFL in points allowed and is No. 2 vs. the pass. Did I mention the Jets also lost Santonio Holmes for the season last week? Maybe I am giving too much credit to Rex Ryan, but I say he has his guys ready to play. If the Jets get bombed, however, the clock starts ticking on Ryan’s job status.
Carolina vs. Seattle: This is the only game of Week 5 that features two losing teams. Oh, wait, you say the Seahawks actually beat Green Bay on that phantom touchdown pass a few weeks ago? Well, they are 1-3 in my mind. If the Seahawks struggle offensively again this week, look for Matt Flynn to take over for Russell Wilson.
I might go against my usual advice about looking ahead and lean toward the Giants vs. Cleveland because this is probably the lone game this season I would trust them. But if star Giants WR Hakeem Nicks is out again, that would make me a bit nervous and I‘d have to consider San Francisco.
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