Beating the Spread: Week 5 Picks

Our Week 5 Beat the Spread column is ready to go for your consideration as you put in your weekly bets!

We’re now four weeks in and, as a group, we’re over .500, and Erik is poised to cross that threshold himself this week after two winning weeks.  How will the group fare this week?  Let’s see if we can spot any trends.

Justin was loving the under for the past two weeks, but nary a one on his pick sheet this week.  Brennan is continuing his belief in large underdogs as he’s taking three more favorites that are giving seven points or more.  Erik is camped out primarily in the NFC East and AFC West this week, taking two teams from each division.  I’ve got three favorites and two under this week as I try to turn around my luck after two losing weeks.

Gamblers know that 60% is the magic number to come out ahead, so that’s the goal again this season.  We didn’t make it last year, which just motivates us, even more, this season.  Every week the four of us will pick five games against the spread or on the over/under.  We’ll track the picks every week and see where we end up.  Feel free to play along in the comments or find us on Twitter!

Let’s get to the lines and picks for Week 5!

 

The following lines were captured on Tuesday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.

Week 1 Betting Lines
Away Home Line O/U
Jets Falcons Falcons -3.5 46
Patriots Texans Patriots -9 39.5
Lions Vikings Vikings -7.5 49
Saints Football Team Saints -1.5 44.5
Dolphins Buccaneers Buccaneers -10 48
Packers Bengals Packers -3.5 49.5
Broncos Steelers Steelers -1.5 40
Eagles Panthers Panthers -4 45
Titans Jaguars Titans -4 48.5
Bears Raiders Raiders -4.5 45.5
Browns Chargers Browns -1 49.5
49ers Cardinals Cardinals -5.5 50
Giants Cowboys Cowboys -7 52
Bills Chiefs Chiefs -2.5 56.5
Colts Ravens Ravens -7 47
Staff Picks

 

Analysis

 

Justin Dunbar: Justin puts together an article analyzing some of his picks in more detail.  Check out his Week 5 Betting Preview for more! Here are some snippets from his first three picks for this week.

Mainly, though, my case is this: these 3-1 teams came into the season with significantly different expectations, and that should be reflected better. I don’t think playing the Bears, Steelers, and Jaguars suddenly mean Cincinnati has a stout defense, while I’ll trust Matt LeFleur over Zac Taylor. GB -3.5

As someone with one of the highest time to throw and sacks rates in the NFL, Wentz is primed to struggle against Baltimore’s blitz-happy defense. The Ravens rank 7th in PFF coverage grade this year, are well-equipped to handle a limited Indianapolis receiving corps, and could wreak havoc on Wentz all night long. Plus, I don’t have to worry about crossing a key number here! In primetime, expect Baltimore to show out with a major win over a very limited Colts team. BAL -7

Right now, the Panthers and Eagles each rank as above-average offenses based on yards/play. Meanwhile, the Panthers are projected to play from ahead, where the Eagles have the third-highest pass rate and overall rank fourth in plays/minute, per Pro Football Focus. Without Christian McCaffrey, we should continue to see the Panthers air the ball out to their wide receivers, and that could lead to a quicker, more efficient offense. Plus, a trailing Eagles offense (they’re underdogs in this game) means Jalen Hurts taking chances down the field, which can lead to points or turnovers, which also can lead to points. With such a low total, I’m comfortable saying that these two teams can work together to go “over” here. CAR/PHI Over 45

I understand the Cardinals are 4-0, but there are signs that they may be playing over their heads right now. They currently are tied for third in turnover margin, Kyler Murray is averaging 9.3 yards/attempt under pressure, and they rank 6th in opponent third-down conversion percentage last year. These are all unstable metrics that could regress negatively for them, and it’s not like the 49ers are a bad team by any means. In fact, many saw them as the favorite to win the NFC West at the beginning of the year, and they’re an above-average team in yards/play and yards/play allowed. The problem? The third-worst turnover margin in the NFL, which shouldn’t continue to be the case moving forward. I get that the volatility of Trey Lance in his first start can be scary, but what about the potential of a rushing attack led by him against the second-worst defense in PFF run defense grade? I’m not saying San Francisco wins this game, but I’m not anticipating a blowout here. SF +5.5

On the other hand, I’m anticipating a blowout here. The Dolphins rank dead last in yards/play right now, and now have to take on a loaded Bucs offense led by Tom Brady. That’s less than ideal for them. Jacoby Brissett has been under pressure the third-most of any quarterback in the NFL, which could cause trouble against a strong pass rush, while the Bucs are the type of pass-first, high-powered offense that won’t let off the brakes. Honestly, their only weakness is an injured secondary, but Maimi doesn’t have the passing attack to expose that. I’ll take arguably the most talented team in the NFL to beat down the team with the fourth-worst point differential; it’s hard to feel comfortable with a large spread here, but I couldn’t be more confident in a big-time Tampa Bay blowout victory. TB -10

 

Brennan Rampe: The Patriots gave the Buccaneers all they could handle in Tom Brady’s return to New England, but I expect the Patriots to bounce back here. The Texans looked awful on both sides of the ball against the Bills. The offense got shut out and the defense gave up 450 yards and 40 points. Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills threw four interceptions, and the last time this Patriots team played a rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson, he also threw four interceptions. Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been playing quite well, and I think that’ll continue while Mills and the Texans offense have another awful performance. Bill Belichick just has a way when it comes to confusing rookie quarterbacks. Inside the Numbers: Houston is 3-4 against the spread as a home underdog since last season. NE -9

The Vikings haven’t been very good this year, but all of their losses have been very close. Their three losses are by a combined 11 points. Their next opponent, however, is the winless Lions, a team that’s in complete rebuild mode. The Lions have one of the worst wide receiver rooms in the league, while the defense even allowed the Bears to score over 20 points. The Vikings’ offense, despite getting shut down against the Browns, is always a threat to put up big numbers. On the other side of the ball, the defense has started to live up to the expectations placed on them after holding both the Seahawks and Browns under 20 points in consecutive weeks. This should be the most dominant win of the season so far for the Vikings. Inside the Numbers: The Vikings are 25-19-1 against the spread under Mike Zimmer. MIN -7.5

The Buccaneers had a thrilling win against the Patriots in primetime last week, and they now return home to play their second straight AFC East opponent in the Dolphins. Fun fact: I’ll be attending this game, 4 rows from the field! The Dolphins are the league’s second-worst scoring offense through four weeks, trailed only by the Jets. Things are looking bleak after recent developments in the wide receiver room. They traded wide receiver/kick returner Jakeem Grant to the Bears while placing free agent Will Fuller, who was supposed to contribute immensely, on IR. The Buccaneers’ defense has struggled so far this season, but I expect them to dominate this matchup. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores knows Tom Brady well from their time together in New England, but the Buccaneers’ offense should score often against what has been an underwhelming Dolphins defense. Inside the Numbers: Tampa Bay is 5-3-2 against the spread in non-conference games under Bruce Arians. TB -10

The Bengals had an impressive come-from-behind win against the Jaguars, but it was a little concerning to see them trail 14-0 against one of the worst teams in football. Their first real test is this Sunday against the Packers, who have an advantage in their roster, head coach, and quarterback over the Jaguars. The Packers, like their opponent, are also 3-1, but I’m more impressed with the Packers right now. If the Bengals aren’t careful, this could end up being their first blowout loss of the season. The Bengals defense is talented, but not elite. The offense is a little banged up as well, with Joe Mixon suffering a minor ankle injury, and second-year wide receiver Tee Higgins has missed the last two games. The Packers’ offense has looked good, while the defense makes key plays when it matters. The Packers should cover. Inside the Numbers: Green Bay is 6-3 against the spread in non-conference games under Matt LaFleur. GB -3.5

The Titans had a somewhat surprising loss against the previously winless Jets, but there’s no way they lose to another winless team with a rookie quarterback in consecutive weeks. Wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones should both return, while linebacker Bud Dupree and first-round cornerback Caleb Farley should both return to boost the defense. The Jaguars had a perfect opportunity to get their first win of the season against the Bengals but blew a 14-0 lead. Urban Meyer immediately got himself in trouble off the field after the game, and there are rumors that he’s already lost the locker room. Everyone criticized the hire, and it’s looking like a huge mistake. I don’t think he can handle the NFL. The Titans will have a blowout win and should easily cover the spread. Inside the Numbers: Tennessee is 6-3 against the spread with a rest disadvantage under Mike Vrabel. TEN -4

 

Erik Smith: I know a touchdown spread is a lot for a divisional game, but I’m riding the hot hand here with the Cowboys at home. The defense looks shockingly good, with playmakers flying around the field, while the offense can move the ball anyway that they seemingly choose. Meanwhile, the Giants have lost to the Broncos, Falcons, and Washington Football before salvaging a win against the Saints last week, and that’s even with Daniel Jones playing relatively clean football. Dallas is going to put pressure on the Giants to score like no team has thus far through four weeks, and I would expect this opportunistic Dallas defense to come up with some big plays. DAL -7

I know the Titans just lost to the Jets, but they can’t blow it two weeks in a row, right? A healthy AJ Brown would go a long way towards opening up this offense, while they still can batter teams with Derrick Henry. And have you been following this Jacksonville team this week? Urban Meyer is halfway out the door, and it is a real question whether this team will play hard for him. Last week was their game to win after opening up an early lead against the Bengals, and I would expect a letdown here for many reasons. This line opened at -7.5 so we even picked up a few free points here. I’ll bet on the Titans veterans scraping together a win by a touchdown. TEN -4
The Chargers have a clear advantage on the Browns at quarterback, so taking the point at home is a pretty clear call for me. I love the way Brandon Staley is calling this defense, essentially daring teams to run on them. While that is a worry against the Browns’ excellent rushing attack, I think they can put up enough of a fight to slow them down, and I hate what I saw from Baker Mayfield last week. I think the Chargers can win both a shootout and a defensive battle, and while I expect this to be a hard-fought game, give me the better passing attack. LAC +1
This feels like the ultimate trap, but I don’t see many lines I like this week so here we are. All we need is the Chiefs to win by a field goal at home? Mahomes can do that in his sleep, what could go wrong? This looks like the classic oddsmakers trap where everyone rushes to Kansas City at home, but I’m taking the bait and going for it. KC finds themselves at the bottom of a fiercely competitive AFC West and desperately needing a win to keep up, while Buffalo can likely start printing their AFC East divisional championship shirts with the rest of the division at 1-3. Please Mahomes, find Tyreek Hill deep a few times to ice this one. KC -2.5
I’m not ready to completely trust this Panthers team, even at home, with their lone good win coming against the up and down Saints. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is 1-3, but with losses to the 49ers, Cowboys, and Chiefs, a tough stretch for any team. I wouldn’t be outright shocked if the Eagles won this game, and four points feel too high for me. Jalen Hurts can keep them in this game, and it feels like Sam Darnold is due to make some mistakes one of these days. This is my least favorite of these picks, but give me PHI +4

 

Bryan Sweet: Despite a shocking loss last week to the Jets, the Titans are still the better team in this matchup.  The absences of A.J. Brown and Julio Jones had a bigger impact than I think anyone suspected but it looks like Brown is going to be back for this game.  I suspect Mike Vrabel will look to have his team ready for an important division game to remain on top of the AFC South.  Derrick Henry can take over games in the fourth quarter and if this game is close late, I like the Titans’ offense to control the ball late and come away with a victory. TEN -4

I’m doubling down on this AFC South matchup as I expect both teams to lean heavily on the run game as that is the strength of both offenses.  Henry had his best September of his career and James Robinson showed why Leonard Fournette was expendable heading into the 2020 season.  Urban Meyer might well be coaching for his job and there is a chance this team goes into a tailspin given the off-the-field turmoil this past week.  If this game is as run-heavy as I suspect, the clock will just keep running and this total stats low.  TEN/JAX Under 48.5

The largest over/under on the slate seems to be just a bit high to me mainly because of how well the Buffalo defense has been playing.  The Bills have given up 7 points in their last 10 quarters and have looked borderline unstoppable since their Week 1 debacle against Pittsburgh.  Kansas City has done KC things by scoring 30+ in three of their four games, but Buffalo will be their toughest test to date.  All it will take is a few non-scoring drives for this game to stay under, which I think it will.  BUF/KC Under 56.5

If there is one thing Bill Belichick does better than any other coach in the NFL it’s scheming the opposition’s best player out of a game.  Brandin Cooks has been nearly the entire offense for Houston and I suspect he will have his worst game of the season this weekend.  On offense, Mac Jones has done exactly what’s been asked of him to be successful in Josh McDaniels’ system and they should be able to move the ball on Houston’s defense.  I don’t know that Houston will be shut out again, but I don’t think they can keep this close.  NE -9

I picked against Carolina last week because I didn’t think Sam Darnold could carry the team without Christian McCaffrey.  Turned out, it was the defense that had been so good that let them down as they had their worst performance of the season by far.  Philadelphia doesn’t have the same kind of offensive firepower Dallas does, however, and Carolina should be able to contain Jalen Hurts and the Eagles.  McCaffrey seems to be trending towards playing, which only helps Darnold and lifts the entire Carolina offense.  CAR -4

 


 

What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all season!

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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