Anderson: Week 5 Bets To Make Now, Others to Monitor
Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured: Geno Smith.
If Week 4 was "Prove It Week" in the NFL, Week 5 feels like it may be Overconfidence Week.
We entered last week with 28 of 32 NFL teams stuck right on one or two wins, which led to 13 games with a line at four points or shorter. It was a giant collective shrug by the oddsmakers — you figure it out.
This week we're going the other direction.
Nine Week 5 games — over half of them — feature a favorite of five or more points as of Wednesday morning. Six are at a touchdown or longer, including four early divisional battles. After last week's uncertainty, these lines suggest we've finally figured out which teams are good.
History suggests caution, especially in division games. Division underdogs of over six points are an impressive 81-55-2 ATS the first five weeks of the season, covering 60% of the time. Just when we think we've got everything figured out, that's the moment overconfidence can kill us.
Underdogs are sometimes most dangerous when we count them out.
Beware those feisty underdogs as we get into this week's picks. Like always, we'll make picks for every game — and if you're not feeling overconfident on one game, you can always pivot to a total or alternate play or pass altogether.
Detroit was without DeAndre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark last week, and since the Lions have a bye week after this, they might be compelled to rest another game since it effectively means three weeks off. We also don't know which of three New England QBs will play yet either.
I actually have a clear lean on this game — Lions and over — but we really need some injury information first.
THE PICK: Wait for injury news on both offenses, but be prepared to bet Detroit if the injury report is solid
We're heading back to London a second straight Sunday morning, but we don't know yet who will be quarterbacking this Giants offense. Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor were both injured Sunday, and the team is trying out Jake Fromm and other QBs, never a great sign.
We need to know who's playing quarterback for New York, and we need to see where this line ends up once we get an answer.
THE PICK: Wait for Giants QB news
It's officially the Cooper Rush show for at least one more week, but I'm still waiting for this line to settle. It feels like the books are letting the public decide which direction this heads, but I think it moves a point or two by the weekend so we'll circle back then and make a pick.
THE PICK: Wait to see where this line settles with the Rush news
Another week, another wait for the Chargers and their long injury report.
I haven't quite decided what to make of either of these teams yet… but I'm starting to wonder if we got their respective expectations backwards.
THE PICK: Wait for Chargers injury news and which direction this line moves
This line tells me books don't really know what to do with this game, and I don't either.
I've been on the odds/philadelphia-eagles">Eagles all year, and they continue to look like one of the best teams in the NFL. Jalen Hurts is a legit MVP candidate, and the defense might be even better than the offense. Meanwhile, the 2-2 Cards looked like they were quitting on the coaching staff mid-win.
This line has moved 7.5 points from the preseason lookahead, Arizona is unpredictable, and the Eagles are on the road in the desert heat in a letdown spot between big Jaguars and Cowboys games. Kliff Kingsbury is now 12-0-1 ATS as an underdog against coaches who haven't won a Super Bowl, including 10-2-1 SU (106% ROI). Love Nick Sirianni, but he ain't won a ring yet.
THE PICK: Cardinals +5.5 (Pass)
I don't think either of these teams are any good, but the Titans have gotten puffed up by two unconvincing wins, so the value is on Washington. Teams on three-game losing streaks against teams that have won two or three in a row are 62-34-5 ATS (65%), and teams on three-game losing streaks both SU and ATS are 136-108-7 ATS (56%).
If you want to put your hard-earned money up for grabs in a coin flip between Carson Wentz and Ryan Tannehill, more power to you. I lean Washington and hope this doesn't get to +3 or I might have to play it.
THE PICK: Commanders +2.5 (Pass)
Be careful with the Vikings. They're 3-1 but haven't been impressive, and they may be jet-lagged after a late-week flight and game in London. I wrote about the rare cases when teams play post-London without a bye, and it's not pretty.
The one thing Chicago does really well is run the ball and the Vikings run defense is terrible. The Bears have actually won five of the last eight in this rivalry, and four of the last five were one-score affairs. Chicago is also one of those big division underdogs (60% ATS) we mentioned above.
It's a great spot to back Chicago — the question is how and when. I like the Bears team total over but would love to get over 16.5 or 17 rather than 17.5, and I like a Bears cover but would love it at +7.5 or longer. This is a lean for now, but be ready to pounce when we get our number.
THE PICK: Lean Bears +7 & Chicago TT over 17.5 — Bet at +7.5 or longer
The Bengals just don't pass the eye test.
The numbers paint a very different tale than the Cincinnati team we were sold. The offense continues to struggle and the overemphasized run game is dead last in the league at 28% Success Rate per RBSDM. The defense measures well by the numbers, but that defense has also faced three straight backup QBs — four if you count Mitch Trubisky.
Lamar Jackson is another animal entirely. He is that dude right now, and I need to see Cincinnati have an answer for Lamar and the league's No. 1 DVOA offense before I believe in the Bengals D. Cincinnati swept the rivalry last year with 41 in each game, but Jackson missed one and left hurt in the other.
If you like Cincinnati, the right play is probably their division odds. I'm trusting my gut and going with the team that's just looked much better.
THE PICK: Lean Ravens -3
What was once a potential AFC playoff preview now feels like an early elimination game. The Colts have the worst offensive and rushing DVOA in the league, and now Jonathan Taylor is an injury question mark. Denver has been almost as bad running the ball and just lost Javonte Williams.
Could that weirdly end up helping the Broncos? It might force them to pass more, and that's where Denver's been better. This is the sort of game you get Russell Wilson for. He's 29-18-4 ATS (62%) after a loss and 15-7-2 ATS (68%) at home in primetime. It's also a bad spot for the Colts as a road Thursday underdog coming off a multi-game home stand (35% ATS).
I lean Broncos but prefer the under. Indianapolis unders are 4-0 and the Colts have little chance against a good Denver defense. Broncos unders are 3-1 themselves after going 12-5 last year, and Denver isn't exactly scoring well either. Thursday night unders are 3-1 after 11-5 last season. These teams have only gone over 43 once in their eight games this season.
THE PICK: Lean Broncos -3 and under 43
Here's what you do need to know. First, this isn't a great Mike Tomlin underdog spot. It's his biggest underdog line ever, and he's 1-2 ATS and 0-3 SU as a 10.5-point dog, his previous longest. Second, the Steelers upset the Bills in the opener last season and you know Buffalo remembers that. And third, Buffalo is a tremendous front runner and the Steelers passing game has little chance once Pittsburgh inevitably falls behind.
Buffalo is 5-1-2 ATS as a double-digit favorite since the start of last season, with the one failed cover that weird 9-6 loss to the Jaguars. That means we can probably trust the team we know is way better.
But there's a better bet. Josh Allen is 9-1 ATS in the second half in games where he's a double-digit favorite. The one failed cover was that Jags loss, and Buffalo outscored opponents 171-41 in the other nine, an average margin of 14.4 points — per second half! The Bills keep their foot on the gas and pour it on against outmatched opponents.
THE PICK: Lean Bills -14 and Bet Bills 2H -6 right now
Sunday didn't throw me off Jacksonville's scent. Their defense was actually fantastic against a great Eagles attack, but the offensive line didn't hold up and Trevor Lawrence couldn't hang onto the ball. Call it growing pains.
The metrics still say Jacksonville is one of the league's best, and it's clear the Texans are not. But Houston is 3-1 ATS and underperforming its Pythagorean expectations by 36%. Translation: the Texans should not be winless. Teams underperforming Pythagorean by 35% or more are 15-5 ATS (75%) from Week 5 forward, and six of the last seven won outright. The Texans are also one of those big early division underdogs (60% ATS).
The best play looks like the under. Trevor Lawrence unders are 8-2 (80%) at home, and Doug Pederson home unders are 29-12 (71%). Jacksonville's defense should smother Houston, but the Texans may slow the Jags too.
In a game that leans under, you feel even better about a big underdog keeping it close. Houston has actually dominated this division matchup, winning eight straight and 14 of the last 16. Rivalries are weird. I like the under and Texans cover together as a very correlated parlay.
THE PICK: Lean Texans +7.5 and under 44.5 together
How easy can we make this? Baker Mayfield, Matt Rhule, and the No. 32 DVOA offense against DeMeco Ryans and the league's No. 1 DVOA defense that just shut down the Super Bowl champs on national TV.
They can't set this line high enough, right? You wouldn't possibly bet on the Carolina Panthers, right? Right?!
Of course, that's exactly why we have to.
Underdogs on the third game of a long home stand are 33-24-2 ATS (58%), and underdogs continue to cover in games with totals below 42, now 95-60-4 ATS (61%) since 2018, including 60% ATS this season. The Panthers defense has been surprisingly good too, so both defenses have the upper hand. That sets this up similarly to Texans-Jaguars, and though this isn't a division rivalry, Carolina is at home and the 49ers have 20 points in two road games.
As good as the 49ers just looked, they're on a short week and now missing their starting QB, RB, stud LT and backup LT. Jimmy Garoppolo has lost three of his last four and seven of his last 12 outright as a favorite. Hold your nose and take the Panthers, mostly because no one else will.
THE PICK: Lean Panthers +6.5
It's important to remember the context of this division "rivalry," if we can even call it that. The Chiefs swept Vegas last season by a combined score of 89-23 and have won 13 of 15 matchups. Kansas City has scored at least 28 in eight straight matchups, averaging 37.4 PPG over that stretch.
The Raiders have basically been a scrimmage for Pat Mahomes and the gang. He's 6-0 SU against the Raiders and 4-2 ATS, covering by 10.3 PPG. The Chiefs have been wildly pass-heavy this season, and Vegas's pass defense remains terrible. Vegas is also awful defensively in the red zone, where the Chiefs are magic. Kansas City has owned this matchup.
Can the Chiefs cover though? Mahomes has only covered two of his last eight division games as more than a seven-point favorite, and Monday night division favorites over seven points have covered only 3-of-11 (27%) over the past decade, losing six times outright.
And remember our big early division underdogs trend (60% ATS)? Those teams are an ugly 13-60-1 SU, losing by 10.8 PPG with -29% ROI over the last decade, and only three of the last 20 have won. But two of those three wins came against the Chiefs — one by the Raiders.
I lean Chiefs, but only to -7 and no further. Instead, I prefer Kansas City's team over. Mahomes overs are 25-18-1 with totals above 51. If the Raiders do cover, it'll likely be because they finally converted in the red zone and won a Monday night shootout. The Chiefs are getting their points either way.
THE PICK: Lean Chiefs -7 (but no further) and Chiefs TT over 29.5
This line baffles me.
It was Miami -6 on Sunday morning, with the Dolphins already off for three days at that point. Then the Jets barely came back to beat the mighty Mitchell Trubisky and a rookie debut QB making his professional debut for a team that's a missed extra point away from an 0-4 start … and we moved the line three points toward New York?
I don't buy it. Yes, the Dolphins are coming off a loss but everyone expected that on a short week on the road after an exhausting game in the heat. And yes, the Tua Tagovailoa thing is ugly, and Tua is out for this one, but Miami has the best backup in the league in Teddy Bridgewater.
Teddy looked just fine on Thursday night, and he gets to play on easy mode in this Mike McDaniel offense with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle terrorizing opposing secondaries. The Jets pass defense has been bad, and don't forget: Teddy Covers. Bridgewater is 42-21 ATS (67%) lifetime, and the road show is even better at an unbelievable 24-6 ATS, covering 80% of the time!
The Jets skew run-heavy but have been super inefficient, and Miami's been great against the run. The Dolphins pass defense is beatable, but if that's your angle, you're now betting on Zach Wilson to outduel Tyreek and Waddle in a shootout. Good luck with that.
Miami has owned this division rivalry, winning four straight and eight of nine. This line is an overreaction to a rousing Jets win and a schedule loss for the Dolphins. If this game was 10 days ago, it might've closed Miami -7 or longer. I expect the line to rise by kickoff, so buy low on the Dolphins now.
THE PICK: Bet Dolphins -3
This line, on the other hand, basically hasn't budged since the preseason lookahead — and I don't get it.
The Seahawks have been good! Seattle ranks 2nd in Offensive DVOA, 3rd in EPA per play, and 5th in Success Rate. This Seahawks offense looks genuinely good, and they now play a Saints defense that hasn't lived up to billing. The pass rush isn't getting home, and the offense ranks 31st in Drive Success Rate and can't stay on the field long enough to give the defense a chance.
Coming into the season, the Saints were a trendy sleeper and the Seahawks were left for dead without Russell Wilson. Four games later, the Saints are a late comeback away from 0-4 with an injured star QB, RB, WR, and LT, and the Seahawks have better offensive numbers than they did with Wilson. So why does it feel like the books just forgot to update this line?
This is an awful situational spot for New Orleans returning stateside after a London game without a bye week. My study showed that post-London teams score less than expected and allow more defensively than expected. It tells the Seahawks have every chance to win this game, since every post-London team was tied or trailing in the fourth quarter of the following game.
The underdog trends line up for Seattle:
- Underdogs with totals below 42 since 2018: 95-60-4 ATS (61%)
- Geno Smith as an underdog: 15-9-2 ATS (63%)
- Pete Carroll as an underdog: 43-27-3 ATS (61%)
- Dennis Allen as a favorite: 2-6 ATS (25%)
- Jameis Winston as a favorite (if he starts): 8-18-1 ATS (31%)
We don't know right now if Winston will play, nor Alvin Kamara or Michael Thomas. If they all suit up, maybe this line rises to Saints -7. But with the way their health is trending, it feels more likely they miss out and I can see this line dropping toward a field goal, so I'll play right now.
The post-London study says to take Seattle's team total over 19.5. The Seahawks are averaging 23.8 PPG and face a tired Saints D. I'll play that over, back a Seahawks cover, and bet the moneyline too. I'm starting to think Sean Payton knew what he was doing bailing on this Saints roster.
THE PICK: Bet Seahawks +6, Seahawks TT over 19.5, and Seahawks ML
I recommended Falcons division futures last week at +2500, and it's time to put my money where my mouth is: I think Atlanta can win this game.
The Falcons have been better than you think, and this is a surprisingly even matchup by the numbers. Arthur Smith has done wonders with this offense. Atlanta runs the ball well on early downs, setting itself up for success by staying in position to move the chains, and that run game has opened up the play-action pass. That's a winning underdog formula if Atlanta can chew up the clock on long drives and keep Tom Brady on the sidelines.
Atlanta's defense is not good, but it is specifically bad at two things that aren't as damaging against Tampa Bay. The Falcons get no pressure on the QB, but Brady gets the ball out so fast that it doesn't matter anyway, and Atlanta's run defense stinks but Tampa is so bad running the ball it didn't even try last game. The one relative strength of this Falcons defense is the corners, who may be able to hang with this banged up receiving corps. Atlanta also has a massive special teams advantage.
Maybe Sunday night was finally a sign that the Bucs offense is back and this is the get-right spot. Maybe Tom Brady steamrolls the Falcons yet again, like he always does. Brady's 10-0 against Atlanta, including that Super Bowl comeback and 4-0 with the Bucs by 57 points. Maybe Atlanta's offense is fraudulent and this great Bucs defense will shut it down.
Or maybe the Falcons are sneakily solid and the Bucs are banged up and not what they once were, leaving this line far too high. Remember, division underdogs over six points are 81-55-2 ATS (60%) the first five weeks. The numbers paint this as a very even matchup. Atlanta has a shot.
So how do we bet it?
I'm betting the Falcons, but I'll wait for now and keep an eye on the line at +9. Ten is a key number and nine isn't, so I'm willing to wait to see if we can get a +10 without a ton of risk as long as this doesn't drop all the way to +7.
I don't recommend the +325 moneyline — because there's a smarter, more aggressive play. Atlanta is still +1200 to win the division. The Falcons are tied for the lead already, so a win puts them a game up on their only competition with the tiebreaker. Football Outsiders gives Atlanta 17.9% division odds. That's an implied +459, triple the value on the +1200 listed.
If you've been skeptical of the Bucs these last four weeks, give the Falcons a shot.
THE PICK: Bet Falcons +9 (but watch for +10 if you can get it)