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Week 5 NFL Picks

Andy Dalton has been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks through 4 weeks. Is it a mirage? (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Last Week: 10 – 5 – 0
Season: 44 – 19 – 0

Thursday Recap

Colts 27 at Texans 20
What happened to Houston’s defense? The Colts offensive line currently leads the NFL in quarterback hits allowed. Last night Matt Hasselbeck had more than enough time in the pocket. I’m even having a hard time remembering him on the ground. The Texans finally got some production out of their offense (before garbage time) and the defense was a no-show. It’s no mystery Houston’s offensive struggles are due to inconsistency at quarterback, but the defense’s poor play through five games is a head-scratcher.

Meanwhile, the Colts have won three straight. Two of those wins came with backup QB Matt Hasselbeck under center. Andrew Luck should be paying very close attention. Hasselbeck hasn’t turned the ball over in his two starts. Though the offense has struggled at times, and certainly been less explosive, it hasn’t put a suspect defense in difficult situations. Obviously the opposition level hasn’t been elite, but Luck’s willingness to take unnecessary risks needs to be tamed in an effort to protect the defense.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Bears at Chiefs
It’s do-or-die time for Kansas City. I still don’t know what to think about the Chiefs. They’ve lost three in a row to teams with a combined 12-0 record. Though the offense still stutters with Alex Smith at the helm, Jeremy Maclin has added some much-needed talent to the passing game. Maybe it’s an Andy Reid bias blinding me, but I’m not ready to give up on the Chiefs. Though maybe I should. Reid’s Eagle teams almost always finished the season strong. Reid’s record in November in December was near dominant. Not in Kansas City. Over the last six weeks of the 2013 and 2014 season, Reid’s Chiefs went a combined 4-8. Maybe that 1-3 start already sealed Kansas City’s fate. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -9

Seahawks at Bengals
Many expected 2014 to be Andy Dalton’s breakout season but Dalton fell short of expectations with arguably his worst season as a pro. He threw only 19 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. His 3,398 yards tied his rookie season for the lowest of his career. Fast-forward to 2015 and Dalton is a quarter of the way through what could end up a career year for the 5th year quarterback out of TCU. See for yourself:

Quarterback 1
1,187 Yards
67.2% Completion
9 TD, 1 INT
87.7 QBR

Quarterback 2
1,112 Yards
72.2% Completion
9 TD, 0 INT
83.1 QBR

Quarterback 3
995 Yards
72.4 % Completion
11 TD, 0 INT
87.3 QBR

Can you guess which are Dalton’s numbers? Quarterback 1 is Dalton. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are quarterbacks 2 and 3, respectively. I am by no means arguing Dalton is an equal to Brady or Rodgers. However, his numbers prove he’s playing at or near their level. Most importantly, Dalton is protecting the football.

Naysayers may argue Dalton’s hot start is due to a healthy AJ Green, and they’re not completely wrong. Green battled injuries throughout 2014 and the Bengals offense, most notably Dalton, struggled immensely as a result. Dalton’s job is certainly made easier when one of the NFL’s top five receivers is healthy. But either way you cut it, Dalton’s play has been spectacular through four weeks. He’s played like one of the league’s elite quarterbacks and the Bengals are undefeated in large part because of Dalton. Now he’ll get to go toe-to-toe with the NFL’s premiere secondary. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -3

Redskins at Falcons
I’m always skeptical of the high-powered offense scoring tons of points early in the season. As the year progresses, offenses tail off and contenders find ways to grind out wins. I’m interested to see whether the Falcons can win in those situations. Believe it or not, Atlanta will meet its toughest defense this week in the Washington Redskins. With the Eagles and Texans in the rearview mirror, I doubt anyone would have believed that statement in August. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -7.5

Jaguars at Buccaneers
Are the Buccaneers sold on Lovie Smith grooming Jameis Winston? It’s unheard of to fire a coach after only one season with the top overall pick. However, Smith came to Tampa Bay believing he had put together a playoff team capable of winning the NFC South. He has a 3-17 record since then. If I’m a Buccaneers fan, I want a new coach to bring this young team along. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers -3

Saints at Eagles
I look forward to the Eagles every week of every season. I only get the Eagles 16 times a year so I don’t take them for granted. However, the 2015 season has been a struggle. Every week I’m excited for the Eagles and then by 1:17PM ET I remember, “Oh yeah, Chip Kelly ruined my favorite football team.” I’m going to pick the Eagles again because I’m an unabashed homer, but my confidence in the Eagles winning Sunday is somewhere between 6 and 14%. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -4.5

Browns at Ravens
The Ravens aren’t out of the woods yet. Last week’s come-from-behind season-saving win in Pittsburgh did in fact save Baltimore’s season. However, it only saved it for a week. The Ravens need to keep winning for their efforts in Week 4 to mean much. As I mentioned last week, the Ravens next 8 games are favorable. Only the Cardinals and Rams (and maybe San Diego) appear to be playoff contenders. A win Sunday won’t be easy. The Ravens are without their top two receivers and their top slot receiver is now out, too. This would be a good time for the defense to climb out of whatever hole its been hiding. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +7

Rams at Packers
The Packers miss Jordy Nelson. Aaron Rodgers can make a great receiver out of just about anyone, but he can’t make a receiver faster. Right now the Packers lack that deep threat, someone to run right by a defensive back. Rodgers will miss Nelson this week. The Rams can pressure the quarterback as well as anyone in the league. Rodgers will throw his 1st interception at Lambeau since the Reagan administration and the Rams will get another win to confuse us all. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +10

Bills at Titans
More disappointing defense after 4 weeks; Buffalo, Miami, Baltimore, or Houston? All four were expected to be top 10 units. Miami and Baltimore have been downright atrocious. The Texans have been slightly worse than bad. Buffalo had a great Week 1 against Andrew Luck and the Colts but has done little since to earn its preseason accolades. With the Buffalo offense hurting, the Bills defense needs to make some plays. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills -2.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Cardinals at Lions
It’s hard not to feel for the Lions. Their season started by blowing a 21-3 lead in San Diego. Two weeks later, when it looked as if they might sneak past the Broncos, Matthew Stafford committed two costly turnovers in the game’s final 12 minutes. Then there was the missed call last week in Seattle. Detroit is better than its 0-4 record. In fact, I think they’re a top 15 team. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +3

Patriots at Cowboys
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind Cowboys fans that you employ Greg Hardy. I’d also like to remind you that your two best players are still injured and the Patriots are on a mission to embarrass everyone in the NFL. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -10

Broncos at Raiders
The Peyton Manning noodle arm situation has reached emergency levels. It’s only getting worse. One of these weeks the dominant Denver defense will have a bad week and Manning will be unable to bail them out. I think it’s this week. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders +5.5

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

49ers at Giants
Can someone let me know what happened to Carlos Hyde? Hyde had 26 rushes and 168 yards in Week 1. He’s had 36 rushes and 114 yards since. Clearly, the decline of Colin Kaepernick has allowed defenses to key on the ground game, but Hyde’s yards per rush has been cut in half since Week 1. If the 49ers can’t move the ball on the ground, they’re hopeless. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -7

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Steelers at Chargers
Michael Vick backlash still astounds me. What Vick did was absolutely wrong. However, he spent time in prison, paid millions of dollars in penalties and restitution, and demonstrated remorse for his actions. He’s also been active in helping animals and raising awareness since his release from prison. That’s just not enough for some people. I guess Vick is supposed to live in misery and poverty until his dying day. I welcome someone to explain to me how a culture can celebrate taking innocent human lives while ostracizing those who demonstrate brutality toward animals. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -3

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 7 – 7 – 1
Season: 32 – 28 – 3

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