Bye weeks allow teams to lick their wounds, which also gives them ample time to prep for their next opponents. Let’s examine teams on a bye Week 6 to see if they are primed to cash in our NFL picks.
Dallas Cowboys (2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS)
The NFL odds makers gave the Cowboys an eight-point head start at home against the rampaging Patriots and it wasn’t even close to being enough as the Boyz dropped a 30-6 decision to Tom Brady’s crew in Week 5 and must now reevaluate their season as they head into a much needed bye week. The injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have been devastating to a once promising outlook on the 2015 season as the team has looked dazed and confused with Brandon Weeden under center.
Certainly the entire blame cannot be laid at the feet of Weeden as there have been plenty of miscues to go around but it cannot be ignored that Dallas is desperate for offense. It may be time for a change and it looks like that time has come. Shortly after Romo broke his collarbone the Cowboys acquired veteran quarterback Matt Cassel and a seventh rounder via Buffalo in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick. The game plan is already in motion with Cassel getting the time to learn the playbook as the team enjoys its much needed Week 6 bye. Matt Cassel is the most likely candidate to be under center when the Dallas returns to action against the Giants but whether or not he can be the difference-maker until Romo returns remains to be seen.
Oakland Raiders (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS)
After a scoreless first quarter Derek Carr marched his Raiders 80 yards downfield culminating in a three yard flair pass to Marcel Reece to take a 7-3 lead into the half over the visiting Broncos last week. Those who know a live underdog when they see it had to be feeling good about cashing Oakland +5 ½ in their NFL picks. But things happen with teams struggling to rise from the cellar to respectability and the second half did not go the way they had hoped as Carr tossed a 74-yard pick-six that put the Raiders behind for good. And for all those who thought this dog had enough bite to cover the NFL odds it was a heartbreaking blown cover with the final score 16-10 in favor of Denver.
As they enter their bye week Oakland stands at 2-3 on the season and in third place in the AFC West. There are nevertheless some silver linings to a season that many in the Bay Area hoped would be a reversal of fortune for the beleaguered franchise. Derek Carr appears to be the real deal despite the usual mistakes expected of a young quarterback. The team ranks 11th in passing yards averaging 248.8 per game and the defense can enjoy the bye week knowing they held Peyton Manning without a touchdown pass, though in fairness that is increasingly becoming the rule rather than the exception, and played their best game of the season.
Head coach jack Del Rio summed it up thusly, “I know that we’ve made a lot of strides. I know that 2-3 is not what we wanted it to be. We had hopes it’d be better. It’s what we’ve earned to this point. We have a lot of football in front of us, so we’ll focus on the road in front of us, the work that we have ahead of us and make sure that we’re learning what we can from the previous five weeks of experience.”
St. Louis Rams (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS)
The Rams knocked off two powerhouses when they defeated the Seahawks on opening day and then stunned the previously undefeated Cardinals in the desert 24-22 a few weeks later. Some thought that their trip to Lambeau in Week 5 would be another giant waiting to be slayed – but they were wrong. Despite a pair of uncharacteristic interceptions thrown by All-World QB Aaron Rodgers the Packers took care of business and any chance the Rams had of covering the NFL odds by sending the Rams back to St. Louis with a 24-10 defeat. Kicker Greg Zuerlein was a horrendous one-for-four on field goals and that, as they say, was that.
The defeat magnified some of the issues Nick Foles has had as the man under center in replacement of long time quarterback and purported franchise savior Sam Bradford. Though Foles was hammered on at least a dozen occasions none of those hits resulted in any of his four interceptions that occurred in the loss to Green Bay. While rookie tailback Todd Gurley has flashed electrifying speed and elusiveness, conversely the passing game ranks 30th averaging only 183.2 yards per game which is reflected in their 29th ranked offense averaging only 16.8 PPG.
The Rams are hoping to get right guard Roger Saffold healthy after he missed most of the game battling a shoulder injury. But more importantly the offense needs to kick it into gear and if Nick Foles doesn’t get the job done then Case Keenum is the next man up. The Rams will host the Browns in Week 7 when they return from their bye.
Tampa Bay Bucs (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS)
The bye week has come at the right time for the Tampa Bay Bucs who watched veteran guard and league tough-guy Logan Mankins sit on the sidelines in Week 5 with a groin injury effectively ending his ironman streak of 40 consecutive games played. The secondary did not go unscathed in the Bucs 38-31 win over Jacksonville as safeties Chris Conte and Keith Tandy were banged up with leg injuries but head coach Lovie Smith hopes the two week reprieve will allow both to get back on the field when Week 7 commences. The team is also crossing their fingers that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins will suit up after sitting on the sidelines since Week 2 after having caught a pair of TD’s to complement 139 yards receiving. The team has at least half a dozen other players eyeing a return when the team gets back to action but for now they will be content to rest and lick their wounds.
Jameis Winston took a potentially huge step in his development in rebounding from a horrific outing against the Carolina Panthers in which he tossed four picks and wound up on the losing end of a 37-23 decision to their divisional rivals. Winston shook it off and completed 13-of-19 passing for 209 yards with one passing touchdown but most importantly no interceptions. Modest numbers to be sure but playing mistake-free football while your team notches a victory and ending an 11 game home losing streak is indeed the growth the Bucs management and coaching staff is looking for in Winston’s rookie campaign.
While all eyes are on Winston it would be unfair to ignore the stellar contributions of running back Doug Martin. The fourth-year product out of Boise State had his best game of the season with a pair of trips into the endzone and 123 yards in Week 5 against the Jaguars. The Bucs will no doubt be looking to continue to stress the running game which ranks 11th in the NFL averaging 122.4 yards per game in order to take away some of the immense pressure that Winston has been getting from opposing defenses. Tampa Bay will travel to Washington to take on the Redskins in Week 7.