Pro Football Weekly NFL Week 5 Picks
Pro Football Weekly NFL Week 5 Picks
Week Five handicapping column
By Mike Wilkening
Oct. 2, 2009
Perception is key in setting the lines, and you can sometimes sniff out value by picking teams that have lost a little luster in the eyes of the public in recent weeks. That's my theory, at least, as I make cases this week for, among others, the 1-2-but-still-no-slouch Colts and the 0-3-but-maybe-just-maybe-this-is-the-week-they-turn-it-around Lions.
On to the picks:
Indianapolis (-3) at Houston
The Colts have won 11-of-12 games all-time vs. the Texans, but the gap is closing between the clubs. This is the first time the Colts have been favored by less than 6½ points against Houston, which has covered in four of the last five games played between the teams at Reliant Stadium.
This is the first of four straight home games for the Texans, who were 6-2 at home last season and have the offensive talent needed to hang in there against any club. Crertainly they can push the Colts, and perhaps they can pull off the upset.
But this looks like a wonderful spot for the Colts, who come off a much-needed bye week and appear to be healthier along the offensive line. QB Peyton Manning has picked apart the Texans' secondary time and again, and I expect more of the same on Sunday.
The Texans will be relieved to be home at last, but the Colts are the better team and know how to exploit Houston's weaknesses better than anyone. The price is right, too.
Wilkening's pick: Indianapolis
Buffalo (+1) at Arizona
I liked how the Bills won at St. Louis in Week Four. The Rams broke to the lead, but the Bills trailed by only eight points at halftime. And soon enough, St. Louis, as it goes for bad teams, couldn't sustain its move, and the Bills took over the game in the fourth quarter, winning 31-14.
I'm not the only one impressed by 4-0 Buffalo, judging from this line. That, or perhaps folks already have had their fill of the Cardinals, who surrendered 56 points in a loss to the Jets at the Meadowlands last week.
If the latter is true, fine by me; I'm not bailing on Arizona just yet. I don't like that WR Anquan Boldin likely will miss the game with a fractured sinus membrane, but Steve Breaston is a capable replacement. Actually, injuries to defensive stalwarts like S Adrian Wilson (hamstring), DL Darnell Dockett (hamstring) and DE Bertrand Berry (groin) are a little more troubling to me.
Nonetheless, the Cardinals are better than they showed last week, and a return home should be just the tonic.
Wilkening's pick: Arizona
Tampa Bay (+3) at Denver
The Broncos had a lot of backers last week. They were visiting the Chiefs, one of the NFL's worst clubs, a team with a weak offense and a hardly imposing defense. But Kansas City executed its game plan — run, run and run some more — and the Broncos committed four turnovers. The result: a 33-19 Kansas City win.
Denver figures to have less support this week, but it's a good matchup for Mike Shanahan's club. The Buccaneers' secondary isn't nearly as good as it once was, and it has surrendered seven TD passes this season.
I see the Broncos striving for a little more offensive balance this week, with a heavier dose of work for RBs Selvin Young, Michael Pittman and Andre Hall. But I also see QB Jay Cutler getting the best of the Buccaneers' secondary.
The prospect of laying many points with the Broncos is a tough proposition to take considering how poorly their defense has played. And Denver's last two wins have come by a combined three points. But I'll take my chances.
Wilkening's pick: Denver
Chicago (-3½) at Detroit
For my final pick, I'll roll the dice on the Lions, who swept the Bears last season and have never lost by more than six points in any of the games the teams have played at Ford Field. Even at 0-3, the Lions aren't completely out of the NFC North race just yet, and I expect them to come out strong in their first game off the bye (and first game without president Matt Millen, which is another motivating factor, as this is a team likely to be overhauled at season's end). Another factor at play for me: I just can't lay more than a field goal on the road with Chicago's offense. What's more, the Bears' defense is a little banged-up, and it hasn't been an especially impressive unit all season.
Of course, the Lions could mail it in, and the Bears could roll. But if Detroit is going to make its stand, it does it now.
Wilkening's pick: Detroit
Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 10-6