Josh Katzowitz's Week 5 NFL Picks
*Facing tough fourth downs in overtime with their respective games on the line, first-year head coaches Frank Reich and Mike Vrabel had important decisions to make: Do they try to win the game (and possibly lose it in the meantime), or do they go conservative and play for the tie? *
In both cases, Indianapolis’ Reich and Tennessee’s Vrabel went for it on fourth down. The Colts failed to make the first down, and a few minutes later, the Texans made them pay for it by winning the game in the extra period. The Titans, who were losing by three points at the time and who would have been officially sunk if they didn’t convert, made the first down and eventually beat the Eagles.
I loved both decisions. And I imagine both teams’ players loved the decision. How do you not love a coach who is willing to show confidence in his offense that it can convert a first down when it’s needed the most? "I felt like we deserved to win," Vrabel said after the game. "Trust the players and that's what we did and they executed."
Now, compare those decisions—and past high-profile, gutsy fourth-down calls made by New England’s Bill Belichick and Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson—with how Jets coach Todd Bowles proceeded on two plays when his team was losing big. His first decision came with about 13 minutes left in the game with his team losing by 22 points and with a fourth and 8 at the Jacksonville 20. His second came with 4:33 left and with the Jets losing by 13 with a fourth and six at the Jets 20. Bowles took the conservative way out both times. On those two plays, he kicked a field goal and then he punted, respectively. Sure, New York was out of the game at that point, but Bowles’ decision basically told the Jaguars that the Jets were giving up on the game, that they had no intention of trying to make a last-minute comeback.
So, what does it all mean when it comes to betting on the Colts and Titans moving forward, based on their coaches’ aggressive fourth-down play-calling? Maybe nothing. But if the coaches trust their players and the players know their coaches trust them, they’re certainly in a better spot than a team who knows its coach is willing to wave a white flag when there’s still plenty of time left in the game. And I’d be more likely to bet on the teams who have a little bit of that extra confidence boost. Unless they’re playing the Patriots. Now, on to the Week 5 picks.
Bet your life savings on this game *
Colts at Patriots
This is the easiest of easy calls this week for betting it all. The Colts are coming off a tough overtime loss and then have to travel to New England to face a team that destroyed the AFC East’s first place team last week. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis’ leading receiver, is doubtful to play with a hamstring injury, and it’s unlikely tight end Jack Doyle will be available either. The Colts have been a little better than I expected through the first quarter of the year, and Andrew Luck is putting up good stats (and always seems to be smiling in his postgame press conferences even when his team is losing). But the Patriots, after a 1-2 start, seem to have found their way last week vs. Miami (and getting Julian Edelman back from his four-game suspension will only help). New England—which hasn’t lost to the Colts in Foxborough since 2006—is not going to fall to Indianapolis at home.
Straight up: Patriots Against the Spread: Patriots -10
2018 record for the “Bet your life savings” game: 4-0 S/U and 3-1 ATS 2017-18 record: 18-5 S/U and 12-11 ATS
This game scares the hell out of me
Broncos at Jets
After blasting the Lions and scoring 48 points behind rookie quarterback Sam Darnold in Week 1, the Jets offense has gone cold during its three-game losing streak, averaging 13.7 points and 269 total yards per game. Going against the Broncos and their solid (but not great thus far) defense probably won’t help. But here’s why I’m a little frightened of this game. Denver played Monday night, losing a tough game to the Chiefs, and now it has to travel halfway across the country on one less day’s rest. And the Broncos are the betting underdogs. Which I can really figure out. Which disturbs me a little. Which makes me scared. But I still like Denver quarterback Case Keenum’s potential and I love the way the Broncos running back duo of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay have played. The Broncos last week shut down Kansas Chief’s Patrick Mahomes for much of the game. This week, they’ll do the same (and maybe more) to Darnold to get themselves a close victory.
Straight up: Broncos Against the spread: Broncos +1.5
2018 record for “This game scares the hell out of me:” 3-1 S/U and 2-2 ATS 2017-18 record: 13-10 S/U and 12-10-1 ATS
Fun game of the week
Jaguars at Chiefs
How can you not love to see the Jaguars, one of the league’s most ferocious defenses, face off against the Chiefs, the league’s most prolific offense? And how could you not yearn to watch Kansas City, one of the worst defenses in the league, try to get better against a mediocre Jacksonville offense that will be missing its best player in Leonard Fournette? There are storylines everywhere. Mahomes was hindered by the Broncos for the first three quarters last week. But Jacksonville, which allows a league-best 164.2 passing yards per game, is good enough to shut him down for an entire game (unless, of course, he starts winging the ball left-handed again). Mahomes should make this an entertaining contest, but I like Jacksonville in an upset here.
Straight up: Jaguars Against the spread: Jaguars +3
2018 record for the “Fun game of the week”: 2-2 S/U and 2-1-1 ATS 2017-18 record: 15-8 S/U and 12-9-2 ATS 2018 record for every game picked in this column: 9-3 S/U and 7-4-1 ATS
2017-2018 record for every game picked in this column: 46-23 S/U and 36-30-3 ATS 2018 overall record on Pickwatch: 37-24 S/U and 32-28 ATS
- S/U ATS
- NE over IND NE -10
- TEN over BUF TEN -3
- ATL over PIT ATL +3
- DEN over NYJ DEN +1.5
- JAC over KC JAC +3
- GB over DET GB -1.5
- BAL over CLE BAL -3
- CAR over NYG NYG +7
- CIN over MIA MIA +6
- LAC over OAK OAK +5.5
- ARI over SF ARI +4
- MIN over PHI MIN +3
- LAR over SEA LAR -3
- HOU over DAL HOU -3
- NO over WAS NO -6.5
*Don’t really bet your life savings. Please.