For The Win: Week 5 - Footballguys

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, this article will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but will also 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. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as point totals, or Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted 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.

It is funny how each week plays out. Just when you think things are not going well, some games move a modest week to a fantastic week – and that was the story of Week 4. Kansas City and the Rams continuing their dominance helped the Best Bets to their top result of the season so far with over a 72% success rate (23.3-9). Week 5 looks just as challenging, so it was time to dust off one of the more interesting stats from prior seasons. In recent years, it has been true that the following statement has held up: Over 80% of NFL games are not decided by a point spread, meaning that either the favorite wins by more than the spread or the underdog wins outright. That may seem strange at first, but think about it another way – only 20% (or less) of contests land with the favorite winning but not covering the point spread. So how do the first 63 games of 2018 stack up? Taking away two point spread ties, 45 games have been won by favorites by more than the point spread and 23 (!) have been won outright by underdogs. That leaves just 12 games out of 61 where the point spread matters – or 19.7%. Food for thought after the quarter-season pole has been reached. Now on to Week 5. Let’s get started.

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

BYE WEEKS: Chicago, Tampa Bay

TEAMS RETURNING FROM A BYE: Carolina, Washington

(Thursday) NEW ENGLAND (-10 to 10.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS (Over/Under 51.5)
Remember the stat mentioned earlier? If you believe that the home team on Thursday Night Football is the right play – and this year, the home team is 4-0, including Cleveland – then take New England and do not worry about the big point spread. Odds are in your favor that the favorite will cover. Aside from that, the Colts are likely to be without T.Y. Hilton and they lack continuity on the ground, and the Patriots should get Julian Edelman back from suspension. A win by New England in the AFC here moves the Patriots to 3-2 and, if Kansas City stumbles this week, makes their matchup in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football in Week 6 a showdown for the top spot in the AFC. All signs point to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick here. PICK: Patriots

BALTIMORE (-3) at CLEVELAND (Over/Under 47 to 47.5)
Reality check here, as the Ravens are 3-1 and have just one loss on the road in Cincinnati in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football. A short week and a road trip can trip up even the best teams, so it is ok to excuse that loss for the Ravens as they have won two games in a row in solid fashion over Denver at home and last Sunday night at Pittsburgh. That puts Baltimore at 1-1 in the division, with this game in Cleveland marking their third in the division in just five weeks. Some might say that the Browns squandered chances to beat Oakland on the road last week, losing a heartbreaker in overtime 45-42, but some of the calls by the officials did play a role. That might be par for the course for some Browns fans, but it is clear to many now that Cleveland is an improving team on the rise. The difference here will be the defensive side of both teams, as both offenses have moved the ball and put up big point totals this season. Giving up 45 points to Oakland, however, is not a good sign, and Baltimore held Pittsburgh to just 14 points at home last week. Ravens win this by at least a touchdown. PICK: Ravens

TENNESSEE (-3 to 3.5) at BUFFALO (Over/Under 38.5 to 39)
With four games under most teams’ belts, there is plenty to gauge for each squad at this point of the season. Throwing out the incredulous 27-6win by the Bills over the Vikings, Buffalo has scored 0, 20 and 3 points in the other three contests, Tennessee has three wins in a row including wins over Jacksonville and Philadelphia, with their lone loss coming in Week 1 in a double-rain-delayed marathon game with Miami. This contest may bore people to watch, but everything points to the Titans securing a 4-1 record by Sunday night. PICK: Titans

CINCINNATI (-6 to 6.5) vs. MIAMI (Over/Under 49 to 50)
Last week was telling for Miami, as they were 3-0 and went to New England with every opportunity to seize control of the AFC East with a win over the Patriots and dismiss any doubters – but then they were blown out by the Patriots, 38-7. So now those wins over Tennessee, the Jets, and Oakland are rightly questioned, while the Bengals also enter Week 5 at 3-1 including two road wins (at Indianapolis, at Atlanta) around a home win over Baltimore. Only a road loss to Carolina marred their otherwise perfect schedule. Miami has excelled due to turnover differential (+4, tied for third best in the NFL) and big / trick plays that helped to compensate for modest offensive production (22.5 points per game, 20th in NFL). Cincinnati has very quietly become a Top 5 scoring offense (actually 4th, 31.5 points per game) despite a -2 turnover differential. As long as Cincinnati protects the ball, they win this one by more than the touchdown needed to cover the line. PICK: Bengals

GREEN BAY (-1 to 1.5) at DETROIT (Over/Under 50.5 to 51)
How can you trust either of these teams? The Lions are 1-3 with losses to the Jets, 49ers, and Cowboys, yet won over New England. Is that all because of head coach Matt Patricia getting his team up for revenge over his former team? The Packers are almost as inconsistent, with a strange 2-1-1 record after a home tie (by blowing a lead) to Minnesota and a bad road loss to Washington along with a lackluster 22-0 win over the hapless Bills at Lambeau Field. The most memorable part of the season for Green Bay has been the big comeback over the Bears for a 24-23 win after trailing 20-0 in the third quarter. It will likely come down to protecting the ball, as Detroit is -4 in turnover ratio this year, and both teams are Top 5 in sacks with 13 each. Green Bay needs this game more, but it really is a coin flip. Go with the better run defense (Detroit is the worst in the NFL with over 150 yards per game against) and the best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers in a toss-up call. PICK: Packers

KANSAS CITY (-3) vs. JACKSONVILLE (Over/Under 48.5 to 49.5)
The marquee matchup for Week 5 offers what could be seen as a potential AFC Conference Championship preview with the 4-0 Chiefs hosting the 3-1 Jaguars. Somehow Las Vegas thinks that Jacksonville should project to 23 points, or exactly what Denver posted at home in a Monday Night Football battle with Kansas City just a few days ago. This is all about a high octane offense from Kansas City against a tough Jaguars defense, but this was asked and answered on Monday as the Chiefs scored 27 on Denver. Kansas City can score points on anyone, but can Jacksonville, especially without Leonard Fournette? The Jaguars did score 31 twice this season at home against New England and the Jets, but Arrowhead is a very different environment. Chiefs move to 5-0 and stake their claim to the #1 seed in the AFC, 34-20. PICK: Chiefs

DENVER (+1 to 2.5) at NEW YORK JETS (Over/Under 42.5)
This one is a tricky one, as Denver just suffered a very tough loss at home to the Chiefs late on Monday Night Football, their second loss in a row after losing in Baltimore in Week 3. The Jets blew out Detroit in Week 1 but then lost all three games (vs. Miami, at Cleveland, at Jacksonville). The difference here is that the Broncos held their own against two tougher teams (Ravens, Chiefs) for their two losses, even with Philip Lindsay getting ejected early in Baltimore. Both defenses are tough against the run, and this is an early kickoff (dreaded 1 PM kickoff for a western team, especially after a Monday game), but Denver looks better than the Jets so far this year with their ground game and they are the call for a tougher decision in Week 5. PICK: Broncos

PITTSBURGH (-3) vs. ATLANTA (Over/Under 57 to 57.5)
Two defenses that should not be considered very defensive match up in Pittsburgh where the expected final score is 30-27. That may be too low of a prediction, even though the Steelers scored just 14 points against Baltimore at home last week. The Falcons have been riddled by injuries on defense, giving up 37 and 43 points the past two weeks in losses to the Bengals and Saints. Atlanta tends to struggle outside of their home dome, so their offense may slow down a bit in Pittsburgh. The Steelers need to right their 1-2-1 ship quickly if they are to contend in the AFC playoff picture, so expect Ben Roethlisberger to have a big game and get Pittsburgh back to an even (but odd-looking) record. Steelers 31, Falcons 24. PICK: Steelers

CAROLINA (-7) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Over/Under 44 to 44.5)
Easy pick here. Carolina comes off a bye week to face a Giants team that has scored 15, 13 and 18 points in their three losses, so if you treat their 27-22 win in Houston as an outlier then it all points towards the rested team at home. Forget the big point spread, as Carolina should get the job done as they are better in turnover ratio (+4 vs. Giants -2, -4 in their three losses). Both teams will be successful in running the ball, but the Panthers are more likely to force turnovers against Eli Manning and control a home game. PICK: Panthers

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-5.5 to 6) vs. OAKLAND (Over/Under 53 to 53.5)
Oakland finally got their first win this year, but that may be a short celebration as the Raiders stay in California but travel to visit the 2-2 Chargers on Sunday. Oakland gave up 42 points to the Browns last week and really should have lost that game, getting lucky late to get the ball back and score eight points to force the overtime. The Chargers eeked out a win over the 49ers last week despite an early Pick-6 from Philip Rivers and several missed kicks from Caleb Sturgis (who somehow still has a job this week, but not his holder). Big picture – the Chargers are 2-2 with losses to the two best teams in the league, Kansas City and the Rams. Oakland is lucky not to be 0-4. This one should NOT be close, but that is what we all thought last week. PICK: Chargers

PHILADELPHIA (-3 to 3.5) vs. MINNESOTA (Over/Under 44.5)
This one is another tough call in a rematch from the NFC Playoffs in January. Both teams can score quite a bit, and the Vikings will push the Eagles on the scoreboard and in the secondary. The keys will be the Philadelphia pass rush to keep their secondary from having to cover Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen for too long, as Kirk Cousins will pick them apart if he gets a clean pocket on a consistent basis. The Eagles need to get right after a tough loss in Tennessee, and it is very difficult to ever count them out. Extremely tough call, but the home team gets a slight nod. PICK: Eagles

SAN FRANCISCO (-4 to 4.5) vs. ARIZONA (Over/Under 41)
Week 5 runs the gamut with a great matchup (Chiefs-Jaguars) to two teams that might be fighting for first place – at the 2019 NFL Draft. Arizona is 0-4 and looks every bit the part, while the 49ers somehow beat the Lions in Week 2. If we take every schedule to heart by looking at the opponents, San Francisco has faced the Vikings, Chiefs and Chargers, so it is not like they have had an easy path. Arizona played some teams close, but Washington and Seattle have yet to prove that they are respectable teams just yet. Even with C.J. Beathard at quarterback, San Francisco looks like the right side of this contest. PICK: 49ers

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-7 to 7.5) at SEATTLE (Over/Under 50 to 51)
Seattle is a shadow of its former defensive stalwart self, and the offense is lackluster. The Rams are one of the two best teams in the NFL, and the class of the NFC West, and possibly the entire conference by a large margin. Los Angeles overcomes the road trip by double digits. PICK: Rams

HOUSTON (-3 to 3.5) vs. DALLAS (Over/Under 45 to 45.5)
The Battle of Texas closes out Sunday action with the Cowboys taking the shorter trip in-state to visit Houston. The Texans were gifted a victory by the Colts in overtime last week rather than settling for a tie, while Dallas moved up to 2-2 with a big game from Ezekiel Elliott to beat Detroit practically all by himself. The Texans and J.J. Watt will key on Elliott and force Dallas to find a Plan B, and that may not exist. As long as Deshaun Watson can buy time to find receivers, Houston should win this home game. PICK: Texans

(Monday) NEW ORLEANS (-6.5 to 7) vs. WASHINGTON (Over/Under 52 to 52.5)
Week 5 closes out in the Big Easy with the Saints hosting a Washington team coming off of their bye and a home win two weeks ago over Green Bay. New Orleans not only heads home but also gets a fresh Mark Ingram II back, which will only make life harder for the Washington defense. This could become a shootout, so taking the Saints with Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara is a much better option to bet on than Alex Smith, Jordan Reed and Adrian Peterson. PICK: Saints

BEST BETS

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

Week 5 is a week to look at who should win, not who should cover, as 80% of the time the point spread does not factor in as stated earlier. That will be most of the focus with the Best Bets this week.

* ONE STAR GAMES *

  • BALTIMORE (-3) at CLEVELAND
  • TENNESSEE (-3) at BUFFALO
  • CINCINNATI (-6) vs. MIAMI
  • PITTSBURGH vs. ATLANTA (Under 57.5)
  • CAROLINA (-7) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
  • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-5.5) vs. OAKLAND
  • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-7) at SEATTLE
  • (Monday) NEW ORLEANS (-6.5) vs. WASHINGTON
  • 6-POINT TEASER: BALTIMORE (+3) at CLEVELAND (Over/Under 53.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: PITTSBURGH (+3) vs. ATLANTA (Under 63.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE (Under 57)
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.1-1 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE
    • CINCINNATI (EVEN) vs. MIAMI
    • TENNESSEE (+3) at BUFFALO
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE
    • CINCINNATI (EVEN) vs. MIAMI
    • TENNESSEE (+3) at BUFFALO
    • (Monday) NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. WASHINGTON
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE
    • CINCINNATI (EVEN) vs. MIAMI
    • TENNESSEE (+3) at BUFFALO
    • (Monday) NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • PITTSBURGH vs. ATLANTA (Under 63.5)
  • 8-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (12.75-1 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE
    • CINCINNATI (EVEN) vs. MIAMI
    • TENNESSEE (+3) at BUFFALO
    • (Monday) NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • PITTSBURGH vs. ATLANTA (Under 63.5)
    • PITTSBURGH (+3) vs. ATLANTA
  • 9-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (18.25-1 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE
    • CINCINNATI (EVEN) vs. MIAMI
    • TENNESSEE (+3) at BUFFALO
    • (Monday) NEW ORLEANS (-0.5) vs. WASHINGTON
    • PITTSBURGH vs. ATLANTA (Under 63.5)
    • PITTSBURGH (+3) vs. ATLANTA
    • BALTIMORE (+3) at CLEVELAND

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE
    • CINCINNATI (EVEN) vs. MIAMI

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (9-5 ODDS):
    • CAROLINA (-1) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (+0.5) vs. OAKLAND
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) at SEATTLE

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Tennessee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh vs. Atlanta (Under 57.5), Carolina, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 6-7-2 (46.2%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 23.3-9 (72.1%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 2-2-1 (50%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 24-35-4 (40.7%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 43.1-43 (50.1%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 12-12-2 (50%)

Good luck this weekend!

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