Last week was much better for NFL picks: I went 9-6 against the spread and most of the close calls fell in my favor.
This week, we have our first set of 1-point spreads in top games, including the Patriots matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals and the New Orleans Saints’ matchup with the Chicago Bears. That makes my job much easier.
Pittsburgh, Washington, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay have byes.
Here are my Week 5 picks:
Bills (+4) at Browns (-4) — So Brian Hoyer has made me a believer. Since taking over for Brandon Weeden, the former Patriots quarterback has guided Cleveland to two straight wins, including last week’s solid performance against the Bengals (25 of 38 for 269 yards, 2 TDs). That has overshadowed a really good Browns defense which is third best in the NFL, holding opponents to 291.5 yards per game. They’re particularly stout against the run (79.0 yards per game), which is the Bills’ source of strength.
My pick: Browns
Patriots (+1) at Bengals (-1) — The Patriots are holding opponents to 14.3 points per game, sixth best in the league. The Bengals are coming off a week in which they struggled against the Browns, one of the best defenses in the NFL.
My pick: Patriots
Lions (+7) at Packers (-7) — Reggie Bush is playing phenomenally, truly a great complement to Calvin Johnson out wide for the Lions offense. The Packers, coming off a bye week, are likely going to win this game. But I have a feeling the Lions will be able to cover.
My pick: Lions
Seahawks (-3) at Colts (+3) — I think it’s safe to say that you should pick the Seahawks against every team, save for probably the Broncos. After last week’s come-from-behind victory against the Texans, Seattle should be viewed as an NFC title contender.
My pick: Seahawks
Ravens (+3) at Dolphins (-3) — Ryan Tannehill had his first bad game of the season last week, accounting for four turnovers, as the 3-1 Dolphins lost to the undefeated New Orleans Saints on Monday night. In hosting the much less fierce Ravens, I suspect that Tannehill can bounce back. But the Ravens defense will be no slouch.
My pick: Dolphins
Saints (-1) at Bears (+1) — Drew Brees leads the second best passing attack in the NFL and the Saints defense sports the fifth best pass defense. They’ll need all the help they can get on defense to combat with the Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall connection.
My pick: Saints
Eagles (+3) at Giants (-3) — It’s not just about the turnovers with the Giants, which have a league-leading 16 through the first quarter of the season. They’re defense has also been putrid, allowing opponents to convert on third downs 50 percent of the time. That’s the worst in the league, too, by the way.
My pick: Eagles
Chiefs (-3) at Titans (+3) — Everything is clicking right now for Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs.
My pick: Chiefs
Jaguars (+11.5) at Rams (-11.5) — There is no indication at all that the return of wide receiver Justin Blackmon, suspended the first four games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, will somehow change the fortunes of the winless Jaguars. They’re destined for 0-16. And not a close fought 0-16, but an ugly and extended stretch of futility that will likely have fans screaming for an NFL-wide mercy rule.
My pick: Rams
Panthers (-2) at Cardinals (+2) — In case you’ve been too fixated on the woes of quarterback Cam Newton (I know I have), you might have missed that the Panthers have held opponents to only 52 first downs through three games. The fewer chances the Carson Palmer Cardinals have, the fewer opportunities to find Larry Fitzgerald in the red zone.
My pick: Panthers
Broncos (-8.5) at Cowboys (+8.5) — The Broncos are firing on all cylinders. Sometimes, you just gotta ride it out.
My pick: Broncos
Texans (+7) at 49ers (-7) — I don’t know who is worse to root for, Donte Hitner (ghastly name change) or Matt Schaub (three pick-sixes in three weeks)? Instead, focus on a resurgent Colin Kaepernick who finally found some rhythm against the Rams. He has to continue to improve.
My pick: 49ers
Chargers (-5) at Raiders (+5) — It’s been a surprise to see Philip Rivers perform at such a high level this season. He went an astonishing 35 of 42 passing for 401 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys. He’s sporting a 118.8 quarterback rating this season and has only two picks to his name. Ride the hot hand.
My pick: Chargers
Jets (+10) at Falcons (-10) — The spread may actually be unfair. The Jets have the second best overall defense in the NFL, holding opponents to only 283.0 yards per game on offense. Their problem has mainly been turning the ball over, leading the AFC with 12 (eight interceptions, four fumbles). Geno Smith has accounted for 11 of them.
My pick: Falcons
Last week: 9-6
Zuri Berry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry and on Google+.