NFL Picks: Week 5


NFL Picks: Week 5

By Rich Levine

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


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 Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

SUBSCRIBE iTunes | Stitcher | RSS

0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players. 

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

Haggerty: Bruins playing it pretty safe at the NHL Draft

CHICAGO – As opening nights go at the NHL Draft, Friday night was a bit of a ho-hum affair for the Boston Bruins at the United Center home of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Bruins went the safe route by drafting a smooth, defensive-minded defenseman with the 18th overall pick when they selected Finnish product Urho Vaakenainen, and in doing so left more dynamic forwards like Kristian Vesalainen and Kailer Yamamoto still on the draft board for other teams to claim as their own. It was a bit of a curious choice given how many defensemen the Bruins already have in the prospect pipeline, but the lack of strength in the draft class seemed to lead teams to carve their own paths looking for players.

MORE: Bruins select defenseman Urho Vaakanainen with No. 18 pick

The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder clearly has miles to go offensively despite his smooth skating and solid passing skills, but there’s also a consideration that the teenager has been playing in the men’s league in Finland for the last couple of seasons. It makes things a little more difficult to project for the Finn D-man, but the Bruins believe there is some upside to his offensive game given the skills, the hockey IQ and the considerable confidence that the player has in his own game.

“His gap control and skating ability are really good. He’s obviously played in the Finnish Elite League at a very young age for one and a half years now and he’s played on the big stage at the world juniors. We feel like there’s a lot of upside for a 200-foot player that gets back on pucks, and then can transition them back out. Being able to cover ice is an important part of the game, and it continues to evolve in that direction,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, who indicated Vaakenainen will play in North America in 2018-19 after fulfilling his contractual obligations in Finland. “We tracked what he did on offense at the junior league level prior to him jumping to the elite league, and it lines up pretty well with other elite players that made the jump to that level.

“It’s a valid question and whether he gets put into those [offensive] situations this year is what we’re excited about with his [Finnish] team moving forward.”

While Vaakenainen sounded surprised the Bruins selected him after only a single meeting at the NHL scouting combine, Sweeney said that Boston’s head scout in Finland has enough history with the family to vouch for the kid’s makeup.

So while it’s far from a sexy pick and the Bruins could have tried to hit a home run with an 18th overall selection in a mediocre draft, the B’s will also get some time before anybody is ready to label the Finnish blueliner a boom or a bust.

The rest of the draft night didn’t add up to much for the B’s, however. They made the selection of Vaakenainen after strongly considering dropping down in the first round, and in doing so lost one of the better trade chips in the form of their 2017 first round pick. There were discussions with Minnesota about Marco Scandella and a few trade feelers to other clubs that might listen on a D-man, but the Bruins now have to hit the reset button on trade discussions for left-shot defensemen or top-6 left wings.

Perhaps Scandella’s $4 million per season salary was an issue for the Bruins, or maybe the Bruins didn’t want to give up their first round pick for a 27-year-old D-man coming off a so-so season with the Wild. Either way, there wasn’t enough momentum for the Bruins to get a trade done with a bevy of defensemen rumored to be available if the offer is good enough.

“I was on the record saying that we’d be offering our first round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to go through with it, so we went ahead with a player we wanted with our own pick. We continue to build what we think is a good group of guys moving forward.

“There are a couple of areas we’d like to address and get better. We’re trying to help our team currently. Certainly Brandon [Carlo] jumped into our lineup and we hope Charlie [McAvoy] will carry over what he did, and we have other players that will push. We have six returning defensemen we feel good about and we’ll certainly push from underneath, but it’s an area we’ll continue to address. We have some forwards that we also hope will come online, but we’ll never stop exploring and trying to improve our club.”

So let’s sum it all up after a week of additions and subtractions from the Original Six organization: The Bruins added a decidedly vanilla defenseman in the first round of the NHL Draft that might be a simple stay-at-home guy, and they weren’t able to muster any kind of deals for a D-man or winger to enhance the NHL roster. On the other hand, they didn’t give up much over the week as well and they didn’t do much at all to harm a solid roster that looked like they were finally on the right track pushing into the playoffs last season.

The Bruins could be in store for an action-packed Day Two of the draft on Saturday full of promising prospects and bountiful trades, but it sure feels like the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago isn’t going to be a very memorable one for the Black and Gold.