Week 5 of the NFL season is in the history books. The St. Louis Rams are coming off a 34-20 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Rams travel to Houston this weekend, to face the Houston Texans. The Texans are off to a surprising 2-3 start, troubled by the inadequate play of quarterback Matt Schaub. The Texans will present a formidable challenge for the Rams, with both teams vying to climb back to the .500 mark. Can the Rams steal a win, against a team in obvious turmoil?
Week 5 Results
The accompanying chart presents the results of my picks for Week 5, and the season totals to-date:
Week Wins Straight Up Wins vs Spread Rams Straight Up Last Week 9 5 8 6 1 0 Season 51 26 44 33 3 2
Week 5 was perhaps the most difficult week for picks this season. The spread was 4 points or under for 8 of the 14 games played. Despite the difficulty, it was a successful week picking both straight-up, and against the spread [9 wins straight-up and 8 wins versus the spread]. This season continues to be difficult to predict, as many 2012 playoff teams from the NFC are struggling. Notwithstanding the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks, the other 5 playoff teams from 2012 have a combined 8-14 record. Week 6 promises to be another difficult week, with 7 of the 15 games having very close point spreads.
How am I faring against the 93 experts Pickwatch is tracking? (link). As a result of my 9-5 record, ground was gained on the leaders. My 51 wins is tied for 9th in the standings, a gain of 4 places over the previous week. I now stand 7 wins behind the leader, former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski. His 58 wins are 4 ahead of his nearest competitor. The chart below identifies the top 25:
|Rank||Expert||Affiliation||Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5||Wins||Losses||Win %|
|2||Matt Miller||Bleacher Report||14||12||10||10||8||54||23||70%|
|4||Ty Schalter||Bleacher Report||11||13||9||12||8||53||24||69%|
|6||Don Banks||Sports Illustrated||11||14||10||9||8||52||25||68%|
|11||Andrea Hangst||Bleacher Report||10||11||12||9||9||51||26||66%|
|15||Michael David Smith||PFT||12||12||10||9||8||51||26||66%|
|24||Simon Samano||USA Today||10||12||10||10||8||50||27||65%|
|25||Pete O'Brien||USA Today||12||11||10||9||8||50||27||65%|
How did my weekly "Hot Picks Versus The Spread" fare? Kansas City and New Orleans both covered the spread, while the New England Patriots fell to the Cincinnati Bengals. My "hot picks" record for the week: 2-1. Overall, my "hot picks" record is 12-3 for the season.
Week 6 Picks
The accompanying chart presents the format [and selections] for each game this week: home team - away team - the spread - my straight-up winner - which team covers/beats the spread, and the outcome of the game:
|Home||Away||Spread||Straight Up||Vs. Spread||Score|
|Houston||St. Louis||Hou 8 1/2||Houston||St. Louis||21 20|
|Chicago||NY Giants||Chi 7 1/2||Chicago||NY Giants||21 13|
|Baltimore||Green Bay||GB 2 1/2||Green Bay||Green Bay||24 21|
|Buffalo||Cincinnati||Cin 8||Cincinnati||Buffalo||24 14|
|Cleveland||Detroit||Det 2 1/2||Detroit||Detroit||21 17|
|Kansas City||Oakland||KC 8 1/2||Kansas City||Kansas City||20 10|
|Minnesota||Carolina||Min 2 1/2||Minnesota||Minnesota||23 20|
|NY Jets||Pittsburgh||NY 2 1/2||NY Jets||NY Jets||20 16|
|Tampa Bay||Philadelphia||Pick||Philadelphia||Philadelphia||24 20|
|Denver||Jacksonville||DE 26 1/2||Denver||Denver||42 13|
|Seattle||Tennessee||Sea 13 1/2||Seattle||Tennessee||27 14|
|New England||New Orleans||NE 1||New Orleans||New Orleans||23 14|
|San Francisco||Arizona||SF 11||San Francisco||San Francisco||24 10|
|Dallas||Washington||Dal 5 1/2||Dallas||Dallas||24 17|
|San Diego||Indianapolis||Ind 1 1/2||Indianapolis||Indianapolis||23 17|
For reference, the accompanying chart presents the straight-up, against the spread, and over/under records for all 32 teams, after Week 5:
|NFL Win Totals|
Hot Picks Versus The Spread
Indianapolis over San Diego - Indianapolis is on a 3 game winning streak, defeating 2 very strong NFC West teams in the process [Seattle and San Francisco]. Look for the Colts to build on that momentum with a win in San Diego.
New Orleans over New England - New Orleans has played like Super Bowl contenders in their first 5 games. New England is expecting Rob Gronkowski back for Sunday's game. It won't be enough against the high-flying Saints.
NY Jets over Pittsburgh - New York is playing everyone tough, and come off a big road win in Atlanta. Pittsburgh is in turmoil, and have yet to win a game.
Keys For The Rams vs. Houston
- Houston has the number one ranked defense in the NFL, in yards allowed-per-game. They're also ranked number one in passing yards allowed. However, the Texans only rank 29th in rushing yards allowed. It's imperative for the Rams to establish the running game, as passing yards may be hard to come by in this game, and Houston has demonstrated susceptibility in defending the run.
- The Rams have started out slowly in each of their last four games. Getting off to a better start is a key to the Rams chances against Houston.
- Penalties, especially those on special teams, have plagued the Rams the entire season. Poor field position has been the norm in every game. Jeff Fisher spoke of working on special teams this week. Minimizing penalties will be important to the Rams chances of winning this game.
- QB Matt Schaub has encountered many problems this season [4 pick-sixes in the last 4 games]. Pressuring Schaub will make any recovery from those problems more difficult, and will give him less time to throw to a pair of dangerous wide receivers: DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson.
- The Texans rank 7th in the NFL in total offense [8th in rushing offense]. Containing Arian Foster and Ben Tate are key for the Rams, especially if it puts more pressure on Matt Schaub to throw. Turnovers have been the biggest problem for Houston on offense, not gaining yardage.
- In a game I expect will be very close, turnovers will play a crucial role. The Rams will need to win the turnover battle to win this game.
- The Texans are heavy favorites in this game. The Rams can come away with the victory, if they play their very best. The Rams will cover the spread.
Prediction: Houston 21 - Rams 20
Perspective On The Rams Versus Houston
Jamal Collier [Bleacher Report] breaks down St. Louis' game plan against the Texans (link).
Houston Texans stat facts:
"Despite its 2-3 record, Houston has out gained all five opponents this season, by an average of 130.6 yards per game - easily the largest differential in the NFL. The Texans lead the NFL in total defense (260.2) and rank seventh in total offense (390.8)."
Sam Bradford stat facts:
"Sam Bradford has posted a career-best 10/3 touchdown-interception ratio in 2013, and hasn't thrown more than one interception in any of his last 18 starts - the longest active streak of its kind in the NFL."
Both quotes are courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.
Prediction and analysis from S.I.'s Ramblin' Fan:
"A struggling Texans team is vulnerable to the upset by a very young and inconsistent Rams team. If the Rams can get the ground game going again this week they may have a chance. If the Texans defense can make the Rams one-dimensional like the Cowboys and 49ers did than Bradford could have a very rough outing. The Texans offense has struggled the past few weeks as Matt Schaub’s dubious record pick six streak has helped contribute to their 3 game losing streak. If this game were at the Edward Jones Dome I may go with the Rams in the upset, but I still don’t see it here. Of course if the Rams special teams units can avoid the big penalties this game it would go a long way to help both the offense and defense. Good news for Rams fans is Texans star TE Owen Daniels will not be playing, and I expect a close game between two teams desperate to get to .500. Texans win 27 – 24."
Advanced NFL Stats takes an in-depth look at the game between Houston and the Rams. (link)
ESPN's Mike Sando gives his "Inside Edge" on the Rams - Texans game. (link)
ESPN's Nick Wagoner and Tania Ganguli present their analyses and predictions for Sunday's game:
Nick Wagoner: The Texans get well against a Rams team that doesn't appear to match up all that well. The Rams struggle to move the ball on offense, and their leaky secondary has trouble containing Andre Johnson and friends.
Texans 27, Rams 13
Tania Ganguli: I picked them to win last week, too, but am much more confident this week given the opponent. Beating the Rams won't make a statement, but it will stop the Texans' slide and revive their confidence a bit.
Texans 14, Rams 10