Welcome to the Week 5 edition of our NFL Bets of the Week column. Here, I’ll strive to identify a handful of games per week I feel have profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on money lines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics for one game. We’ll strive for quality over quantity here as well. The focus will be only on spots that seem to be truly advantageous. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Let’s take a quick look at how things went in Week 4. Follow that up with a leap into a trio of interesting scenarios for Week 5.
Recapping Week 4
Week 4 winners: Texans +1.5
Week 4 losers: Eagles -3.5/Eagles money line -175/ Bears-Buccaneers under 46.5
Season record to date:
Week 5 NFL Betting Picks
Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) at Detroit Lions (1-3)
The Lions have been one of the more confounding teams in the NFL over the first quarter of the season. After getting lambasted by the Jets in Week 1, Detroit sandwiched a 26-10 domination of the Patriots between a pair of losses by a total of five points to the 49ers and Cowboys.
Meanwhile, the Packers haven’t looked anything like themselves. Their 2-1-1 record is smoke and mirrors. Green Bay squeaked by the Bears in the opener by one point on a miracle play, battled the Vikings to an overtime tie, were manhandled by the Redskins in a two-touchdown loss, and then finally were able to score a decisive win in Week 4. Yet that came against a Bills squad with a patchwork offensive line, a rookie quarterback, and some of the worst skill-player depth in the NFL.
Therefore, the two teams are much closer than the disparity in their records would imply. And the Lions’ key pieces boast plenty of recent success against Green Bay. Detroit swept the season series against the Packers in 2017, thanks in large part to the following performances:
- Matthew Stafford – 46-for-62, 684 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT in two 2017 games versus the Packers. His 11.03 YPA and 136.8 Rating were both his best against any team last season.
- Golden Tate – 14 receptions, 217 yards, one touchdown in two 2017 games versus the Packers.
- Marvin Jones, Jr.- 11 receptions, 188 yards, three touchdowns in two 2017 games versus the Packers.
- Kenny Golladay – 2 receptions, 80 yards, one touchdown in two 2017 games versus the Packers.
Additionally, it bears noting that Golladay is used much more consistently this season. He’s already compiled a solid 32 targets over his first four games after amassing 48 in seven contests last season.
Rookie Kerryon Johnson is also a new weapon the Lions can throw at Green Bay. The Auburn product and second-round pick is averaging a whopping 5.7 yards per tote. He has a solid passing game role as well. His explosiveness dovetails well with the 4.5 yards per rush and 107.8 rushing yards per game that the Packers are already surrendering.
On the other side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers continues to battle through a serious knee injury. He won’t be completely healthy until the season is over. Although he’s doing a valiant job getting through, it’s undoubtedly preventing him from playing at maximum efficiency.
He’ll face a quietly effective Lions pass defense as well, one that’s allowing the second-fewest passing yards per game (172.0), third-fewest receiving yards (792), and fifth-fewest air yards (933). They’re also tied with the Packers and Steelers for fourth-most sacks (13) through four games. Conversely, the Pack are tied with several other teams for sixth-most sacks allowed (14).
The Lions do have the worst rush defense in the NFL (157.8 yards per game), but the Packers’ ground attack isn’t exactly the optimal one to exploit it with. Green Bay is ranked in the latter half of the league with 102.0 rush yards per game. Detroit held the Packers running backs to 3.8 yards per rush (37 carries, 144 yards) in their two meetings last season.
By the Numbers: The Lions are 3-0 against the spread as an underdog this season, including 1-0 as a home underdog. They’re also 2-0 against the spread after a loss and were 2-0 against the spread while sweeping the Packers in 2017. The Packers are 0-1 as an away favorite, losing 31-17 to the Redskins. The Packers were also 3-4 against the spread after a win in 2017.
The Final Word: Detroit is essentially a four-point dog given their one-point underdog status in a home game, and the Packers simply haven’t shown enough this season against quality opponents to warrant the line. Division games are often close and break from the norm, so I expect a hard-fought battle that a desperate Lions squad pulls out.
The Pick: Lions +1
Atlanta Falcons (1-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1)
This astronomical projected point total isn’t really a shocker. Consider the video-game-like numbers both defenses have allowed in a couple of games apiece this season. Atlanta has been done in by injuries up the middle of the defense, leading to 73 total points allowed over the last two games. Then, the Steelers’ biggest leaks have come in the back end of the secondary. They’ve allowed 305 passing yards per game while facing the potent trio of Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Fitzpatrick (who was hot at the time), and Joe Flacco.
They’ll draw another tough assignment Sunday against Matt Ryan, who’s opened this season in 2016 MVP form. Ryan’s two biggest games have come in the friendly conditions of the Mercedes-Benz Dome. He threw for just 251 yards in his one road tilt thus far — the opener against the world-champion Eagles. As with most dome teams, the Falcons skill players always seem a little more intimidating and speedier in the faster track of the climate-controlled home conditions.
For all their troubles, the Steelers have actually been stout against the run. They’ve allowed running backs a stingy 3.5 yards per carry and just one rushing touchdown through four games. And even their issues against wide receivers — the strength of Atlanta’s air attack — have come mainly from chunk plays (7.6 YPA, 12.7 yards per completion and 1,679 air yards allowed). Otherwise, the 57.4 percent catch rate they’re allowing to the position actually ranks in the top half of the league. And the 60.0 percent completion rate they’ve yielded overall is the fourth-lowest in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have done well at keeping plays in front of them despite all the injuries to their secondary. Their 9.5 yards per completion allowed is the fifth stingiest in the NFL. Their 6.7 YPA surrendered also ranks in the top half of the league. They have been vulnerable to receivers for TDs and running backs for receptions (worst in the league). Pittsburgh should be able to find some success attacking with a pair of stud wideouts and James Conner out of the backfield.
Each team will score its fair share of points here. That said, the projected total is skewed by a couple of games that got away from each team’s defense. Both clubs find themselves in desperate situations overall, meaning we’re likely to see an uptick in performance from the defensive units on Sunday. A total score just over 50 wouldn’t surprise, but one that’s pushing 60 shapes up as too high.
By the Numbers: The Falcons were 0-3 vs. the over in 2017 as road underdogs and 3-7 overall against the over in 2017 on the road. The Falcons were also 1-5 against the over after a loss in 2017. Both the Falcons and Steelers were 1-3 against the over in non-conference games in 2017. The Steelers are 28-32 against the over in non-conference games in the Big Ben era (2004-present). Meanwhile, the Falcons are 17-25 against the over in non-conference games in the Matt Ryan era (2008-present), hitting the under at the second-highest rate (59.25 percent) in the NFL over that span.
The Final Word: Neither team has been quite as inept defensively as the total suggests. This is an early-season must-win. I expect a hard-hitting matchup where the coaches make the necessary adjustments to take away the big play that has burned them frequently and make the other team drive the length of the field for their points. A total between 48 and 51 is where I see this game ultimately landing.
The Pick: Under 58
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3)
The Texans finally shed their close-but-no-cigar label last week. Even so, they seemingly did their best to blow it against the Colts before finally securing their first win of the season. Meanwhile, the Cowboys also eeked out a victory against a Lions team that’s been hard to figure out in the early going.
However, the similarities between the two teams largely end there. The Texans boast a dynamic, Deshaun Watson-helmed air attack averaging 291 yards per game. After throwing for 176 yards in the opener against the Patriots in his first game back from a torn ACL, Watson has racked up between 310 and 385 yards while firing a pair of touchdowns in each of the subsequent three contests. He’s also rushed for at least 40 yards in three of his first four games. The Clemson product isn’t settling for dink-and-dunk throws either. His 8.4 YPA is fifth in the NFL among qualifying QBs.
In comparison, the Cowboys’ pedestrian passing game features an anemic 6.5 YPA (third-lowest in the NFC). It’s producing 167 yards per game, the third lowest in the NFL. A pass-catching corps that includes uninspiring options such as Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, and Cole Beasley as its centerpieces makes Dallas ill-equipped to fully exploit a Texans secondary that has been highly vulnerable over the first four games (11 passing touchdowns allowed, third most in the NFL).
With its passing game not packing much punch, Dallas has often turned to the uber-talented Ezekiel Elliott to serve as a modern-day Herschel Walker. There’s no questioning Elliott’s skills. But he could often find himself running into a brick wall this week. The combination of an impotent passing attack and the Texans’ 3.5 yards allowed per rush (third-lowest in the NFL) makes for a bad formula.
It also bears noting the Cowboys have been very good at keeping plays in front of them despite allowing a 71.4 percent completion rate. The 952 receiving yards and 915 air yards they’ve surrendered both rank them in the top 10. But they’ve yet to record a single interception. Plus, the Texans have the perfect combination of wideouts to test them.
At the forefront, they boast a possession monster in DeAndre Hopkins. He’ll take the shorter completion the Cowboys are perfectly willing to give up all night long. Then, they counter with two speedsters in Will Fuller and Keke Coutee. The latter, despite battling minor hamstring issues at the moment, can stretch them out downfield. The fact the Cowboys are tied with several other teams for sixth-most completions allowed tight ends and fourth-most to running backs gives Watson a couple of other alternative paths if necessary.
By the Numbers: The Cowboys are 0-2 as road underdogs in 2018. They’re losing by an average of 9.5 points and failing to cover the spread by an average of 7.8 points. The Cowboys were 1-2-1 against the spread in non-conference games last season. Then, they lost by an average of 8.2 points and fell short of covering the spread by 10.0 points. Dallas is also 5-8 against the spread as a road underdog since 2015.
The Final Word: The Cowboys managed to pull off a two-point win at home last week with Elliott carving up Detroit’s league-worst run defense. But the challenge is exponentially more difficult this week in that regard. The Texans bring plenty of weaponry to the table on offense, certainly enough to cover a modest 3.5-point spread on their home turf. Moreover, Dallas is simply too undermanned at the receiver position to fully take advantage of the Texans’ Achilles heel.
The Pick: Texans -3.5, Texans money line (-162)