NFL picks for Week 5 from Matt Youmans

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At 71, Bill Belichick could have several years left in his coaching career. However, the tick of the clock is getting louder, and this could be his final year in New England.

 

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It’s getting painful to watch the Patriots, who are 26-29 since Tom Brady left town, and not even the most accomplished coach in NFL history can survive a few ugly years. The team Belichick constructed and coaches is 1-3 and headed for a third losing season in four years, barring a miracle turnaround that would need to start Sunday.

If the Patriots lose a home game to the Saints, a team with a feeble coach and weak offense, the buzz about Belichick’s demise will turn into circling buzzards. The situation would go from bad — a 38-3 loss at Dallas a week ago was embarrassing enough — to unbearable.

So while I’m not exactly sure how it will happen, I believe Belichick will find a way to win this one and keep the critics quiet for another week or two. He will need to find a way without two of his top defensive players (linebacker Matthew Judon and cornerback Christian Gonzalez are out with injuries) and with a quarterback who was just benched and is losing confidence.

Mac Jones played the worst game of his career against the Cowboys, and he’s getting more of the blame than Belichick. But Jones is working with his third offensive coordinator in as many years, and his regression has a lot to do with Belichick putting defensive coach Matt Patricia in charge of the offense a year ago, one of the most bizarre coaching decisions in league history.

Belichick’s defense was solid in home losses to Philadelphia and Miami to open the season. The Eagles and Dolphins are far more explosive than the Saints, who are off a 26-9 home loss to Tampa Bay, and this is a good time to face New Orleans quarterback Derek Carr and his injured throwing shoulder. There’s not much fear in fading the Saints.

Adversity and negativity can bring out the best in coaches and players, so I’m counting on that being the case with Belichick and Jones. The Patriots are not as bad as they looked last week.

Pick: Patriots pick.

The five sides in this column went 3-2 last week. My Teaser of the Week play is 2-2, and this week I’ll pair the Colts +8.5 with the Cowboys +9.5. Four more plays for Week 5 (home team in CAPS):

Jaguars (+5.5) over Bills — Josh Allen passed for four touchdowns, and Buffalo made a bold statement in a 48-20 blowout of the Dolphins. The Bills put everything they had into that game, proved a point to their AFC East rivals and now get a trip to London, where the Jaguars won a game last week and essentially have home-field advantage. There is not a lot to like about Jacksonville’s team or this matchup in the big picture, but the situational handicapping edges point to the underdog.

STEELERS (+4.5) over Ravens — It might not be a positive that hobbled quarterback Kenny Pickett plans to be healthy enough to start for Pittsburgh. It is a positive that the Steelers took a beating in Houston and coach Mike Tomlin is returning home as an angry ‘dog. The underdog in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry is 14-1-2 ATS in the past 17 meetings, so hopefully that trend will be a friend.

Bengals (-3) over CARDINALS — Will a one-legged Joe Burrow be enough to beat Arizona? The Cincinnati quarterback has completed 57.6% of his passes with two touchdowns in four games, and his offense produced exactly three points in two of those games. I’ll reluctantly bet on Burrow, and this is the play I like the least. It’s simply a buy-low spot on a good team that has performed way below expectations and desperately needs the win.

RAMS (+4) over Eagles — Philadelphia has been playing with fire, winning three one-score games against weak opponents to get to 4-0, and will get burned soon. Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is showing he has something left, and the return of receiver Cooper Kupp should help Stafford punch holes in an Eagles defense that has declined from last year.