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
EAGLES (2-3) at BUCCANEERS (0-4), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Philly has more talent, but the Eagles' awful defense should be at least a partial remedy for what has been ailing Tampa Bay's offense. Darrelle Revis on DeSean Jackson, a delicious matchup, also should diminish one of Nick Foles' top targets as he (likely) subs again for Michael Vick. Bucs, at home and off a bye, finally turn onto W Street and lessen the heat on Greg Schiano. At least for now.
The pick: Buccaneers, 27-24
RAMS (2-3) at TEXANS (2-3), 1 p.m.
Outlook: Houston, alleged Super Bowl hopeful, has lost three straight by a combined 87-32, and Matt Schaub has set a dubious NFL record with a pick-six in four straight games. I like the Texans to get well behind Arian Foster as he exploits a Rams run-D that has allowed an average of 169.3 yards the past three games.
The pick: Texans, 30-20
JAGUARS (0-5) at BRONCOS (5-0), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: The opening 28-point line tied the all-time NFL mark for largest spread, a suggestion of lopsidedness that made easy work for the Dog of the Week panel. There has even been media chatter that Peyton Manning should sit this one out, so foregone is the conclusion. Jacksonville has lost its last three by 76 combined points, and Denver is on a record scoring pace, but I'll take anybody getting this many points.
The pick: Broncos, 34-10
TITANS (3-2) at SEAHAWKS (4-1), 4:05 p.m.
Outlook: Tennessee has been a pleasant surprise, but Seattle is money at home. Russell Wilson is 10-0 in his young career in Seattle, with a 119.9 passer rating. The betting line seems awfully big, though, for what I'd figure as a fairly low-scoring game.
The pick: Seahawks, 24-13
CARDINALS (3-2) at 49ERS (3-2), 4:25 p.m.
Outlook: San Francisco has won seven of the last eight in this series, including the last four at home by a combined score of 112-36. Cardinals could keep it close, though, with a very solid run defense to slow Frank Gore.
The pick: 49ers, 27-17
REDSKINS (1-3) at COWBOYS (2-3), 8:30 p.m.
Outlook: Washington swept this series last season -- with Robert Griffin III throwing for 304 yards and four TDs in Dallas -- but this year finds RG III still off his rookie form and the Cowboys improved despite their record. Tony Romo threw for 500 yards in the shootout loss to Denver last week and could approach that stratosphere again. Dallas has won 17 of last 21 at home in series, and that trends continues.
The pick: Cowboys, 37-24
COLTS (4-1) at CHARGERS (2-3), 8:40 p.m.
Outlook: Indianapolis hosts Denver and the emotional return of Peyton Manning next week, so let's find out how well the Colts set aside that distraction and deal with an opponent that is typically inconsistent but good enough to win behind a hot-armed Philip Rivers.
The pick: Colts, 27-24
(Greg Cote's record: last week -- 5-9; season -- 43-34)