Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Greg Cote
The Miami Herald
SAINTS (5-0) at PATRIOTS (4-1), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: Not a lot of matchups fill an NFL marquee better than two teams thinking Super Bowl. It's Drew Brees vs. Tom Brady, Sean Payton vs. Bill Belichick, and the possible long-awaited season debut of Pats TE Rob Gronkowski. Saints a very fashionable upset pick; I get that. But I'm done overanalyzing as I try to hoist myself out of the deep well I've fallen into with my recent slump. Time to rely on instincts again and on my ample gut, and those things tell me Pats will bounce back big from last week's offensive fizzle in Cincy. Patriots have won 32 of last 35 in the Foxborough foxhole, and Brady (0-3 vs. Brees) is due to one-up his fellow Canton-bound quarterback. I'll feel a lot better about this pick, admittedly, if Gronkowski plays and gives Brady the same weapon Brees has in Jimmy Graham. Perhaps the football gods would consider my recent won-lost record and benevolently grant me that. (Please?)
The pick: Patriots, 28-24
PACKERS (2-2) at RAVENS (3-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: There are bigger point spreads among my four upset picks this week, but why be a slave to numbers? Ravens are 35-7 at home under John Harbaugh, and the Packers can't help but suffer from the injury of top defender Clay Matthews, whose absence should make Joe Flacco's afternoon a bit less chaotic.
The pick: Ravens, 27-24
BENGALS (3-2) at BILLS (2-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: I give Buffalo a medium-sized outright upset shot. Cincy is 0-2 on the road and the Bills have won six straight at home in this series. But a Cincy pass defense that gave Tom Brady fits last week (and ended his 52-game TD streak) probably will be up to the challenge of Thad Lewis, fresh off the Bills practice squad and making his second career start.
The pick: Bengals, 23-20
LIONS (3-2) at BROWNS (3-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Cleveland has a bit of swagger going and growing, gunning for its first four-game winning streak since 2009, and Brandon Weeden is motivated to show he deserves to start on merit, not just because Brian Hoyer got hurt. This pick also presumes that Lions WR Calvin Johnson will be sidelined a second straight game.
The pick: Browns, 21-20
RAIDERS (2-3) at CHIEFS (5-0), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Oakland swept this series last season and has won six straight times at Arrowhead, but some trends are just aching to end. I keep waiting for the Chiefs to collapse. Don't think it'll be here, although I like Oakland to keep it inside the big betting number, especially if last week's Terrelle Pryor shows up again.
The pick: Chiefs, 20-16
PANTHERS at VIKINGS (1-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Panthers are a decent upset pick, but mainly because I don't trust the Vikings. Stick with Minnesota at home, though, as Matt Cassel likely starts again while newly signed Josh Freeman readies in the wings. Cam Newton has struggled behind a poor O-line, and Adrian Peterson should carry the day.
The pick: Vikings, 27-21
STEELERS (0-4) at JETS (3-2), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Yes, I get that Pittsburgh's record is no mirage. But I also see a Jets team coming off a short week while the Steelers are coming off a bye. And I also see a Pittsburgh defense that has yet to force a turnover against a mistake-prone Jets offense. Ben Roethlisberger is the best player in this game, and it's time for his team's darkest start since 1968 to finally see some light.
The pick: Steelers, 23-20
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