Welcome back to another edition of Beating the Spread! I’m Jake Roy, and I’m leading the BTS team again this season. I’m joined by two-time Beating the Spread participants Tyler Gentile and Brennan Rampe, and newcomer Jason Wolf. We’ll be here every Friday throughout the season to crown a new champion.
Bye weeks are upon us for the first time this year, shortening the card and making it a little bit more difficult to find value. We’ve navigated the early part of the season well, combining to win at a 55 percent clip, but it remains to be seen if we’ll continue to outpace Vegas. Jason leads the way after a stellar 4-1 week, and we’re still looking for the first 5-0 week of the season.
|Jake Roy (@Jake3Roy)||Brennan Rampe (@Phdinnfl)||Tyler Gentile (@808PaperBoi)||Jason Wolf (@J_Wolf_picks)|
|Pick #1||Falcons -2.0||Ravens -4.0||Saints/Patriots under 40.0||Dolphins -11.0|
|Pick #2||Texans/Falcons under 41.0||Lions -9.5||Dolphins -11.0||Saints +1.5|
|Pick #3||Steelers +4.0||Cardinals +3.0||Falcons -2.0||Ravens -4.0|
|Pick #4||Lions -9.5||Eagles -4.0||Titans/Colts over 42.5||Falcons -2.0|
|Pick #5||Jets +2.0||49ers -3.5||Eagles/Rams over 50.5||Vikings +5.0|
The Houston Texans are bleeding offensive linemen. This time, it’s Kendrick Green, who’s likely out for the year with a torn meniscus. He was brought in to replace Kenyon Green, who’s also out for the season. Basic pattern recognition would tell you they’re going to bring in another “K. Green” to play guard. If they do, he probably won’t be very good. If they don’t, they’re still down to a third-string guard. despite all the injuries, they’ve protected C.J. Stroud well and had some early success, at least compared to expectations. Unfortunately, duct tape can only last for so long. The Atlanta Falcons don’t have a great pass rush, but the non-stop shuffling of the offensive line is bound to catch up to Houston eventually.
Atlanta will continue to play their style, running the ball and controlling the clock. According to ProFootballFocus, it should be fairly successful. PFF’s matchup tool shows Atlanta having a massive advantage in run-blocking/run-stuffing. They should be able to control the clock and wear down Houston at home. ATL -2.0
You know what? Give me the under here as well. It’s a rookie quarterback with an injured offensive line on the road. Houston probably isn’t putting up a ton of points. Put that together with a team that’s going to keep the ball on the ground and it’s low scoring in Atlanta. HOU/ATL U41.0
I hate this pick, but I’m going to take the Pittsburgh Steelers. There isn’t much to it: Mike Tomlin is 13-5-4 as a home underdog in his time as Steelers head coach. Against the division, he’s 4-1-2 in those games. The samples aren’t huge, but Tomlin doesn’t get blown out at home. Catching four points against the Ravens, who play to their competition seemingly every week? I’ll take the Steelers every single time in that spot. PIT +4.0
The Detroit Lions are good? In this economy? They’re coming off a long rest, having blown out the Packers last Thursday, and now host the lowly Carolina Panthers. Coming into the season, the Lions offense had high expectations, but it’s the defense that really impressed me last Thursday. They lived in the Packers backfield for most of the game and had Jordan Love running for his life. If they can do the same to Bryce Young, he’s going to have a very long day. Teams are only blitzing Carolina on 26.4 percent of dropbacks, yet he’s under pressure on 41.3 percent of pass plays. When he’s under pressure, he’s basically just chucking it, as his average depth of target increases five yards. Aidan Hutchison is probably licking his chops, just waiting for this one to get out of hand early. I’ll take the Lions in a blowout. DET -9.5
I’m about to pick the New York Jets. If you just puked in your mouth a little bit as you read that, I apologize. Sometimes, the ugliest picks are the best ones. Before the season, a lot of people probably had this game circled. It has since lost its luster given the injury to Aaron Rodgers and the Broncos being terrible, but the subplot of the coaches throwing insults back and forth provides some level of intrigue. If you don’t know, Sean Payton made some comments about his predecessor, Nathaniel Hackett, who’s now a member of the Jets’ coaching staff. Several players and others within the organization took exception and have circled this game on their calendars. I’m taking the Jets for one major reason: Robert Saleh could beat up Sean Payton. He probably won’t, but I’m sure he wants to. Saleh seems like the type to hold a grudge; he’ll probably pull out all the stops to win this one. Breece Hall has no more restrictions, and Denver couldn’t stop the run if they put all 11 defenders at the line of scrimmage. Seriously, they’re allowing 5.6 yards per attempt to opponents. If the Jets can run the ball effectively and take some of the heat off Zach Wilson, they’ll roll through Denver. NYJ +2.0
This will likely be the most popular under of the week. Both of these offenses are incapable of scoring right now. Playing through an injury to his throwing shoulder, Derek Carr did not look right whatsoever last week, finishing with only 127 passing yards on 37 attempts. Mac Jones and the New England Patriots offense didn’t look any better last week either, scoring just three points on the road in Dallas. New England is 28th in EPA per play, 25th in yards per play on offense while the New Orleans Saints are 29th in yards per play and 22nd by EPA’s metrics.
The one thing both of these teams do well is play defense. The Saints are 10th in EPA and 8th in yards per play allowed, while the Pats are 12th in EPA and are allowing the fifth-fewest yards per play. These teams have combined to go 7-1 to the under this season and there’s no reason to think they’re going to buck the trend now. Dating back to last season, the under has now cashed in ten consecutive games for the Saints. NO/NE U40.0
Backing the biggest favorite to cover isn’t typically something I look to wager on, but in this instance, it is. Aside from their miracle comeback against the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Giants have been outscored 94-15 in their three losses. They are dead last in EPA per play on offense while the Miami Dolphins are in first. Remember when they played the Broncos? This offense can run up the score against a weak opponent and that’s just what the Giants are. They are also 28th in EPA per play on defense and will struggle mightily with the speed demons in that Miami offense. The Seattle Seahawks, not known for their defense, held the Giants to three points, so I’m sure Miami can keep the New York offense relatively at bay. Don’t be afraid of the steep spread. Back the Dolphins to dominate at home. MIA -11.0
This is a classic buy-low spot on the Falcons after two pathetic offensive performances and a sell-high spot on C.J. Stroud and the Texans. When Atlanta can play with a lead, they can contend, and in this particular matchup, they should. Houston is 25th in rush EPA per play and PFF rates this as the biggest run-blocking advantage of the week. Ranking dead last in pass rate over expectation, running the ball is all Atlanta is looking to do. They will force-feed the ball to Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier in this spot. The Texans have looked solid offensively, but they should come back down to earth playing on the road in Atlanta. The Falcons have generated the fourth-best pressure rate and are tied for fifth in yards per play allowed. Atlanta should be to control the clock in this one on the back of their running game. ATL -2.0
Shane Steichen, the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, was the mastermind behind the ascension of Jalen Hurts. He has taken some of the concepts he used in Philly and turned Anthony Richardson into a candidate to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. They’re putting up enough points to stay in games, averaging 24 points per contest, and it looks like there’s a decent chance that Jonathan Taylor returns to the gridiron this week. The Indy defense hasn’t been particularly strong though, ranking 19th in opponent yards per play, and 24th in opponent points per game (24.8).
Indianapolis takes on the Tennessee Titans, who will likely get two of their starting offensive linemen back. That bodes well for Ryan Tannehill and company, who draw one of the easier pass defenses in the league. Indianapolis is 28th in opponent passing yards per game, so a big DeAndre Hopkins game could be in store this weekend. Tennessee is known to defend the run exceptionally well, but that had led to them being exposed in the passing game. All in all, this really comes down to the total being just 42.5. Take the discounted line when it should probably be priced closer to 45. TEN/IND O42.5
Two offenses with the potential to explode square up against two mediocre defenses, a recipe for plenty of points. The Philadelphia Eagles are an underwhelming 4-0 team, largely in part to a defense that is 19th in EPA per play. We just saw Sam Howell and the Washington Commanders move the ball with ease against them and it took an overtime field goal for Philly to sneak away with a 34-31 win. The Birds cannot defend the air and have allowed the sixth-most passing yards per game. That plays right into the strength of this Sean McVay offense, which is tied for sixth in pass rate over expectation and ninth in dropback EPA per play. This game should play out similarly to the Eagles’ previous games against both Washington and the Minnesota Vikings. PHI/LAR O50.5
The Baltimore Ravens had their best defensive performance of the season in Week 4, holding the Cleveland Browns to just three points. They were playing a rookie making his first career start, but it was still impressive. The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t get anything going on offense in a 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans. Kenny Pickett suffered a bone bruise in his knee that could cause him to miss this game. If he doesn’t end up playing, it’s not like their offense is amazing with him. Their running game is nonexistent and they will be without Diontae Johnson and Pat Friermuth. Mitchell Trubisky is a fine backup but will not have any weapons to work with. The Ravens should win their second consecutive divisional road game and cover while doing so. BAL -4.0
Inside the Numbers: The Ravens are 14-9-1 as an away favorite against the spread since 2019.
The Detroit Lions have had a long time to prepare for this game since their most recent game was last Thursday. They dominated the Green Bay Packers and received some great news a couple of days later: wide receiver Jameson Williams was reinstated early, giving this offense a big boost. Detroit is expecting big things from Williams, who should be healthy after tearing his ACL last year. The Carolina Panthers fell to 0-4 after losing to the Minnesota Vikings. Their only touchdown was on defense. I believe in rookie quarterback Bryce Young, but he might have the worst group of weapons in the league. They’re reportedly looking to acquire a veteran to help Young’s development at some point this year. I expect Detroit to win and cover the spread. DET -9.5
Inside the Numbers: The Lions are 4-2-0 as a home favorite against the spread under Dan Campbell.
The Cincinnati Bengals are in serious danger of missing the playoffs after a 27-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Joe Burrow is clearly not himself. He has been playing through a calf injury that has been bothering him for months. To make things worse, wide receiver Tee Higgins could miss some time with a rib injury. I could see him being dealt at the trade deadline because he might not get the money he wants in Cincinnati. The Arizona Cardinals are 1-3 but they have competed in every game. Joshua Dobbs has played well while filling in for the injured Kyler Murray. Their victory against the Dallas Cowboys was one of the most impressive wins by a team this year, in my opinion. I think Arizona will win at home in an upset. ARI +3.0
Inside the Numbers: The Cardinals are 2-0-0 as a home underdog against Jonathan Gannon.
The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Washington Commanders in a wild overtime win, while the Los Angeles Rams also won in overtime. The Rams were up 20-0 against the Indianapolis Colts but nearly blew it. Rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua was an absolute steal in the draft, and the Rams also designated Cooper Kupp to return from IR. However, I don’t think that means he will play right away. Philadelphia has a clear advantage when it comes to their offensive line and defensive line. I fully expect them to have another deep playoff run this year. They should improve to 5-0 for the second year. PHI -4.0
Inside the Numbers: The Eagles are 14-12-2 against the spread after a win under Nick Sirianni.
After the first four weeks, the San Francisco 49ers might be the best team in the NFL. Their offense has several stars, with the biggest being Christian McCaffrey. Trading for him completely changed this team. The defense is stacked with talent as it has been for several years. The Dallas Cowboys are 3-1, but I’m not impressed with them at all. All three of their wins came against bad teams, and their one loss is to the 1-3 Arizona Cardinals. These two teams have met in the playoffs for the past two years, and San Francisco ended Dallas’s season both times. I think that the 49ers will take care of business against the Cowboys once again. SF -3.5
Inside the Numbers: The 49ers are 36-24-0 against the spread after a win under Kyle Shanahan.
The Patriots were destroyed by five touchdowns last week, and they also lost two key contributors on the defensive side of the ball in cornerback Christian Gonzalez and lineman Matthew Judon. Judon is probably their best overall defensive player, and the rookie Gonzalez had quickly become a star before his injury as he is currently ranked as Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) sixth highest-graded cornerback. These injuries are killers for the Pats as their secondary is weaker than their front seven, and now the pass rush will be less effective, making life in a Patriots secondary sans Gonzalez even more difficult. With the addition of star running back Alvin Kamara and another week for quarterback Derek Carr’s shoulder injury to get better, the Saints’ offense is looking up while the Patriots’ defense is looking down.
Neither offense has been performing up to their standards, but the Patriots’ offense does not offer as much reason for optimism as New Orleans. The Patriots are effective at running the ball, but the Saints are a top-five run-stopping team, so I just think this is a bad matchup for the Patriots. If you are leery of taking a short road favorite (especially in New England), consider doing a six-point tease of Saints plus the under (so you get something like Saints +7 / u46) as this game should be low-scoring no matter who comes out on top. NO +1.5
The key to stopping Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is getting to him early and often, as he is susceptible to mistakes under pressure. This can be said for the vast majority of NFL quarterbacks but it is especially true for Lamar as he is prone to hot/cold streaks where he is either in a groove or can’t find a rhythm throughout a game. Last week against the Cleveland Browns, Lamar was cozy. And that’s exactly what Texans’ quarterback C.J. Stroud was as well going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, as the Steelers failed to record a sack. If the Steelers don’t generate pressure, Lamar is going to have a day against a thus far underperforming defense. Despite injuries to two of the Ravens’ best offensive linemen (Tyler Linderbaum & Ronnie Stanley), the Ravens’ offensive line has held up admirably, and they are only getting better as Linderbaum is back and Stanley is on track to return for Week 5.
Even if Baltimore’s offense isn’t firing on all cylinders, they likely will cover the spread anyway as their defense should handle Pittsburgh’s inefficient offense. The Steelers’ offense ranks dead last in PFF’s ratings and the Ravens have a top-three defense, a recipe for disaster if Pittsburgh is forced to play from behind. Also working in the Ravens’ favor is that Pittsburgh has not seen much of Lamar Jackson as he has missed most of the Steelers-Ravens tilts in his career due to various injuries. Surely they will study the tape, but Lamar could slip loose for some big gains on the ground due to the lack of snaps taken against him in person. Four points as a road favorite would usually be a really hard sell in this epic rivalry but the quality disparity between these two teams is larger than current perception would have us believe. BAL -4.0
I am always on the lookout for a great sell high/buy low situation, and this game represents one such opportunity. The Falcons are at their lowest perceived market value of the season after coming off two losses where the offense looked anemic and quarterback Desmond Ridder played the worst two-game stretch of his short NFL career. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there hasn’t been this much optimism around the Texans franchise since the first half of their 2019 AFC Divisional Playoff game. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has started his career on fire, throwing for over 1,200 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions while maintaining a superb QBR of over 100. Stroud made light work of the vaunted Steelers defense, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns and making it look easy while doing so.
So why are the Falcons, who haven’t scored ten points in a game since Week 2 the favorites over the Texans who just demolished the Steelers and have the seemingly much better quarterback? Probably because people overvalue the “quarterback matchup” between teams, and because of the massive advantage the Falcons will have in the trenches when they have the ball. Houston is dead last in run defense in numerous metrics and this game should be a matchup nightmare for them as the Falcons are the third-highest graded run blocking unit according to PFF. Atlanta’s offensive line should be opening up holes all day, making it easier to chew up yards as well as the clock, keeping Stroud and Texans offense off the field and out of rhythm. As impressive as Stroud has been, he is still a rookie going into an NFL road game, a tough proposition. I also expect the law of averages to rear its ugly head and for Stroud to throw his first career interception. ATL -2.0
I’m going back to the well with the Vikings after they came through for me (and the rest of the panel) last week. Coming off their first win and best overall performance of the year, the Vikings are at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, who up until this point have not looked as sharp as we are used to seeing them. I think five points is just a little too much here considering Minnesota has a potent offense that is capable of making big plays out of nowhere. Even if the Chiefs jump out in front and win the game, a backdoor cover is likely in play with an explosive offense, especially when getting this many points. Other than the Bears, the Chiefs haven’t convincingly beat anyone. They let the inferior Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars hang with them all game, only winning by one score in both games. The Vikings have a better offense than any the Chiefs have faced since their opening loss to the Detroit Lions, so I expect Minnesota to be able to fare at least as well as the Zach Wilson-led Jets.
One thing going for the Vikings in this one is their run-game advantage over the Chiefs’ front seven, who haven’t been stopping the run as well as they have in years past (23rd in PFF’s run-stop ratings). Minnesota’s run game has been surprisingly solid considering it was widely regarded as one of the team’s glaring weaknesses heading into the season. With newfound effectiveness in the run game, I think the Vikings can keep Patrick Mahomes off the field long enough to keep them in the game. Add in the fact that this is a 1 PM game in Minnesota in what is officially known as Kirktober (Kirk Cousins is 15-5 as a Viking in the month of October), and I think the Vikings are a live dog against this week. MIN +5.0