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Week 5 NFL Picks

Melvin Gordon and the Chargers are really good and really inconsistent. This will likely end up a really big problem. (Photo by Jae Hong, AP)

Last Week: 11 – 4 – 0
Season:     36 – 25 – 2

Not Standing too Close to Golfers (Bye Week)

Bears
Jordan Howard is averaging 50 yards/game at 3.2 yards/rush. The Bears are 3-1 and in first place of the NFC North. Go figure. Mitch Trubisky looked great last week. I will gladly short all the Trubisky stock that was bought up this past week.

Buccaneers
The clock struck midnight on Ryan Fitzpatrick. No one should be surprised by this. A career backup is a career backup for a reason. Tampa will be a fascinating watch the rest of the season. Jameis Winston has 12 games to prove himself as a franchise QB that’s worthy of a long term deal with guaranteed money. Or, at the very least, a young quarterback with potential worthy of the franchise tag a la the Redskins and Kirk Cousins. If he stinks, he’ll likely have to prove himself elsewhere as a backup until he gets another shot.

Thursday Recap

Colts 24 at Patriots 38
Tom Brady after throwing his 500th career touchdown pass; “You know, a quarterback doesn’t throw them to himself. He needs people to catch them and block and defenses make plays and coaches to coach.”

Andrew Luck after the last two weeks; “People catch the football? That’s a thing? Can someone tell my receivers?”

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Titans at Bills
I can’t think of any reason to watch the Bills the rest of the season. Watching Josh Allen sack himself twice last week was enough for me. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -5.5

Dolphins at Bengals
Cincinnati’s offense is somewhat perplexing as they continue to light up scoreboards while not racking up the yardage. They’re 4th in the league in scoring at 31.5 points/game, trailing only the Chiefs, Rams and Saints. However, they don’t rank in the top ten in either passing or rushing and rank 16th in total yards. To confuse matters even more, they rank 4th in 1st downs and 5th in 3rd down conversions, so they keep drives alive. Their defense only has one touchdown on the season and five turnovers. It’s not as if the defense is gifting the offense points. Is it return yards? No. They’re 8th in average kickoff returns and 13th in punt returns. No touchdowns there either. The Bengals are even in the bottom quarter of the league in possession time. Only two possible explanations left; red zone efficiency and turnovers. The Bengals are beasts in the red zone, scoring on 84.62% of their red zone possessions. That’s two points higher than Kansas City’s unstoppable offense and over 20 points higher than both the Rams and Saints. Unfortunately, Cincinnati has a turnover problem. According to Football Outsiders, the Bengals rank 29th in the NFL in turnovers per drive (0.171). In fairness to the Bengals, part of the reason that number is so high is because only six teams have had fewer possessions than the Bengals this season, and two of them were on a bye last week. To recap, the Bengals offense is really good, especially if they protect the football. Be sure not to let them in the red zone. They’re lights out there. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +6

Ravens at Browns
I understand the outrage by Browns nation. It was a pretty absurd call, especially in such a big moment. I also understand the league’s rationale behind the call about his elbow being down and using that with the wrist being down and thus locating the ball short of the 1st down (or whatever), but that loss is on the Browns more than the officials. You’re the reason for defeat when you turn the ball over 4 times. You also don’t deserve to win if you don’t have the stones to go for it on 4th and inches. You’re the Browns. You have one win since Donald Trump became President. Go for it. What do you have to lose? RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -3

Packers at Lions
Aaron Rodgers looked healthier last week than he has since the first half of opening weekend. He moved better and displayed significantly more confidence in his injured knee. He even slid feet first a few times. With that said, it was Rodgers’ worst outing of the season. The whole Packer team showed up thinking they could sleepwalk to victory and, well, they were right. Green Bay led the entire game and Buffalo never came close to threatening the inevitable outcome. It was by far the ugliest game of the weekend. The only somewhat fascinating aspect of the game was Aaron Jones earning more touches and why Mike McCarthy had an already injured Rodgers still in the game with 6 minutes to go and a 19-0 lead. Anyway, I’m very intrigued by this matchup with Detroit. I don’t think the Lions can bounce back from a 1-4 hole, at least not in the deep NFC North. Also, let’s slow down on Detroit finally finding a running game. Kerryon Johnson began last week’s game with 2 rushes for 36 yards. He gained only 19 yards on his last 7 touches. Johnson is undoubtedly Detroit’s best back. They just need to give him more touches to establish a reliable ground attack. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +1

Jaguars at Chiefs
Everyone is always talking about how fun and exciting Patrick Mahomes and his stable of weapons are this season, but the Jaguars can be fun too. They score safeties, they go for two point conversions when up 19 points with only 25 seconds remaining in the game, and they have Jalen Ramsey talking trash to everyone in the NFL. This week, he essentially warned Tyreek Hill that wishes do come true. “If he wants smoke, it’ll get there.” I tell my 8 year old the same thing daily, but Hill is the NFL’s most explosive player. I applaud the boldness, Jalen. I wish you nothing but the best as you try to contain that offense. And containing that offense is an absolute must for Jacksonville to win. Look at the Jaguars 2nd half offensive possessions last week; punt, punt, INT, TD, punt, FL, punt, FL, TD. You can’t punt twice and turn the ball over three times in six possessions against the Chiefs. You’ll lose by 50. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -3

Broncos at Jets
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are two of the greatest of all time at their respective jobs. There is absolutely no denying that. They’ve also operated in a division that has been laughably horrible throughout Brady and Belichick’s nearly two-decade reign. Let’s use last week as a snapshot of AFC East incompetence outside New England. The Bills, Dolphins and Jets combined to score 19 points in Week 4. The Patriots dropped 38. The Bills, Dolphins and Jets managed only 495 yards of total offense and converted 9 of 40 3rd downs. The Patriots totaled 449 yards and converted 10 of 15 3rd downs. It goes without saying that the Patriots won and the rest of the division did not. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -1.5

Falcons at Steelers
This promises to be a thrilling contest. I don’t think either team can afford another loss this early in the season. Atlanta currently resides in the basement of the best division in football. A 1-4 start would be nearly impossible to overcome. I almost feel bad for Atlanta. They’ve finally figured out the offense (almost 35 points and over 400 yards per game over their last three) and even fixed their red zone woes (11 of their last 13). Unfortunately, their defense has been so decimated by injuries that they just can’t stop anyone. The Falcons are literally two plays from 3-1. The Steelers, on the other hand, are a complete mess. Another loss at home would officially confirm 2018 as the season from hell. Le’Veon Bell still isn’t back with the team and likely won’t be for at least a few more weeks. Ben Roethlisberger looks erratic, and that’s putting it kindly. Even Antonio Brown is fuming on a weekly basis as he struggles through his worst start in years, if not ever. While Atlanta appears to be a good team fallen on hard times, the Steelers smell like a bad team hanging on for dear life. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +3

Giants at Panthers
I was all for the Giants taking Saquon Barkley with the 2nd pick in the 2018 draft. He was the best football player in the draft. Passing on him would be overthinking it, or so I thought. Turns out, Eli Manning is completely washed and the Giants passed on taking a future franchise quarterback in one of the deepest QB drafts we’ve seen in recent years. Could all of the top quarterbacks taken this year flame out? Sure, but chances are at least one of them hits and maybe two more become reliable starters like Andy Dalton or Alex Smith. The Giants could’ve had their pick of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson. At the very least, they could’ve traded back and taken Barkley later (risky) or taken one of the quarterbacks still available. Don’t get me wrong, Barkley is great, but defenses don’t even pretend to respect the Giants ability to throw downfield. For example, at one point last Sunday, Odell Beckham had 5 receptions for 17 yards. The only reason New York was even in that game against the Saints for as long as they were was the Saints red zone incompetence (0-4 in the 1st half). PANTHERS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers -6.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Raiders at Chargers
I really like both of these teams. Though I don’t think they’re good, Oakland is better than most think and they’re really entertaining. Derek Carr has started to resemble the 2016 version of himself. You know, the one that earned one of the richest contracts at the time. The Chargers are also highly entertaining but with a twinge of disappointment. They can’t seem to play an entire game yet. They were blown out by the Chiefs in Week 1, went up 28-3 on the Bills in Week 2 before calling it quits at halftime, surrendered a block punt for a touchdown and two huge 2nd half fumbles against the Rams in Week 3, and were a roller-coasting mess against the 49ers last week. At some point the coach has to be responsible for the Chargers bipolar disorder. They’re too talented to struggle as much as they do. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -5

Vikings at Eagles
Anytime the NFL wants to protect Carson Wentz’s head like they protect the heads of other quarterbacks will be okay with me. How is this not flagged for roughing the passer?

Anyway, I’d feel much better about this game if the Vikings were 3-1 and not desperate-for-a-win 1-2-1. At least the Vikings don’t have elite receivers to exploit the Eagles struggling secondary… oh wait. I’m a blind homer so I’m sticking with the birds, but I feel as good about this pick as I would about Kavanaugh receiving any kind of honor from the N.O.W. (Upadte: Derek Barnett has been ruled out. He’s been the Eagles best pass rusher outside of Fletcher Cox. This is not good.) EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -3

Cardinals at 49ers
The 49ers were supposed to be one of 2018’s darlings but two torn ACLs have ruined their season and rendered them unwatchable. Arizona has been unwatchable since the words “Sam Bradford” and “signed contract” were used in the same sentence. Maybe Josh Rosen makes them interesting, but I’m going to wait until that is confirmed before I adjust my TV. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals +3

Rams at Seahawks
I love me some Russell Wilson, but perhaps all the offseason talk about him being a top 5 quarterback in the league was a little premature. Though he doesn’t have a ton of talent around him, hovering around 200 passing yards per game is almost inexcusable, especially in today’s NFL. Whether he shoulders the responsibility or not, that Seattle offense is brutal. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams -7.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Cowboys at Texans
Deshaun Watson continues to look better every week. His greatest deficiency right now is sacks. He takes way too many sacks. This is, in my opinion, related to his injury last season. It seems young quarterbacks who miss extended time return with a slower clock. Carson Wentz is dealing with this right now, too. They’re both holding onto the ball a half second too long. I’m too lazy to study film, so it’s hard to say if they’re delayed in their decision making downfield or simply think they have more time than they actually do, but I expect both will become more comfortable and their clocks will adjust as they round back into form. Dallas isn’t an ideal team to have a malfunctioning pocket clock against, though. Pressuring the QB is one of two things they do really, really well. The other is underutilizing Zeke Elliott… until last week. Dallas finally figured out Zeke should get 30 touches a game. He’s their only formidable weapon on offense. No one fears Dak Prescott’s arm or any one of Dallas’ lousy receivers. It’s only Elliott. It’s a fireable offense any time he doesn’t approach 30 touches. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -3

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Redskins at Saints
New Orleans loves their backup QB/switch army knife. I mean, they really, really love him. Maybe even too much. Taysom Hill lined up at quarterback, returner, running back, wide receiver, gunner and fullback in Week 4. New Orleans ran a fake punt through him and even had him play quarterback in the red zone at least three times. This is where they lost me. Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks of all time. If I’m the opposing defense, do I want Brees to have the football or some Tim Tebow knockoff? I get how versatility offers you something there, but when your QB has 500+ touchdown passes, I’m pretty sure your chances of him scoring you points are better than a 2nd year backup from BYU. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -6

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 7 – 6 – 2
Season:   29 – 30 – 4

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