NFL Week 6 Picks: 3 Upsets To Target for Panthers vs Rams, Broncos vs Chargers, More
Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Russell Wilson.
Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on BetIQ and is being republished with permission. Odds listed in the original article may be different from this publication.
Everybody loves an NFL upset pick, especially when it turns into a winning bet.
In this article, we pick three NFL Week 6 underdogs to win outright. We also keep track of our overall season performance, using the moneyline odds for each pick at publication time.
Last season, upset picks we highlighted in this column went 22-25-1 straight up, good for +17.0 units of profit if you had risked one unit on each pick.
Upset Picks Results to Date
- Week 5: 2-1 for +3.5 units
- 2022 Season: 10-5 for +14.1 units
We hit two of three upset picks again last week, and came just one play away from a 3-0 sweep, continuing the hot early season pace. Houston got its first win by beating Jacksonville, 13-6. Dallas held the Rams to 10 points in a 22-10 win on the road.
Washington had the ball on the goal line at the end of the game with a chance to win, but QB Carson Wentz threw an interception, resulting in a 21-17 loss.
You can see a full history of upset picks we've made so far in 2022 at the bottom of this post on BetIQ. So far, 11 of the 15 picks have had positive closing line value (CLV) relative to when we posted them on Wednesday.
Week 6 NFL Upset Picks
All odds via FanDuel and as of 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.
This is the top playable moneyline pick according to our models for Week 6.
The Chargers are also the most popular spread pick in football pools so far this week, and the most over-picked team (relative to their win odds) according to our Football Pick’em Picks data; 94% of the public is picking them to win outright. (So far this year, when there is at least a 30% difference between win odds and pick popularity in our data, the favorite is 1-3 straight up.)
Denver has significantly underperformed this year, and is coming off an ugly Thursday Night performance against Indianapolis where they only managed nine points. The Broncos are 31st in points scored after five weeks, but they are a better (18th) in terms of yards gained. That makes for some positive regression potential for Denver. As bad as Denver has been, over the long term, NFL teams don’t score a touchdown on only 21% of their red zone trips, as the Broncos have done so far this year.
(For perspective, the NY Giants ranked last in that same stat during the 2021 season, scoring a TD on 45% of red zone trips.)
The Chargers eked out a win last week, but they are also dealing with some key injuries. So we’ll take the underdog Broncos coming off an embarrassing game, in a spot where they may be due for some good luck in the scoring department.
This is another playable moneyline pick according to our models. That doesn’t mean we think it has a good chance to win—just that the reward of a +380 payoff is worth the risk of making bets like these over the long term. It’s still a long shot, but there are some factors that suggest this game has a higher variation in potential outcomes, a scenario that can benefit bigger underdogs.
Primary among them is that the Panthers just fired head coach Matt Rhule five games into his third season with the team, after an 11-27 overall record. We took a look at how teams have performed in their first game with an interim coach, and here are the key takeaways:
The average final margin of victory differed from the closing point spread by 15.7 points, suggesting these games are more “unpredictable” than a typical NFL game.
Overall, since 2010, teams in their first game with an interim coach went 14-9 both against the spread and straight up.
If you had risked one unit per game betting on all 23 of those games, you would be up +14.0 units in profit.
Earlier firings and interim coaches have done even better, as five of the six interim coaches taking over by Week 6 covered the spread in their first game.
The betting market reacted to the coaching change, with the point spread moving from Rams -9 to Rams -11 in the aftermath of the firing and the news that Baker Mayfield was out with an injury. But with Mayfield, Carolina’s passing offense has been bad, ranking 31st in net passing yards per attempt. So there is also the possibility that Carolina’s offense actually plays a little better with Mayfield out.
Finally, the Rams aren’t a dominant favorite. We successfully picked against them in last week’s column, and some of that rationale still applies. Their offensive line is struggling, they’re having trouble running the ball, and QB Matt Stafford is getting hit and sacked at a high rate. So far on offense, it’s effectively been passing to WR Cooper Kupp or bust. If the Panthers’ defensive front can exploit those struggles, an upset is at least plausible.
The Saints are a little undervalued right now on defense, just looking at their points allowed. They are about average in yards allowed per game, but rank worse (25th) in points allowed at 25.6 per game. Interestingly, the Saints’ third-down defense and red-zone defense have been really good. The culprit has been a handful of big plays, as half of the 12 touchdowns scored against New Orleans have been on plays of 40 yards or longer. That includes a couple of defensive scores, but also a big 69-yard run last week by Seattle’s Kenneth Walker.
The Bengals are certainly capable of big plays with WR Ja’Marr Chase, but so far their offense has not been clicking. RB Joe Mixon is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry, yet Cincinnati continues to be run-heavy on early downs despite that inefficiency. WR Tee Higgins has battled injuries, and even though he was active last week on a limited snap count, he saw zero targets.
Saints QB Jameis Winston returned to practice on Wednesday after two weeks off, but the big variable here is the New Orleans wide receiver situation. Chris Olave is in concussion protocol after hitting the back of his head on a touchdown catch Sunday. Veterans Michael Thomas and Jarvis Landry missed the last game, but could return this week. If they get good news regarding any of those receivers, the Saints could be a live home dog in this matchup.
Upset Pick Expectations
Whenever you read about upset picks from a betting perspective, it's important to understand the implications. Individually, neither the betting markets nor our models give any of these three teams better than a 50-50 chance to win.
If you bet an underdog on the point spread, that isn't such a big deal to you. You're just hoping for the pick to at least keep it close and cover the number.
If you bet an underdog on the moneyline, though, you need them to win the game outright. When that happens, you get an outsized return on your bet.
Given that context, we expect to get most of these picks wrong, and we also expect to see big swings in results from week to week—including losing all three picks in some weeks.
Depending on the payout odds, you can still turn a profit by winning, say, 30 or 35 out of every 100 moneyline bets that you make on underdogs. However, you need to manage your bankroll carefully to weather what could be long losing streaks along the way.
Week 6 Betting Picks & Models (Free Trial)
If you enjoyed the analysis in this article, we invite you to explore more. For a limited time, Action Network readers can get a free 3-day trial to all of the premium picks and tools on BetIQ, TeamRankings, and PoolGenius:
That includes our Staff Betting Picks for NFL and college football, all betting model picks, customized picks for football pick'em and NFL survivor pools, plus data and analysis tools like our NFL betting trends tool.