NFL Week 5 Picks Against The Spread 2011

Although I came back down to earth a little after a sparkling 4-0 week 3, I still went 2-2 ATS last week in a tough slate of games, and feel extremely confident that I will score my second perfect slate in a three week span. This confidence comes from a couple of generous lines, as well as more information as we enter into the meat of the season. What looks good to me this week? Let’s find out.

Tennessee +3 (-110) Over Pittsburgh

While I absolutely loved this line when it opened at +5, I still am happy enough to take the Titans with any amount of safety net. What exactly have the Steelers done to make themselves a favorite against an undervalued Titans squad? Let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what Pittsburgh have done thus far: They started the season by getting stomped on by Baltimore, following that up with their only impressive win of the season, and that came at home against a mediocre Seahawks squad that rarely travels across the country well. Following that the Steelers just snuck by a team that remains winless in the Colts, and then last week lost to the Texans. Oh yeah, and Ben Roethlisberger is badly banged up with a sprained foot, and Rashard Mendenhall is likely to be considerably limited with a bad hamstring. His backup, Mewelde Moore, has already been deemed, out, which means it will be up to Isaac Redman to handle the majority of the rushing duties for the Steelers. Roethlisberger is going to suit up, but the question is how effective he can be playing on one leg, especially considering how awful his offensive line has been. It would not be surprising if Big Ben doesn’t end up playing this entire game, or if he does, having limited mobility which is a big part of his game. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse for the Steelers, think again. They are facing a Tennessee defense that is actually the best in the league thus far, allowing only 14 points per game. They are also among the top teams in both pass and rush defense, so it could be a long day for the Steelers offensively. Conversely, Matt Hasselbeck has been a revelation for Tennessee, reminding me of Kurt Warner with the Cardinals in some respects, as he is an older quarterback who is having a late career resurgence in a new place. Even with Kenny Britt out, the Steelers defense is not the impenetrable iron curtain it once was, and Chris Johnson showed that he is rounding back into form with a 100+ rushing yard performance last week. I expect Johnson to be leaned on heavily in this one, wearing down the Steelers D. From where I sit, I think the Titans actually deserve to be the favorites in this one for all of the reasons I have just mentioned, so to get to pick them while a little bit of leeway is too great an opportunity to pass up. In recent history the Titans have played well in October, going 4-1 in their last 5 during this month. One final stat to chew on: the Steelers are 2-13-1 in their last 16 as a home favorite of a field goal or less. I don’t expect that record to improve this week, as the Titans take this one straight up and the Steelers enter panic mode.

New York Jets +9 (-110) Over New England

While I am aware of how unstoppable Tom Brady has looked this year, and how bad Mark Sanchez was last week, let’s stop and think about things a little more in-depth and I think it will become clear why this is a very generous line, and a pick in which I am extremely confident in. Rex Ryan has vowed to re-install his “ground and pound” mentality with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. New England have not shown themselves capable of stopping anybody at any time, so I see no reason why this won’t be successful. This then means less time on the field for Brady, as the Jets try and eat up as much clock as possible. The next factor to consider is that the Patriots have given up a league worst 369 passing yards, so Sanchez should have an infinitely easier time this week than he did against one of the top defenses in the league in the Ravens. The Pats have also allowed a league worst 477.5 total yards per game, which is 50 yards more than the 2nd worst team. Meanwhile, the Jets remain one of the best defenses against the pass, allowing only 180 per game, good enough for 2nd after Pittsburgh. This isn’t to suggest that they will totally shut down Tom Brady, that seems more or less impossible, but it is good enough that Brady won’t be able to pick them apart. Although the Jets have not impressed anyone as of late, they do match up quite well against the Pats. Let’s not forget last year’s playoff game either, where they proved they are capable of beating New England as a very similar underdog spread-wise as they are this game. I am not suggesting that they will necessarily get a win in this match, but they certainly should be capable of keeping things close. You know that Rex Ryan prepares extra hard for his meetings with the hated Patriots, and I foresee him installing a conservative game plan designed to keep the Patriots’ vaunted offense from establishing any real kind of flow. The Jets are also 6-2 ATS against fellow AFC East opponents, and are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 following a game in which they put up under 250 total yards. Finally, the road team in this matchup is 18-7-1 ATS in the last 26 meetings between these two clubs. The Jets will pull up their bootstraps and go into New England with something to prove in this one, and will at the very least keep it close, as I could see only a field goal separating this battle of AFC East rivals. Take the Jets with a generous line.

San Diego -4 (-110) Over Denver

Straying away from my first two picks of underdogs, I’m going with San Diego in this one, as they are only a favorite of 4 where I think it would be more reasonable if they had about a touchdown as the line. As I’ve continued to stress throughout the season, the key to betting the spread is to find value wherever you can, and only 4 points for a very talented (albeit frustrating) Chargers squad to beat the basement dwelling Bronco is something I want to be a part of. The Chargers have certainly not looked overly impressive despite their 3-1 record, but the fact remains that they have comfortably beat Minnesota and Miami, two teams that I believe are comparable to Denver. Philip Rivers is yet to reach his level of play from last year, but he has still thrown for over 300 yards in 3 of the first 4 weeks, and Denver’s defense does very little to instill fear inside their opponents. The Broncos have given up 275 yards through the air, and even if Antonio Gates doesn’t play, Rivers has many weapons at his disposal. The other reason I like the Chargers to pound the Broncos is the emergence of Ryan Mathews as one of the best running backs in the game. There was a lot of hype about him coming into the NFL, but a injury and fumble plagued rookie season had many people writing Mathews off. He is proving his detractors wrong in a big way this year, as he has yet to have a game with under 100 total yards, and Norv Turner said this week that his workload is only going to expand going forward. Throw in goal line specialist Mike Tolbert, and the Chargers have simply too many weapons for Denver to deal with. On the other side of the ball, Kyle Orton has had to battle the urges of fans to give Tim Tebow a chance at quarterback. It seems the fans don’t seem to recognize, or at least care, that Tebow couldn’t even outplay Brady Quinn for the backup job, but nonetheless the word is that Tebow will see at least a few snaps on Sunday, likely around the goal line. Regardless of who is behind center, the Broncos bright spot has been the emergence of Eric Decker at wide receiver, who has 5 touchdowns in 4 games (4 receiving, 1 punt return). Decker has proved a nice complement to star receiver Brandon Lloyd, but the Chargers defense is a quality side, and they should be able to limit the damage that Denver’s 1-2 punch can do. San Diego has only lost 2 of their last 8 ATS when they are a favorite of more than a field goal and less than ten points, and are 5-2 ATS when they have allowed fewer than 90 rushing yards in the previous game. Denver meanwhile are 1-5 ATS after a loss the week before, and have won only 1 in their last 5 ATS overall. I expect the Chargers to take this game with relative ease, staking a claim for the AFC West crown.

Green Bay -6 (-110) Over Atlanta

There may be a defense out there that can stop Aaron Rodgers, but I haven’t seen it yet. Rodgers is arguably the greatest player in the game right now, and he is showing no signs of slowing down. Armed with a great group of receivers in Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Donald Driver, Rodgers is firing on all cylinders right now, with 1325 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and 2 more scores on the ground. His offensive line is giving him the time, and Rodgers is making the plays. To make matters worse for the Falcons, they are one of the worst teams at defending the pass, giving up 275 yards per game. While Atlanta are better on the ground, the Packers are a pass-heavy team, only going to the run to keep defenses honest, and even so Ryan Grant and James Starks are a decent duo running the ball for Green Bay. It has been a disappointing start to the season for the Falcons, as they got blown out in Chicago and lost to Tampa Bay, while just holding on against Seattle last week. Their only impressive week was a week 2 win against Philly, but even the Eagles look pretty dismal at the moment. After two strong games to start the year, Michael Turner has recorded 90 rushing yards combined in his last two weeks, making the Falcons far too one-dimensional. Don’t expect things to turn around for the Burner this week, as Green Bay has given up the 2nd fewest rushing yards on the year with 71 per game. However, the Packers defense has been very generous through the air this year, so it will be up to Matt Ryan to do most of the work in what should be a shootout on Sunday night. In any high scoring game, it is hard to bet against Aaron Rodgers, as he continues to make Green Bay fans forget about Brett whats-his-name. The Packers are 7-1 ATS following a straight up win the week before, are 5-1 ATS as a favorite, as well as 5-1 in their last 6 on the road. Atlanta, meanwhile, are a dismal 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games played, and are 4-16-1 ATS as a home underdog of more than a field goal. This game should be a lot of fun to watch, and will be even more fun if you’ve bet on the Packers to win by more than 6.