Friends, I’m gonna level with you: I just don’t get this NFL season. It’s been like a roller coaster for me so far. I nailed the majority of my picks in Weeks 1 and 3. I struggled to get to .500 in Weeks 2 and 4. I’m not going to masquerade as an expert. I’m just shooting you straight. There are some things I feel really good about this season and there are some things that are still a mystery to me even after four weeks of football. Read on to find out what those things are, and to take a look at my Week 5 picks.
GREEN BAY PACKERS over Minnesota Vikings
What I Know: There is going to come a point when I start to despise Jerick McKinnon because he’s stealing carries from Matt Asiata (who suddenly, improbably, and most likely unfortunately, has become my most productive fantasy football running back).
What I Don’t Know: Well, I don’t know where the hell Jerick McKinnon came from or why he’s going to sabotage Eat, Sleep, Conquer The League (my fantasy team). Luckily, Aaron Rodgers is my quarterback and even though he skewered the Chicago Bears last week, my bets are always hedged. If the Green Bay Packers win that likely means Rodgers does well, and if Rodgers does well that means Sonny does well. If the Packers lose, Rodgers could still have a big game and that’s a win-win for Sonny. And even if the Packers lose and Rodgers stinks it up, Sonny is still happy because the Packers losing is better for the Bears. Let’s move on so Sonny stops referring to himself in the third person.
CAROLINA PANTHERS over Chicago Bears
What I Know: I know that I’m never going to pick the Bears again. Maybe this is poor writing ethics or breaking man code or something like that, but if I pick the Bears to lose every week and they win, I’ll be happy. If I pick the Bears to lose every week and they lose, at least I picked the game correctly. Sorry, that’s just the way I’m playing it from here on out. And on the flip side, why should I pick Chicago, on the road, when they are easily the most banged up team in the league? Name me another team that has been decimated with injuries like the Bears have. Charles Tillman, done for the year. Jared Allen, Brandon Marshall, Chris Conte, Ryan Mundy, Roberto Garza, and Jeremiah Ratliff, all banged up. I’m beginning to worry that just because I’m a Bears fan I’m gonna pull a hammy when I step out of the shower.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know if the Panthers offense is good enough to exploit the Bears’ sub-par defense. Carolina apparently forgot how to run the ball and call me crazy, but I still don’t trust Cam Newton—especially with that receiving core—to be able to move the ball consistently. Against the Bears? You could talk me into believing it. Against the Cincinnati Bengals next week? I’ll let Marco from Tropoja handle this one:
Cleveland Browns over TENNESSEE TITANS
What I Know: My mom had the funniest comment of the day last Sunday. She got one look at Charlie Whitehurst and said, “He doesn’t play football. He’s in a band.” That’s probably what Titans fans were thinking too.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know why Hector Diaz stopped doing the Snout Game of the Week. I thoroughly enjoyed that concept and his first writeup. I expected it to be a regular part of my week. Now it’s Week 5 and I haven’t had snout in nearly a month. Well, I’m a man of my word. I’ll take over snout duties, and the Snout Game for Week 5 is definitely Cleveland at Tennessee. Even Scott Hanson is going to avoid watching this one.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES over St. Louis Rams
What I Know: Everybody expected the Eagles to really click this year because it was year two running Chip Kelly’s offense. But I looked at the alternative … wouldn’t good defenses have an easier time figuring out the Eagles offense since they had more film on it?
What I Don’t Know: Why has Darren Sproles only gotten eight touches since his Monday Night Football explosion against the Colts?
NEW YORK GIANTS over Atlanta Falcons
What I Know: The Atlanta Falcons don’t win outdoor games. I think the only team I would pick Atlanta to beat outside of a dome is the Oakland Raiders, who made me look clairvoyant when they fired Dennis Allen after a loss in London. At least they let him fly home on the team plane first. Anyway, back to Atlanta. Can they possibly make the playoffs winning only one outdoor game all year (at Tampa Bay, Week 10)? It feels like it’s a possibility that they can go 1-7 on the road and still manage to win the NFC South. New Orleans’ offense doesn’t have the pop it used to and their defense is garbage. Carolina is entering a brutal stretch and their offense is no good. Tampa Bay ruined my Eliminator Pool chances last week—yeah, I’m bitter—and I’m definitely not prepared to give my full support to Mike Glennon.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know if this is going to be one of those games where everyone piles on the Giants bandwagon only for it to blow a tire and let everyone down. The Giants do this at least three times every year (except last year when that bandwagon was in the shop for 17 straight weeks). After two straight wins, one in primetime, it’s starting to feel like one of those seasons where New York makes an unexpected run. Offensively they have the pieces around Eli Manning and the division looks like it might not only be up for grabs, but competitive amongst the rest of the league. Just beware of the dreaded Giants dud.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What I Know: The Saints win at home. That’s money in the bank.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know if the Bucs are going to give up 56 points every time they play in a dome. If that’s a trend that continues, I’d say they are in big trouble on Sunday. And by the way, how the f*** do the Steelers blow that game last week? It cost me my chances in an Eliminator Pool, so that’s why I’m bitter and resorted to profanity. I should’ve just stuck with San Diego.
Pittsburgh Steelers over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
What I Know: I’m mad at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know when I’m going to be prepared to discuss them again.
DALLAS COWBOYS over Houston Texans
What I Know: If Dallas keeps running the ball like they have been and their defense remains league-average, they’ll definitely finish better than 8-8. I’ll go even further: as long as things don’t drastically change—for example, Jerry Jones deciding that he should be the offensive coordinator—I have Dallas penciled in as the favorites in the NFC East. Please, don’t remind me that I’ve picked Dallas to win the NFC East for the last seven years.
What I Don’t Know: I still don’t know what to make of the Texans. Are they good? Are they just going to beat up on the bad teams all year? Can they go 12-4? Will they end up 6-10? And by the way, when does Jadeveon Clowney come back? We need him and J.J. Watt on the field together as much as possible.
DETROIT LIONS over Buffalo Bills
What I Know: Kyle Orton definitely isn’t the answer for the Buffalo Bills. I unfortunately know this all too well. Orton might be the middle-class man’s Rex Grossman. That isn’t a compliment.
What I Don’t Know: A point made by my cousin Paul Clark: Why wouldn’t the Bills take a shot with … wait for it … Tim Tebow? Remember, the 2011 Denver Broncos started the season 1-4 with Orton under center, went to Tebow after that, won seven of their next eight games and ended up losing in the divisional round of the playoffs. Look, knock Tebow all you want but he won with that Broncos team when Orton couldn’t. Why couldn’t he do the same thing for the Bills? And why would anyone expect a different result for Orton now?
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS over Baltimore Ravens
What I Know: Any time Scott Hanson cuts to a Baltimore Ravens game I pray to god that it’s a Steve Smith Sr. play. He’s must-watch football at this point, and even though he didn’t literally deliver with the blood and guts comment, he took it to the Panthers last week.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know how much of the buildup for this game will focus on how the Colts used to play in Baltimore, but I’m sure Chris Berman will at least make a mention of it on Sunday NFL Countdown. We’ll hear all about Robert Irsay and The Band That Wouldn’t Die and how Baltimore natives have resentment towards the Colts. Sure, it would make more sense to just focus on the game itself, but as long as ESPN isn’t talking about Ray Rice we’ll chalk it up as a win.
Kansas City Chiefs over SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
What I Know: The Jamaal Charles/Knile Davis running back duo is my favorite in the league right now. In fact, Knile Davis could be the featured back for half the teams in the league right now.
What I Don’t Know: How much confidence should I have in Alex Smith in his revenge game? He’s been doing his game manager thing, and that’s all fine and good with the way the Chiefs run the ball. What happens when the 49ers take away the run and Smith has to make some plays with his arm? Let’s reverse it: what happens if the Chiefs stack the box and make Colin Kaepernick beat them? Should I really have more confidence in Kaepernick than I do Alex Smith? Eh, I’m uneasy about this pick, but I’m really looking forward to the game.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS over New York Jets
What I Know: Geno Smith isn’t a great quarterback. Nice to meet you, my name is Captain Obvious.
What I Don’t Know: Why teams give up so quickly on young quarterbacks. Look, I’m well aware what it’s like to be a fan of a team with an abysmal quarterback at the helm. It’s zero fun, sir. I still blame Rex Grossman for Super Bowl XLI. I also am well aware that nine times out of 10 the answer to your team’s prayers isn’t an over-the-hill veteran, a career backup, any player who has been called “a journeyman,” or Kyle Orton. That’s why Orton in Buffalo doesn’t make sense to me. That’s also why I don’t understand Jets fans pining for Michael Vick. There’s no guarantee that he would even make it through a season or give the Jets a better chance to win than Geno Smith. Have a little patience. Not every young quarterback is going to have the success that Andrew Luck had.
DENVER BRONCOS over Arizona Cardinals
What I Know: The Cardinals don’t need to win this game to prove that they are a legitimate NFC contender. And just to clear the air, by legitimate NFC contender I mean they have a chance to make the playoffs. Let’s say Arizona keeps it close, gives Denver’s offense a little trouble, maybe gives up a fourth-quarter touchdown that extends the lead to 28-16. I know moral victories are bullshit and all, but isn’t that kind of a moral victory for the Cardinals? The Broncos are a really good team and they’ll likely win this game. If Arizona can just hang around maybe there is hope.
What I Don’t Know: Then again, I don’t know if I should be quite so confident about Arizona. They’ve got three nice wins under their belt (home against San Diego and San Francisco, and at the New York football Giants), and have won close games, which is odd considering Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton have been taking snaps. Remember, the rule was just made up two minutes ago: nine times out of 10 the answer to your teams prayers isn’t an over-the-hill veteran, a career backup, any player who has been called “a journeyman,” or Kyle Orton. Somehow, the Cardinals duo fits the criteria of three of those four classifications.
Cincinnati Bengals over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
What I Know: Patriots fans should be concerned about this team. The sky isn’t falling yet, but it’s looking pretty murky. This might be an overreaction because of a Monday Night Football beat down at Kansas City, but the Patriots have only played six quarters of high quality football this season. That’s pretty troublesome.
What I Don’t Know: This is a cross-sport question: if you asked 100 people who enjoy the NBA just as much as they do the NFL and had no rooting interest either way, how many would say that the San Antonio Spurs are a greater dynasty than the New England Patriots? I’m very curious and if you read this and care to leave a comment, feel free. I worry that because I’m more of an NBA guy my opinion might be slightly skewed. Or maybe San Antonio is just the correct answer:
Overall regular season win percentage: San Antonio .707; New England .759 (not counting this season)
First Title: San Antonio 1999; New England 2001
Most Recent Title: San Antonio 2014; New England 2004
Total Titles: San Antonio 5; New England 3
NBA Finals/Super Bowl appearances: San Antonio 6; New England 5
Conference Championship Round/Game appearances: San Antonio 9; New England 8
Other than regular season win percentage, San Antonio has the edge in every category up there. Plus, given the fascination and perceived advantages for big market teams in the NBA, San Antonio has thrived for a decade and a half despite being the third smallest market in the league. Can you tell I’m excited for NBA season to start?
Seattle Seahawks over WASHINGTON REDSKINS
What I Know: “Kirk Cousins > Robert Griffin III” has been removed from my “Things I Really Like About This NFL Season (Probably Way Too Much)” list. I’m lukewarm about both of them. I don’t have a “Things I’m Lukewarm About This NFL Season” list yet, but maybe I can cook something up for next week.
What I Don’t Know: I don’t know who the Redskins backup to Kirk Cousins is, but just based on how good Seattle’s defense is, how badly Kirk Cousins played last week, and the way NFL fan bases react to poor play from their quarterback, I expect Redskins fans to be clamoring for whoever it is by the start of the fourth quarter on Monday night. That’s just the way it goes.
Last Week: 7-6