It was a big week in the NFL for players who have held out or continue to hold out.
Earl Thomas suffered yet another awful injury in Arizona, where he was carted off the field while flipping his own team the bird after a contract dispute led him to an offseason holdout. He eventually relented, returned to work and might have cost himself some money (and perhaps another shot at a Super Bowl ring) in the process.
The Thomas injury seemed to validate the position of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, whose holdout is going strong, but it seems there might be an end in sight.
You know who’s not holding out, though? The NESN.com trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian. You can count on them each and every week to make their NFL against-the-spread picks.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 7-7-1 (30-30-2 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 7-7-1 (30-30-2)
Andre Khatchaturian: 9-5-1 (32-28-2)
Here are their Week 5 picks with lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.
THURSDAY, OCT. 4
Indianapolis Colts at (-10) New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Patriots. The Colts have proved to be a feisty bunch, and Andrew Luck finally looks healthy. But Indy will be without Jack Doyle and T.Y. Hilton, playing on a short week, in Foxboro against a Patriots team that hasn’t lost a non-opener Thursday night game since 2008 (and covered in five of seven of those games).
Ricky: Patriots. New England’s blowout win over Miami last week told me more about the Dolphins than the Patriots, but Julian Edelman’s return should give Tom Brady some extra comfort as the offense continues to find its identity.
Andre: Patriots. In three career games at Gillette Stadium, Andrew Luck is 0-3 with four touchdowns, nine interceptions while completing just 47.6 percent of his passes. The Patriots beat the Colts by an average margin of 31.3 points in those games, and those were against Colts teams that made the playoffs.
SUNDAY, OCT. 7
Atlanta Falcons at (-3) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. The Steelers haven’t had much luck in the weeks following Baltimore games, losing three of their last four following matchups with the Ravens and failing to cover in all four. Pittsburgh has been a bad home bet lately, too, going 0-6 ATS in their last six home games as favorites.
Ricky: Steelers. How on earth is Atlanta going to slow down Pittsburgh’s playmakers? The Falcons are without their starting safeties (Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen) and their best coverage linebacker (Deion Jones), and their top two cornerbacks (Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant) just got toasted by the Bengals’ receiving trio of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and John Ross. Atlanta also can’t figure out AFC teams, going 1-6 SU and 0-7 ATS in its last seven matchups against interconference opponents.
Andre: Falcons. The Steelers are 27th in rush yards per carry, which could mean Big Ben will have to throw the ball a ton. He has the second-most pass attempts in football and when he throws the ball 40-plus times in his career he is 17-32-1. Pittsburgh also has the worst average drive start position in the league and leads the league in giveaways.
(-3) Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. When do we get to stop pretending the Browns are good? They’re still poorly coached and have a rookie quarterback under center, and now they’re tasked with facing one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses.
Ricky: Ravens. I’m with Mike. Are the Browns better than they’ve been in recent years? Sure. But that’s not saying much, if anything. They’re still whatever. And the Ravens actually might be a good football team this season if Joe Flacco continues to make good decisions in Baltimore’s revamped offense.
Andre: Browns. Cleveland is first in takeaways and turnover differential. Flacco only has two interceptions this year, but he has the fourth-most pass attempts in football. Sooner or later he’s going to revert to old Joe Flacco and it might be this week in a road divisional game against a solid defense.
Denver Broncos at New York Jets (-1), 1 p.m.
Mike: Jets. What do the Broncos have left in the tank after a brutal loss to a divisional rival at home on Monday night? Now, they have to travel on a short week to Jersey and play an early game. Just seems like a lot going against Denver here.
Ricky: Broncos. The Jaguars handled Sam Darnold last week, and it won’t get that much easier for the rookie quarterback this Sunday. Denver’s defense is like a tone-downed version of Jacksonville’s, complete with a talented pass rush that’ll cause problems for Darnold.
Andre: Broncos. Darnold has two touchdowns and four picks and has completed just 53 percent of his passes since his amazing Week 1 performance. The Broncos are second in rushing yards per attempt and the Jets defense has allowed the third-most rushing yards over the last three weeks.
(-1.5) Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. It’s so hard to get a good read on the Packers so far, which makes me lean toward taking the points. Green Bay’s defense looked great against Josh Allen and the Bills, but things will probably be a little different on the road against a Detroit offense that has its share of weapons.
Ricky: Packers. More Aaron Jones, please. The Lions rank 30th in opponent yards per attempt, so the Packers would be wise to lean on their most explosive running back in this divisional clash.
Andre: Packers. Green Bay is a top-ten team in terms of rushing yards per attempt and they go up against a Lions defense that’s allowed the most rushing yards in the league. There’s a reason why teams have attempted the fewest amount of passes against the Lions defense. An effective rushing attack will help eat clock and ease the pressure for Mr. Rodgers.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-3), 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. The Chiefs’ defense is still a sieve, allowing 6.7 yards per play this season. Just last week, K.C. allowed 136 yards on just 20 carries. And even without Leonard Fournette, I think the Jags can take advantage (don’t be surprised if T.J. Yeldon has a big day catching passes), and the defense keeps it close.
Ricky: Chiefs. The creativity of Kansas City’s offense will mitigate Jacksonville’s talent on defense. The Jaguars also rank 31st in penalties per game (8.8) and penalty yards per game (88.5), so don’t be surprised if they shoot themselves in the foot on several occasions in a hostile environment.
Andre: Chiefs. Since the start of last year, Blake Bortles has seven touchdowns and nine picks and has completed just 55 percent of his passes on the road. At home, he has 21 touchdowns, seven picks and a 65 percent completion percentage.
Miami Dolphins at (-6) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. Miami isn’t a first-place team, but they certainly aren’t as bad as they showed last week. Teams have been able to run the ball against Cincinnati, and I expect Adam Gase to dial some things up and try to replicate what Carolina did to Cincy when it ran for 230 yards in Week 3.
Ricky: Bengals. This line seems like an overreaction to Week 4, when the Dolphins got stomped in New England and the Bengals beat a formidable NFC opponent in Atlanta. That said, the injuries along Miami’s offensive and defensive lines are troubling. Cincy will roll.
Andre: Dolphins. Miami barely had the football against a hungry Patriots team in Week 4, only running 45 plays in the entire game. That shouldn’t be an issue against the Bengals, who have been on the field for 290 defensive plays — the second-most in the NFL. Ryan Tannehill has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this year and he should be able to keep this one close.
New York Giants at (-7) Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Doesn’t it feel like this should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9.5 points? Christian McCaffrey must be licking his chops after the Giants were torched by Alvin Kamara and his 181 yards last week.
Ricky: Panthers. The Panthers are 12-0 SU and 9-2-1 ATS in home games when favored by a touchdown or more, per CBS Sports, and they’ll face little resistance this week coming out of a bye. Cam Newton has played well in back-to-back weeks, and McCaffrey will feast.
Andre: Panthers. The Giants have the third-worst yards per play differential. It doesn’t help that they’re dead-last in sack rate and have allowed the fifth-most sacks in the NFL. The Panthers should control the battle in the trenches and McCaffrey will have a big game against a shaky Giants run defense.
(-3.5) Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Maybe a bit of a letdown game for the Titans after beating the Eagles last week (in overtime) with a potentially big matchup against Baltimore looming. Stay away from this game.
Ricky: Titans. Just can’t trust the Bills. They might keep it close for most of the game, playing at home and with the Titans coming off two hard-fought victories, but a couple of late turnovers will lead to an eventual cover for Tennessee.
Andre: Titans. The Bills offensive line has allowed a league-high 21 sacks this year and the Titans have the sixth-best sack rate in the NFL. Marcus Mariota has to be feeling confident coming off wins against the Jaguars and Eagles.
Oakland Raiders at (-5.5) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. I might be at the point where I just start picking against the Chargers every week. Between the terrible kicking and the poor coaching, it’s hard to lay points with them. They also give up a lot of yards (6.3 per play), while the Raiders are actually tied for sixth in the NFL in pass plays of 25 yards or more.
Ricky: Raiders. The Chargers are extremely talented, yet also extremely unreliable. High ceiling, low floor. And their knack for missing kicks makes it hard to trust them covering a sizable spread.
Andre: Chargers. Oakland allows 5.6 rushing yards per carry — the second-highest mark in the league — and it’ll be going up against the two-headed monster of Austin Ekeler (6.7 yards per carry) and Melvin Gordon (5.1 yards per carry). A strong running game will open up the game for Philip Rivers, who has completed 74 percent of his passes on play action, according to Pro Football Focus.
Arizona Cardinals at (-4) San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. The Niners have a good system in place.
Ricky: Cardinals. Maybe this is the week Arizona figures out how to correctly use David Johnson?
Andre: 49ers. This is a league built for offenses to thrive and Arizona hasn’t cracked the 20-point mark or the 300-yard mark in a game yet. San Francisco finally catches a break in the schedule after having to play road games against the Vikings, Chiefs and Chargers to start the year.
(-7) Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Rams. If the Rams are as good as everyone thinks they are, this is a game they go in and blow doors. And it’s just hard to see how Seattle slows down that offense — which has had extra time to prepare — without Earl Thomas.
Ricky: Rams. The Seahawks are tough to beat at home, but I’ve seen how much of an impact losing Earl Thomas can have on Seattle’s defense.
Andre: Rams. Only Josh Allen has taken more sacks than Russell Wilson. Pray for No. 3 as he goes up against a Rams defense with the highest pass rush grade, according to Pro Football Focus.
Minnesota Vikings at (-3) Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. Minnesota has the long week after a Thursday night game, and Mike Zimmer is 9-3 ATS with extra time to prepare. There are legitimate questions about that Philly secondary, too, which isn’t good when Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are coming to town.
Ricky: Eagles. The Vikings have some issues along their offensive line, particularly inside, and the Eagles’ front seven is one of the most talented units in the NFL. Minnesota’s run game has been non-existent, and that trend will continue this weekend, making life difficult for Kirk Cousins, who still seems to lay an egg whenever the stakes are raised.
Andre: Eagles. Dalvin Cook has been terrible this season and is averaging fewer than three yards per carry and as a result Kirk Cousins has thrown the ball more than any other quarterback. The Eagles have a pretty good rush defense, so expect another high-volume game for Cousins and for the Eagles to expose the one-dimensional Vikings.
Dallas Cowboys at (-3.5) Houston Texans, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Texans. I liked Dallas last week going against a bad Lions run defense. It’s a different story this week against a Houston run defense that’s allowing 3.5 yards per carry and is ranked 10th in PFF’s run defense metric. Oh, also: Dak Prescott has a 66.8 passer rating on the road.
Ricky: Cowboys. Shutting down Ezekiel Elliott is easier said than done, so I’m expecting another big game from the Cowboys running back. Also, the Texans are 4-15-1 ATS in their past 20 night games, for whatever that’s worth.
Andre: Cowboys. According to PFF, Deshaun Watson has been pressured on nearly 47 percent of dropbacks — the highest mark in the league. He’ll be running for his life against a Cowboys pass rush that’s third in sacks.
MONDAY, OCT. 8
Washington Redskins at (-6.5) New Orleans Saints, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. Here’s a random stat I like: PFF has Washington ranked as the seventh-best tackling defense, which is huge if you want to stop the Saints’ big-play potential. The Saints are no longer a stone-cold lock to cover at home, either. New Orleans is 8-2 SU in its last 10 home games but just 4-6 ATS.
Ricky: Redskins. Washington is second in the NFL in average time of possession. That’ll help keep Drew Brees and Co. off the field as the ‘Skins look for ways to eat the clock and grind out an upset.
Andre: Redskins. Believe it or not, Washington has the third-best yards per play differential. The Redskins are well-rested after a bye week. Opposing quarterbacks have completed nearly 75 percent of passes against the Saints defense, so Alex Smith should be able to have success. The Saints probably win, but 6.5 points is too much.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images