By Rich Levine
I hate breaking even at the casino.
And when I tell people this, the reaction is pretty standard:
"You're an idiot."
At which point, they go into a ground-breaking explanation about how I should just be grateful for the fact that I didn't lose any money.
But here's the thing: If I'm spending an afternoon, night and often morning sitting around a blackjack table next to a chain-smoking, 62-year-old Asian woman who screams, "Monkey!" in my ear every two seconds, I want to don't want to go home feeling content or grateful. I want to feel like I've done something.
For better or worse, I want to feel like I've gambled.
This is very likely a serious problem, but breaking even leaves me empty. So, you can probably guess how I'm feeling after last week's 7-7 performance in my picks, and why, for better or worse, I'm hoping for a different outcome in Week 6.
Onto the picks:
The Game: Baltimore at New England (-3)
It might be way too early to start talking like this, but I don't think we can understate the importance of this game for New England. The merits of a victory are obvious. If the Patriots can overcome all the bye-week adversity and last season's playoff demons, and beat Baltimore, then it could be the rallying point of something special. It will give the home fans an a chance to immediately embrace the Pats' return to their glory day mentality, and . . . OK, I've gotten carried away. But a win on Sunday sets an essential tone for the post-Moss Patriots Era. It provides them with immediate confidence and justifies all the crap the team went through since last taking the field. With a win, the Pats sit at 4-1 and head out to San Diego feeling fantastic.
On the other hand, a loss just complicates everything. It gives credence to those who feel the Pats offense can't thrive without Moss, and that the decision to trade him may sabotage the season, or even the rest of Brady's prime. These people will be misguided, but they'll now have their own rallying cry. Now there's a lot more riding on that tough game in San Diego, and the Pats won't have as much confidence on their side. Especially once Justin Beiber releases a new track dissing Belichick's defensive schemes.
The Pick: Patriots (-3)
The Game: Miami at Green Bay (no line)
Vegas is waiting on this one until the Packers make an announcement on defense end Cullen Jenkins (and Aaron Rodgers), so as not to add to the confusion, I'll make this one simple.
The Pick: If Rodgers plays, it's Packers. If not, Dolphins.
The Game: Atlanta at Philadelphia (-3)
I can't knock 4-1.
OK, I'm going to knock it a little.
Win No. 1 for the Falcons: 41-7 over average-at-best Arizona.
Win No 2: 27-24 in New Orleans. A huge victory at the time, but when you consider that it was gift-wrapped by Garrett Finkle, and that since then the Saints have barely beaten winless Carolina and lost to average-at-best Arizona, then maybe it's not quite as impressive. Still a big win, just not as big as we thought.
Win No. 3: 16-14 over winless San Francisco, but only because Nate Clements hates his teammates. Wait, sorry, I was feeling very Tom Jackson for a second. What I meant to say is "only because Nate Clements is a moron."
Win No. 4: 20-10 over Seneca Wallace's 1-4 Cleveland Browns.
So, yeah, 4-1 is nothing to sneeze at, but at this point, against that competition, I'm not confident enough to risk my fake money. Fake bummer! This is also Atlanta's third road game in four weeks. Isn't it time for a step back?
If the Falcons have a chance, it's going to come with a serious Kevin Kolb meltdown. To put that another way (aka English): The only way the Falcons win this game is if Kevin Kolb implodes. For what it's worth (fake money!), Atlanta leads the league with 11 interceptions, and has only allowed five passing touchdowns all year.
The Pick: Eagles (-3)
The Game: Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-13.5)
Colt McCoy: Ok, Coach, let's say that I actually do start this game. What's it gonna be like over there?
Eric Mangini: 200 degrees in the sunlight, minus-200 in the shade, canyons of razor-sharp rock, unpredictable gravitational conditions, unexpected eruptions, things like that.
McCoy: Okay, so the scariest environment imaginable. Thanks. That's all you gotta say, scariest environment imaginable
By the way, it's been 12 years since "Armageddon" came out. I swear that reference would have been funny in 1999.
The Pick: Steelers (-13.5)
The Game: Seattle at Chicago (-6.5)
It must be strange for Marshawn Lynch to go from a place where everyone hates him to a team where his coach tries to hug or high-five him every two seconds. Who knows, maybe it will be good for Marshawn? But I have a hard time understanding why everyone's so upbeat about what he'll bring to Seattle. It's been a while already since he was a dominant back. In fact, I'm not sure if he ever even reached that status. He has three 100-yard performances in his last 32 games!
And let's not forget Lynch's knack for finding trouble, and the fact that his new head coach isn't exactly heavy on the discipline.
Loves high-fives, though.
The Pick: Bears (-6.5)
The Game: New Orleans (-4.5) at Tampa Bay
This one's strange for me.
As you know, I've hated the now 3-1 Buccaneers since the jump this season. And despite the impressive record, I haven't waivered on this hatred, or really even looked into why it keeps coming back to bite me.
On the other hand, like most, I was higher than Nate Newton on the Saints coming into the year. I'd predicted an 11-0 start, and figured they'd cruise to another No. 1 seed. But unlike most after the Saints lost to the Falcons, lost Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, and lost any semblance of a reliable kicking game I never adjusted my expectations. Then I lost on New Orleans two straight weeks, as they barely beat the Panthers and didn't beat the Cardinals.
When it comes to the Bucs and Saints, I'm like a rat on his 10th electrocution, who just can't stop eating the cheese. I keep getting hurt but never learn my lesson. I can't shut off those awful instincts.
Until now. Now, I've finally learned. Now, I must do what's right.
The Pick: Saints (-4.5)
The Game: Kansas City at Houston (-4.5)
The most random Kansas City Chiefs fan I know is Rasheed Wallace, which makes it a shame that he's no longer with the C's . . . I mean, we finally have something in common!
God, I can picture it now:
Me: "Hey, 'Sheed, did you, um, see that Chiefs game on Sunday?
Me: "Haha. Yeah . . . me too . . . man, that was a great game." (Looks down, awkwardly walks away.)
Anyway, looks like we have the same old Texans on our hands. They just waited a little longer to show their true colors. By next year, they'll keep up the faade until Week 8. In 2013, we're talking playoffs, baby!
The Pick: Chiefs (4.5)
The Game: San Diego (-8.5) at St. Louis
I forgot to mention this in the midst of al the Pete Carroll high-five talk, but until a) I'm proven otherwise or b) Vegas starts adjusting the lines accordingly, I'm betting against the Seahawks every time they're on the road, and very likely betting on them whenever they're at home.
Seattle's one of two teams to earn that distinction five weeks into the season. The
other? You got it . . .
No, wait, sorry. You're wrong. It's the Chargers.
They're completely different team on the road, with an 0-3 record (and losses to the Chiefs, Seahawks and Raiders).
Not sure the Rams win this game, but I'm betting they keep it close.
The Pick: Rams (8.5)
The Game: Detroit at N.Y. Giants (-10)
I hope Shaun Hill ate up all that fun he had against the Rams, because this Sunday all he'll be eating is the fancy New Meadowlands turf.
Matthew Stafford's will be happy he's watching this one from the sidelines. Brandon Jacobs? Probably not so happy (rogue helmet flies into apartment window, crushes laptop).
The Pick: Giants (-10)
The Game: N.Y. Jets (-3) at Denver
The time feels right for a Jets letdown. You get a rowdy Denver crowd, throw in one acrobatic Brandon Lloyd touchdown catch, a Mark Sanchez interception or two, and yeah, there's a chance the Broncos could steal one here.
But in the end, the reason the Broncos won't beat the Jets is the same reason they didn't beat the Ravens: Denver can't run the ball.
Check out these two stats:
Team rushing yards per game:
1. Jets, 165.2&8232;
2. Falcons, 148.8
&8232;3. Chiefs, 148.8
&8232;30. 49ers, 77.8 &8232;
31. Saints, 75.6
&8232;32. BRONCOS, 51.8
Team rushing yards per carry:
1. Eagles, 5.3
&8232;2. Texans, 5.1
&8232;3. Jets, 5.1
30. Saints, 3.3
&8232;31. Colts, 3.2
&8232;32. BRONCOS 2.3
Holy Maroney, that's bad, and against Rex Ryan's defense, it's insurmountable even with Revis still on the sidelines.
The Pick: Jets (-3)
The Game: Oakland at San Francisco (-6.5)
For just one week, Mike Singletary should fake a bout with laryngitis, or strep, or something that would presumably stop him from being such an unrelenting verbal psychopath. Just one time. Just to see if they like it.
Or maybe he can just take a week's vacation? Maybe the organization can use it like a trial separation instead of a clean-cut divorce? Hey, it's good enough for the Cox-Arquettes.
Whatever the method, even if it comes to a straight-up firing, the Niners need a break from the crazy captain of their ship. How does a noted disciplinarian have the league's most undisciplined team? It's clearly not working.
But with all that being said, and while I truly believe despite the mediocrity of the NFC West that the ship has sailed on the 'Niners season, I'm going with San Francisco for this week.
The Raiders may be the only team in the NFL stupider than they are
The Pick: 49ers (-6.5)
The Game: Dallas at Minnesota (-1.5)
Lock of the Week: Tavaris Jackson finishes the game at QB for the Vikings.
Brett Favre Groin Shot of the Week: Click Here
The Pick: Cowboys (1.5)
The Game: Indianapolis (-3) at Washington
The Redskins will be content with a split of these brutal back-to-back home games against the Packers and Colts. Also, betting against Peyton Manning in primetime is about as much fun as sitting bitch on a cross-country flight.
The Pick: Colts (-3)
The Game: Tennessee (-3) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars at home, in primetime, against a division rival . . . The Titans feeling a little giddy off a HUGE road win over Dallas . . . Jeff Fisher's mustache!!
The Pick: Jaguars (3)
Last Week: 7-7&8232;&8232;Season: 25-38-2