It’s October, when this column traditionally limits the weekly NFL preview to two sentences per game blurb because it’s been paying attention to the baseball playoffs and ignoring football.
I always say this method leads to a better record in October than in other months, but I think really it just happened once in about 2003 and I’ve been joking about it ever since. I hate to have a beautiful schtick ruined by ugly facts, so I don’t want to check.
But it’s time for change. I’ve been able to stay current on the NFL by regularly reading newspapers and magazines. I’ve read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media. I have a vast variety of sources where I get my news.
So here are the Week 5 picks, with full freedom of speech, and the picks of Buster, the game-pickinest 5-year-old in the Lower 48, and Daisy, the coin-flippinest 3-year-old who ever bagged a moose, included. They take all favorites of six points or more.
Sunday early games
Tennessee (4-0) at BALTIMORE (2-1)
Which dominant defense is going to carry the day? Let’s just say I want to talk about my record on energy. But I do think the defenses alone could beat the over of 35.
Kansas City (1-3) at CAROLINA (3-1)
Now that the Chiefs have ended the What the Heck™ Pick’s perfect season, they can go back to losing.
Kids: Carolina (10-point favorite)
CHICAGO (2-2) at Detroit (0-3)
The post-Millen era begins pretty much the way the Millen era ended. And began. And middled.
Atlanta (2-2) at GREEN BAY (2-2)
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker A.J. Hawk are looking like game-time decisions with shoulder and groin injuries, respectively, so the Packers could be thin. Atlanta has beaten two of the weakest teams in the league, the Lions and Chiefs, at home, and lost two road games to pretty good teams, the Bucs and Panthers, by the score of 24-9. Ah, why not. Prediction: 24-9, Packers.
Buster: Green Bay
INDIANAPOLIS (1-2) at Houston (0-3)
The Texans will try to drill, baby, drill against the weak Indy run defense, but America is ready for a change — in Peyton Manning’s performance.
SAN DIEGO (2-2) at Miami (1-2)
The Chargers have rebounded from their two opening losses with wins over two of the weirdest teams in the NFL, the Jets and Raiders, while the Dolphins are coming off either the upset of the year if the Patriots are still good without Tom Brady or just a nice win if they’re not. There I go again, pointing backward. Doggone it, let’s look ahead. Philip Rivers should light up the scoreboard.
Kids: San Diego (6.5-point favorite)
Seattle (1-2) at N.Y. GIANTS (3-0)
With Plaxico Burress suspended for a game, who’ll drop Eli Manning’s passes?
Kids: New York (7.5-point favorite)
Washington (3-1) at PHILADELPHIA (2-2)
New coach Jim Zorn is a Washington outsider who has come in and created change. In the way everyone looks at his team. It was supposed to be an afterthought in the powerful NFC East, but after a stunner over Dallas last week, it’s right in the mix. But Washington is weak on defense, thanks to some injuries, and two road upsets in a row is asking a lot.
Kids: Philadelphia (6-point favorite)
Sunday late games
TAMPA BAY (3-1) at Denver (3-1)
After that Kansas City debacle, I need to see the Broncos tackle somebody before I’m ready to pick them again, even at home.
BUFFALO (4-0) at Arizona (2-2)
The Bills running game should be able to control this game, though not in the spectacular fashion Brett Favre and the Jets controlled the Cardinals a week ago. Is it too early to talk about the Bills going 16-0? Of course it isn’t. I mean, if you’re going to talk about that, better do it early, right?
CINCINNATI (0-4) at Dallas (3-1)
What the Heck™ Pick of the Week. This one might be the WTH™ Pick of the year. But it’s early yet.
Kids: Dallas (17.5-point favorite)
NEW ENGLAND (2-1) at San Francisco (2-2)
Never mind Cubs fans booing Ryan Dempster. How about Patriots fans booing their team as they left the field at halftime two weeks ago, trailing Miami 21-6. The Patriots had won 21 straight regular-season games, 28 of 31 games overall including playoffs, and they hadn’t lost at home since Nov. 12, 2006. Then they fell behind in the first half of one game, without their star quarterback. And the fans booed ‘em. Pats fans have pulled into first place in the Most Obnoxiously Entitled Fans in Sports sweepstakes.
Kids: San Francisco
Sunday night game
Pittsburgh (3-1) at JACKSONVILLE (2-2)
The Steelers survived a bruiser against the Ravens last week, and now they have to go right back into the breach in Jacksonville. If the Jags pass rush is going to get well, now’s the time. Ben Roethlisberger got sacked three times going to the grocery store this week.
Monday night games
MINNESOTA (1-3) at New Orleans (2-2)
Adrian Peterson is due for a breakout game after a pair of pedestrian efforts against the Panthers and Titans. Just a hunch here that he’ll lead the Vikes to an upset win. A maverick pick, if you will.
Kids: New Orleans
Season record: 37-23
Last week: 8-5
What the Heck™ Picks: 1-3
Actual number of newspapers and magazines I read about the NFL: All of ‘em, any of ‘em that have been in front of me over all these years