JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, October 5, 2016 — With the 2016 NFL season now at the quarter mark, there are more surprises than sure things. 2015’s NFC Title Game teams are a combined 2-6. Last year multiple teams made it to 5-0. This year only three teams remain unbeaten, with one of them having a bye week last week. Meanwhile, the Patriots get you-know-who back from suspension this week. There is no one dominant team. Despite the worrywarts who complain about parity, only four teams are 2-2.
October also means breast cancer awareness month, as the players get decked out in pink everything. It is also the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, which as of now is not represented by any official colors. The coaching hot seat is on full blast in Tennessee and Detroit, while it has cooled a bit in Buffalo and Los Angeles.
Statistics and fun factoids entertain those who are easily entertained, but what matters in football is football. Lower ratings have been blamed on everything from pregame National Anthem protests to the presidential race. The first presidential debate conflicted with an NFL game, and the second presidential debate competes with Sunday Night Football this week. In political news, that has nothing to do with football. So let us get back to football. Here is the NFL 2016 Week 5 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, October 6, 2016, 8:30 p.m.
Arizona Cardinals (-4) at San Francisco 49ers — The 49ers were supposed to be awful, but Arizona has gone from a preseason Super Bowl contender to a desperate 1-3 squad. Arizona has the talent, and San Francisco does not. This is Arizona’s last chance to prove it. Cardinals cover.
Sunday, October 9, 1:00 p.m.
Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings (-6) — Minnesota is winning with hard-nosed defense and special teams. Sam Bradford has proven to be more than just a game manager. The Vikings do not score that many points, but at home after harassing Eli Manning they can be trusted to shut down Brock Osweiler. Vikings cover.
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (-3.5) — This week’s Stupor Bowl features a pair of anemic offenses. As badly as the Dolphins have been playing, Tennessee is awful and on the road. Dolphins cover.
New England Patriots (-10.5) at Cleveland Browns — The Cleveland Browns may be cursed. They have competed hard for Hue Jackson despite being winless, but they drew the short straw of being the first opponent to face the wrath of Tom Brady. The spread is high, but Brady will convince himself like Adam Sandler’s “The Waterboy” that the Browns defense supported Roger Goodell in the “Deflategate” saga. Patriots cover.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) — Ryan Fitzpatrick has been throwing interceptions, which means both he and Ben Roethlisberger are expected to complete at least one touchdown pass to a Pittsburgh player. After watching the Steelers throttle Kansas City by 29 points, it is hard to see the Jets being competitive. Steelers cover.
Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) — Despite a tough home loss last week, Baltimore is an improved team. Washington has regressed from last year. Baltimore’s defense is not what it was in the glory days, but Kirk Cousins has good and bad weeks. This week Baltimore should return to form. Ravens cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (-3) at Detroit Lions — Unbeaten Philadelphia had two weeks to prepare for this game, while the Lions offense was horrendous in a loss at Chicago last week. Give Detroit one more chance at home to show they are still relevant. Upset special, Lions win outright.
Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts (-4.5) — These teams are terrible, although Bryan Hoyer filled in admirably for injured Jay Cutler. Andrew Luck is carrying his team, and taking a beating for it. At home, the Colts have more than enough offensive firepower to dispatch a weak Chicago squad. Colts cover.
Atlanta Falcons at Denver Broncos (-6) — Atlanta has the top offense in the league and Denver has the top defense. Matt Ryan has been on fire this season, and threw for 500 yards last week. However, he has not had Von Miller in his face yet. Whether Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, Denver’s defense wants to make a statement. They will. Broncos cover.
Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) — Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher were both supposed to be on the verge of being fired. Now the Bills have won two straight while the Rams are 3-1. Both teams win with defense, and the Rams have the superior defense. Rams cover.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-3.5) — All the evidence favors the Raiders. They are winning close games while the Chargers are collapsing in the fourth quarter. Yet this is the exact type of game the Raiders could lose. With Philip Rivers matching Derek Carr in a shootout, expect it to be close. Raiders win but fail to cover.
Cincinnati Bengals (-1) at Dallas Cowboys — These Bengals are not the same squad that has won the last few years in the regular season. The Cowboys are an improved team, and Dak Prescott is for real. Upset special, Cowboys win outright.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (-7.5) — The Green Bay offense is not what it was in years past, but the Giants 2-0 start appears to have been a mirage. The spread is high, but the Giants are out of sync. This game occurs during the presidential debate, which means something to somebody, somewhere. Packers cover.
Monday, October 10, 8:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-7) — The Panthers are a shell of what they were, while the Buccaneers cannot even finish a game without a lightning storm delay. With Hurricane Matthew in the background, this game could be a monsoon. Cam Newton has been banged up with a concussion, but the Buccaneers lack the talent to compete with their division rival. Panthers cover.