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Week 5 NFL Picks

Are the Vikings really this good? Yes. Will Sam Bradford eventually ruin their season? Yes. (Photo by By Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Last Week:  8 – 7 – 0
Season:    37 – 26 – 0

Thursday Recap

Cardinals 33 at 49ers 21
It’s a shame Carson Palmer had to get hurt for the Cardinals to remember David Johnson is their best offensive weapon.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Patriots at Browns
After the Indians went up 2-0 on the Red Sox I began wondering if 2016 is Cleveland’s year. Then I remembered the Browns are 0-4, on their third quarterback of the season, and Josh Gordon just checked himself into rehab. To top all that off, Tom Brady comes back this week after serving a bogus suspension and I’m guessing the Patriots finally unleash Rob Gronkowski too. So maybe it’s just “kind of” Cleveland’s year. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -11.5

Eagles at Lions
This is a haunting game, meaning if the Eagles don’t pull it out, it will undoubtedly come back to bite them come playoff time. Sure, a loss would only drop the Eagles to 3-1. However, the Redskins are on deck next week and the Eagles start their midseason death march the week after that. Though the Redskins stink, there’s no such thing as a sure thing in the NFC East. The Eagles have especially struggled against Jay Gruden’s Redskins. It’s been over two years since the Eagles last beat their I-95 rivals. Entering Week 7 at 3-2 would be a deathblow to the Eagles playoff chances. They need this win. Also, Jim Schwartz is returning back to the team that fired him (deservedly so) a few years back. I’m hoping that counts for something. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3

Also, Jim Schwartz is the best…

Bears at Colts
I’m not sure how Chuck Pagano still has a job. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -4.5

Redskins at Ravens
The NFL needs to stop with this no celebration stuff. The fines are laughably stupid and all it does is agitate players and frustrate fans. We’re four weeks into the season and I still have no idea what does and what doesn’t draw one of those unsportsmanlike taunting penalties. Isn’t football a game? Aren’t games supposed to be fun? I understand you don’t want elongated, prop-assisted celebrations that delay the game and turn football into a circus, but how does a little dance or practiced handshake or shooting a pretend bow-and-arrow negatively impact the product? Fans love it. Players love it. Also, why is getting into an opponent’s face a penalty now, too? Basketball started this trend and I hated it. At least basketball isn’t a violent sport. Football is. The NFL permits grown men to run full speed and assault each other but don’t you dare say something mean to someone else because it will not be tolerated. What??? NFL leadership needs a youth infusion. The rules are getting a little too stiff. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -4

Texans at Vikings
I know I keep disrespecting the Vikings, but I’m telling you; Sam Bradford will scuttle Minnesota’s season. It will happen. Whether it’s by injury or poor performance, Bradford will negatively impact their season. While we’re here, I need everyone to stop gushing over how “well” Bradford has played through three weeks. Minnesota’s offense is the 2nd worst in the NFL. Their running game ranks dead last. The offense has produced 14, 14, and 24 points, respectively, in Bradford’s three starts. The Viking defense is obviously great, probably the best in the NFL. We’ve seen teams win championships with great defenses and average quarterbacks before. I just don’t see it happening with Sammy Sleeves under center. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -7

Titans at Dolphins
I’m confident no one cares too much about the Titans and Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill has failed to noticeably improve in five seasons and Marcus Mariota has quietly underwhelmed throughout his brief time in Nashville. Let’s talk about another AFC South quarterback instead. Brock Osweiler. Like Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets, Osweiler is the difference between the Texans being a legit playoff team and one no one fears. Osweiler hasn’t been great. He has more turnovers than touchdowns and last week he could only connect with DeAndre Hopkins once. You’d have to rewatch last week’s game to see how poorly he played. Osweiler looks more lost in the pocket than Prescott, Wentz and whomever Denver starts combined. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans +3.5

Jets at Steelers
The Jets are in trouble. Their quarterback is a turnover disaster (12 in four games) and their defense, especially the secondary, has grossly underperformed. The schedule isn’t doing the Jets any favors, as they’ll face the NFL’s most aggressive passing attack Sunday. As desperate as the Jets are for a win, it’s likely they’ll be 1-5 before the worm turns. If you’re looking for silver linings, a 1-5 start could push the franchise to take a look at one of their younger quarterbacks. Though I’m not sure Geno Smith, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg qualify as an upgrade. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +8

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Falcons at Broncos
We’ll learn a lot about the Falcons over the next few weeks. I’m of the opinion Atlanta is for real as a playoff team and yet a 1-3 record over the next four weeks wouldn’t surprise me at all. The Falcons defense is brutal. They’re one of four defenses allowing more than 31 points per game. Atlanta ranks 30th in yards allowed and is tied for dead last with only four sacks. Speaking of bad defense, the NFC South accounts for four of the NFL’s five worst defenses in points allowed. Anyway, I don’t like Atlanta’s chances this week and I fear for Matt Ryan’s safety. (Denver already has 17 sacks this season.) BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -4.5

Bengals at Cowboys
Dak Prescott has looked really, really good. While he misses some throws, I like to judge rookie quarterbacks on poise, decision-making and turnovers. Prescott has zero turnovers, led the Cowboys back from a 14 point deficit last week without blinking an eye, and I can’t remember a single dumb thing he’s done in four starts. Take a look at Dallas’ possession to close the 1st half last week. Prescott handled that thing like Peyton Manning and finished it with a throw Aaron Rodgers would envy. I’m interested to see how Dallas plays against what I believe to be a legitimately good team. Both the Cowboys and Eagles have had surprising success with rookie quarterbacks but neither has faced stiff competition. Consider this Prescott’s first test. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -2

Bills at Rams
Only three teams have been shutout this season. Those three teams have a combined 9-3 record. The NFL is weird. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -1

Chargers at Raiders
You know the saying about not beating a dead horse? The San Diego Chargers are the dead horse that keeps getting beat. The Chargers have suffered devastating injuries one after another. Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Manti Te’o, and Jason Verrett have all been placed on injured reserve with season-ending injuries. The Chargers top pick has yet to see the field after a lengthy holdout kept him out of training camp. Things haven’t gone much better on the field, where the Chargers have held the lead in the final two minutes in each of their three losses. San Diego needs a hug. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -4

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Giants at Packers
The Odell Beckham Jr. soap opera has reached an all time high. I’m not even sure what we’re talking about at this point. I’ve heard suggestions about the Giants getting rid of him. Others say he should be suspended. Some think Beckham should retire. Since he’s acting like my 6-year-old son does at times, I’m going to suggest the Giants treat him as such.

First, the Giants need to go to Beckham and say; you’ve been targeted 39 times this season. Antonio Brown’s been targeted 45 times. Aj Green 44. Julio Jones 35. Dez Bryant? Well poor Dez is only targeted about 7 times per game (on average). This is a lesson in contentment.

Second, the Giants need to point out that perhaps Beckham isn’t making the most of his opportunities since his targets are right up there with the NFL’s top receivers. This is a lesson on accountability and self-reflection.

Third, the Giants need to encourage Beckham to reign in his emotions and channel them to a positive end. His outbursts display weakness to the opponent and create dissention within his team. This is a lesson in self-control.

Fourth, someone in New York needs to nudge Beckham in Eli Manning’s direction so he can politely encourage Manning to get his head out of his butt. This is a lesson in encouragement.

I mean seriously, Manning has been brutal the last two weeks. Why is Beckham catching all the flak? I completely understand why Beckham is flipping out and on the verge of completely losing his mind. It’s been six quarters since I’ve seen Eli Manning make a competent quarterbacking decision.

So to recap, Beckham needs to stop acting like a 6 year old and Manning needs to stop sucking. Problem solved. Well, except the winning part. The NFL did the Giants no favors by making them play the Vikings and Packers. On the road. At night. In consecutive weeks. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants +7.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Buccaneers at Panthers
I’m not a fan of writing teams off this early in the season, especially teams as talented as Carolina. While there are seven 1-3 teams in the NFC right now, there are also six teams with 3+ wins. Falling to 1-4 and thus three or more games behind the playoff pack would be a tough mountain to climb. So yeah, the loser here may be “write-offable.”

It’s amazing how far the Panthers have fallen in nine months. They don’t do a single thing well right now. The offense is an unmitigated disaster. The running game stinks. They can’t pass protect and therefore can’t throw the football for garbage either. Defensively they can’t get pressure… at all, and they struggle to stop the run, especially late in games. The secondary just gave up 300 yards to one receiver, so I’m sure you can figure out the quality of that unit on your own. Part of the panic in Carolina is because they have nothing to fall back on. Even their special teams committed bone-headed blunders the last two weeks.

Here’s my recommendation to the Carolina Panthers for saving their franchise QB and thus, their season: Make Cam Newton Russell Wilson. Newton takes too many hits. I know he’s the biggest dude on the field but the NFL season isn’t a sprint. Newton couldn’t even make it to the first corner of the race without collapsing. He needs to dive, slide, and find refuge in running out of bounds. No more lowering the shoulder for an extra yard or taking on linebackers to establish dominance. Stay alive. No one avoids hits like Wilson. It’s uncanny.

Part of Wilson avoiding big hits is his ability to feel pressure and move within the pocket. When Newton feels pressure he often makes the wrong move. He flees the pocket when stepping up would have bought him time. He spins around when skirting outside was the best option. Pocket presence isn’t a switch that can easily be flipped, but the Panthers need Newton to make more of a concerted effort in order to preserve his career.

Believe it or not, the Panthers are still in good shape. The Falcons have the Broncos in Denver this week and travel to Seattle in Week 6. Carolina’s toughest stretch is behind them. Get Newton healthy, tweak the offense a bit to preserve that health, and everything else will eventually fall into place for the reigning NFC champions. PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -4.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 11 – 4 – 0
Season:    32 – 29 – 2

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