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Football Fantasy! Cam Newton’s deep drag, the Bad News Bolts and Aaron Rodgers versus Dave Krieg in week 5

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Eli Manning plays quick toss behind the Rivers family dam, Frank Gore’s role in the NFL-AFL merger, Todd Haley’s bacon ranch rat attack and Bruce Arians and Carson Wentz reunite the Star Child

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Note: If you came looking for fantasy football recommendations, I don’t have anything for you. This season, Football Fantasy! here at Field Gulls will offer a recurring daydream considering the weekly football schedule from a perspective of entertaining narratives and wished-for results across the non-Seattle Seahawks landscape. Here, we welcome storylines and silliness to topple other interests from week to week as we deliver the lowdown on the rest of the league from the land of make believe. For more detailed explanation of the picks, look here.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ insane cover on Monday flipped this picks sheet into a slight loser again last week and dropped my tally on the year against the house almost back to .500. But that’s cool with me because I also enjoy living in a wild world and Football Fantasy! doesn’t just mean I’m the only one who should get to have my prayers bottled into a vinegary hot sauce:

Beside, I wanted K.C. to win as you remember. The only letdown was how I couldn’t double up the Chiefs outright with Washington’s defense covering the point spread. But we’re not about greed here. I’ll say again the computed handicapping picks are only there to relieve the comic tragedy of my purer longings, and the fact the air can come out the other end is, as the devil says, always in the game.

New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Thanks to the bombardment of hurricanes that passed through Florida already this football season, the Bucs have played only three games. But that’s still no excuse for having picked up just a single sack so far—especially after hosting the woeful New York Giants offensive line a week ago. Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, plus rookie defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, have all been out, but even so Tampa has Noah Spence, Robert Ayers and Gerald McCoy capable of tearing through opposing guards and tackles.

Let this be the week they catch up to their potential, harassing Tom Brady (who has already been toppled 13 times this season) like swashbuckling NFL investigators.

My choice: Buccaneers

Sharp pick: Tampa Bay (+5.5)

Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals

I had to triple-check this point spread because there’s no way Cincinnati should be favored over Buffalo after what we’ve seen this year. Maybe the fix is in or maybe Las Vegas has never heard of defensive DVOA? I’ve seen this called a trap game for the Bills but … Buffalo has its bye next week. Ordinarily I’d go for the Bengals because of my lifelong crush on their helmets but, also in my world, I’m hoping it’s not the last bye Tyrod Taylor and company enjoy in the 2017 football season—and to keep ahead of New England this “late” in the year for the first time since 2008 they’ll need victories in winnable road matchups like this.

My choice: Bills

Sharp pick: Buffalo (+3)

New York Jets at Cleveland Browns

Been a long long time since I met anyone named Todd, but it looks like that nomer might be coming back in style. First Todd Haley resurrects his career after flaming out in Kansas City, as the architect of the prolific Pittsburgh Steelers offenses of the past five years, now Todd Gurley is kicking back into dynamic mode—and even Todd Bowles is a good coach again.

Okay, so against the Jacksonville Jaguars he curiously ordered Josh McCown to spike the ball with 30 seconds left instead of letting the clock run down first or simply trying a game-winning overtime field goal on third down in case something went wrong with the snap (and that’s far from his only time management goof), but Bowles has piloted the Jets way higher than expected with two wins already in 2017. After launching Jermaine Kearse’s Hall of Fame candidacy Bowles has also engineered two sacks so far for discarded Seahawks prospect David Bass. I like Bowles, so the prediction here is that he keeps his job even after New York inevitably tailspins.

I don’t have anything else to say about the Jets and Browns so here’s something I learned while looking up Todd Haley a second ago: Back in 2006 when Haley was a wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys, Haley’s wife sued McDonalds for $1.7 million dollars after she found a dead rat in her bacon ranch salad. Definitely better than being sued by Disney, right Todd?

My choice: Browns

Sharp pick: New York (+1)

Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions

Got to be a rout.

My choice: Lions

Sharp pick: Detroit (+2.5)

San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts

Another pairing of teams that started in the All-American Football Conference with the Cleveland Browns, the Colts and 49ers have played each other a lot more (50 times) historically than you might guess, but only eight times in the last 45 years. They used to be division rivals, and played twice a year from 1947 to 1949 and 1953 to 1969, when the NFL moved then-Baltimore over to the AFC. Incidentally that’s the same year San Francisco drafted Frank Gore, who will go against his old club for the first time.

My choice: Colts

Sharp pick: San Francisco (+1.5)

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins

When Miami brought the Wildcat back to pro football in 2008, David Lee and Dan Henning implemented it to balance the odds at the line of scrimmage by matching up more blockers with defenders. But Jay Cutler is a quarterback purist.

Unfortunately Jarvis Landry is like a curious toddler learning by example, so now when Cutler lines under center the Dolphins are at an even greater numbers disadvantage than before.

My choice: Titans

Sharp pick: n/a (no line)

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

These Bad News Bolts and Little Giants are definitely not the two worst teams in the league but they are two of the last winless squads, so it’s unfair one of them will be 0-5 on Monday. I hope Eli Manning continues his lifelong triggering of the Chargers organization by lining up Phillip Rivers’s young children in front of him rather than the New York offensive line. The Giants’ blockers are improving in correspondence with Manning getting the ball out quicker (2.1 seconds per dropback in weeks 3 and 4 helping him avoid any sacks for those games), but the pass protection can always get better.

My choice: Chargers

Sharp pick: Los Angeles (+3.5)

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles

I wish when Bruce Arians gets fired after week 10, he can replace Frank Reich as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator in 2018 so he can whisper his quarterback acumen and country music memes into Carson Wentz’s ear and generate a fiery ball of hate in my gut to match the color of the catalytic reaction when Arians’s face comes so close to Wentz’s haircut. It’ll send me out the roof like Raven after he stole the sun and unwittingly put it next to the moon. Too hot!

My choice: Eagles

Sharp pick: Arizona (+6.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell didn’t sign a long term contract so naturally the Steelers are trying to maximize his value by putting him on pace for 440 touches. As a result, Bell is only rushing at a 3.7 yards per carry clip even though Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been effective blocking for short yardage (fifth in DVOA) and preventing stuffs (seventh). So it’s the second-level rushing (22nd) where the Steelers struggle so far in 2017. That kind of neutralizes Jacksonville’s weak run defense and pits Ben Roethlisberger against Jalen Ramsey and the Jags’ number one pass defense. I’m looking forward to Antonio Brown hanging the big rapist out to dry after Roethlisberger snubbed Brown versus the Baltimore Ravens and for the second straight week publicly antagonized his teammate.

My choice: Jaguars

Sharp pick: Jacksonville (+9)

Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders

Marshawn or no Marshawn, mother math is undefeated.

My choice: Raiders

Sharp pick: Baltimore (+2.5)

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Aaron Rodgers is 175 passing yards away from pushing Seahawks legend Dave Krieg off the top 20 all-time. The Cowboys have the 28th-ranked pass defense in the league. So. We need Rodgers to retire or suffer a career-ending injury sometime in the first quarter.

My choice: Cowboys

Sharp pick: Green Bay (+2)

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson makes me daydream about how funny it could be if Alex Smith loses his job during a Super Bowl run after rejuvenating his career for the second time. Gosh we’re lucky the Cardinals were too dumb to end up with Watson or Patrick Mahomes.

My choice: Texans

Sharp pick: Houston (+1.5)

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

Sam Bradford keeps screwing up the balance of my picks, because the uncertainty around his return forbids the casinos from putting out a line on Vikings games. Which is stupid, because Bradford obviously isn’t coming back soon and it’s not like Case Keenum’s play has altered the course of Minnesota’s season any. Keenum is holding steady at fourth in QBR after Bradford’s prolific start. It’s almost a joke on Chicago, which hasn’t been able to field a healthy wide receiver but has too many bad quarterbacks while the Vikings’ QB shortage hasn’t prevented the Minnesota offense from supporting any Rams castoffs Rick Spielman has been able to bring in.

(You know Jeff Fisher was a certain kind of coach when Keenum, Bradford and Jared Goff have all been swimming blissfully downstream in his absence. No wonder Austin Davis was able to secure Seattle’s backup gig.)

It gets a little harder for Keenum or Bradford (or Teddy Bridgewater’s eventual comeback) now that Dalvin Cook is out for the rest of his rookie year. What I want is for the NFL to contract these clubs and field one solid offense out of them. If my petty wish for Aaron Rodgers’ annihilation doesn’t come true, that may be the only way to save us from the Packers getting the top seed.

My choice: Bears

Sharp pick: n/a (no line)


On the year:

My choices (straight up): 22-37 (6-9 last week)

Sharp picks (against the spread): 29-28 (6-8 last week)