NFL Football Predictions: Week 5 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 9/30/2014
I know the NFL loves parity and that it presumably gives every team -- other than Jacksonville and Oakland, clearly -- some hope for the playoffs. Did you know that 30 of the 32 teams, other than those two clubs just mentioned, have at least one win? That's tied for the most through four weeks in a season since 2002 realignment. The problem with that is it leaves you with a schedule full of mediocre matchups. As an example: There are only two games that feature teams with winning records in Week 5: Houston at Dallas (and I don't buy either of those two yet) and Arizona at Denver. The Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals are the only unbeatens left. They both may well lose Sunday. Here are a few games and interesting opening lines for Week 4.
Vikings at Packers (-9.5, 47.5): How many signs and T-shirts do you think we will see in the Thursday night game at Lambeau featuring some play on the word: "RELAX." Of course, Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers told Packer Nation that during his radio show last week because fans were panicking with the team off to a 1-2 start. Now it's a rallying cry. Clearly Rodgers knew he could shred the Bears on Sunday, and he did, throwing for 302 yards and four touchdowns while almost literally never being touched by the Chicago pass rush. Is this the week the Thursday game isn't a blowout? I doubt it. Minnesota upset Atlanta on Sunday behind a very nice starting debut from Teddy Bridgewater. He left the game with an injury, but X-rays and an MRI were negative and the Vikings hope he can play. Hard to imagine he's 100 percent. I love this line under 10. The pick: Packers.
Bucs at Saints (-10.5, 49): The Saints were my NFC Super Bowl team back in the preseason, and that's not looking too good right now with New Orleans at 1-3. Oh, I believe New Orleans still makes the playoffs because the NFC South is very average and the Saints will take the division. But this team doesn't look right. Rob Ryan's defense has not been good at all, and the Drew Brees-led offense really hasn't looked sharp since Week 1. How does New Orleans get shutout for a half against a Dallas team that the Saints put up 49 points and an NFL-record 40 first downs on in 2013? The pick: New Orleans. The Saints' three losses have all been away. They are still vastly different (i.e. better) at home. I am hoping this line drops under 10.
Cardinals at Broncos (-7.5, 46): Peyton Manning will make history on Sunday when he throws his first touchdown pass as it will be No. 500 career. Only Brett Favre has reached that milestone, and Manning is just a few weeks from passing Favre's record of 508. Look for a Bovada prop this week on just who catches Manning's 500th. I would give Arizona an outside shot at the upset if Carson Palmer returns this week. However, that's not the sure thing we thought even though the Cards were off last week. Coach Bruce Arians needs to see Palmer fully practice on Wednesday and Thursday (team is off Tuesday) to play. Drew Stanton has gone 2-0 in his place, completing 32-of-62 passes for 411 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in victories over the Giants and 49ers. The pick: Broncos and "over." Cards are a great team against the run, but Denver doesn't need to run it.
Bills at Lions (-7, 44): Our lone new starting quarterback this week -- unless Bridgewater sits and Christian Ponder gets the call -- will be Buffalo's Kyle Orton. It was a pretty risky move to bench E.J. Manuel so soon. Has he been regressing every week? I think that's fair to say. But he was your first-round pick last year and still hasn't played a full season's worth of games. The Bills might have just wrecked his confidence. You knew this day was coming when the Bills signed Orton in August to a two-year, $11 million deal. Backup quarterbacks don't get that kind of money generally speaking. The Lions might be the team to beat in the NFC North now. The pick: I am holding back to see which direction this moves. Up and I like Buffalo to cover. Down and go with the Lions. It's probably going up. It opened at 7 at 5Dimes and is now at 9, but nowhere near that yet anywhere else.
Bengals at Patriots (pick'em, 46): This line took a big turn at those books that post lines early on Monday that involve the teams playing Monday night. New England opened as a home favorite, as much as 3 points, but now you see it's a pick'em in the wake of the Patriots' ugly 41-14 loss in Kansas City ( I called a Chiefs outright win in my MNF preview here at Doc's ). I expect Cincinnati to be a favorite by Sunday. It was easily one of the worst games New England has played under Bill Belichick. Tom Brady looks done as New England ranks 30th in passing offense. He was 14-of-23 for 159 yards with two interceptions and lost a fumble on a sack. Someone actually asked Belichick if the team was pondering a quarterback change in the post-game interview. That's because rookie Jimmy Garoppolo was 6-for-7 for 70 yards and a score in relief of Brady on Monday. Needless to say, the Pats aren't going to bench Brady. But if he gets hurt and Garoppolo keeps playing well? Brady got his career kickstarted that way when Drew Bledsoe went down in 2001. The pick: Patriots. Everything points to Cincinnati as it comes off a bye week and New England on a short one. Still, the Patriots of the past always bounced back from a bad game. I give them one more chance. Also go "under".
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