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NFL Week 5 Picks: Beginning The Bye Weeks

Our picks on this week's NFL games, including the Titans vs. the Steelers.

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers calls out a play at the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers calls out a play at the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Last week was a perfect example of why it's so dang difficult to be a successful handicapper of NFL games. I finished a respectable 8-8, but two games that I felt pretty strongly about ultimately wound up as losing picks despite the games playing out very much like I expected. Those would be Dallas' incredible collapse against the Detroit Lions, and Carolina sneaking in the backdoor with a late touchdown to cover the spread. Of course, I got fairly lucky with the New York Giants' incredible win and cover, so who am I to complain? The moral of the story either way, though, is it's damn hard to consistently pick winners in the unpredictable and ever-changing National Football League.

For the first time in 2011, we don't have a full slate of 16 games on tap for Sunday and Monday. Six teams have the week off, meaning there are 13 games to pick this week, including the Pittsburgh Steelers' home matchup with the Tennessee Titans. There's no love lost between these two teams -- not just stemming from the Terrible Towel stomping incident from 2008, but dating way back to their rivalry days in the AFC Central. We'll see who emerges victorious in what will be the two teams' fourth matchup in as many years. Let's get to it.

Last week: 8-8

Season to date: 30-33-1


Philadelphia (-3) at Buffalo (-120)

  • The Eagles played fairly well for most of last Sunday's game against San Francisco. That's why they play a full 60 minutes, though. There's no reward for racking up style points in the first 30 minutes of a game. Michael Vick and the Eagles certainly looked spectacular while racing out to a 20-3 halftime lead against San Francisco, but little by little, slowly but surely, the Eagles allowed the 49ers to creep back into the game. Once the pressure was squarely on them late in the game, they were unable to respond and dropped a game that might come back to haunt them later in the year. As for Buffalo? Well, I think last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals exposed them a bit. That's not to say they're totally fraudulent. They'll still be a tough out most weeks, particularly at home. Nevertheless, this is a classic example of the public overplaying Philadelphia's demise, as well as putting too much stock into Buffalio's 3-1 record. They could very easily be 1-3.  Pick: Philadelphia

New Orleans (-7) at Carolina (-115)

  • The Carolina Panthers - Your 2011 Backdoor Cover Team of the Year. I'm not sure that's a compliment necessarily, because it usually means you're just picking up easy yards and points when the game is all but out of reach. But unlike most teams with no more than a five- or six-win ceiling, the Panthers are at least entertaining to watch for a full 60 minutes. I think this week they'll do something similar to last week and at least push with a late score. Pick: Carolina

Oakland (+6) at Houston

  • Big game for both teams here. Houston has a great opportunity to get three games above .500 and take another big step towards a first ever playoff appearance for the franchise. Oakland meanwhile looks to rebound following a frustrating home loss to the Patriots last weekend. The Raiders are one of only two teams (Philadelphia) to have both scored and allowed more than 100 points through four weeks (111, 113). Pick: Oakland

Kansas City (+3) at Indianapolis (+115)

  • Do I really have to write anything about this game? Thanks, didn't feel like it, other than I wonder if the Colts would have made the smart decision to move on from Kerry Collins and start Curtis Painter had the veteran Collins not been concussed during their Week 3 loss to the Steelers. Something tells me no. As is, there is at least a sliver of a reason to be optimistic and take interest in what the Colts are up to each Sunday. Pick: Indianapolis

Cincinnati (+3) at Jacksonville (+125)

  • Jacksonville is really not very good at football, If the Bengals didn't have a rookie ginger under center I might even put this in the 'lock' category. As is, it's probably not a good idea to speak out too confidently on behalf of a team that has a rookie out of TCU leading the show. Still Blaine Gabbert has not proven he's ready to methodically pick apart what's looked like a very competent defense through four weeks. Bengals and Jags fans -- can you let us know how this one goes? I don't think too many fans outside of those markets will be tuning in to see what unfolds. Pick: Cincinnati

Arizona (+3) at Minnesota (+110)

  • I'm like that guy at the roulette table who continues to up the bet on red after seeing the previous 15 rolls all land on red. I'm not sure that analogy quite works, but point is I'm not walking away until I hit once. Pick: Minnesota

Seattle (+10) New York Giants (-105)

  • I think the Giants are a bit better than most realize, but I am not convinced they're ready to start blowing teams out. More importantly, though, Seattle is starting to play some pretty good football. After falling down big early in last week's home loss to the Falcons, the Seahawks played very, very well on both sides of the ball. That defense has some bigtime playmakers on it, and though I might sound crazy saying it, Tarvaris Jackson is not nearly as bad as people think he is. If you're open and he has time to throw the ball, he'll find you just as well as the mid-tier quarterbacks in the league. The test for Seattle is protecting him well enough against a very capable Giants' defensive line. Pick: Seattle

Tennessee (+6.5) at Pittsburgh

  • Pittbsurgh is just 1-3 against the spread, so I'm going to not jinx them again this week and just hope they can play well enough to muster any type of win, ugly or otherwise. Lots of injuries and new faces are set to play for Pittsburgh this week. That might not be such a bad thing considering how the team has looked for most of the 1/4 of the season. Pick: Tennessee

Tampa Bay (+3) at San Francisco (+100)

  • Tampa Bay once again played well down the stretch to squeak out a win. They certainly don't deserve too many kudos though for their performance against the Colts. Coming off a short week and traveling all the way west to play the 49ers seems like a tall order. It maybe should come as no surprise to anybody, but Jim Harbaugh is quietly doing a fantastic job in his first year at the controls of SF. Pick: San Francisco

San Diego (-4) at Denver (-105)

  • The Chargers have yet to hit their mid-fall stride, but they played fairly well last week against Miami in a game that I suggested you go all in on. Again, I think this line is too low for how poorly the Broncos defense is playing. Love the Chargers again here. Pick: San Diego

New York Jets (+9.5) at New England (-115)

  • The Jets will be relieved to square off against New England's defense after getting annihilated by the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday night. Mark Sanchez was awful in the Week 4 loss, but for all his undeniable struggles, it's hard to argue that he doesn't have a nice track record of bouncing back up from the floor when he's down. Whether they win the game depends on if their defense can return to form after giving up big plays the last two weeks. But on offense at least, I think they'll play better and find a way to keep the game close.  Pick: New York Jets

Green Bay (-6) at Atlanta (-105) 

  • Atlanta's front seven continues to look far from championship caliber, but I watched most of their Week 4 win at Seattle. Some might look at the two point win over the Seahawks and be unimpressed, but you'll have to believe me when I say that their offense looked very sharp. Seattle's defense is no joke, especially not at home. But the Falcons were just too good offensively, particularly in the first half for Pete Carrol's squad to slow down. This should be a shootout, but I like Atlanta to play well on offense again and remind everybody whey they were in the NFC Championship Game a year ago. Pick: Atlanta

Chicago (+6) at Detroit (-105)

  • As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I liked Chicago last week to take care of business against the trendy Panthers. They did though the game could have very easily turned in the Panthers favor had a few plays gone differently in the third quarter. As for Detroit, well, they look legit. Their ability to throw the ball and get after the quarterback are two huge traits to possess in today's NFL. Still, nothing about the last two weeks makes me believe they're ready to win by more than a field goal against a flawed but still dangerous team like the Bears. Pick: Chicago

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.