Real and spectacular Week 6 picks
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 15, 2009
You know what the difference is between the terrible schedule of Week 5 and the terrible schedule of Week 6?
Not much, other than this week's epic Giants-Saints showdown to establish supremacy as the Big Dog of the 2009 season. The battle of unbeatens certainly eclipses last week's No. 1 showdown, New England-Denver, for the nationwide attention it should attract. We also have interesting games this week in Baltimore-Minnesota and Chicago-Atlanta.
But other than that, a very bad season continues here in Week 6. Once agan, like last week, the schedule is filled by expected double-digit blowouts (Cleveland-Pittsburgh, Detroit-Green Bay) and plain old unappetizing games between bottom dredgers (Carolina-Tampa, Kansas City-Washington).
You simply cannot count on the NFL this year to provide a consistent slate of appetizing games. If you wonder why the NFL covets parity, now you know why: when there is no parity, when the league reaches the point it has here in 2009, a few dominant powers and a bunch of memorably bad teams, there's not a lot to root for.
Of course, you can always count on the Cold, Hard Football Facts to deliver: we went 11-3 straight up and an awesome 11-3 against the spread last week – it was our fourth winning week in five attempts this year. So if you're following our lead, you're quite happy with the otherwise uncompetitive 2009 season.
For the year, we are 53-23 (.697) straight up and an impressive 44-32 ATS (.579).
Houston at Cincinnati (-4.5)
Never thought we'd say this, but "We believe!" in the Bungles.
The Texans are very vulnerable defensively and Cincinnati is one of the hottest teams in football – a single miracle play away from being 5-0 this year and 9-3-1 in their last 13 games.
Cincy is also 2-1 vs. Quality Opponents, while the Texans are 0-1, getting blown out 24-7 by the Jets in Week 1.
Houston's two victories have come against 0-5 Tennessee and 1-4 Oakland.
Cincinnati 27, Houston 20
Detroit at Green Bay (-13.5)
Yes, hard to believe, but the 1-4 Lions have suffered just three losses by two touchdowns or more this year. That's right. Just three. To put that success into perspective, consider that the Colts have suffered three two-touchdown losses since 2006. Tom Brady's Patriots have suffered three two-touchdown losses since 2005. So, as you can see, the new fonts on the company letterhead have been a rousing success for the Lions here in 2009.
The Packers, meanwhile, might not be a Super Bowl-caliber contender. They're 2-2, having lost to teams (Cincy, Minny) who are a combined 9-1 this year. But Aaron Rodgers is among the league leaders with a 101.1 passer rating and he'll rip up the historically dysfunctional Lions pass defense.
Green Bay 34, Detroit 17
St. Louis at Jacksonville (-9.5)
Wow! What an indictment of the Rams. They're nearly double-digit dogs to a 2-3 team that's fresh off a the biggest loss of the year in the NFL, a 41-0 defeat to the sub-.500 (2-3) Seahawks.
The Jags are tough to figure out – but the Rams are not. They suck. They suck bad. They suck hard. They suck long. They suck more often than the girls advertised on the pamphlets in Patpong. But believe it or not, they're better than the Jags in several of our Quality Stats. The Rams won't win. God no. They won't win. But they can at least keep it respectable by their standards.
Jacksonville 20, St. Louis 13
Baltimore at Minnesota (-2.5)
Tough game. But not so tough a call.
The Ravens have lost two straight after a 3-0 start – both those losses to Quality Teams; all those wins against struggling teams. The Vikings, meanwhile, are on cruise control. They haven't been challenged much – their lone Quality Opponent was San Francisco, which ended with a memorable 27-24 win in Minnesota thanks to a last-second TD pass from BrettFavre.
We're still not buying the Vikings until they prove they can put away a good team. Remember, three of their wins have come against Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis – arguably the three worst teams in football.
But we're definitely selling the Ravens after two straight losses to Quality Opponents – one at New England, one at home against Cincinnati. The wins, meanwhile, have come against Kansas City, San Diego and Cleveland – teams who are a combined 3-11.
Minnesota 27, Baltimore 23
N.Y. Giants at New Orleans (-2.5)
We already did a pretty intense comparison of the tasty statistical savories found in the premier battle of Week 6 (and probably the top game of the entire season). You can see all the numbers, from every single one of our Quality Stats, side by side right here.
The bottom line is that these two teams are among the best in the league in virtually every single one of our indicators.
The only weaknesses are found on New York's side: the Giants are among the worst in the league stopping the run (4.81 YPA), while the Saints are among the best in the league running the ball (4.96 YPA); the Giants are also in the bottom half of the league in Bendability (20th), our measure of defensive efficiency, while the Saints are among the best in the league in Scoreability (2nd), our measure of offensive efficiency.
So here's our take: the Saints are able to balance their highly efficient passing attack with a strong day on the ground and they make one more critical play in the red zone, on special teams or in the turnover department and edge out New York in a battle that lives up to the hype.
New Orleans 26, N.Y. Giants 23
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-13.5)
We look at the relationship between Cleveland-Pittsburgh fans much like the relationship between the German and American armies back in the 1940s. Like the Krauts, the Browns dominated early – in fact, they won 31 of the first 40 meetings between the two teams from 1950 to 1969. Then, ya know, Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw and that whole Steel Curtain thing happened in the 1970s. But since the first Steelers champion team of 1974, Pittsburgh holds a 45-20 advantage, including 11 straight wins heading into this week.
The Browns are really, really bad this year – but the Steelers have shown a shocking inability to put teams away, even bad teams. Pittsburgh has been outscored 55-16 in the fourth quarter and OT this year – and three of their 16 points came in OT against winless Tennessee back in Week 1.
Put most simply, the Steelers have lost their killer instinct.
They'll beat the Browns, but won't have the guts to put away even a bad team – much like they struggled to put away the winless Titans, the one-win Lions and every other team on the schedule this year.
Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 20
Carolina (-3.5) at Tampa Bay
Colonel Comey put it best about Tampa in our Power Rankings this week when he said that Jon Gruden "went 9-7 with essentially this same team last year ... and got fired."
The Panthers, for their part, are not very good. But it's hard to believe how bad Tampa is right now: 31st in Passer Rating Differential and 29th in Passing YPA, showing in inability to perform in the critical passing game.
Both teams have faced tough schedules – both teams 0-3 against Quality Teams.
The Panthers will probably win, but following a week in which they barely edged out a bad Redskins team at home, and a year in which they've been blown out in their other three games, it's hard to see them winning by more than a field goal, even against a team as bad as the Bucs.
Carolina 21, Tampa Bay 20
Kansas City at Washington (-6.5)
Another "who cares?" game featuring two of the league's worst team in an inter-regional, inter-conference battle with little in the way of compelling current or historic storylines. There's a reason, folks, why nobody will see this game outside the immediate local markets.
The difference between these two teams (0-5 Chiefs, 2-3 Redskins) is that Kansas City has actually faced a tough schedule: four Quality Opponents vs. just one for Washington.
Washington's 2-3 record is also deceiving: they beat the winless Rams by two and the winless Bucs by three. So the nearly touchdown spread in their favor is ridiculous.
The Chiefs will definitely cover and, in fact, we're going to bet that they join the Lions and Panthers as the third team this year to earn their first victory against the Redskins.
Kansas City 24, Washington 20
Philadelphia (-13.5) at Oakland
Donovan McNabb sure picked the right time to return from injury – white-washing puffcake Tampa last week and now taking what would be a daunting cross-continent road trip if not for the fact that the wimpy Waiders are not waiting to put up a fight against him on the other end.
Oakland embarrassed itself last week, flirting with a chance to fulfill our expectations of suffering the biggest blowout in the history of the NFL.
The only knock on the Eagles right now is that they were blown out in their one game against a Quality Team – a 48-22 loss to the mighty Saints. The wins, meanwhile, have come against the pathetic Panthers, the chintzy Chiefs and the bumbling Bucs. But that's the kind of caliber team they're facing in the Raiders – who possess one of the worst passing attacks in history.
The Eagles have too much defense and too much McNabb and put away the Raiders easily, like a CHFF Troll wrapping a rag of ether around the mouth of the guy who took one of his beers out of the fridge at a party.
Philadelphia 31, Oakland 13
Arizona at Seattle (-2.5)
The Cardinals are who we thought they were last year – an average team that bumbled its way into the Super Bowl thanks to serendipity and a big-game quarterback, but that doesn't have what it takes to compete long term or win consistently.
We have no idea who the Seahawks are. But they're clearly a better team at home (2-1, outscoring opponents 88-25). The Seahawks are also better when Hasselbeck plays the whole game – beating St. Louis and Jacksonville by a combined 69-0.
Neither team has a win yet against a Quality Opponent – a combined 0-5 against winning teams, 4-0 against everybody else. But Hasselbeck finds a way to exploit the very porous Arizona pass defense and the Seahawks roll again at home.
Seattle 28, Arizona 23
Tennessee at New England (-9.5)
Sure, Bill Belichick has lost his mojo – as New England's five years of struggles on pass defense have proven. But the Patriots are still one of the guttiest teams in football. The OT loss against Denver last week should actually be a very encouraging sign for Patriots fans – the fact that a statistically overwhelmed team could go on the road against an undefeated team that traditionally owns New England and take it to the limit is a sign that there's still a lot of fight left in the Patriots.
New England also joins the Broncos, Bengals and Saints as the only teams in football with two or more Quality Wins. And they're the only team with a winning record that's played four games against Quality Opponents.
The Titans, meanwhile, are one of the most curious stories in football this year – just a complete statistical meltdown, especially on defense, from the 13-3 team we saw march through the AFC last year.
Tennessee does almost nothing right in the all-important passing game, as evidenced by their No. 30 ranking in Passer Rating Differential. Only the Bucs and Lions are worse in Defensive Passer Rating. But they are No. 1 in the NFL against the run and still a formidable force on the offensive line.
The gritty, battled-tested Patriots cruise as Tom Brady and Randy Moss find the porous Titans pass defense a bracing shot of Dr. Feelgood.
New England 26, Tennessee 16
Buffalo at NY Jets (-9.5)
The Bills are the opposite of the Patriots in one respect – both are merely average statistically. But one does a lot of little things right, has proven a tough out and is still a potential playoff team; the other does a lot of little things wrong and simply doesn't know how to win games. We got a glimpse of those competing forces in action in Week 1, when Buffalo and New England played tightly, but one team made the plays at the end.
Since then, things have only got worse for Buffalo, with their lone victory a 33-20 home beat down over the winless Bucs.
The Jets, as we discussed early this week, are not as good as the early hype, but they're still good enough to beat Buffalo. The Bills have surrendered 18 sacks this year – only Green Bay (20) is worse, and they have trouble moving the ball via the pass (25th in Passing YPA, 5.17). And without the diversity on offense that the Dolphins displayed last week, they'll have trouble making big plays against New York's defense.
The Jets have enough power on both sides of the ball to win this Empire State showdown, but not enough to win by double digits.
N.Y. Jets 27, Buffalo 20
Chicago at Atlanta (-2.5)
After NYG-NO and Baltimore-Minnesota, this is the most compelling game of Week 5. Both the Bears and Falcons are hopeful playoff contenders, both are 3-1, both are in second place in their respective divisions behind what look like powerful undefeated teams, both need to win to keep pace and both still have something to prove.
The Falcons are 1-1 vs. Quality Opponents; the Bears are 1-0. Atlanta is much better than Chicago in our Offensive Hog Index. But Chicago is much better than Atlanta in our Defensive Hog Index. Atlanta is much more efficient defensively (2nd in our Bendability Index); Chicago is more efficient offensively (4th in our Scoreability Index).
This game, as so many do, will come down to the battle of quarterbacks, in this case two of the NFL's brightest young talents.
We like Matt Ryan in that battle. The Atlanta quarterback has been sacked just twice all year, and the Falcons are second in the NFL, behind only the Giants, with a negative pass play on just 3.2 percent of dropbacks. Ryan has also been much more productive, as evidenced by his much greater passer rating.
Atlanta 24, Chicago 20
Denver at San Diego (-3.5)
As we noted last week, when the Patriots were favored by 3.5 in Denver, the public still doesn't believe in the unbeaten Broncos, at least if the Vegas line is any indication.
This game at San Diego provides further proof. The Chargers edged out the pathetic Raiders by four points in Week 1 and they're just 1-1 at home, losing to Baltimore by five and beating Miami by 10.
Last we checked, the Broncos are 5-0 and lead the league with a 3-0 record vs. Quality Opponents. Oh, and they're still dominant defensively. This is a no-brainer of an upset by a road underdog – and picking road dogs to win outright is a CHFF specialty, as you've seen this season.
Denver 23, San Diego 16
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