Mike Francesa loves to talk about the “Witching Hour” in the NFL, which according to him, is the period from 3 p.m. until the 1:00 games are over when games in the second half suddenly start to turn, not only for wins and losses, but for spread-covering purposes. Week 5 was set up to be the ultimate “Witching Hour” experience with maybe the most games ever having at least a six-point spread in a given week and I was nervous that my picks season could be over once the “Witching Hour” ended on Sunday with still 12 weeks and the postseason left to pick. But I made it.
I made it through Week 5 of the NFL season despite nine games with at least a 6-point spread, seven quarterbacks who entered the season as backups, three rookie quarterbacks, a 1-3 vs. 1-3 matchup in Tampa Bay at New Orleans and the Tom Brady Patriots being a home underdog for one of the only times ever. I feel like I should get a shirt that says “I survived Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season” or at least a bumper sticker to let people know that when it came to my picks in the most challenging week ever I didn’t turn in the same type of performance the Jets did in San Diego. Actually, a bumper sticker wouldn’t be the best idea since I live in New York City and don’t have a car, but maybe I can buy ad space on that giant video board across from Madison Square Garden that keeps reminding me that the MLB Postseason is taking place. I thought a 10-5 week to save my season would be enough for me to get over the fact that I’m living through a second straight postseason-less October, but it hasn’t.
(Home team in caps)
Indianapolis -3 over HOUSTON
After losing the first Thursday Night Football game of the season in Week 2, I have won three straight and once again the Thursday game is my bread and butter the way it was in 2013.
Denver -10 over NEW YORK JETS
I first saw this line at 8. WFAN producer Brian Monzo told me he got it at 7 on our podcast. At the time of the podcast it was at 9. When the podcast was over, it was at 10. I’m not sure if Monzo’s “Bet the mortgage” line on the podcast pushed Vegas over the edge and forced them to make it a TD-and-FG game, but they did and for the first time in 2014, we have a road team getting at least 10 points. I would have taken the Broncos here at -13.5. Monzo told me he would take them -21. So really, 10 points feels like a steal the way a happy hour offering $6 beers feels like a steal and I would have to think this is the elimination pool pick of the week. How can it not be?
After Sunday’s debacle in San Diego, I thought about calling Keefe To The City resident Jets superfan Tim Duff for our third podcast of the year to get his state of the Jets address, but I held off and decided it made more sense to have Duff back on the podcast after this week, after Peyton Manning comes to town. After Peyton, the Jets get the revitalized Tom Brady on a short week on Thursday Night Football. The “hope to be 3-4 and in the playoff hunt” after the six-week gauntlet of Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, Denver and New England is no longer a possibility because the Jets aren’t going to win back-to-back games against two of the all-time greats. And the six-week gauntlet has actually been extended since the Bills appear to be a playoff contender, as do the Chiefs and Steelers. Looking at the remaining schedule for the Jets there’s a very real chance they could finish this season on a 15-game losing streak and go 1-15. Please let this happen, Football Gods.
CLEVELAND -2 over Pittsburgh
Just as the Browns were pulling off their biggest comeback in franchise history to potentially save my –way-too-many-team teaser, the Bears were imploding in Carolina, so it didn’t matter. And since it didn’t matter, I wish I hadn’t been rooting for the Browns against the Titans as if they were the Giants because it only further delayed Johnny Manziel becoming the starting quarterback in Cleveland. At 2-2, Manziel isn’t going to be taking Brian Hoyer’s job and after Pittsburgh, the Browns have Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay in consecutive weeks. If the Browns can beat the Steelers and repay them for their devastating Week 1 loss, they could be looking at 6-2 after Week 9. The Browns at 6-2? Is this real life?
Jacksonville +6 over TENNESSEE
The Jaguars nearly covered in Week 5 against what is a bad Steelers team, which is having trouble putting away the worst teams in the league. Over the last four weeks, the Jaguars have lost by 31, 27, 19 and 8, so not only is their margin of losing dropping, but they are getting closer and closer to finally covering and I think this is the week they finally do it. The Titans have lost four straight and their lost last week involved blowing a 25-point lead to the Browns. Let me repeat that: last week involved blowing a 25-point lead to the Browns. Not only is blowing a 25-point lead at home absolutely demoralizing, but blowing it against the Browns, who have only ever been on the wrong end of losses like that in their franchise’s history, is season-crushing.
Green Bay -3.5 over MIAMI
This has all the makings of a trap with the Packers putting together back-to-back dominant performances, but I understand the impact of a team coming off a bye and a 14-day break for the Dolphins after their trip to London. If it is a trap, I’m falling for it and I don’t care.
MINNESOTA +2 over Detroit
In Week 5, with both Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Cassel injured, the Vikings signed quarterback Chandler Harnish, who had just been signed to the team’s practice squad earlier in the same week, for their Thursday night game against the Packers. Harnish was the last pick in the 2012 NFL Draft (253rd overall) and after spending two seasons with the Colts, I’m sure he realized he would probably never get into an NFL game. But then there was Christian Ponder in Green Bay playing quarterback like someone who had won a pregame sweepstakes while tailgating in the parking lot outside Lambeau Field and I have to think that Harnish thought he would get his chance to get into a game, but he never did.
I’m not sure why Harnish wasn’t given a chance with the Vikings eventually losing the game by 32 points. What’s the worst that could have happened? They would have lost by more? Is there something meaningful to losing by 32 rather than 42? At least if Harnish had gotten into the game maybe Mike Zimmer would have seen something from the former last pick and enough to possibly have a better option than Ponder on his roster if it ever comes to Ponder needing to start another game in the future. But no, Christian Ponder is still on the Vikings and still in the NFL and the chance still exists that he might get to play once again in the future.
CINCINNATI -7 over Carolina
Hey, Cincinnati, umm what the eff was that? Thanks for letting the Patriots up off the mat and saving their season from spiraling out of control and from dividing the locker room and front office in New England and from having Boston sports radio field endless calls about benching or trading Tom Brady.
The only good thing to come out of Sunday night was listening to the Gillette Stadium crowd chant “BRA-DY! BRA-DY! BRA-DY!” as if he was Rudy Ruettiger trying to get into his first career game instead of a three-time Super Bowl champion winning a home game. I thought it was the lowest point in history for Patriots fans until NBC showed the “We Still Believe in Brady” sign. I guess 10 years is a long time to not win a championship.
BUFFALO +3 over New England
I was wrong about the Bengals going into Foxboro and ripping the hearts out of Gillette Stadium and putting the Patriots in a place they haven’t been since 2002. But I wasn’t wrong about the Patriots’ dynasty crumbling. It’s still happening, it just took a week off thanks to the combination of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton and a defense that looked like they had seen a screening of the 30 for 30 about the Boston College point-shaving scandal and decided to start their own by allowing 220 rushing yards and 505 total yards.
I do realize that I’m asking Kyle Orton to win a second straight game, or at least be the starting quarterback of a team looking for its second straight win since the Bills didn’t win in Week 5, but rather Alex Henery lost the game for the Lions. But maybe, just maybe there is some magic in Buffalo with Kyle Orton getting another chance to be the starting quarterback of an NFL team. And yes, I just used the theory of “magic” for my reasoning on why I’m picking the Bills to cover against the Patriots.
TAMPA BAY +3.5 over Baltimore
Last week I talked about how the Ravens just keep winning and things keep going their way despite the Ray Rice situation and how they have handled it from the start. I hoped things would start to go south for the Ravens with their trip to Indianapolis, but losing 20-13 in Indianapolis isn’t good enough for me. But you know what is? A loss to the Buccaneers.
San Diego -7.5 over OAKLAND
I usually take the Raiders and the points against the Chargers, but this isn’t the usual situation. The Chargers might be the best team in the NFL and the Raiders might be the worst though I’m sure the Jaguars and Jets would like to at least be part of the conversation. Think about this: the Jets couldn’t get the ball over midfield against the Chargers last week and lost 31-0 and the Jets beat the Raiders. Knowing that, how can you take the Raiders even if a home team getting a touchdown at home in the NFL is supposedly great value?
ATLANTA -3 over Chicago
I finally quit the Bears. After they were barely able to hang on against the Jets in Week 3, I said I wouldn’t pick them against the Packers in Week 4. But then it came time for the Week 4 picks and I picked the Bears +1.5 over the Packers and Bears lost 38-17 despite leading 21-17 and I said I wouldn’t pick them in Week 5 against the Panthers. But then it came time for the Week 5 Picks and I picked the Bears +2.5 over Carolina and the Bears lost 31-24 despite leading 21-7 and I said I wouldn’t pick them in Week 6 against the Falcons. Well, here we are and I have strongly considered picking the Bears +3 in Atlanta and I really want to pick them, but I’m not going to. I’m finally done with the Bears. So it would be appreciated if they would just get blown out at the Georgia Dome and not win and just remain out of my life.
SEATTLE -8 over Dallas
The difference between a 10-6 season and a 6-10 season could be traced back to a couple of plays over the year and right now all of those season-changing plays are going the Cowboys’ way. After overcoming a 21-point deficit in St. Louis in Week 3, the Cowboys managed to hold on against the Texans in Week 5 with an overtime win. Both of those outcomes are bad for the Giants because this isn’t the old days when the NFC East would send three teams to the playoffs and with just two teams between the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles going to the postseason this year, if the Giants are going to make it, they are going to need the Cowboys to start being on the other end of close games. A trip to Seattle won’t be close for Cowboys, but it will bring them a much-needed loss before their Week 7 meeting with the Giants at MetLife.
ARIZONA -3.5 over Washington
It was weird to hear Jon Gruden refer to his brother as “Jay Gruden” during Monday Night Football. I understand that maybe not everyone watching is informed that the voice on the TV is related to the head coach of the Redskins, but try referring to your brother by his full name the next time you are talking about him.
The Redskins are in a bad place right now. Kirk Cousins hasn’t been able to keep the team afloat and now after three straight losses, their season is in a free fall and it will be long over by the time RG III returns.
New York Giants +2.5 over PHILADELPHIA
The Giants are back! Three straight wins all by double digits and three straight games of scoring at least 30 points. Do you know how many times the Giants scored 30 points last season? Once. In Week 1 against the Cowboys, the Giants scored 31 in their 36-31 loss and then never scored more than 27 in a game. The last time the Giants scored at least 30 points in three straight games was back in Weeks 9-12 (four weeks) in 2008 and that streak came to an end when the Giants scored 23 in a 23-7 win over the Redskins in their first game following Plaxico Burress’ night out at Latin Quarter.
I have to admit I was skeptical about the Giants’ offense after a rough preseason and an embarrassing Week 1 loss. But Ben McAdoo has proved me and I think everyone wrong and I can now stop secretly wishing I hadn’t said and written and tweeted so many bad things about Kevin Gilbride over the years. In fact, I can keep saying and writing and tweeting bad things about his third-and-7 draw plays.
Even after the Giants’ poor 0-2 start, they are a win in Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football from at least having sole possession of second place in the NFC East and a win and Cowboys’ loss to the Seahawks (a very likely loss) from being tied for first place. The Giants are back! (I do realize by me saying, “The Giants are back!” I have now placed expectations on them and that’s the worst thing anyone can do to the New York Football Giants.)
San Francisco -3.5 over ST. LOUIS
In back-to-back weeks the Rams have had a chance to help the Giants out with the NFC East standings, but they fell short both times, losing to the Cowboys 34-31 and the Eagles 34-28. I just hope the Rams aren’t saving their NFC East wins for when they play the Giants in Week 16, which would totally eff up the Giants’ postseason chances and end up being the icing on the cake in the latest Tom Coughlin era second-half collapse.
Last week: 10-5-0