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For The Win: Week 5

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here I am again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, I will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but I will try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. I tend to rate games that I like (and some extras like Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight my best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars I don't truly like one way or the other, but will select to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season.

I have been doing this for a while, and I am sure I have had a bad stretch like this before, but this feels way out of the norm – so I looked at how this season has started, and if you think that it has been an unusual start to this season with all of the upsets, well, you are right.  Through 63 games on the season (just less than 25%) not only have 13 teams covered the point spread, but 20 underdogs have won outright.  That’s right – only 30 favorites – less than half – have won and covered the number.  While picking underdogs can be rewarding, relying on outright upsets on the money line for over 30% of the contests is far outside the normal way that things tend to go in the NFL.  So while I did go 8-8, I continue to have a bad start of the year, but at least I can take a little solace that this has not been a typical start to the season.  So the plan is to stay the course and work my normal process, and hopefully, it all evens out by January.   On to Week 5, where we have our first scheduled bye weeks for four teams.

One last thing before I begin – this is not a pretty week.  I dare say it is ugly, with lots of bad teams facing one another, four teams on a bye, and few really good matchups.  No team is favored by more than a touchdown aside from the Steelers, so in a nutshell, I am basically saying that if you have had a rough start to the season, this may not be the week to try and make up for it.

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

Teams on a Bye Week – Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Washington

Teams coming off of a Bye Week – None.

(Thursday) TAMPA BAY (-7) vs. NEW ENGLAND
New England has given up 300-yard passers that have at least two touchdowns in every single contest this year – so why would you not expect a similar result for Jameis Winston?  I really could just stop there, but taking a home team on a short week is always a good idea, and with the Buccaneers getting back Doug Martin from his suspension will also be helpful for Tampa Bay.  This has all the makings of another shootout on Thursday Night Football – which would make it two in a row (and probably the only two on record).  Give me the home team and the points.    PICK: Buccaneers

BUFFALO (+3) at CINCINNATI
It is hard for me to like either of these teams, yet I am supposed to pick every NFL contest.  Well, the Bills just beat the Falcons in Atlanta, which frankly shocked me.  Even with the Bengals destroying Cleveland on the road last week, it is still the Browns.  Buffalo looks like the better team and are getting points, which I will gladly take in this one.  PICK: Bills

NEW YORK JETS (+1.5) at CLEVELAND
Would anyone have expected to be talking about a 3-2 Jets team after their terrible 0-2 start?  Consecutive wins over Miami and Jacksonville give this team a little bit of hope, which will likely be dashed once the schedule gets tougher.  Until then, I will take New York and the points at a Browns team that has scored only 63 points in four games (under 16 a contest).  I think the Jets get at least 17 and a road win.  PICK: Jets

CAROLINA (+2.5) at DETROIT
Cam Newton seemed to wake up out of his year-long funk in New England last Sunday (which might be a pattern against the Patriots defense this year).  Now Carolina heads to Detroit to face the Lions that only managed one touchdown against the Vikings last week yet escaped with their third win of the season.  Detroit has been up and down on the year, winning over Arizona, the Vikings, and the Giants but dropping a home game to Atlanta in Week 3.  The victory over New York and another over a Minnesota team that had backups at both quarterback and running back last week after Dalvin Cook went down are hard to trust.  This is a tough call but I like the hotter offense, and that sure looks like Carolina – and getting a few extra points of a head start.  It is also worth mentioning that Cam Newton is a significantly better quarterback on the turf than on grass, especially as a rusher.  PICK: Panthers

SAN FRANCISCO (+2) at INDIANAPOLIS
Let’s just go ahead and say it – there are a lot of ugly games this week. If you are looking at this game with an “I can’t wait to see this one” attitude, well, props to you.  This game looks like the Carlos Hyde show for San Francisco against T.Y. Hilton and not much else.  The edge for this one is for the San Francisco passing game as the Colts are 29th in yards per pass against, so if Hyde and Pierre Garcon can rack up short catches, they should fare well in this one.  This probably will go down to the wire, but I like the 49ers to get their first win here at Indianapolis on a late field goal, 20-17 in an otherwise forgettable contest.   PICK: 49ers

TENNESSEE (-2.5) at MIAMI
I did say that there were some bad games on this slate, did I not?  Tennessee is really hoping that Marcus Mariota can play on Sunday, and if he does he might blow the doors off of a Miami team that was just shut out by the Saints in London.  Yes, those Saints that had that really bad defense the first three weeks that everyone wanted to face.  Now the Dolphins are getting to play at home for the first time this season thanks to a forced Week 1 bye and a trip to London, so maybe they can get a boost from the home crowd – but it likely will not be enough, since Jay Cutler is still their quarterback.  Titans by a touchdown and likely much more, even if Mariota sits this one out.  PICK: Titans

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+3.5) at NEW YORK GIANTS
Two winless teams square off in MetLife Stadium this week, and neither of them is the Jets (who are 2-2).  The Chargers lost to the Eagles in Los Angeles despite racking up over 300 yards passing from Philip Rivers and not just one but two 100-yard receivers in Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams.  I have a pretty good feeling that the Chargers will have to move the ball more on the ground against a good Giants secondary, but New York is giving up 4.6 yards per carry, which tells me that this is going to be a game for Melvin Gordon this week.  The Giants lack any serious run game, and without a balanced offense, I struggle to see how the Giants can win this one (or many at all this season).  PICK: Chargers

PHILADELPHIA (-6) vs. ARIZONA
The Eagles just gave up a ton of yards to the Chargers last week in Los Angeles, so I would not be surprised at all to see a big game from Carson Palmer in this spot.  The Eagles lack for a good secondary right now, but their offense is keeping them in games as is their defensive front four.  If Philadelphia can pin their ears back and get to Palmer, they should win this one and move to 4-1 on the season.  Even with the sure hands of Larry Fitzgerald, only a few home run balls to the speedster wideouts for the Cardinals can really make this a game – which could happen, but I like the Eagles and their balance on offense to control this game from start to finish.  PICK:  Eagles

PITTSBURGH (-8.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
The Steelers got LeVeon Bell back on track in Baltimore with a tough 26-9 victory on the road, but now they get to head home to host the mercurial Jacksonville Jaguars, who just cannot put two games in a row together.  Last week the Jaguars were run all over by the Jets, costing them a win on the road in New Jersey, and now Pittsburgh has Bell coming off a big game (35-144-2 rushing, 4-42 receiving) and an upset Antonio Brown who thought he was open all day against Baltimore.  I expect Pittsburgh to feed both stars and rack up the points against Jacksonville for a big win at home, even if Leonard Fournette continues his touchdown streak.  PICK: Steelers

SEATTLE (+1.5) at LOS ANGELES RAMS     
This line is pretty fishy, and no it isn’t because I saw more clips from Pike Place from Sunday Night Football.  I understand that the Seahawks just lost Chris Carson, but is it really enough of a difference to make the Rams a home favorite over Seattle?  Yes, the Seahawks are just 2-2 on the season, but they put up a ton of points on the Colts in the second half last week and seemed like they were ready to break out of their funk.  The Rams are one of the better offenses in the league right now (fifth in total yards, first in points), so I expect this to be a shootout type contest.  Russell Wilson tends to thrive in those types of games, as long as it is not in Green Bay.  The Seahawks have several options at wide receiver and running back to make up for the loss of Carson, and the home-field advantage in Los Angeles is virtually nonexistent.  This should be a fun game to watch and it could break either way, but I am slightly leaning towards Seattle here.  PICK: Seahawks

OAKLAND (-2.5) vs. BALTIMORE
The Ravens lost their second contest in a row after starting 2-0, but if you dig deeper into the quality of opponents, you can start to see (and question) where the Ravens are overall.  Two wins over Cincinnati and Cleveland pale in comparison to a near shutout and blowout by the Jaguars in London and the Steelers picking the Ravens apart in Baltimore last Sunday. The Raiders may have lost Derek Carr, but I still think that the team has more than enough talent to take care of Baltimore after LeVeon Bell showed the blueprint to beating Baltimore starts with a strong run game.  The Raiders have three options at tailback, led by Marshawn Lynch, and they can rely on him to set up a few play action passes to Jared Cook and Amari Cooper.  Many will look only at the loss of Carr and side with a 2-2 Baltimore team, but the Ravens are one of the softest 2-2 teams in the NFL right now.  PICK: Raiders 

GREEN BAY (+2.5) at DALLAS
Dallas dropped what appeared to be a winnable game against the Rams at home last week, and now they get to host the Packers who are rested after trouncing the Bears last Thursday.  Aaron Rodgers should have plenty of time to find the open targets against the Cowboys, who have yielded eight passing touchdowns in the past three games.  Dallas will look to counter with Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott, and this game could turn into the most entertaining shootout of the weekend – but I always like taking Rodgers and points.   PICK: Packers

KANSAS CITY (-1.5) vs. HOUSTON
Kansas City is our last undefeated team, and that should continue this week even with a road game at Houston.  Deshaun Watson was the fantasy darling last weekend, but the Chiefs’ defense is much better than that of the Titans.  Expect this to be a good battle between two teams that can move the ball either with Kareem Hunt or Watson, but ultimately I expect that the experience of the Chiefs will lead them to victory over the young quarterback.  PICK:  Chiefs

(Monday) MINNESOTA (-3) at CHICAGO
Another probable ugly game to wrap up a week full of tough matchups to watch – or at least that is the way it looks on paper.  The Vikings will be without Dalvin Cook (torn ACL) and Sam Bradford is still questionable, but the Bears are still not very good.  Minnesota held Detroit to just one touchdown last week and nearly pulled off the win, but they will have to rely on their backup running backs to set up play action passes for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  That is very doable against a Chicago team that counts on two backs, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, for the vast majority of their offense.  The Vikings’ defense should be able to hold the Bears to a handful of points, which means two touchdowns likely get the job done here.  I think the Vikings can take a big divisional game on the road on Monday Night Football by more than just a field goal.  PICK: Vikings  

BEST BETS

Once again this year I will give not only the "Best Bets" but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 "Star" scale. The more stars, the more I like that side of the game.

  • PHILADELPHIA (-6) vs. ARIZONA
  • PITTSBURGH (-8.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
  • OAKLAND (-2.5) vs. BALTIMORE  
  • (Monday) MINNESOTA (-3) at CHICAGO   
  • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 43.5)
  • BUFFALO (“FOR THE WIN +140) at CINCINNATI
  • 6-POINT TEASER:  CAROLINA (+8.5) at DETROIT (OVER 43.5)
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.1-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)
    • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 37.5)
    • GREEN BAY (+8.5) at DALLAS  
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)
    • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 37.5)
    • GREEN BAY (+8.5) at DALLAS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. ARIZONA
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)
    • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 37.5)
    • GREEN BAY (+8.5) at DALLAS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. ARIZONA
    • CAROLINA (+8.5) at DETROIT
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)
    • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 37.5)
    • GREEN BAY (+8.5) at DALLAS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. ARIZONA
    • CAROLINA (+8.5) at DETROIT
    • BUFFALO (+9) at CINCINNATI 
  • 9-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (18.25-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)
    • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 37.5)
    • GREEN BAY (+8.5) at DALLAS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. ARIZONA
    • CAROLINA (+8.5) at DETROIT
    • BUFFALO (+9) at CINCINNATI
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY (+12) vs. NEW ENGLAND 

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • BUFFALO (+3) at CINCINNATI
  • 6-POINT TEASER:  GREEN BAY (+8.5) at DALLAS (OVER 46)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)
    • CAROLINA at DETROIT (OVER 37.5)

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (1.65-1 ODDS):
    • PITTSBURGH (-2.5) vs. JACKSONVILLE
    • GREEN BAY at DALLAS  (OVER 46)
    • (Thursday) TAMPA BAY  vs. NEW ENGLAND (OVER 49.5)

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK

Buffalo, Oakland, Green Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota 


RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 8-8 (50%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 8.3-16 (34.2%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 3-2 (60%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 26-36-1 (41.9%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 28.5-68-1 (29.5%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 14-15-1 (48.3%)

Good luck this weekend!

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com