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NFL Picks, Week 5: Packers-Falcons, Saints-Panthers, Jets-Patriots And More

The first bye week of the 2011 season is upon us, but there's no shortage of excitement with most of the big boys still in action. And with only one double-digit spread across the NFL landscape, gamblers have a lot of tough calls to make.

ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 15:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons walks on the field against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15 2011 in Atlanta Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 15: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons walks on the field against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15 2011 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Oh, the NFL is a cruel mistress. We see the banner headline earlier this week: Sage Rosenfels is returning to the Miami Dolphins! And if you're like me, the last few days have been spent preparing for that fateful moment when The 'Fels takes the field for the first time - posters, dioramas, a corn maze built in Sage's likeness. But then, you realize this is the first bye week of the 2011 season. The Dolphins are off. A bullet-to-the-chest moment, if there ever was one. Wiping away the tears, you realize there's only one person going to get you through this tragic development: your hometown bookie. He's ready to comfort you, my friend.

NFL Odds found here.

The picks:

Philadelphia (-2 1/2) @ Buffalo. The Bills face a better-than-their-record Eagles team, then spend the next few weeks at the Giants, against the Redskins and Jets, and at the Cowboys. It's very possible we're sitting here in a month remembering that brief moment when we thought Buffalo was making something of itself. Silly, silly, Chan Gailey-believing us. This game pretty much sets the season for both teams, though. If Philadelphia loses, my tongue-in-cheek 8-8 prediction suddenly starts looking lofty. PICK: Philadelphia

New Orleans (-6 1/2) @ Carolina. Upset special, baby! Honestly, I think the Saints may have been coasting a little on name recognition this year. They're a good step-and-a-half below the league's elite (Green Bay, New England), and particularly bad on defense - which is exactly where Cam Newton will pick them apart. And no, I'm not used to typing sentences like that one yet. I thought Falcons fans had lucked out with Carolina's pick of Newton, but I just tend to mutter "dammit" under my breath when watching him now. Cats win outright. PICK: Carolina

Oakland @ Houston (-5). Houston hasn't beat a decent team yet, just lost its star player for a couple weeks, and is playing a team maybe, perhaps, in some small way inspired by the Saturday death of its owner. Don't be a sucka. PICK: Oakland

Kansas City @ Indianapolis (-2 1/2). Who's mentioned more during this broadcast: Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck? That's probably the only bet worth taking for this mess of a game. And for the record, I'd go Luck. PICK: Kansas City

Cincinnati @ Jacksonville (-1 1/2). It's a battle of rookie quarterbacks, as Andy Dalton visits Blaine Gabbert's house. And Blaine Gabbert's house is a very dusty, depressing place these days. PICK: Cincinnati

Arizona @ Minnesota (-3). Oh, you have to love the 0-4 favorites. It makes a little bit of sense, though - the Vikings are bad, but they're not that bad. All four games have been played against half-decent teams (give me the Chiefs as half-decent, please), and their average loss has been by less than five points. So just think, if Donovan McNabb was still alive, this team could easily be 4-0. Adrian Peterson gets the W by himself today. PICK: Minnesota

Seattle @ NY Giants (-10). This line has crept toward the Seahawks this week, which means there is somebody, somewhere thinking, "Yep, I like Tarvaris Jackson on the road." For the record, the Seahawks have been outscored 57-17 in their two road games this year, against the 49ers and Steelers. So don't be that somebody, somewhere. PICK: NY Giants

Tennessee @ Pittsburgh (-3 1/2). Ben Roethlisberger is getting murdered by his porous offensive line, and Rashard Mendenhall is questionable with a sore hamstring. Meanwhile, the Titans are only giving up 14 points a game, the NFL's best mark. Two plus two is that easy to figure out, right? PICK: Tennessee

Tampa Bay @ San Francisco (-2 1/2). San Fran LB Patrick Willis on Wednesday, to Yahoo Sports: "I feel so much more alive than I have in the past from a physical aspect and from a mental standpoint. I just feel phenomenal. A lot of it has to do with the attitude we have as a team, that the head coach brings to the team and our position coaches. I think from head-to-toe we have something special here." Maybe I'm a sucker, but that one quote made me switch my Tampa Bay pick to the 49ers. PICK: San Francisco

San Diego (-3 1/2) @ Denver. "Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!" Nah, I really don't care about seeing the backup Broncos QB - I'm just imitating the Denver crowd once San Diego goes up 21-0 in the early second quarter. PICK: San Diego

NY Jets @ New England (-7). On Thursday, the Patriots were favored by 10 1/2 and now, on Sunday morning, it has fallen to seven. That's some course correction there, folks. And despite what you think about the Pats losing to the Bills, the Jets winning last year's Foxboro-set playoff game, or anything else - just remember when a line swings that much, almost everybody is betting one way. Bet the other. PICK: New England

Green Bay (-5 1/2) @ Atlanta. Results of an unscientific poll taken in a bar on Wednesday: zero out of 10 Falcons fans expect their team to emerge victorious Sunday night. A miniscule amount of this doom n' gloom is a result of last week's uninspiring victory against the Seahawks, while the majority springs from the living nightmare of January's playoff loss. The pain of that kneecapping still resonates; I vividly remember wanting to throw a Packers fan over the railing, and actually justifying it in my head (that's when I made myself leave the Dome). And honestly, I don't see any reason on paper Atlanta wins here. But like the Patriots game above, when everybody is going one way, it's probably good strategy to go the other. Call it blind, call it homer, call it gambling 101, call it all of the above (which it probably is). But what the hell. PICK: Atlanta

Chicago @ Detroit (-5). I haven't looked forward to an Falcons-less Monday night game this much in awhile. Not only is Chicago (particularly Jay Cutler) fun to root against, but this Lions bunch is amazingly fun to root for. I'm not sure this whole "go down big and make a miracle comeback" strategy will do Detroit big favors later on, but this is going to be the best crowd this Lions bunch has ever seen. There will be no "fall behind" on Monday. PICK: Detroit

Last week: 10-6-0
Yearly total: 35-27-2

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.