Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as 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 for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
The favorites went 11-4 straight up and 9-6 against the spread this past week, indicating that Vegas has finally reached a comfortable point in setting the lines. With each new data point, we take a step closer to knowing these teams better and getting a fuller picture. While there were a few underdogs of note to cover and win outright (Chicago, Buffalo, Philadelphia), these were the exceptions. Let’s see what awaits us in Week 6.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) TAMPA BAY (-7) at PHILADELPHIA (Over/Under 52)
Five games in and Tom Brady is casually tossing touchdowns to anyone who is willing to be at the other end of his defense-splitting passes. Antonio Brown looked like he had found the fountain of youth with his jet-setting catch and run touchdown, and that makes an already scary Bucs offense even more daunting. There are still weaknesses for Tampa Bay defensively, but the Eagles are not the offense to exploit it.
While Philadelphia’s brass will certainly be encouraged by the result of the game against the Panthers, the more sober-minded analysts among them will be alarmed by the offensive inefficiency. Jalen Hurts looked lost at times and the offensive approach remains safe and slightly gimmicky. What the Eagles do have is a fearsome front seven on defense; that may be an edge they can exploit here. The Bucs are certainly liable to a let-down game after last week, but it is tough to back the Eagles to deliver that.
Pick: Tampa Bay
(London) MIAMI (-3.5) at JACKSONVILLE (Over/Under 45.5)
The return of Tua Tagovailoa could be coming at the perfect time for a dazed and confused Dolphins team that is lacking any momentum. Then again, at 1-4 this could be a spot where the young quarterback presses too much and ends up hurting his team. No matter how you slice it, these next few games are critical for Tagovailoa’s future in Miami – and for the team’s development. Vegas has them as 3.5-point favorites in London, a somewhat puzzling line considering their recent run.
The number could have more to do with the lackluster Jaguars who, along with the Lions, have yet to record their first win of the season. Trevor Lawrence has not quite hit the heights many expected – yet – and while the team can hang for a while, inevitably they slip up late and give up points in bunches. The Jaguars have a sizeable following in London, so this could feel like home-field advantage. Will it matter? Perhaps not, but the +3.5 is enough to take a punt.
HOUSTON at INDIANAPOLIS (-10) (Over/Under 43)
Davis Mills put on quite the show on Sunday, shocking the Patriots for long spells with his solid play before his team eventually succumbed to a narrow defeat. The Texans may not have much star-caliber talent, but they certainly play hard under David Culley. They will have to pull out a few tricks this week to knock off the Colts, however.
Indianapolis is the very definition of a desperate squad after the heart-breaking defeat on Monday night condemned them to a 1-4 start. They went toe to toe with the Ravens and arguably should have put the game to bed earlier, but alas it wasn’t to be. Even with the mountain they have to climb, however, they are still two games back on the division-leading Titans in the standings. This week is a ‘get well’ game on paper, so expect a fired-up Colts team to lay the wood.
GREEN BAY (-5) at CHICAGO (Over/Under 45)
The Packers are riding high at 4-1, though scanning the standings you would be forgiven for doing a double-take upon seeing their net points: -2. Since the opening game against the Saints, they have steadily improved and found their groove. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are two of the game’s most lethal operators, as they showed time and again last week. The word unstoppable comes to mind. The presumptive kings of the North head to Chicago for a fascinating clash that, if they win, would put them 2.5 games ahead in the division. The Packers are 20-7 ATS in this match-up in the past 27 meetings.
Justin Fields threw his first career touchdown pass against the Raiders last week, completing a key milestone in his nascent starting career. He won’t get too many chances to take on Aaron Rodgers in his career, but the Bears won’t expect the rookie to match the Packers quarterback in an arms race. Instead, Matt Nagy’s team will rely on their high-quality defense to keep the Packers at bay, allowing Fields to be a game manager. While the neutrals will be rooting for Chicago to make some waves, it is hard to look past the Pack, kicker issues notwithstanding.
Pick: Green Bay
KANSAS CITY (-6.5) at WASHINGTON (Over/Under 55.5)
Shellshocked might be the best way to describe the Chiefs on Sunday night. Amid defensive errors and offensive woes, they seemed to have just lost their mojo. Even Patrick Mahomes II, normally so sure in tight spots, had an off game and was missing targets left and right. Vegas has not lost faith, of course, and they see the Chiefs as strong road favorites against the rather hapless Washington Football Team. Andy Reid’s team typically bounces back in spots like this; at 2-3 and staring up at the division-leading Chargers, nothing but a victory will do.
The magic is wearing off a little bit for the Taylor Heinicke-led Football Team, but he could find weak spots in the Chiefs defense as most other quarterbacks have. Ron Rivera’s team will have to go punch for punch with the visitors to stand any chance, so expect an aggressive game plan. At 2-3, the Football Team is still very much in the race. The concerning defensive woes will be the main issue to address this week for the home team, but preparing for the Chiefs is tough enough for good defenses. For this unit, it seems a bridge too far.
Pick: Kansas City
MINNESOTA (-1) at CAROLINA (Over/Under 46)
Public opinion has clearly soured on the Panthers, with the line in this game shifting from Carolina as favorites to Minnesota as favorites, albeit narrowly. The two-game skid, combined with the fact the Panthers are not a public team, has contributed to this. Sam Darnold’s play has dipped as well, with mistakes punished against Philly last week. Carolina could welcome back the ultimate X-factor in Christian McCaffrey this week, however, which completely tilts the field and changes the offense.
The Vikings will feel there is all to play for at 2-3, with Mike Zimmer’s squad eyeing up a winning streak. Carolina’s defense boasts some talented players and the unit has fared well this season, so Kirk Cousins will have to be sharp to take advantage of any lapses. The general advice when you see a line move so much based on one game is to trust the trends. In this case, they point to the home team, who are getting points and are probably the better overall roster.
CINCINNATI (-3.5) at DETROIT (Over/Under 48.5)
The AFC North is one of the tightest divisions, predictably, with the Bengals positioned behind the leaders Baltimore at 3-2 – and only just. Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson might still be celebrating that missed field goal (did anyone tell him?). There is no shame in losing to the Packers, and there is a real sense that progress is being made at last in the Zac Taylor era. Protecting the franchise quarterback remains a concern, with Joe Burrow seemingly under constant duress and taking hits that he doesn’t need to take. The line has moved here from -3 to -3.5, a little sign of the public love the Bengals are getting.
The sharps are right to pour money on the road team, with the Lions offering very little in the form of hope if you look just at the win column. Crying Dan Campbell could become the new Crying Jordan if it takes off. Jokes aside, this talent-deficient team is playing their hearts out and deserves better. Unfortunately, in the NFL, you don’t always get what you deserve. Perhaps the football gods will have McPherson miss a potential game-winning kick again this week to give Lions fans some joy. Or perhaps not.
LA RAMS (-10.5) at NY GIANTS (Over/Under 48)
It seems like a long time since we last saw the Rams in action on Thursday night, taking care of business against the Seahawks. Sean McVay’s team has caught the luckiest of breaks, with the Giants likely to be missing both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, among a cast of walking wounded. It may not have even mattered had the Giants had a full complement of players, though, such is the talent chasm between these teams.
Mike Glennon will likely start for the G-Men, who are facing another long and grueling season of disappointments. Kadarius Toney continues to impress, which is encouraging – and at least the Giants have two first-round picks in next year’s NFL Draft. Even so, the Rams should be fancied to deliver the wrecking ball to officially end the season for the G-Men this week – and it won’t be pretty for the watching faithful in New Jersey.
Pick: New York
ARIZONA at CLEVELAND (-3) (Over/Under 51.5)
One of the underrated games of the week sees the undefeated Cardinals traveling to face the feisty Browns. Arizona’s streak has by now caught the attention of the football-watching public and you can’t help but be impressed. This is the very definition of a banana skin game despite the quality of the opponent. The Cardinals may not match up well against the active Cleveland defense, who have the players to keep Kyler Murray corralled.
The Browns sit at 3-2 but should feel very comfortable about the trajectory of their season to date. Kevin Stefanski is consistently putting his offense in positions to succeed, while Baker Mayfield is remaining patient and playing through pain. Cleveland should be able to pound away on the Cardinals' front seven with their pair of top-tier backs, but these teams are quite evenly matched. In a toss-up game, take the points.
LAS VEGAS at DENVER (-3) (Over/Under 44)
The Raiders have had quite a tumultuous week. The usual pattern we see when a head coach steps down is the players he leaves behind putting on a great performance. Whether that will be the case here remains to be seen, but the instability will not do the players much good. At a fortunate 3-2, Las Vegas still has it all to play for and should, on paper, fancy their chances to keep it close with Denver.
The problems could arise when Denver’s defense is on the field against a lackluster Raiders offensive line that has been giving up pressure often. Teddy Bridgewater will be able to rack up enough points to build a lead, allowing the Denver defense to tee off. This should be a tight one, but the Broncos are fancied to get the job done.
DALLAS (-4) at NEW ENGLAND (Over/Under 49.5)
Winners of four straight and leading the NFC East, the Cowboys are riding high and look nearly unstoppable when they get into a groove. Vegas has correctly made them comfortable road favorites here, though Bill Belichick’s team will offer resistance. The coaching edge here clearly goes to the old maestro, so the Dallas offense will have to remain creative and committed to the run to give Dak Prescott every opportunity to succeed.
Mac Jones will face a test in the quick-twitch Dallas defense, but he shouldn’t be overly worried by what he sees on tape in the secondary – apart from Trevon Diggs, of course. How much leeway will Jones be given to shine? Likely a lot, given the implied game script. The Texans' performance is a major concern for the Patriots, who can’t afford to drop too many more games.
Pick: New England
(Sunday Night) SEATTLE at PITTSBURGH (-4.5) (Over/Under 42.5)
The absence of Russell Wilson takes the sheen off this clash, with Geno Smith stepping in against a fired-up Steelers defense. Against subpar quarterbacks like Smith, they usually feast, so a -4.5 line makes sense. If Seattle’s defense can keep Ben Roethlisberger in check, anything is possible. There were signs last week that the Steelers offense was finally coming to life, though.
Expect Najee Harris to see plenty of action as the Steelers control the line of scrimmage and keep the Seahawks at bay. Geno Smith will never have a better chance to be a hero, but in Pittsburgh under the lights might be too much for the veteran.
(Monday Night) BUFFALO (-5) at TENNESSEE (Over/Under 54.5)
The Bills rolled over the Chiefs last week, so what chance do the Titans have? The chances are not good for the home team here, who have a tendency for inconsistency and a propensity for bizarre no-shows. Buffalo hasn’t shown that side of themselves this season, except in the opener, so it is tough to bet against them in this spot. Josh Allen continues to build a strong case for MVP, and he should be able to strengthen that with the cameras on him this week.
The Titans’ best chance is to match blows with the Bills on offense and steal a march at the end of the game. The +5 is tempting, but it is hard to go against a team on such a hot streak with balance on both sides of the ball.
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.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 KANSAS CITY (-6.5) at WASHINGTON
- 2 GREEN BAY (-5) at CHICAGO
- 3 ARIZONA (+3) at CLEVELAND
- 4 DETROIT (+3.5) vs. CINCINNATI
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 6 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- DETROIT (+3.5)
- ARIZONA (+3)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- KANSAS CITY (-6.5)
- GREEN BAY (-5)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM MONEY LINE (4.66-1 ODDS)
- PITTSBURGH - FOR THE WIN
- GREEN BAY – FOR THE WIN
- CAROLINA – FOR THE WIN
- KANSAS CITY – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Kansas City, Green Bay, Arizona, Detroit
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 5-10-1
- SEASON OVERALL: 33-46-1 (41.5%)
- BEST BETS: 6-14 (30%)
- PICK OF THE WEEK: 6-19 (25%)
Good luck this weekend!
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