It has been a rough start to the season here at SportSmasher.com, there are no two ways around it, however we are determined to bounce back. Our best bets have been awful, our picks against the spread have been terrible, and if we lived in Las Vegas we would be broke. However, the lone bright spot has been our outright picks, where we are an excellent (50-27) on the moneyline this season. Maybe we should stick to picking winners and take the point spread out of it. What would be the fun in that? It’s time to bounce back. Let’s get to our NFL Picks for week six.
BYE WEEKS: Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins
New York Giants @ Chicago Bears (-9) The New York Giants are shockingly (0-5) and are looking for their first win when they head to Chicago on Thursday night to take on the (3-2) Bears. This spread immediately jumped out at me, these Thursday night games are notoriously sloppy and close games, as both teams are still nursing injuries from last Sunday and did not have adequate time to prepare. The New York Giants have a horrific offensive line, which cannot protect quarterback Eli Manning or open up holes in the running game, which has doomed them for the 2013 season. The Chicago Bears are normally led by one of the strongest defenses in football, and one of the little discussed facts in the NFL this season is that the Bears have actually been awful defensively, and could be without one of their best defenders cornerback Charles Tillman in this game. The Bears have also lost two key defensive tackles, Pro Bowler Henry Melton and Nate Collins, for the season with injuries that have really hurt their interior defense. I think this will be a close game, I expect the receivers on each side of the ball to be able to make some big plays against weak back sevens for each defense, and whichever team turns the ball over the least will likely win another sloppy Thursday night showdown. I think the points are free money in this game.
THE PICK: Giants (+9) FINAL SCORE: Bears 27 Giants 23
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: GIANTS (-9)***
P.S. How does Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride still have a job, I knows Tom Coughlin is a loyal guy, but Gilbride is the most predictable play caller in the NFL and needs to go.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) The Oakland Raiders are a surprising (2-3), and it seems as though they have found a true playmaker in quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who makes a few incredible plays each game with his strong arm and athletic ability. While the Raiders seem to have a legitimate face of the franchise to lead them into the future, his supporting cast has struggled, and the rest of the team is not good enough to follow his lead just yet. The Kansas City Chiefs are unbeaten (5-0) led by head coach Andy Reid, and the nastiest pass rush in the NFL (21.0 sacks), headlined by Justin Houston (8.5 sacks). I would like to see this Kansas City team play from behind, because they have not shown the ability to throw the ball downfield on offense, which may be their Achilles heel. I do not think this will happen this Sunday in Arrowhead however, and with the Chiefs easy schedule, we may have to wait until their two divisional showdowns with the Denver Broncos until they face a true test. I think that the Chiefs defense will harass Pryor on every play, forcing him into bad throws, and see a huge game for Jamaal Charles offensively. Chiefs easy at home.
THE PICK: Chiefs (-8.5) FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 31 Raiders 17
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1.5) The Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) are tied for first place in the horrible NFC East, and while they have their flaws, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson have been excellent fits in new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. This is a battle of untested quarterbacks, as Nick Foles will get the start for the Eagles in place of the injured Michael Vick. The Buccaneers (0-4) are winless, and cut former starting quarterback Josh Freeman, replacing him with rookie Mike Glennon. The Buccaneers have been close in three of four if their losses, as they lost those three games by a combined six points, and I expect this game to end in a similar fashion. I think that the Buccaneers will hang in this game early, but mistakes by their rookie quarterback and big plays by the Eagles offensive stars will allow the Eagles to pull away late and get a big win, as they continue to stay in the race in the lowly NFC East.
THE PICK: Eagles (-1.5) FINAL SCORE: Eagles 24 Buccaneers 16
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: EAGLES (-1.5)***
***REXRATED BEST BET: EAGLES (-1.5)***
Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens (+3) A really interesting matchup between two teams who were expected to be contenders in their divisions at the start of the season, as the winner could vault back into that category, while the loser could be fighting for a wild card spot at season’s end. The defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens have not looked great this season, and quarterback Joe Flacco has not played like a Super Bowl MVP, but they still have a respectable (3-2) record and are un beaten at home. The best player on the Ravens this season has been linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has been all over the field for a defense that is struggling as they teach plenty of new talent the scheme. The Green Bay Packers have also gotten off to a slow start (2-2) to their 2013 season, but their two losses have both been close games on the road to good teams, the 49ers and the Bengals. The Packers are also dealing with several key injuries, including to their running backs, and the team just learned that their best pass rusher Clay Matthews will miss a month with a thumb injury. I think that this is going to be a tight game, which could go either way, but when a team that is unbeaten at home is giving points to a team that has not won on the road and both teams are fairly equal I take the points.
THE PICK: Ravens (+3) FINAL SCORE: Ravens 31 Packers 28
Detroit Lions @ Cleveland Browns (+3) This is a difficult game to call, because Detroit Lions (3-2) superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson may not play due to a knee injury, and as we saw last weekend the Lions are a totally different team without “Megatron” in the lineup. Johnson obviously draws a ton of attention, and without the threat of him on the field, it is much more difficult for quarterback Matthew Stafford’s other targets in the passing game to get open. The Cleveland Browns (3-2) got off to an (0-2) start, traded their best offensive player Trent Richardson, and looked like they were giving up on this season to “Tank-For-Teddy” Bridgewater. Since that trade, the Browns are (3-0), and are tied for first place in the AFC North. Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden was injured, and lost his job to Brian Hoyer, who was then lost for the season to a knee injury. Weeden got his job back, and the results should not be terrible, as he was supposed to be the starter in the first place. The Browns are excellent defensively, and wide receiver Josh Gordon has added a new element to their offense since being suspended for the first two games of the season (both losses), as his deep speed opens up the offense for everyone else. Due to the questions surrounding Johnson’s knee, and the way that his absence alters the Lions offense, I’ll take the points at home.
THE PICK: Browns (+3) FINAL SCORE: Browns 23 Lions 20
Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings (-3) There is a quarterback controversy brewing for the Minnesota Vikings (1-3), because starter Christian Ponder went out with an injured rib, and backup Matt Cassel took over and led the team to its only win of the season. The team then just signed strong armed Josh Freeman, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will eventually become the starter. Freeman throws a much better deep ball than either Ponder or Cassel, which will keep defenses from stacking the box against the best offensive weapon in the league, running back Adrian Peterson. Freeman is not yet up to speed with the Vikings offense, and although Ponder has been deemed healthy, Matt Cassel will get the start on Sunday. It seems to me that Las Vegas still believes in the Carolina Panthers, but this gambler does not, and it is proving to be very profitable. The Panthers (1-3) were favorites on the road against the Arizona Cardinals last weekend, and they got absolutely smoked, and it’s going to continue to happen. The Panthers have a very talented quarterback who has zero offensive weapons, and a very talented front seven on defense, with no secondary. Despite the looming quarterback controversy in Minnesota, they are simply the more talented team, and will win this game at home. This could be Ron Rivera’s last game as head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
THE PICK: Vikings (-3) FINAL SCORE: Vikings 31 Panthers 20
St. Louis Rams @ Houston Texans (-9) The Houston Texans (2-3) have really struggled, and nobody in the league is struggling more than quarterback Matt Schaub, who’s future in Houston looks grim. Schaub has thrown interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns in each of the team’s last four games, fans have been burning his jersey in the parking lot, and a fan even showed up at his house to tell him off. The Texans still have an excellent passing defense, and I expect them to get back on track at home on Sunday, unfortunately the upcoming schedule does not get much easier. The St. Louis Rams finally have some talent on offense, however this talent is being totally wasted by coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and his vanilla play calling. The Rams never attack downfield, their offensive game plan is one of the most predictable in the league, it consists of primarily inside handoffs, check downs and passes to a running back in the flat. Houston is simply too good defensively to give up points at home to a Rams offense that is so conservative that it does not even attempt passes downfield while behind. Houston’s defense smothers a non-existent Rams offense, and if I am Jeff Fisher, I am actively searching for a new offensive coordinator who has some guts.
THE PICK: Texans (-9) FINAL SCORE: Texans 27 Rams 10
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Jets (-3) How impressive was Geno Smith on Monday Night Football? The Jets rookie quarterback was named the AFC Offensive Player Of The Week, as he was (16-20) passing and threw three touchdown passes, in the team’s road win over the Atlanta Falcons. What has been most impressive to me about the New York Jets (3-2) this season has been their defensive front seven, which has absolutely shut down their opponent’s rushing attack, while getting pressure on quarterbacks with Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie Sheldon Richardson leading the charge. This does not bode well for the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-5) who, despite coming off of a bye week, match up badly with the Jets. The Steelers offense has been atrocious this season, starting with the offensive line, which has been unable to open up holes for the running backs or protect Ben Roethlisberger. Defensively, the Steelers have also taken a step back, but their defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is an all-time great who will force Geno Smith into some rookie mistakes with zone blitzes. However, the Jets defense is playing at too high of a level for the Steelers to be able to move the ball, and an excellent effort by their front seven shuts the Steelers down.
THE PICK: Jets (-3) FINAL SCORE: Jets 20 Steelers 13
*REXRATED NOTE: As a Jets fan this has trap game written all over it. Huge MNF win on the road. Short week. Looking ahead to New England. Cro banged up in practice. A Steelers defense that can scheme blitz packages. Crappy weather Geno is not the same as good weather Geno.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills (+7) The Buffalo Bills (2-3) are a tough team to beat when rookie quarterback EJ Manuel is healthy, his strong arm and ability to make plays with his legs remind me of a young Steve McNair, however he will miss this game and likely several more with a knee injury. The Bills will start Thad Lewis at quarterback in this game, and the offense has been slowed by nagging injuries to two of its most important playmakers, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and running back C.J. Spiller. The Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) are led by an excellent defense, which will make things very difficult for Thad Lewis and the Bills offense this weekend, as I expect them to shut down Buffalo’s running attack and force Lewis to throw the ball. Offensively, the Bengals will pound the running game, and use a conservative passing offense to pick the Bills apart. Watch Buffalo’s rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso in this game, he is all over the field, and is a star in the making.
THE PICK: Bengals (-7) FINAL SCORE: Bengals 24 Bills 10
Tennessee Titans @ Seattle Seahawks (-14) You have to feel bad for Tennessee Titans (3-2) quarterback Jake Locker, it looked like the light had turned on for him, and he was leading the team to wins before suffering a hip injury which will force him out for at least a month. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for Locker, and the Titans offense has looked inept since, now they go to the toughest place in the league to play. Seattle does not lose home games, they were unbeaten at home last season, and are unbeaten at home so far this season. Tennessee’s defense is underrated, but Seattle’s defense is too good, and will force Fitzpatrick into mistakes and turnovers. When Seattle has the ball, expect a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch, and some big plays from Russell Wilson in the passing game. I think that the Seahawks will destroy the Titans in this game, if you like picking winners, the moneyline is a sure thing.
THE PICK: Seahawks (-14) FINAL SCORE: Seahawks 38 Titans 16
***SPORTSMASHER BEST BET: SEAHAWKS (-14)***
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Denver Broncos (-27) We get to see the largest point spread in NFL history play out this weekend, as the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars (-5) head north to Denver to take on the unbeaten Broncos (5-0). The Broncos are a well oiled machine offensively, Peyton Manning is on pace to break several NFL records, and has been spreading the ball all over the field to his plethora of offensive weapons. Denver’s one weakness is their defense, a decent offense can score a lot of points on them, and to beat them it is going to have to be a shootout. Dallas almost accomplished this feat last weekend, however it would be shocking if Jacksonville were able to even stay in this game, let alone win. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this, Denver is better than Jacksonville in every facet of the game, and even if they rest Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter they will cover this spread easily.
THE PICK: Denver (-27) FINAL SCORE: Denver 51 Jacksonville 13
***REXRATED BEST BET: JAGUARS (+27)***
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers (-11) The Arizona Cardinals (3-2) are an excellent defensive team, which is overshadowed by how bad they are offensively, when you combine these two they are simply mediocre. The Cardinals cannot run the football, and although rookie Andre Ellington looks like he has potential, they continually run what’s left of veteran Rashad Mendenhall into the line for one yard gains. Quarterback Carson Palmer has looked like Carson Palmer, a statue in the pocket, who can make all the throws and with them lots of mistakes. Arizona’s excellent defense and playmakers on that side of the ball including Darnell Dockett, “The Honey Badger” and Patrick Peterson will keep them in games, including this one. The 49ers (3-2) look like legitimate threats to win the NFC and head back to the Super Bowl one week, and awful the next, because of their lack of offensive consistency. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is in a sophomore slump in his second year as a starter, and if the 49ers are unable to get the running game going with Frank Gore, they become stagnant offensively. The 49ers will pressure Palmer into some poor throws, and will get some turnovers which will lead to points, but the Cardinals defense keeps this game close. Take the points.
THE PICK: Cardinals (+11) FINAL SCORE: 49ers 24 Cardinals 17
***REXRATED BEST BET: CARDINALS (+11)***
New Orleans Saints @ New England Patriots (-3) The unbeaten New Orleans Saints (5-0) have been one of the most surprising teams in the NFL this season, nut because of their offense, we knew that it would be great. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan arrived, and quickly revamped the worst defense in NFL history into one of the best units in the league in less than a year despite the fact that they lost several prospective starters to injuries. Another team that has overcome several injuries to key players to stay among the league’s elite is the New England Patriots, who are (4-1), and should finally get a healthy Rob Gronkowski back this weekend. Tom Brady has done a lot without some of his favorite targets this season, and while the Patriots are getting healthy offensively (although running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are still injured) they now need to replace nose tackle Vince Wilfork who is out for the season with a torn Achilles. The Patriots are coming off of their first loss of the season of against the Bengals, and historically they do not lose two games in a row, especially when the second is a home game. The Saints can afford to lose this one, and the Pats will have more of a sense of urgency, Tom Brady outduels Drew Brees.
THE PICK: Patriots (-3) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 34 Saints 30
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys (-6) The Washington Redskins (1-3) are coming off of a bye week, and quarterback Robert Griffin III has not looked like himself yet this season as he continues recovering from a serious knee injury, maybe the bye week let Griffin regain confidence in his knee that will allow him to return to form. Although Griffin’s struggles are the most glaring issue for the Redskins, they are not the only one, the Skins also are horrible defensively especially in the secondary. This weakness will get exposed in a big way this Sunday night in Dallas, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has been unstoppable (423 yards, 6 touchdowns) for the Cowboys this season, and I expect him to have a monster game against the Redskins. Maybe RGIII returns to form on national television, but until I see it, I think that Dallas lights up a weak Redskins defense at home and easily covers this spread. The Redskins will get better once RGIII gets more confident in his knee, but he is not there yet, and Dallas should be able to torch the Redskins secondary.
THE PICK: Cowboys (-6) FINAL SCORE: Cowboys 34 Redskins 24
Indianapolis Colts @ San Diego Chargers (+3.5) Many of the so called football “experts” thought that the Indianapolis Colts overachieved in 2012, that they rode the momentum of “Chuckstrong” and that they were going to regress in 2013. Well the Colts (4-1) are making all of these experts look silly, they have been dominant this season, and are leading their division. The San Diego Chargers (2-3) have been playing better this season, especially quarterback Phillip Rivers, who looks competent for the first time in about three years. They have some excellent players in their front seven on defense, and their offensive line is starting to gel, they are another draft away from being a good football team. The Colts are a good football team right now, they have the best second year starting quarterback in football in Andrew Luck (who is outplaying RGIII, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Colin Kaepernick who I include in this group although he was drafted a year previously), and the Colts defense is better in the second year under the tutelage of head coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts roll in San Diego on Monday Night Football.
THE PICK: Colts (-3.5) FINAL SCORE: Colts 31 Chargers 20
Against The Spread (6-9-1) Outright (6-10)
SportSmasher Best Bets (1-2) RexRated Best Bets (2-1)
Against The Spread (7-8-1) Outright (13-3)
SportSmasher Best Bets (0-3) RexRated Best Bets (1-1-1)
Against The Spread (7-8-1) Outright (11-5)
SportSmasher Best Bets (1-2) RexRated Best Bets (1-2)
Against The Spread (7-8) Outright (10-5)
SportSmasher Best Bets (2-1) RexRated Best Bets (0-3)
Against The Spread (5-9) Outright (10-4)
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Against The Spread (32-42-3) Outright (50-27)
SportSmasher Best Bets (5-10) RexRated Best Bets (4-10-1)