With a quarter of the NFL season finished, some things are starting to become clear. The Chiefs and Patriots are good, the Dolphins and Bengals are bad, and everyone else is somewhere between the two poles.
It’s been an exciting month though, with plenty of good stories and big headlines all over the league. In many cases though, the headlines are just there to grab your attention. The reality is something completely different.
Headline: “Jerry Jones compares Dak to Tom Brady”
Reality: Let’s take it easy. Jerry also compared David LaFleur to a first-round pick once.
Headline: “Fans frustrated with Texans performance against Panthers”
Reality: Also true, although the phrase “performance against Panthers” is unnecessary.
Headline: “Daniel Jones gives the Giants some life against Redskins”
Reality: No, Jay Gruden and Daniel Snyder murdered Washington. The Giants just looked more alive last week standing next to their dead carcass.
Headline: “Cleveland tops their division”
Reality: True. They’re also 2-2, just like twelve other teams. Let’s not start planning parade routes just yet.
Headline: “Vontaze Burfict to appeal season-long suspension”
Reality: He’ll get a couple of games knocked off of it, but it’s time to end this one. Burfict has made a career out of torpedoing defenseless people directly in the brain. He’s not Lawrence Taylor, he’s a slightly-less understandable Ivan Drago.
Headline: “Gardner Minshew leads surprising Jaguars”
Reality: Minshew’s attitude and game are a breath of fresh air, but he’s not the only reason. Remember, these Jaguars are the same team that was a quarter away from a Super Bowl two years ago with a quarterback who couldn’t complete a phone call. They’re a more solid team than people realized.
Headline: “Jay Gruden to be fired in Washington”
Reality: Probably, yes, but if he’s not the least of their problems, he’s probably in the bottom five. Firing the coach in Washington is like changing the oil on a car with a blown engine.
On to the picks.
In week four I went 2-4 picking games, and 3-3 against the spread. In my defense, I forgot that Sean Payton will always beat Jason Garrett at anything from football to Words With Friends. For the season, that makes me 17-7-1 straight up, and 15-9-1 against Las Vegas. As always, these are for the purposes of comedic discussion only. No wagering.
■ Green Bay (+3) at Dallas: You never want to say a week five game is a “must win,” but these are two 3-1 teams who are coming off frustrating losses. Also, we’re all waiting to see if that Aaron Rodgers-Matt LaFleur relationship finally goes all sideways in the middle of a game, and Rodgers goes back to calling his own plays and throwing it 200 times a game.
Pick: Cowboys to win and cover, winning by more than three.
■ Atlanta (+4) at Houston: I don’t like Houston here, but I’ve been always been disappointed by Atlanta. The football team, not the TV show with Donald Glover. That’s much easier to watch than the Falcons this season.
Pick: Texans to win but not cover, which means I pick them to win by three or fewer.
■ Baltimore (-3.5) at Pittsburgh: After being the most stable franchise in the league for most of my lifetime, it feels like the Steelers are making their fans go through three decades worth of chaos and frustration in two years.
Pick: Ravens to win and cover, winning by four or more.
■ Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans: At some point, Saints fans are going to start taking the refs to Bourbon Street on Saturday nights to soften them up so they can get some calls.
Pick: Saints to win and cover.
■ New England (-15) at Washington: Vegas sets the point spread at eleven points. Jay Gruden announces Colt McCoy will be Washington’s starting quarterback. Vegas adjusts the point spread to “eleventy.”
Pick: Patriots to win and cover. I never pick double-digit favorites to win games, but I just can’t see this one going any other way.
■ Minnesota (-5.5) at NY Giants: Kirk Cousins was my first-round draft pick for my Fantasy Football-Players-Who-Are-Just-Stealing-Money League.
Pick: Vikings to win and cover, which will reset the eventual collapse.
I’ll also take the Bears to win in London, the Colts to stay within 10 points of the Chiefs, and the Astros to sweep the Rays. Good luck, everybody.