NFL Picks: Week 5

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NFL Picks: Week 5

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

No time to sit around and type in the glow of my first winning week of the 2010 season. And even so, can I really brag about 8-6? Whats the big deal? A payday like that barely supports my Mountain Dew habit.

So, lets just ride the hot hand and move on to Week 5, hopefully fast enough for you to forget that thing I said about Mountain Dew:

The Game: Jacksonville (-1) at Buffalo

There are a few reasons I planned to take Buffalo. First, theyre due for a victory which I know is an especially stupid reason, but in this world of NFL parity, its bound to happen. And against who better than a warm weather team, coming off a huge win and operating under the assumption that theyre a lot better than they really are?

Theres also the fact that this is Buffalos last home game until November 7, and given that they have one of the more rabid (if not mercilessly tortured) fan bases in the league, I figured the faithful Buffalonians would bring it, give the wary Bills some confidence, and help them get win No. 1 on the board.

The Bills arent a better football team than the Jaguars. They might not be much better than Jacksonville University (Do it, Dolphins!). But for one day, I thought they could be. I was ready to pull the imaginary trigger on this imaginary bet . . .

And then I read this (from ESPNs AFC East blog):

The Bills officially announced Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be blacked out on local television because they couldn't sell enough tickets. Ralph Wilson Stadium hasn't had a game blacked out since the season finale in 2006. The Bills have sold out every game from then on, a remarkable streak of 26 straight.

Oh well, looks like footballs dead in Buffalo; at least for this season. And when you throw in the fact that the Bills league-worst rush defense is matched-up against a reinvigorated Maurice Jones-Drew you have the pick.

The Pick: Jaguars (-1)

The Game: Tampa Bay at Cincinnati (-6.5)

I usually try to use legitimate reasoning andor logic in picking these games. Once in a while, that logic actually pays off, but with Bucs as you know if youve been following this column I dont even bother. I look at the Bucs, and immediately see defeat.

Its going to take a lot for me believe in these guys. Not to even believe in them winning, but not getting blown out, especially on the road.

Yeah, I know, theyre 2-1, but those two victories came against the Panthers and Browns, and even though the Bengals (most notably Carson Palmer) have seen better days, theyre still better than the Bucs.

At least a touchdown better.

The Pick: Bengals (-6.5)

The Game: Atlanta (-3) at Cleveland

Congrats, Cleveland!

Win No. 1! Win No. 1!! Win No. 1!!!

Theyll have plenty of time to revel in it, too.

The Pick: Falcons (-3)

The Game: St. Louis at Detroit (-3)

A year ago, this would have been the most depressing game of the NFL season. But now?

Only mildly depressing!

Speaking of which, the Rams have a pretty decent chance of winning the NFC West this season. And doing so with a losing record.

The Pick: Lions (-3)

The Game: Green Bay (-2.5) at Washington

The NFL season is a non-stop carousel of concussions, broken bones, strained muscles and twisted limbs. We hear about injuries all the time, and eventually, we grow immune to their horror regardless of the severity.

But then every once in a while, an injury report comes a long that really makes you thank God you dont play football:

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan revealed Wednesday that Clinton Portis will miss 4-6 weeks with a 'third-degree separation' of his groin. The separation involved the muscle being torn off the bone.

Sweet mercy.

Anyway, Ryan Torrain has some potential as Portis replacement, as do Brandon Jackson (er, maybe not) and John Kuhn as replacements for Ryan Grant but thats not where this game will be decided.

Aaron RodgersGreg JenningsDonald DriverJerMichael Finley vs. the Redskins and their 31st ranked pass defense.

The Pick: Packers (-2.5)

The Game: Kansas City at Indianapolis (-8.5)

REALLY starting to like this Chiefs team. I mean, I really liked them from the beginning, but at this point, its getting a little weird; Im not supposed to feel this way about a non-Boston team.

Anyway, this isnt to say that the Chiefs are going to cruise into Indy and emerge still undefeated, but I have a hard time believing theyll get killed especially since Colts started getting hurt like theyre the 2010 Sox.

The Pick: Chiefs (8.5)
The Game: Chicago (-3) at Carolina

A useless 38-year-old quarterback or a useless 23-year-old quarterback:

Who you got?

Im taking the youngster, but honestly, its got nothing to do with him.

Its just that the Panthers are desperate. They need a win like Clinton Portis needs an attached groin muscle. Much like the Browns land Jags last week, the Panthers arent really competing for the playoffs, but more for their jobs and careers. Theyre on the verge of total embarrassment. Were talking Um, Brandon, have you ever been on something called Chat Roulette? embarrassment. They need to win.

Throw in the added motivation of Julius Peppers coming back to town, and thats what theyll do.
The Pick: Carolina

The Game: Denver at Baltimore (-7)

(Ravens huddle)

Ray Lewis: Aight now, fellas. We playing these m fs to pass! I want you blitzin this fool like its the last blitz of yo life!!

Terrell Suggs: Damn, Ray. We in the fourth quarter already and you said that erry single play!

Lewis: They run the ball yet? They run it even one damn time?

Suggs: Uhh, no

Lewis: THEN WE BLITZIN!!!!!

The Pick: Ravens (-7)

The Game: N.Y. Giants at Houston (-3)

Tom Coughlins a hard ass, and as we learned back in 2007 -- as well as during any one of Coughlins six double-digit win seasons as an NFL coach -- sometimes that hard-assery breeds results. But sometimes, when you get the right (or in this case, wrong) mix of players, it turns disastrous.

This Giants team just isnt mentally tough enough to deal with Coughlins craziness. Last week, they had their rookie punter scared senseless and mishandling punts and holds; you had Brandon Jacobs completely screwed in the head and nearly fumbling two straight routine hand offs. You had offseason acquisition Antrel Rolle calling a radio show and complaining that Coughlin micromanages too much. Its a mess, and on the road game, against a good team and in a hostile stadium, it only gets worse.

Did I mention Ahmad Bradshaws hurting?

This could be a cakewalk for the Texans, especially if Arian Foster can finally snap out of it and prove he was worthy of all the offseason hype. Man, its Week 5 already. Whens he going to break out?

The Pick: Texans (-3)

The Game: New Orleans (-7) at Arizona

The Saints have look awful recently. The Cardinals have looked awful always. Decisions, decisions.

OK, Ive had the Cardinals written in this spot for the last two hours. The Saints have just looked so wrong since Reggie Bush and then Pierre Thomas went down. Youd think Brees could still spread the wealth with that deep stash of receivers, but 14 points against the Panthers says differently. Maybe the offense is human after all?

Maybe, but not for sure. And for now, Im keeping faith.

The Pick: Saints (-7)

The Game: San Diego (-6.5) at Oakland

The Chargers are 0-2 on the road this year, where theyve lost to a pair of supposedly inferior teams (SeahawksChiefs). At home, theyve beaten the Cardinals and Jaguars by a combined 79-23.

The Raiders . . . whatever, theyre the Raiders. They have issues. Theyre always going to have issues, especially with Darren McFadden out this week with a bum hamstring. But as depressed Raiders Nation may be, they still can get up for the AFC West. The Chargers are one of the few teams they hate more than their own, and that will show on Sunday, making it difficult for an already awful road team to run away with a win.

The Pick: Raiders (6.5)

The Game: Tennessee at Dallas (-6.5)

Every Dallas season is defined by its many ups and downs. Its dramatic victories and crushing losses; the few weeks where everyone's picking them to win the Super Bowl and the many more when those same people are obsessing over the teams demise.

That poorly written passage is from my Week 2 Picks column, but its worth repeating. Dallas does this EVERY year long stretches of success, long stretches of incompetence, 10 or 11 wins and then a first-round exit.

Right now, theyre hot. And it will stay like that for a while.

The Pick:Cowboys (-6.5)
The Game: Philadelphia at San Francisco (-3.5)

How many different ways can the Niners find to lose games?

This week, Ill say theyre up 20-14 and have the ball at the two-minute warning. No time outs for Philly, so Singletary sends out the victory formation. Only when the Niners run first down, he doesnt like the way Alex Smith takes a knee. He REALLY doesnt like it. I think he maybe prefers his QBs to go down right knee first, and Smith uses his left. You just cant pull that stuff with Singletary. Anyway, the coach loses it, benches Smith, is so mad he mistakenly tells the punter to get under center, the punter fumbles on second down, the Eagles recover and take it to the house.

Philly wins, 21-20.

The Pick: Eagles (3.5)

The Game: Minnesota at N.Y. Jets (-4)

The presence of Randy Moss played mind games with Tom Brady, one of the calmest, most methodical and precise QBs in the league. It forced him into some bad throws, led to some bad interceptions, and sometimes took him out of rhythm.

Considering all that: Can you imagine how stupid Brett Favre is going to be with Randy in his life? Can you even fathom how many huge, crucial, back-breaking interceptions hes going to throw trying to force the ball down field?

Certainly, enough to doom Minny on Monday.

The Pick: Jets (-4)

The Record:Last Week: 8-6&8232;Season: 28-31-2

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.