Mike made it look easy in this column last week with Kansas City claiming a road win in Washington - and he's looking at the following three NFL outfits to bring home the profits in week five...
"The Raiders are starting EJ Manuel in place of David Carr; he's not only a step down he's a different style of QB who has to show he can adjust to the Raiders' offense (or that they can adjust their game plan). But bad as Baltimore have looked, with injuries and a below-par Joe Flacco, the Raiders' D has regressed from last year, and if it continues to play at such a low level it only takes a couple of long throws from Flacco to connect to turn the game around."
Sometimes it's remarkably easy to look smart. You'll recall last week I recommended taking the Chiefs to win, covering the seven point spread.
Well, with eight seconds left, kicker Harrison Butker, just claimed off Carolina's practice squad, had but the Chiefs ahead of the Skins by two, 22-20. Game over, you thought. Chiefs win, Washington cover. Butker's kickoff went for a touchback, so the Skins had one play to run from their own 25 yard line. Cue the razzle-dazzle, cue a fumble, and watch Justin Houston pick up the loose ball and run it in for a touchdown. The Chiefs, for some reason, went for a two-point conversion, missed, and the final was 29-20. Chiefs win and cover. Never in doubt.
Last night it took a 31 yard field goal miss by Bucs' kicker Nick 'Nowt Like' Folk (his third of the night, though the others were from 49 and 56 yards) to help the Patriots to a 19-14 win. A win I'd predicted in writing. Otherwise I was looking at the under 55 (easy) and the Bucs to cover a five-point spread. A 31 yard miss equals push on that last one. Maybe it's not so easy to look smart (unless you found 5.5 somewhere).
This week it's like the NFL repechage as in the losers' bracket San Francisco goes to Indy, the Jets visit Cleveland, and the winless Chargers at least get frequent-flyer miles to travel to New Jersey and play the equally winless Giants.
You know how some theatres offer a refund if an understudy is in the starting role? Matt Cassell, Jacoby Brissett, Case Keenum, EJ Manuel and Jay Cutler are all starting, along with rookies Mitch Trubisky, DeShawn Kizer and Deshaun Watson. Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a job. There is so much uncertainty about this week I checked to see what Werner Hesienberg's picks were.
Eagles can out-score Cards and cover the handicap
Best Bet: Philadelphia -6.5 @ 20/21 Vs Arizona
I like that the Cardinals are getting less than a touchdown because their two wins have come in overtime, against Indy and San Francisco (ie, bad teams) by 16-13 and 18-15. The Eagles should be able to score more points than that, though Wentz may turn it over once or twice, and I doubt if the Cards can match scoring into the mid-twenties, unless the Eagles give up a long TD to one of the Browns (John or Jaron). I'd be tempted to go under 45 at 10/11. I was looking for another home favourite worth backing without hesitation: you might like Pittsburgh (-8.5 at 20/21) versus Jacksonville, but that may undervalue the Jags' D. However, much as attention focused on LeVeon Bell's getting back into stride last week, the Steelers' D was also looking more dangerous (albeit against the Ravens).
Pack can overcome injuries and beat the Boys
Value Bet: Green Bay to win @ 23/20 at Dallas
How much you like the Packers to win depends on how much faith you have in Aaron Rodgers to manufacture points out of nothing, as he did last year in the playoffs when the Packers beat the Cowboys in the Jerry-built palace. You'll get 10/11 if you take the Pack with 2.5 points. I hesitate on this one only because the Packers' injury list is such a mess: both starting tackles, their top runner, their second receiver and their best D lineman are all limited in practice and questionable for the game. You may want to wait til the final injury report comes through before putting your money down.
Poor Oakland D gives Ravens a chance
Outside Bet: Baltimore +2.5 @ 21/20 at Oakland
The Raiders are starting EJ Manuel in place of David Carr; he's not only a step down he's a different style of QB who has to show he can adjust to the Raiders' offense (or that they can adjust their game plan). But bad as Baltimore have looked, with injuries and a below-par Joe Flacco, the Raiders' D has regressed from last year, and if it continues to play at such a low level it only takes a couple of long throws from Flacco to connect to turn the game around. If this one goes to three points or more, I'd like it better, but still...