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Week 5 picks, predictions against the point spread

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Use this as your non-Giants open thread

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

[NOTE: Use this as your open thread to discuss today’s non-Giants action.]

Last week’s picks got back over .500 (barely), but the season is still below that line. I found I’m apparently much better at picking the probabilities of winners, per FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting game, where I’m in the 85th percentile among pickers. The gap there doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, either. Two more teams — the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — are on byes this week.

Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.

NEW ENGLAND (-10.5) over Indianapolis

The Colts will be missing T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, and Jack Doyle among others on Thursday night. The Patriots will be getting back Julian Edelman from a four-game suspension a week after a 38-7 blowout of the Miami Dolphins. Indianapolis’s defense is not remotely close to the pushover it was expected to be — the Colts are currently 10th in defensive DVOA — but it’s going to be hard for the team to keep it close against the Patriots in Foxborough.

UPDATE: New England’s 38-24 victory on Thursday night got my week off to a good start.

KANSAS CITY (-3) over Jacksonville

Each team’s strengths mirror the other’s in the matchup. The Chiefs have one of the league’s best offense, while the Jaguars have one of the league’s best defenses. Surprisingly Jacksonville is only 23rd in DVOA against opposing No. 1 receivers, but that’s not likely to continue throughout the season. One weakness Kansas City can exploit is Jacksonville’s struggle against tight ends — 17th in DVOA.

Atlanta (+3) over PITTSBURGH

Pittsburgh is giving up 90.7 yards per game to opposing No. 1 receivers. Julio Jones is this week’s opposing No. 1 receiver. The Steelers haven’t been able to do much to stop opposing offenses and the Falcons offense finally looks like it’s clicking, despite the 1-3 record. Atlanta will one one of these shootouts eventually and this could be the week.

JETS (-1) over Denver

Denver is pretty good in all three phases of the game, while the Jets are among the best at two (defense and special teams) and pretty bad at the other (offense). With the Jets at home and defense so good so far, they should be able to keep this low scoring enough for the offense to take advantage and keep them in the game. Or the defense can take over and score all the points for them. Case Keenum has the second-highest interception rate among quarterbacks this season (highest among current starters — sorry, Sam Bradford).

Green Bay (-1) over DETROIT

Green Bay will likely be without Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, but that might not really matter that much. Even if Darius Slay can shut down Davante Adams, the offense can still probably go. The Packers are better than the Lions just about everywhere else on the field. There could be a higher volume of Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery or Jimmy Graham. The Lions are 22nd or worse covering every skill position.

Baltimore (-3) over CLEVELAND

Baltimore has arguably the league’s best passing defense — a league-low 4.2 AN/A allowed — and they’ll be getting Jimmy Smith back from a suspension. Baker Mayfield has been fun and the Browns probably should have won in Oakland, but this will be a tough ask for the rookie quarterback and the rest of the Browns offense — mainly the rest of the Browns offense.

CAROLINA (-7) over Giants

Carolina is home. Carolina has a good mobile quarterback. The Giants have struggled to stop those. Carolina’s defense hasn’t been what it’s been lately, but the Giants offense hasn’t shown anything to prove they could take advantage of that.

CINCINNATI (-6.5) over Miami

Cincinnati might be legitimately good, while Miami could be one of those teams that had a good start then fall back to Earth. One place where the Dolphins offense has struggled is keeping Ryan Tannehill upright even while pressure hasn’t been consistent. Tannehill’s sack rate (7.8 percent) is 26th among quarterbacks and the Bengals have one of the deepest and most dangerous pass rushes in the leagues, even if the sacks haven’t gotten there just yet.

CHARGERS (-6.5) over Oakland

The Chargers still have one of the league’s best offenses and that’s been enough to get them through games this season. The Raiders offense has been surprisingly above average over the past few weeks, but the Chargers have been significantly better while both defenses have been around the same. With Mike Williams now breaking through in his role, the Chargers have options that can beat any defense across the field and doing that to Oakland’s won’t be a high bar to clear.

Arizona (+4) over SAN FRANCISCO

Josh Rosen didn’t have great numbers in his debut, but he also didn’t have a bad game. There were some deep dimes that were dropped, but those should inspire optimism going forward. San Francisco has struggled on defense this year and the offense looked poor in C.J. Beathard’s first start whenever George Kittle wasn’t running free. While Arizona’s defensive personnel usage should be questioned — Haason Reddick has played 30 defensive snaps this season — the defense really hasn’t been that bad. This should be a game the Cardinals can at least keep close.

Rams (-7) over SEATTLE

There’s nothing any team can do to stop the Rams offense right now. It’s clicking in a rare way. Los Angeles leads the league in yards per drive at 50.1 and the No. 2 team, Kansas City, is at 41.7 (though the Chiefs are well ahead in points per drive — 3.45 to 3.15). There’s a lot of pieces to like on Seattle’s defense — currently sixth in DVOA — but handling this offense would be a tough task even with Earl Thomas. Then we can take into account the Rams still have a top-10 defense going against a Seahawks offense that’s struggled to do much of anything.

Minnesota (+3) over PHILADELPHIA

Both of these teams have been disappointing compared to preseason projections. Philadelphia did have to start two games of the non-Super Bowl hero version of Nick Foles, which isn’t easy. Minnesota doesn’t really have an excuse. Both of these teams should be better than they’re currently playing — Minnesota is just 25th in DVOA — or maybe we just get a disappointing dud on Sunday. Either way, it could be close.

Dallas (+3.5) over HOUSTON

Houston continues to look better than its 1-3 record, but at the same time, should they be favored by 3.5 points over anyone? Dallas has been able to pull through some ugly games and Houston feels like they almost want to play ugly by choice, for no reason at all. Houston should handle this game, but I just don’t trust Bill O’Brien to make that happen.

Washington (+6.5) over NEW ORLEANS

Washington is a sneaky good team. They’ve only played three games because Week 4 byes are a thing for some reason, but they’re seventh in yards per drive and 13th in points per drive on offense and fifth in yards allowed per drive and fourth in points allowed per drive on defense. If Cincinnati doesn’t have the most underrated pass rush in the league, Washington does. The Saints are good, but might not be the world beaters most of us thought they’d be coming into the season, especially with a defense that still ranks 29th in DVOA.

Last week: 7-6-2
Season: 26-33-4