Isn’t it amazing?
I was prepared to write about how quickly the first quarter of the season has gone, already. How a new year of football and NFL picks against the point spread brought a new year of opportunities. How everything started balancing out. How the ‘rebound’ is unfolding. How the ball, once again, is bouncing our way.
And then the ball literally bounced the other way.
Week 4 was one insane fluke away from yielding our fourth consecutive winning week to start the year. Four 9-win weeks-in-a-row. Instead, another series of impossible events unfolded. And we lost. But, we didn’t.
We don’t always lose when our picks lose. Yes, the numbers don’t look quite as good and the feeling isn’t as fuzzy, but it happens. Sometimes the ball really does bounce the other way.
This is something I have stated for years, through good-and-bad. And, it is much easier to open a Week 5 NFL Picks Against the Point Spread column with it seeing as the heart-breaking loss really didn’t do much damage. Was it annoying? Of course. Was it mind-boggling? Yes. But, was it crippling? Not a chance.
By the time Tuesday morning rolled around, we could already start to look ahead to the smaller slate of games in Week 5. “Small” should not only refer to the amount of teams in play compared to recent weeks, but the sizes of many of the spreads. In addition, these spreads have moved quite a bit over the past few days, as Week 4 left a handful of teams ravaged with injuries.
Thankfully, not a single game was missing a spread by the time this column was written, which means the numbers were released without definitive knowledge of what to expect. At least, what most should expect.
We are here to read between the lines.
Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.
*Confidence Picks – 2017 Season: 14-11 (Last Week: 3-3)
(2016 Season: 53-67-3) (2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2) (3-Year Total: 183-158-7)
All Picks Against Spread – 2017 Season: 35-27-1 (Last Week: 8-8)
(2016 Season: 123-136-8) (2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4) (3-Year Total: 415-367-19)
Seattle Seahawks (+1) at Los Angeles Rams
That was nice to see, wasn’t it? The Los Angeles Rams have toyed with the idea of being a good football team for quite some time, now, and they finally decided it was worth trying to make such a thought into a reality. It worked. At least, for a few weeks.
I have argued since the start of the season that the Rams’ light schedule out-of-the-gate would leave them in a position where they are the best team in the NFC West. By default, it’s true. At 3-1, Los Angeles leads the division by a game and, at 2-2 neither the Cardinals nor Seahawks are playing well enough to challenge the numbers. Seattle will look to change that on Sunday afternoon.
Entering the season, if one had to pinpoint which side of the ball would be the strength for the Rams, he or she would have likely chosen the defense. Talented in its own right, the Rams’ defense was also the de facto leader of the team, since it is questionable whether-or-not last year’s team even had an offense – let alone one capable of competing. Sure enough, the two units have switched sides completely, where the Rams rank first in scoring and fifth in yards, but fifth-worst in scoring defense and sixth-worst in yards allowed. To put it simply, the Rams are winning games by outscoring teams, which is a trend unlikely to continue.
Seattle has been shrouded in mediocrity since the start of the season, and barely escaped a ‘letdown’ against the 49ers in Week 2 before actually falling to the Titans the following Sunday. A Primetime home thrashing of the Colts was exactly what the Seahawks needed for some momentum, but it wasn’t without its flaws. Seattle needed two defensive touchdowns to top Indianapolis, and entered halftime trailing to the lowly Colts. We could argue that Seattle took Indianapolis lightly, but the Seahawks simply haven’t played the brand of football we have come to expect out of the Pacific Northwest.
The irony is that Sunday’s matchup, despite featuring a perennial doormat in the Rams, carries absolutely no threat of another ‘letdown.’ In addition to Los Angeles jumping out to a 3-1 record – Seattle must take notice – the Rams have also beaten the Seahawks in three-of-the-last-four head-to-head matchups. Seattle will be ready.
The Seahawks rank tenth in offensive yards, and the Rams have been burned by every offense they have played except one – from Indianapolis. Seattle will find success on offense, and it will carry the team to a road victory before it heads into the bye week. After all, head coach Pete Carroll is 5-1 with Seattle in the game prior to a bye week, now with five consecutive wins.
The Seahawks win by a field goal and beat the spread.
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (+3)*
It’s dangerous, isn’t it? All the uncertainty. Not knowing which quarterback will be under center. Or how he will play. It’s hard enough to try to pick the game against-the-spread with so many variables. But imagine being the one who makes the spread.
Over the last three weeks, the Vikings have headed toward Sunday without an early announcement of the status of oft-injured Sam Bradford. As a result, the spreads for their games were delayed until later in the week. It makes sense. Why risk throwing a number out that needs to change violently?
Each week, the spread stalled and, each week, it released in reaction to evidence that Bradford would not play. All three times, we had our decision made prior to the news, and it helped protect us from making snap judgements.
Again, for the fourth consecutive time, we are left without knowing the name of Minnesota’s starting quarterback for its upcoming game. But, in contrast to the past two weeks, we have a spread. As of this writing, the status of Bradford is still unknown, yet the spread already released. It appears as if Bradford’s impact on the game is shrinking with each passing week.
There’s a twist in the story. The Vikings aren’t the only team carrying uncertainty at the quarterback position. The Chicago Bears have their equal share of ‘the unknown’ for Monday night, as they will be turning to rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky brings his own share of questions, and has since he was drafted second overall by the Bears. At the time – and still, today – I argued that Chicago had a sneaky, but successful plan to acquire Trubisky that also included the decoy of Mike Glennon. Now, we are actually seeing my hypothesis play out in front of our eyes, as the Bears effectively gave up on Glennon only four games into what-could-have-been a three-year career – based on his contract. It was never going to get to that point. Not after Chicago selected Trubisky so early in the draft.
Glennon’s poor play – specifically in two games, including a nationally-televised disaster in Green Bay – sent fans clamoring for Trubisky as early as last week. It would be naive to think that Chicago didn’t consider this option, but it also was not realistic. Trubisky would have entered a game in which the Bears had already lost quarters ago in a hostile road environment against a hated rival in surefire passing situations. He would have been thrown to the metaphorical wolves after his teammate was mauled, but not killed. Wisely, the Bears let the Packers finish off Glennon, instead. Unscathed, Trubisky had extended time – basically, a bye week – to prepare for a Monday game more than one full week after his team’s last battle fought on Thursday Night Football.
The issue for Trubisky is neither the preparation time nor the lack of talent surrounding him in Chicago. It is the matchup against a Vikings defense that is one of the best in the game. With that, how can the Vikings only be a three-point favorite against a rookie quarterback?
We know the answer. Monday Night Football has set a ‘trap.’
The Vikings – a team with playoff aspirations – will head home after Monday’s game to host the Green Bay Packers in a critical division game. The odds of Minnesota looking past Chicago are high. But, the matchup still favors the Vikings, right?
With all the respect given to the Vikings’ defense – including from me – it might be surprising to realize they rank outside of the top-ten for yards allowed – 12th overall. Their offense is far better than most realize – sixth-best in yards – but just lost running back Dalvin Cook for the season. And, Minnesota’s outlook gets darker when we compare it to the Bears’ defense, which ranks eighth-best in the league in yards allowed.
Chicago, not Minnesota, brings the better defense to the field on Monday Night Football. It may be starting a rookie quarterback, but had additional time to prepare, was just embarrassed on national television so badly that a quarterback change was made, and is, again, playing on Primetime. Do not expect another dud from Chicago.
Expect a win.
The Bears pull off the home ‘upset,’ winning by a field goal and beating the spread.
Click here to sign up for Sporfolio to see the rest of Mario Mergola’s NFL picks against the point spread. Mergola finished with the highest total of correct NFL picks against the spread for 2015 and 2016 – tracked by NFLPickwatch – and finished 2015 with an accuracy of 60.53% for his confidence picks.