Alright gang, how did that feel? 12-2 fits nicely, doesn't it? Thank you to everyone that contacted me about which address to send my 5% cut of your office pool winnings to; I've used that money to buy Paul Allen's private plane, dip it in bald eagle placenta, fly it to that one planet that scientists think is made entirely of diamonds, make a bonfire, enjoy the view, cut down some diamond trees, make a space raft, row to Androm-- look, it's a lot of money, is my point. Or would be, if any of you greedsacs actually sent me my percentage.
Anyhow, after last week, these Winners picks are now 51-26 on the season, placing us five games ahead of the sharps in Vegas through five weeks, and planting us firmly in the top half of the top 1% globally.
With gargantuan blazes of glory illuminating the conquered trail behind us, we shift our shameful, money-grubbing gaze forward -- into Week 6, with the blissful hope of emerging with slightly more money than you have right now.
Thursdays have been a hemorrhoid on the otherwise picturesque ass of my Winners. Having only correctly selected two of five previous midweek contests, we've found ourselves crawling out of an early hole more often than not. Still, I can say I feel pretty confident about picking the Steelers in this one.
I know that Troy Polamalu is going to miss this game, and I know that over the last few years the Pittsburgh defense is a full touchdown worse without him than they are when he starts, but the overall talent gap between these two teams is still large. Look, Tennessee has some playmakers in Jared Cook, Kendall Wright, and yes, Chris Johnson (it's not his fault), but that offensive line is so horrid that none of it matters. When you can stop a running attack with only for or five defenders, like most Titans opponents can, losing a Pro Bowl safety hurts a lot less because you can just drop extra guys into coverage.
The Steelers defense hasn't been great this year, but they won't need to be in this one. Ben Roethlisberger has turned the offense into a seven-step drop, downfield aerial attack and the return of Rashard Mendenhall should mean a nice game on the ground as well. It's a dark time for Titans fans right now.
THE PICK: STEELERS
Sunday kicks off with the stoniest, coldest lock of the entire week, as the undefeated Falcons play host to the We'd-rather-be-feared-than-respected-but-since-you-don't-respect-us-either-can-you-just-take-it-easy-on-us-please-just-this-once? Raiders. There's not a lot to say about this game other than you can rightly assume a bloodbath.
THE PICK: FALCONS
I haven't picked the Browns to win once this year and they haven't let me down yet, while simultaneously constantly letting down every single one of their fans always. So here's why I'm picking them to win: for one, Cincinnati is not as good as their record would imply, and their inability to put away a still bad Dolphins team last week belied that. Secondly, I don't think Cleveland is as bad as their record, either. That's not to say that this team is bad, but more that all of this team's most important players are still young.
Trent Richardson has been terrific for a rookie, amassing 472 yards from scrimmage behind a line that's awful at best and against defenses knowing he's more likely to get the ball than not. How terrific has he been? Well he's a 5'9" NFL running back and no one ever talks about how he's only 5'9". I expect Richardson to get going early, opening up the pass game that has shown the ability to score from long range once the defense gets sucked up towards the line.
The biggest question for me will be whether the Browns defense can hold off Andy Dalton and AJ Green should they be granted a lead. I say they do, barely.
THE PICK: BROWNS
Two rather befuddling teams at play in this one. St Louis is 3-2, but they won one of those games with only seven completed passes and with their best weapon, Danny Amendola, out for the better part of the season, there's no reason to think Bradford will complete many more against a Dolphins defense that has been surprisingly stout. How important is Amendola to the Rams offense? Well, after he separated his shoulder last week against the Cardinals, Bradford set a career worst by throwing 11 straight incompletions.
Two years ago, with a healthy Amendola, the Rams had a decent offense despite trotting out a rookie QB and a brand new O-line, and came within a Whitehurst of making the playoffs.Then, last year, when Amendola broke his elbow in Week 1, St Louis turned in one of the worst seasons in team history. Through four games and one drive this season, they were petty okay (which is huge for them) but after his injury, they immediately reverted back to being a gilded blue pile of suck.
Besides, Miami has moved the ball remarkably well themselves, with Reggie Bush morphing into a reliable every down back and Brian Hartline emerging as the leading receiver in the NFL. Yep, Brian Hartline. BRIAN HARTLINE IS THE LEADING RECEIVER IN THE NFL DO YOU GUYS EVEN REALIZE WHAT I'M SAYING?
THE PICK: DOLPHINS
Did you know that Andrew Luck ran the same 4.59 40 at the NFL Combine that Cam Newton did, or that Luck had a higher vertical leap than Newton, or that Luck posted a faster three-cone drill than Cam? Crazy right? Look at Andrew Luck, look at him. The new QB of the Indianapolis Colts has the mind of Peyton Manning and the athleticism of Cam Newton. Robert Griffin III has made the biggest splash so far this year, and I won't take anything away from what he's done because he's been great, but I won't shrink from this next sentence: in Andrew Luck, we may be watching the blossoming of the greatest quarterback God has ever seen fit to put on this earth.
He has single-handedly re-birthed Reggie Wayne (fun visual) and with the Jets lacking Darrell Revis, I'm not sure they'll be able to do much to beat the Colts outside of running gimmicky plays with Tim Tebow and Antonio Cromartie. Lord knows they don't have a real offense.
THE PICK: COLTS
The Eagles continue to be the most bizarre team in the NFL, and it's been going on for about 18 months now. They are absolutely loaded with top-tier talent but their lack of depth and cohesion has resulted in a combined record of 11-10 since they got every single free agent on the 2011 market. I love Andy Reid, and I think Michael Vick's run of turnovers is more anomaly than trend, but their inability to turn yards into points i just maddening.
This is the same problem they ran into last year through their first 12 games, but when they figured it out, they were the best team in the league of the last fourth of 2011. This year, they've managed to escape some ugly fumble-laden games with wins, meaning that even if it takes them 12 games to put it all together again this year, they should be well ahead of the 4-8 mark they sported in '11.
All of this is to say that I think the Eagles can be an 11-12 win team, and I still see them as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Lions, on the other hand, are 1-3 (with their lone victory coming at home with a last-minute drive against the Rams) and have a lot of people wondering what has happened to them, especially considering their "breakout" year in 2011. I'll tell you what happened to them, they stayed the same team. The Lions are, in my opinion, just as good as they were last year, which is to say they are a true-talent 8-8 team and when you're a true-talent 8-8 team you're susceptible to the whims of fate.Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don't. I say the fates are against Duck Lips Schwartz and Co this week.
THE PICK: EAGLES
Whenever the Bucs have a bye week, I completely forget that they exist, only to be startled by their reappearance on the schedule the following week. This is how babies must feel when their parents play peek-a-boo. Still...
THE PICK: BUCCANEERS
This game will carry a lot national media weight, and it's not totally undeserved. I mean, the Cowboys are always overrated, but just because they receive undeserved press doesn't mean that they're a terrible team or anything. In fact, if this game were in Dallas, I'd be comfortable picking them to win. It's no secret that I like Tony Romo's game and I think he's good enough to overcome bad O-line play more often than not. Besides, Rob Ryan's defense is pretty damn good (1st against the pass, 4th overall) and DeMarco Murray is a straight beast whenever he's granted more than three steps to gain momentum.
That said, the Ravens have taken their game to another level. While not elite, their defense is still playing very well but it's their offense that has evolved to another level. Joe Flacco is looking like a top 10 QB, Ray Rice is still Ray Rice, and Torrey Smith has become a for real field-stretching threat. This game is being played in the home of The Wire, and I fully expect the Ravens to go Omar on the Cowboys' ass.
THE PICK: RAVENS
You guys ready to live in a world where the Arizona Cardinals are 5-1?
THE PICK: CARDINALS
We all know how good the Seahawks defense has been so far this year. So good that they've only allowed three offensive touchdowns in their first five games, despite playing Romo, Aaron Rodgers, and Cam Newton "and John Skelton!" //shut up John Skelton//. This is a great defensive unit, and there's no reason to think it won't get better. It's easy to look at the waste they've laid to other good offenses this year, especially at home, and assume that it will happen again this week, but the Patriots bring special kind of polish and vigor that none of the 'Hawks other opponents can match.
On top of the incredible arsenal of receiving weapons at his disposal (Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, probably Aaron Hernandez), Tom Brady can also hand it off to Stevan Ridley, the fifth-leading rusher in the NFL. In fact, the Patriots come into this game as the clear-cut best offense in the league, ranking first in yards and first in scoring. ll of this is enhanced by their adaptation of a no-huddle offense, which ran a stout Broncos defense right into the ground last week.
This will be the toughest test the Seahawks D will face while also being the toughest test the Patriots O will face. There's going to be a lot of face in this game. Still, I think that New England's defense (17th in DVOA) is better than Seattle's offense (22nd in DVOA) and I think the discrepancy will be enough to overcome the noise inside of Century Link on Sunday.
Prove me wrong, guys.
THE PICK: PATRIOTS
Look, I've read the comments sections whenever the 49ers come up, and I know a lot of you think they're overrated. As I've said many times before, I've expected more regression from this team than I've seen, but we may just all have to realize that the Niners might actually be a great football team. And you know what, there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with having to beat a great team to win your own division and if you find yourself knocking San Fran's team, try to step back and see why you're doing it. Do you realize how good you have to be to be considered a 6.5-point favorite over a defending Super Bowl champion? So good. It never happens, especially when that champion is from New York, which consistently pulls the line in favor of the Giants because Vegas knows they have mass national appeal.
The 49ers have become a very good offensive team on top of being an elite defensive unit. There's a very real chance that the Seahawks will go into Week 7 a full two games behind two different teams in the NFC West. I want to be very wrong about that.
THE PICK: 49ERS
I've been impressed with Minnesota so far this year, especially with the enormous strides taken by Christian Ponder. With Adrian Peterson seemingly near full capacity and Percy Harvin developing into an elite receiver, there's a lot to like about this team. Still, home teams carry a lot of leverage in the NFL ad with signs that RGIII will be ready to go, I'm agreeing with Vegas that the 'Skins hold erve.
THE PICK: REDSKINS
Get ready for an all-out freak-out in Wisconsin.
THE PICK: TEXANS
I really think the Chargers hot start has been fools gold and I think this game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos will solidify that. Yeah, San Diego's at home for this one and yeah, they have a better record than Denver, but the Broncos losses have come at Atlanta, against Houston, and at New England, teams with a combined record of 13-2. The Chargers losses, meanwhile, have come to the 1-4 Saints and at home to the Falcons. So sure, there's a common vanquisher, but Denver lost by six on the road in their tilt with the Dirty Birds while the Bolts were embarrassed on their own turf, 23-6.
Denver's Off./Def./Ovr. DVOAs (8th/11th/9th) are way better than San Diego's (20th/16th/16th) AND I struggle to think of any position on the field in which the Chargers are demonstrably better than the Broncos. In my mind, there's no doubt who the better team is here.
THE PICK: BRONCOS
Good luck, and may you all bask in the wonder of a third straight 12-win week.