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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Week 5 NFL Predictions: October 9, 2011

For latest odds check out one of my trusted sportsbooks - 5 Dimes, Bodog or Intertops.

UPDATE: Within a few hours of posting the TEN pick the line has moved to TEN +3.5.  Please monitor the opening lines if you want the best numbers!  This is one of the biggest differences between the public and the pros--shop for the best price. Having said that I still like TEN at +3.5, but pass if it gets to +3.

Tennessee Titans vs Pittsburgh Steelers: TEN +5
This game is being kept off the board at a lot of books due to Big Ben's status.  He's going to be limited in practice this week, but since it's only a sprain most expect him to play.  I like TEN at anything over a field goal underdog.  In fact PIT shouldn't even be favored by that as there hasn't been a whole lot separating these teams this season.

Offensively, TEN is a middle of the road team. Losing Britt hurts, but they have enough pieces to make it work for now and newly acquired Donnie Avery will be put in the mix.  Chris Johnson finally got back on track last week and that's bad news for a PIT defense that is still trying to figure out why they can't stop the run.  There are a lot of rumblings that PIT's defense is finally showing it's age and the numbers back it up.  I can't remember a time when they've been so mediocre across the board.  They might get McFadden back this week, but he won't be 100%.  Making matters worse is they will likely be without DE Smith and LB Harrison.  Outside of Polamalu, those two guys are the last pieces you want to lose.  They have already struggled to get to the QB this year and cause turnovers, but now they go up against one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.  Hasselbeck is what he is, but he's a lot more effective when he's getting good protection. 

On the other side all the headlines will talk about Big Ben and Mendenhall's status, but the problems go well beyond the skill players. If PIT can get Scott and Legursky back on the O-line that will help stop the bleeding, but this line was having problems even when they were fully healthy.  Even their pro-bowl center Pouncey allowed a bad sack against HOU.  PIT is brutal in the red zone and average in most other offensive categories.  TEN's defense has been a bright spot and should remain stout against a banged up and inefficient PIT team this week. Losing Chris Hope hurts the secondary, but his replacement Jordan Babineaux looked good filling in.

I think TEN have a chance to win this game outright, but I'll gladly take the points and roll with the dog. Prediction: Bank TEN +5.

Green Bay Packers vs Atlanta Falcons: GB -4
I would have probably taken this line even if ATL was playing to their potential, but the fact that they are not only makes this play even more of a no-brainer.  At the time of this write-up the line has skyrocketed up towards -7, but this is just another countless lesson about how important it is to grab the opening line if you like a side! 

I don't fear the "revenge" factor here whatsoever.  ATL decided to sell the farm this offseason and get Julio Jones in the draft in an attempt to keep up with Rodgers.  They always signed Edwards to help improve the pass rush.  Neither has made a significant difference thus far--even though I do really like Jones. Instead, all I see are mismatches all across the board.

Offensively GB should have their way with ATL once again.  Rodgers will have little trouble finding time to get the ball out, their red zone/third down offense has a big edge, and GB have over 100 points from long drives in 4 games!  To put that in perspective, that is almost twice the league average.  Teams that can do this have a significant advantage in today's touchback NFL.  ATL's defense has been average in every important statistical category and haven't been able to generate the kind of pass rush and turnovers they were hoping for.  I realize it's still early, but I'm willing to bank on Rodgers' consistency a lot more than I would on ATL's defense turning it around.  Last week DEN put all their attention on Finley, but that didn't stop Rodgers from throwing 4 TD's elsewhere and running in another 2.  If someone knows how to stop him, I'd like to know who they are.

GB's shaky pass defense has given teams a glimmer of hope--but that light is flickering.  It could be that GB has morphed into the NFC version of the NE Patriots.  However, a closer look reveals a much better set of playmakers in GB's scheme led by Dom Capers.  Even though they give up a lot of yards, they've still managed to get a decent pass rush going and remain near the top of the league in red zone defense.  They are also winning the turnover margin by a great deal.  This is all bad news for a struggling ATL offense.  Even worse, Todd McClure left last game with an injury and it's never a good thing when your starting center is banged up.  Matt Ryan got knocked silly in the 1st three weeks before he got a breather against a soft SEA D-line.  With so much attention being put on the downfield passing game, Ryan is often stuck holding the ball too long waiting for his receivers to get open.  They've been very inconsistent with their commitment to Turner and a strong running game can only do so much if you're down a couple scores. ATL has been great in the red zone this year--the only problem is they don't get there enough!  To date they have 44 points from long drives which is well below the league average. 

As a fan I was hoping for a much more competitive ATL team at this point.  But it is what it is and I see GB sticking the dagger in their season once again.  Prediction: Bank GB -4.
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