Predicted Line: DET by 5.5
Actual Line: DET by 4
Right now, Schwartz and Harbaugh are the top two candidates for Coach of the Year. Given Alex Smith's 104.1 QB rating (3rd in the league behind Brady and Rodgers), you have to give Harbaugh the nod. How the heck has he turned Alex Smith into an offensive machine?
One of the biggest surprises this season has been the Niners offensive line. They've been awesome. Now they get the Lions' elite, deep, and generally superior defensive line, so it should be a fantastic matchup in the trenches. Gore has 252 rushing yards in his last 2 games, a stunning 7.5 YPC, and that is mostly impressive when you consider that he doesn't have a huge outlier run to inflate the stats. His biggest gain is 12 yards.
Fortunately Detroit is turning into a run-stuffing defensive unit. Stephen Tulloch is the best linebacker we've had since Chris Spielman, and Levy makes a great sidekick. The D line doesn't get pushed around anymore, and the safeties can fly up into holes and slam into people. Stopping Frank Gore won't be easy, but I do think Detroit has the personnel to slow him down and hold him to less than 100 yards.
If we do that, we can force Alex Smith into passing situations, and hopefully create some turnovers. I was shocked and dismayed that Detroit wasn't able to force a single turnover against Jay Cutler. I doubt that happens again.
Vernon Davis is clearly the 49ers best receiving threat, while Josh Morgan has really surpassed Crabtree as the #2. (EDIT* Morgan is on IR with a broken ankle. This is pretty important). Delanie Walker is the new #2 receiver, with Braylon sidelined until at least week 8. These guys are deep and have tons of talent at the skill positions. Last year they looked like a playoff team but sucked because of poor quarterback play. This year everybody said "Don't be fooled, Alex Smith sucks!" but we didn't realize that Harbaugh was the football version of Yoda.
As great as the Lions defense has been this year, I don't see us clamping down on Gore and Davis enough to prevent 24 or 27 points from being scored. Which means this should be a really close game.
Offensively, I'm hoping Scott Linehan will scrap the running game from the get-go and coming out throwing. You can't run on San Francisco (they rank 3rd in YPC and they have Patrick Willis, the best run-stopping linebacker in a decade), so why force Stafford into 3rd and 9 situations? I'd rather see 2 incomplete bombs and take 3rd and 10.
Currently, Calvin is averaging 5.8 catches per game, and that number needs to start increasing. We've been treating him too much like a secret weapon for the last few years, and need to start force-feeding him the ball. As a red-zone guy, he's the best receiver in the league. Probably the best since Moss. But as a middle-of-the-field possession guy, he's underused. Obviously that's because of double and triple coverage. But still, I'd like to see his receptions increase, even if it means less passes thrown to Will Heller or less runs for Keiland Williams. I know, shocking.
The toughest part of this game is probably the mental factor. At 5-0, Detroit could easily relax and say "Nobody expected us to be 5-0, and being 5-1 would still be awesome." Playing on a short week is an added challenge. Meanwhile San Fran is riding a huge wave of momentum, coming off a 45 point win and feeling like they've already won the NFC West. It's gonna be tough to stay focused, but the home crowd should help. That, and this team has a lot of on-field leaders, especially on defense, who won't let the rest of the guys slack.
I see this being a back-and-forth chess match where both teams take turns leading. Neither will run away with the game, but neither will collapse. In the end, I like Detroit, narrowly, 24-23.
Colts (0-5) @ Bengals (3-2)
Predicted Line: CIN by 7
Actual Line: CIN by 7
I do believe the Colts are subconsciously tanking, but even if that's the case, I don't trust Andy Dalton and Cedric Benson to cover a 7-point spread. Bengals 24-20.
Bills (4-1) @ Giants (3-2)
Predicted Line: Pick Em
Actual Line: NYG by 3
I don't get it. The Bills just beat down Philly, and the Giants just lost at home to Seattle. Justin Tuck and Chris Snee (the Giants two best players if I'm not mistaken) are out. If Ryan Fitzpatrick was the one with the famous brother, wouldn't Buffalo be favored by 7? Seriously, what does Buffalo need to do to get some respect? I'm all over the Bills here, straight up, 27-23.
Rams (0-4) @ Packers (5-0)
Predicted Line: A Billion
Actual Line: 14.5
Really? Only 15? Guess I'll take the Pack. Let's say 35-6 at halftime, 45-20 final.
Jaguars (1-4) @ Steelers (3-2)
Predicted Line: PIT by 10
Actual Line: PIT by 12
Last week, everyone hated on the Steelers. Now, they're 12 point favorites. Everything can change in a week. Last week, this line woulda been 6 or less.
With all the injuries on defense and the crappiness of the offensive line, I still don't like Pittsburgh big. But a rookie QB in Heinz Field ... geez I don't know. Pittsburgh definitely wins again, but 12 is just a few points higher than I want to go. Let's say 23-13, Jags cover.
Eagles (1-4) @ Redskins (3-1)
Predicted Line: Pick Em
Actual Line: PHI by 1.5
On a talent scale from 1 to 100, Philly wins 95 to 65. But on the field, who the heck knows. I've picked in favor of Philly and been wrong for several weeks in a row. I'm doing it again. Sue me. 28-20.
Texans (3-2) @ Ravens (3-1)
Predicted Line: BAL by 7 (overreaction to Mario Williams injury)
Actual Line: BAL by 7.5 (Wow)
Actually, I like the Ravens too, along with 78% of the public. When a team is without their two best players like Houston is, it's got to be tempting to quit, especially on the road. Ray Rice will run all over them. I hate everything about Jacoby Jones. Ravens 27-17.
Browns (2-2) @ Raiders (3-2)
Predicted Line: OAK by 6.5
Actual Line: OAK by 6.5
Don't take crappy teams on the road. Don't take crappy quarterbacks to cover big spreads. I'm torn. I'm guessing the line is a bit too high; Oakland wins by 3.
Cowboys (2-2) @ Patriots (4-1)
Predicted Line: NE by 8.5
Actual Line: NE by 7
With the Cowboys on a bye last week, it was a rare chance for some quarterbacks other than Tony Romo to get discussed by the national media. Vick was oddly excused for his 4 INT game, and instead Tebow and Roethlisberger dominated headlines. For some reason, Rodgers and Brady are having historic seasons and nobody's talking about them (both are on pace for 44 TDs and 5,500+ yards).
These teams are similar in a lot of ways, but also very different. Both have great offenses capable of scoring quickly, and both have bad secondaries. Consequently, it could be high-scoring. The Cowboys have a good pass rush, while the Pats don't. But the Pats have a great O-line, which the Cowboys don't. In other words, don't count on many sacks.
With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant playing at less than 100%, it'll be tough for Dallas to keep the score within 7. Brady is like 99-1 ATS at home so I guess I'll take New England, 37-26.
*Ugghh ... I just realized now we have Rex Ryan's ugly long-haired brother doing his Rex impression, talking trash about the Patriots. Let me guess... Brady would only be the third best QB on the Cowboys right?
Saints (4-1) @ Bucs (3-2)
Panthers (1-4) @ Falcons (2-3)
Two huge matchups in the NFC South. The Saints and Falcons are both 4-point favorites. I like them both to win, but I think both games are decided by a field goal or less.
Vikings (1-4) @ Bears (2-3)
Predicted Line: CHI by 5.5
Actual Line: CHI by 3
After watching the sad excuse for an offense run by Mike Martz and Jay Cutler, I don't see Chicago scoring more than 14 or 17 points against Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and the Vikings D. Peterson should be able to match that by himself while McNabb continues to chuck passes to his receivers ankles. With all due respect to the great Tom Kowalski (RIP) and anyone who proclaimed the dominance of the NFC North prior to this season, this is probably the worst game of week 6. I like Minnesota only because somebody's gotta win. Let's say 20-16.
Dolphins (0-4) @ Jets (2-3)
Predicted Line: NYJ by 13.5 (Matt Moore on the road, come on)
Actual Line: NYJ by 7
Typically, Miami is a bad team that doesn't quite get blown out. In playing 3 great AFC teams, they've lost by 14, 10 and 10. But that was with Chad Henne. Now they have Matt Moore under center, and we all saw what he was able to do last year as Carolina's starter (55.6 QB rating).
The Dolphins have an excellent defense, however, and should be able to shut down the Jets really terrible offense. Sanchez is playing the worst football of his young career, and Shonn Greene looks slow and terrible. But, Nick Mangold is back in action, finally healthy, and that means big things. There are only 3 offensive lineman in the NFL who are totally essential to their team's offense: Mangold, Jake Long, and Joe Thomas. The Jets 3 game losing streak has everything to do with Mangold's injury.
With Miami coming off a bye and the Jets playing like crap, a lot of people are leaning towards the Dolphins. Hence the line being 7 when it should be 10+. But terrible quarterbacks on the road against great defenses ... that's too easy. Especially when Revis eliminates Brandon Marshall, Miami's only decent receiver. Low-scoring but Jets still cover. 16-3.
That's all I got. Hoping for a good week of picks, hoping my stupid fantasy team doesn't fall to 1-5, and mostly hoping for a 6-0 start for the undefeated Lions!
And hoping the Tigers can come back from the 1-3 hole. I'm not at all giving up; we've got Verlander today, then Fister and Scherzer who both pitched great against Texas (13 combined innings, 5 earned runs). It's obviously going to be tough to come back, especially if Nelson Cruz continues to hit 11th inning homers, but Detroit can do it.