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NFL picks 2016, Week 5: Look for the Patriots, Panthers to get back in the win column

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Both teams are coming off big losses last week. This week, the Patriots get Brady back against the Browns, and Carolina gets to host a struggling Buccaneers team in primetime. Both games look like sure things, but are they really?

Some games are easy to pick, or at least you think they're easy to pick. It mostly involves your perception of a team, the widely accepted perception of a team. And then some underdog pulls off an upset.

Last week, our panel was unanimous for the Patriots to beat the Bills. Why shouldn't they be? New England hadn't lost all season. They shut out the Texans the week before with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, so even with the confusion of whether Brissett or Jimmy Garoppolo would start, the Patriots still seemed like a pretty safe pick.

Nope.

The same thing happened with Arizona. Our panel was unanimous in picking them to beat the Rams last week. Unlike the Patriots, however, the Cardinals have struggled plenty this season. All indications heading into the year were that the Cardinals would be good, a popular Super Bowl pick. We've all spent the first three weeks of the season waiting for them to figure out whatever it is they needed to figure out. One loss to the Rams later, we're still waiting.

Our biases make for the biggest obstacle in picking games. We look at a matchup like the Rams-Cardinals or Bills-Patriots and see a clear favorite because one team in that tilt has a deeper roster, better coaching, a spotless record, or an assumed invincibility.

It's not always that easy from week to week in the NFL. Sure, the Patriots, over the long haul of the season, will probably be fine. You see that feeling reflected this week, a unanimous pick for them to beat the Browns in the week Tom Brady returns from his suspension.

The Cardinals probably will not be fine, not this season anyway, but they're still the overwhelming favorite to beat a far inferior 49ers team. And they should win that game, but how sure of that outcome are you?

TOUGH PICKS

Games featuring two crappy teams are tough to pick, too. I suspect the presence of Andrew Luck against a terrible Bears defense is a factor, not to mention home field, for most of the panel going with the Colts. But Andrew Luck hasn't been enough to keep the Colts from a 1-3 record so far.

The Monday night game, the Buccaneers at Panthers, is another tough pick to make. Part of that is because we expected the Panthers to be one of the NFL's best teams, too. They're not even close to that. Nobody really expected the Bucs to be great either, but they're even more underwhelming than even a cynical fan would've assumed, thanks in part to Jameis Winston's struggles (eight interceptions this season).

SURE THINGS

The Steelers host the Jets, and that looks like another opportunity for Ben Roethlisberger and Co. to do what they did to the Chiefs last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing terrible football (10 interceptions) and other than the team's defensive line, nothing seems to be going right.

New England over Cleveland. The Browns are going to win a game eventually this season, but not this one. Right?

The only question I have about the Chargers playing in Oakland this week is whether or not they'll blow yet another fourth-quarter lead. I can't imagine Mike McCoy hangs onto his job for another week if that happens, but then again, this is the Chargers.

LAST WEEK

Congrats to Adam Stites, who topped everyone last week with an impressive 10-5 record picking the games. The next closest were Jeanna Thomas and the OddsShark computer at 8-7. A big congrats to Joel Thorman, aka the Blog Father, for his one-game lead over the computer for first place overall. Big win for sweatpants and sentient beings.

Reminder, we give our panel the chance to re-pick two games on Friday. We'll update this post and note which panelists have re-picked which games.

Game RVB Stephen White Thomas George Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Tyler Tynes Louis Bien Joel Thorman Fooch OddsShark computer
AZ vs SF SF AZ AZ AZ AZ AZ AZ AZ AZ AZ
NE vs CLE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE NE
PHI vs DET PHI PHI DET PHI PHI PHI PHI DET PHI PHI
CHI vs IND CHI IND IND IND CHI IND IND IND IND IND
TEN vs MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA MIA TEN MIA MIA MIA
WAS vs BAL WAS BAL WAS BAL BAL BAL BAL BAL WAS BAL
HOU vs MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN MIN
NYJ vs PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT PIT
ATL vs DEN DEN DEN DEN DEN DEN DEN DEN ATL DEN DEN
CIN vs DAL DAL CIN CIN CIN DAL CIN DAL CIN CIN DAL
BUF vs LA LA BUF BUF BUF BUF LA BUF BUF LA LA
SD vs OAK OAK SD OAK OAK OAK OAK SD OAK OAK OAK
NYG vs GB GB GB GB GB GB GB GB GB GB GB
TB vs CAR CAR CAR CAR CAR TB TB TB CAR CAR CAR
Last week 7-8 6-9 7-8 8-7 10-5 6-9 7-8 6-9 7-8 8-7
Total 35-28 33-30 32-31 36-27 35-28 31-32 32-31 37-26 30-33 36-27

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Odell Beckham Jr needs to dial it back