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Hurley's Picks: Christian McCaffrey Is Superman; Freddie Kitchens Is Not

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- It's time to talk about Christian McCaffrey.

OK, well, technically, it's far past time to talk about Christian McCaffrey. It's been time to talk about Chrisitan McCaffrey. But for anybody not talking about Christian McCaffrey, you better start talking.

The thing with Christian McCaffrey is that he has 124 more yards from scrimmage than anybody else in the NFL this season. The NFL is full of some fairly talented individuals, but none have even been on the same avenue as McCaffrey in terms of production.

That's pretty much been the story since Week 1, when he opened the season with a 209-yard-from-scrimmage afternoon against the Rams. In that game, he legitimately levitated in mid-air ...

... and also pulled off a Rambo-level touchdown:

I knew in that moment that I had witnessed my favorite touchdown of the season. Shame it came in Week 1.

McCaffrey was quiet in Week 2, which happened to be Cam Newton's last game before taking a little injury sabbatical. Since then, McCaffrey's put the entire offense on his back, which kind of helps explain the back injury that kept him off the practice field on Wednesday.

Over the past three games, he's been handed the ball 70 times, and he's also made 19 receptions on 23 targets. He's turned those carries into 422 yards and four touchdowns, while gaining 182 yards and scoring a touchdown through the air.

One of those catches was this ...

... which was pretty sweet.

Overall, through five games, McCaffrey has gained 866 yards from scrimmage. The Panthers as a team have 1,964 yards. That means McCaffrey accounts for ... hold on ... math break ... let me see here ... carry the 3 ... sine, cosine tangent ... OK, getting close ... yes.

Christian McCaffrey accounts for 44.1 percent of the Panthers' total offensive yards. He has 866 yards on 136 touches; nine other players combined have 1,098 yards on 102 touches.

McCaffrey also has seven touchdowns. The rest of his teammates have a total of six. Only one other Panther has more than one (Greg Olsen, 2).

He's basically been a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 or 3 receiver. Putting that much of a load on any one single player would normally result in failure. But McCaffrey isn't normal, so the Panthers have won three straight games after losing their starting quarterback.

That starting quarterback, by the way, likes to bear the name of Superman. Which is fine and all. But, well ...

Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

We might have had the wrong guy.

And now, we have talked about Christian McCaffrey. Feels good.

Week 6 picks, right now.

(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)

NEW ENGLAND (-1 million) over New York Giants
OK, so the spread is slightly lower. It's at 17.

That's still a ridiculously low number.

For starters, rookie quarterbacks are 0-12 in Foxboro against the Patriots under Bill Belichick. Those rookies didn't have to deal with the best defense in the NFL in the midst of a historic stretch of dominance. Good luck to Daniel Jones.

You've also got no Saquon Barkley, no Sterling Shepard, and no Evan Engram. That is more than half of the Giants' offensive yards from scrimmage. Yeesh. (That's like asking the Panthers to play without Christian McCaffrey.)

New York's defense has also been SHREDDED by the likes of Jameis Winston, Kirk Cousins, and Dak Prescott. Josh Allen had a strong day against them too. New York's only defensive day worth mentioning came against the dynamic duo of Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins.

Patriots. By. A million.

(It's actually going to be very windy in Foxboro, so it's more like Patriots by 22. That's just far less dramatic, though.)

Carolina (-2.5) over Tampa Bay
Nobody cares about me, I understand that, but I've been firmly dug in against the Kyle Allen craze. It's bitten me badly because I failed to account for the fact that Christian McCaffrey is the best football player on the planet.

My bad.

(If his back injury is bad then consider this pick NULL AND VOID.)

JACKSONVILLE (-1) over New Orleans
Jaguars play tough. Saints are due for a reality check. The Brees-less Era has been too smooth. Time for a bump in the road.

BALTIMORE (-11.5) over Cincinnati
The Bengals are so bad and annoying that they'll probably screw this up for all of us. This should be the Ronco Pick of the Week. Set it and forget it.

But it won't be. I just know it. You can't pick Cincinnati for any discernible reason, other than knowing they're going to ruin this obvious pick. That's all the Bengals are good for.

Houston (+4.5) over KANSAS CITY
I swear, this is not an overreaction to Week 5, when the Chiefs lost at home and the Texans scored 7,000 points against the Falcons. I promise.

It's just ... the Chiefs' defense ... it remains bad. Very bad. They're 25th in yards allowed. They're 14th in points allowed. They allow 5.3 yards per rush -- second-worst in the NFL -- and 155.8 rushing yards per game (third-worst). A totally mediocre pass defense in every measurable way.

Houston's a top-10 rushing team, and if Bill O'Brien resists the urge to get too pass-heavy after Deshaun Watson just threw for 426 yards and four TDs, the Texans can win the game. At the very least, they should be able to keep close.

I'm also slightly concerned about that Patrick Mahomes ankle. Taking 300 pounds of force to an already tender ankle? That pain might linger.

Washington (-3.5) over MIAMI
We have to be careful to not let the bye week distract us from how bad the Dolphins are. Yes, the Redskins looked awful last week. Yes, they fired their coach at 5 in the morning on Monday. Yes, nobody knows what their plan is, short term or long term. Yup. Mmmhmm. Totally.

But we must remember that in five games (all losses, of course), the Redskins have been outscored by 78 points. Not great.

But in just FOUR games (that's one fewer, for the mathematically challenged), the Dolphins have been outscored by ... 137 points.


You can't pick the Dolphins. You can't. To do so would be negligent.

Seattle (-1.5) over CLEVELAND
There was a point during Monday night's broadcast, shortly after the 49ers extended their lead to 28-3, that the camera just focused on Freddie Kitchens. He was standing there, seemingly focused on the game, but ... not ... really ... doing anything.

His headset was presumably turned on, and he muttered a few words into it ... and then he just stared at his play card for a bit, but it did not have the answers which he sought. So he stared off into the abyss.

Maybe a coordinator was running through the complexities of the Ohio tax code in his ear. Maybe he was just thinking about some high-level football concepts. Or maybe the man who had only ever been a position coach until the middle of last season is finding his new job to be a little overwhelming. Could be any of those things, really.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, might have the best quarterback in the NFL slinging bombs for them. I do believe they've hit a stride.

Philadelphia (+3) over MINNESOTA
I believe in neither of these teams. Ergo, I believe in points.

Atlanta (-2.5) over ARIZONA
Can you imagine if the Falcons lose this game. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

You probably can, because the Falcons lose a lot of games. Actually they might. But probably not. But maybe? Maybe.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-3) over San Francisco
Who scheduled this? The Rams played last Thursday. The Niners played on Monday. Now they have a short week and have to travel to a team that's been chilling for 11 days? That's poppycock.

The Niners might have the defense needed to stifle Jared Goff and Co. Nick Bosa certainly looks like a man possessed at this point in time.

Nevertheless, the bad karma from Richard Sherman lying about a snubbed handshake will lead to a painful week for Kyle Shanahan's team. Those are simply the rules.

Dallas (-7) over NEW YORK JETS
Sam Darnold is back.

Tennessee (+2) over DENVER
I don't know Mike Vrabel personally, but I know him well enough to believe that he has made this week a living hell for each and every one of his players after last week's collective fart against the Bills. The Broncos will now bear the brunt of that punishment.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-6.5) over Pittsburgh
It says a lot about how far the Chargers have fallen that they're not even a full touchdown favorite over a team that's on its third-string quarterback. The Chargers were the best team in the AFC during the regular season last year. Now they've only beaten the Colts (in Week 1, when they were still shocked by the Andrew Luck news) and the Dolphins (which we know does not count).


Detroit (+4) over GREEN BAY
Packers win. Lions cover. Everyone goes home happy.

Last week: 9-5-1
Season: 36-41-1

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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