Each week usually there is one game that can make or break your picks for the week, deciding whether you finish near the top or near the bottom in that scoring period. Usually it involves a team with a poor record, playing on the road, against a heavily favored home team that has few losses if any. I call it “laurel disease,” as in the top team sitting on its laurels, thinking that it just needs to show up in order to win.
It could also be called a trap game, in that you get trapped into moving that team through without really analyzing the matchup or the intangibles. There is literally nothing worse than perceived expectations because they’re absolutely nothing without follow-through. Any one of the undefeateds this week can fall victim to laurel disease, but which one(s) will?
That’s what I’m here for. Every week I give you insights on which teams to trust and which ones might surprise you come Sunday (or Thursday, or Monday night). It’s all right here on Ace Picks, and it’s time for my Week 6 Picks…
Atlanta @ NEW ORLEANS – Expect a high-scoring game. At least that’s what you should expect, considering there are two gunslingers tossing the ball in this one. Oh, and the defenses have given up points this season. Atlanta is used to coming from behind, and the Saints have that one “barely there” win against Dallas and nothing else to show on the season. I think both quarterbacks come to play and put up good numbers, so it will come down to who plays better defense when it matters. My money’s on the defense that doesn’t belong to Rob Ryan. Pick: ATLANTA.
Denver @ CLEVELAND – The Browns went on the road and got the rare win at Baltimore last week, but I think that had more to do with the lack of defense by the Ravens than the physical prowess of Josh McCown. Now he comes back home to face the stout Denver defense that will get after the ball. Expect a low-scoring affair based on the Broncos games this year. Or should you? I think Peyton Manning gets it going in this one even though in the end it won’t be necessary. Keep riding that defense. Pick: DENVER.
Chicago @ DETROIT – Matthew Stafford and the Lions are looking for their first win, and they’re at home so there’s that. But they haven’t been much better at home than away, and their defense isn’t great enough to keep Jay Cutler down all game in this one. When Theo Riddick has been your biggest offensive weapon all year that’s not a good sign. Detroit stays winless in this one, and Stafford will get benched again if he throws 2 more picks. Pick: CHICAGO.
Houston @ JACKSONVILLE – Sometimes I get caught thinking Jacksonville is one play away from having a winning record, and Bortles had four touchdowns last week, but he’s still largely inconsistent. Am I supposed to count on him to have back to back great games? No. He doesn’t need one against a Houston team that is sporting Brian Hoyer as its starting quarterback on the road this week. Pick: JACKSONVILLE.
Cincinnati @ BUFFALO – Sooner or later this Bengal ride has got to stop, right? Some people thought it would happen last week when the Seahawks went into Cincinnati and nearly took out Andy Dalton and Co. But they stood tall. Now they face another daunting defense on the road. Will they respond? Super Bowl contenders always respond, and I don’t think the Bengals ever sit on their laurels. Pick: CINCINNATI.
Washington @ NY JETS – The Jets are 3-1 and coming off their bye week. With Ryan Fitzpatrick playing solid football, and the receiving core of Marshall and Decker healthy and able to spread the field, not to mention Chris Ivory plowing ahead for tough yardage, the Jets should win. The Redskins have proven to be formidable more often than not this year, though. They’re certainly not the afterthought they used to be, but I don’t trust Kirk Cousins to be able to dismantle a great defense like the Jets. Pick: NY JETS.
Kansas City @ MINNESOTA – One team has its all-pro running back and the other doesn’t. It might come down to that, and the fact that this game is being played in Minnesota. The Vikings are better than advertised, and apart from that meltdown week one in San Francisco, have been extremely competitive this season. Look for them to run it early and often against a Chiefs team that has proven vulnerable on defense. Pick: MINNESOTA.
Arizona @ PITTSBURGH – It’s time once again for game-manager Vick. I highly doubt Roethlisberger plays in this one, and even if he does he won’t be very effective, given the restrictions that will have to be in place for him to play. Yes, Vick threw the pass that allowed the Steelers to seize victory from the jaws of defeat last week against San Diego, but he was largely ineffective the rest of the game, and it will be more the same against a talented Cardinals defense. Pick: ARIZONA.
Miami @ TENNESSEE – I don’t buy into the Dolphins playing hard for a new coach. They are just out of sync, and a new coach, or the bye week, won’t be enough to fix that. It’s going to take time, and in the meantime Marcus Mariota will be able to pick apart that defense, if not with his arm then with his footwork he finally flashed last week. Pick: TENNESSEE.
Carolina @ SEATTLE – No, this isn’t the same Seattle defense of years past, not with the way they allowed Andy Dalton and the Bengals to catch up and win after having them down by 17 points. So they can be exposed, and Carolina has a tight end who could do just enough to expose the Seahawks defense. The problem is that they don’t have much else, and Cam Newton’s history against the ‘hawks leaves much to be desired. It will be closer than most think, but in the end I think Carolina finally gets a blemish on its record. Pick: SEATTLE.
Baltimore @ SAN FRANCISCO – Neither of these teams looks “right” this season, at all. Both teams lost heartbreakers last week, and both come into this one banged up. So who gets it together enough to take out the other? Unlike most experts, I don’t see it being a low-scoring game. Neither defense is all that good at this point, so I think the quarterbacks will decide this one. I liked what I saw from Kaepernick last week, and the 49ers are at home. Pick: SAN FRANCISCO.
San Diego @ GREEN BAY – No, the Packers offense didn’t look great in that game against the Rams last week, but the Chargers defense isn’t as multi-dimensional as the one St. Louis employs. And Aaron Rodgers won’t have back-to-back poor games at home. He gets it rolling early and often, and the Packers win a high-scoring game to stay perfect. Pick: GREEN BAY.
New England @ INDIANAPOLIS – Are these the same two teams that played in that playoff game last year when the Colts were embarrassed in New England on the doorstep of the Super Bowl? Well, at least we know the balls will be inflated correctly this time. Will it makes a difference? I don’t think so. What will make a difference is if Andrew Luck can return for the game. Having Ahmad Bradshaw back might give them a versatility they lacked last year too. This is a statement game, and a trap for the Patriots, who haven’t been tested yet. Pick: INDIANAPOLIS.
NY Giants @ PHILADELPHIA – Was that a mirage we saw last week in the City of Brotherly Love when the Eagles decimated the Saints on Sunday afternoon? Or was that a sign that the team from Philadelphia has turned the corner? I’m going to go with the latter, and with a banged up Odell Beckham maybe not even suiting up, no Prince Amukamara in the contest, and a good history against the Giants at home, I’m going with the Eagles to win big on Monday night. Pick: PHILADELPHIA.