NFL Week 6 Picks: Bets to Make Early for Ravens vs Giants, Cardinals vs Seahawks, More
Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Lamar Jackson.
We finally made it to the bye weeks, which means the season is truly underway and these trends and statistics are really starting to mean something.
The NFC East might actually be good, and we've got a huge showdown on our hands Sunday night with Eagles-Cowboys. Of course, that one's just the dessert to our main course Sunday with what might be the game of the season, Chiefs–Bills. This feels like the biggest Sunday of the year so far.
Underdogs and unders continue to rule the day, but offenses are beginning to find their footing. Let's go around the league and make some picks. The Lions, Raiders, Titans and Texans may be sitting this one out, but we'll make picks for every game like always.
We have no idea right now who will play QB for Miami. Is Teddy Bridgewater cleared? Will Tua Tagovailoa be ready? Is it Skyler Thompson again? It sounds like the Dolphins are planning on Thompson being under center, but we need some clarity on the injury report, including an update on Tyreek Hill and Dolphins cornerbacks, as well.
THE PICK: Wait for injury news at QB and CB
It might be easier to list San Francisco's healthy players at this point. I'm getting worried about the 49ers after they added Nick Bosa, Emmanuel Moseley, and Jimmie Ward to the long list of injured offensive players.
Who will actually play for San Francisco? And is Atlanta's most important offensive player, Kyle Pitts, ready for a return? I like the Falcons but I want Pitts out there and hope we can get the +6 or longer.
THE PICK: Wait for injury news and a possible key number
It'll be a surprise if Dak Prescott plays at this point, but you never know with Jerry Jones. The new injury news is on Philadelphia's side, with four of five starters injured or potentially missing from the league's best offensive line just in time to face the DPOY favorite.
This is a huge game. We'll circle back Saturday once we know who's ready, and hopefully that line moves in one direction or the other by then too.
THE PICK: Wait for key injury news on both sides
These are two of the league's worst four offenses by DVOA. The only thing the Bears are really decent at is running the ball, and the one thing Washington's good at is stopping the run. Neither team can protect the passer, and both teams bring a lot of pressure. This smells like a classic Thursday night under.
Thursday night unders are 20-7-2 (74%) with a total of 40 or below, and that improves to 18-4-1 when the total runs from 37 to 40, hitting the under an amazing 82% of the time by 9.7 points per game. Primetime unders this season are 11-5, and Thursday night unders are 15-6 since the start of last season. Justin Fields unders are 10-5, including 5-2 at home.
Take the under and make alternate plans for Thursday night.
THE PICK: Commanders +1 (Pass) & Lean under 38
I'm struggling to figure these teams out. I didn't understand why New England was a 3.5-point favorite debuting a rookie third-string QB last week, and now after a 29-0 shutout win, I'm not totally sure why they're a road dog.
This is a really similar matchup for the Patriots, facing a run-first team that can't defend the run. New England seems to have found a winnable formula, sticking to the run and defending the pass. Bill Belichick has covered 65% of the time as an underdog, and Kevin Stefanski is 8-16 (33%) against the spread (ATS) as a favorite, losing three of the last five outright.
With two teams that mirror one another, I'll take the points and the better coach in what might be an early elimination game for the AFC wildcard race.
THE PICK: Patriots +3 (Pass)
We could wait to find out which Saints QB suits up, but I'm honestly not sure I care. Both defenses have been far better than either offense, and Bengals unders are 5-0 and have now hit 10 in a row dating back to last season while Saints unders have hit in eight straight road games. Cincinnati can't run the ball or go on long sustained drives, and New Orleans is playing its third straight home game and starting to get healthy.
I like the under. Cincinnati games have gone under this number in all five. I may look to live bet the Bengals in the second half to close this out.
THE PICK: Bengals -1.5 (Pass) & Lean under 44
This might be the game of the season between the league's two best teams, so let's really dig in.
Patrick Mahomes is 3-1 against Josh Allen, but the Bills were the better team in both matchups last year. Buffalo won the regular season meeting 38-20 and should've won the postseason game if not for late heartbreak. Those two games featured 136 points and 1,902 yards combined, so expect fireworks.
Buffalo effectively built this team with two goals in mind: to amplify Josh Allen and to beat the Chiefs. The Bills are aggressively pass-heavy in attack and play in base nickel to defend the pass at all costs. Buffalo doesn't run the ball well, but the Bills are elite at basically everything else. They're better passing the ball than Kansas City with far better weapons now that Tyreek Hill is gone. The defense is miles better. Even the special teams are better this year.
Patrick Mahomes is an incredible 13-2-1 ATS (87%) when he's not at least a 3.5-point favorite lifetime, winning eight of his last nine. But even with that stat and as a home underdog, it must be noted that that one loss was to these Bills last year, in Kansas City, by 18.
I worry about some key matchups for the Chiefs. Kansas City's offensive line has struggled, ranking bottom five in pressure rate allowed, and the Bills bring excellent pressure even without blitzing. Buffalo is No. 1 in DVOA against tight ends and held Mark Andrews to two catches for 15 yards, so that could neuter Travis Kelce. Conversely, the Chiefs rank dead last in DVOA against WR1s, so it could be another big game for Stefon Diggs or Gabriel Davis. It's also a short week for the Chiefs after an emotional win over a division rival.
Right now, this is being billed as a matchup between two elite teams with two MVP contenders. I wonder if we might leave the game thinking there's one truly elite Super Bowl favorite and a clear MVP front runner.
That's a sneaky smart way to bet this: play Josh Allen at +260 MVP as a sneaky heavily juiced moneyline proxy. If Buffalo wins this, the Bills will be a game up on the entire AFC with a head-to-head tiebreaker over all three division leaders. Buffalo probably has only four games left where they'll be favored by less than a touchdown. If Allen has a huge game in a win, this could turn into an MVP coronation.
If you're looking for a prop, bet Josh Allen's rushing yards over.
I've noticed that the Bills tend to save Allen's legs for the big games, unleashing their MVP on designed runs and scrambles when it matters most. In 11 games against non-playoff teams last year, Allen averaged 5.7 runs for 38 yards. In eight games against playoff teams, that leapt to 9.5 carries for 59 yards. This year against the Rams, Dolphins, and Ravens, Allen has averaged 9.7 carries for 58 yards, right at that playoff average. Last week, Allen's rushing yards prop was at 40.5 yards. He's gone over that in nine of 11 (82%) of his games against playoff teams since the start of last season.
You can probably play Mahomes' rushing yards over for the same reason. Excluding the AFC Championship when Mahomes was limited with a foot injury, his rushing lines against Buffalo have been 10 carries for 36 yards, 8 for 61, and 7 for 69. That's an average of 55 yards a game, and his line was at 17.5 last week.
If you prefer totals, I lean over even at 53.5. Mahomes overs with a line above 51 are 26-18-1, the most profitable QB in Action Labs. Allen overs that high are 6-4-1, and four meetings between the two have gone 3-1 to the over, averaging 60.3 points per game.
I like Allen and the Bills to go to Kansas City and light up a beatable secondary. By the time Sunday ends, we'll all know who the AFC favorite is. My picks:
- Bet Allen rushing yards over
- Bet Allen MVP as a moneyline proxy for Buffalo
- Bet Mahomes rushing yards over
- Lean over 53.5
- Lean Bills -2.5 if you must play the spread, but bet the other stuff instead
THE PICK: Lean Bills -2.5 & Bet the props above
The Jaguars demolished the Colts one month ago 24-0, holding Indianapolis to 218 yards, nine first downs, and under 22 minutes of possession. So naturally, the Colts are home favorites.
Here's what's bizarre: you probably already know the Jaguars have won eight in a row in this division rivalry in Jacksonville, but what's wild is that the Colts have won eight of nine in Indianapolis during the same span. The road team has only won once in 17 tries.
That weird home voodoo is the only thing stopping me from making this a Jags bet. The Colts rank dead last in both passing and rushing DVOA offensively, an abject disaster. Indianapolis can't block anyone, and even as Jacksonville has stumbled the past couple weeks, the Jaguars defense has remained terrific. Jacksonville leads the league with a turnover forced on 11% of all opponent drives, and the Colts rank dead last with turnovers on 11% of their own drives.
I still believe in the Jaguars and like them at +250 in the division. I think they put the final nail in Indy's season.
THE PICK: Lean Jaguars +2.5 (Bet if it gets to +3)
It's another chance to use our study on teams returning home from London without a bye week, and the Packers might still be hung over after that Giants stunner. Green Bay's defense has been wildly disappointing, and the run defense is terrible.
Zach Wilson has quietly been very solid since returning, and rookie Breece Hall has found his footing and should have another big game. The post-London trends tell us to take the opponent team total over against a tired, jet lagged defense. That hit for both teams last week and is now 6-1 overall.
The second trend also hit: every post-London team has been tied or trailing in the fourth quarter of the following game. That means the Jets should score and stick around against a Packers team that hasn't really dominated anyone yet. Matt LaFleur is a perfect 10-0 ATS after a loss and Aaron Rodgers is outstanding as a home favorite.
The trends love the Packers, but the trends don't know the Packers are coming home from a disappointing London trip. I think I'll stay away from teasing Green Bay this week, just in case. The Jets have scored 64 points in Wilson's two games, so stick with the team total over and consider sprinkling the underdog moneyline if you get a good long shot spot.
THE PICK: Lean Jets +7.5, and Bet Jets TT over 19.5
Poor Kenny Pickett. Kid got thrown into his first game at halftime without notice, made his first start on the road against the Super Bowl favorite Bills, and now makes his first home start against the GOAT. Rough life.
Pickett has his hands full in this matchup against the league's No. 1 passing defense by DVOA, and Tom Brady should have target practice against this banged-up Steelers secondary.
And yet… it smells like another rah rah Mike Tomlin underdog spot.
Tomlin is 37-15-1 ATS (71%) as an underdog from Week 5 forward, and he's even better at home, a nearly unbeatable 13-2-1 ATS (87%) in that spot, winning the last six such instances outright. Pittsburgh is also in a nice spot as a home underdog against a Bucs team coming off a three-game home stand, a spot that's gone 32-17-1 ATS (65%) for the home dog.
Pittsburgh has no business being in this game, but that was true of Atlanta last week too and the Falcons got blown out early but covered anyway and might've won if Grady Jarrett hadn't breathed on Brady. Four straight Bucs games were within one score in the final quarter. The Bucs are way better, but play the number and the situational spot once the number rises even further.
THE PICK: Lean Steelers +8.5
I promised you we wouldn't get another chance to fade Matt Rhule or Baker Mayfield as favorites, and both are gone now. Rhule was fired and Mayfield is sidelined with "injury" so it's Steve Wilks and P.J. Walker SZN now.
That news moved this line toward the Rams, and I'm not sure it should have. Can the Panthers really be worse? Former XFL star Walker is actually 2-0 both ATS and SU, though his career interception rate of 6.3% is horrendous so you'll want to bet on a pick or two. Wilks went 3-13 SU his one season as a coach but was 7-8-1 ATS and pulled a huge upset as a 13.5-point underdog. Teams are 15-17 SU the game after firing their coach midseason the past 20 years. Not bad considering they went 87-231-2 (27%) combined before that.
The dead cat bounce is real.
Oh hey, speaking of which, the Rams! I'm worried about this team, now 25th in both passing and rushing DVOA with a tepid offense. Are we sure the Rams should be double-digit favorites against anyone at this point? Sean McVay has failed to cover five of his last six as more than a 10-point favorite, and the Rams haven't won by this much since almost Thanksgiving.
I like pairing a Panthers cover with the under. The Rams defense has been good, and Carolina's defense has been stout too. McVay unders are 13-6 with a total at 45 or below. If the game does go under 41, it will be awfully difficult to cover such a long spread. Play them together at +245 at DraftKings.
THE PICK: Lean Panthers +10.5 & Under 41 parlayed at +245
Denver is playing for pride and maybe its season after getting booed off its home field before overtime even started last Thursday, and Russell Wilson apparently has a shoulder injury. The Broncos offense has been almost as bad as Nathaniel Hackett's game management.
You have to like this backs-against-the-wall spot, though. Our proprietary Action Network Luck Rankings rate the Chargers as 25.5% more lucky than Denver, the third unluckiest team in the league. The Broncos are 1-4 ATS while the Chargers are 4-1, those hidden lucky bounces shifting a few covers and wins in each direction.
These things tend to even out as the season progresses. Just look at the landslide of trends begging us to bet Denver:
- 20% ATS or worse from October forward: 157-116-6 (58%)
- Such teams vs. 80% ATS or better: 84-47-3 (64%)
- Opponents with 80-99% ATS record in Weeks 6 or 7: 65-38-3 ATS (63%)
- Underdogs against such opponents: 49-22-1 ATS (69%)
- 20% ATS or worse vs. 75% ATS or better Week 6 forward: 26-9-1 ATS (74%)
These trends are fancy ways of showing the same thing — regression to the mean is coming for both teams. On top of that, Russell Wilson is great in this spot: 60% ATS after a loss, 67% ATS as a divisional underdog, and 65% ATS at home in primetime.
Denver's defense has been good enough to keep it in games, and it's not like the Chargers have been particularly good, especially on early downs. Eight of the last 12 games in this rivalry were one-score affairs, and Denver will have more fans at this game than LA.
I hate backing Denver right now, but these teams just aren't as far apart as this line indicates. And if this gets to +6, we'll have to bet it.
THE PICK: Lean Broncos +5.5
I keep checking the standings, and the Giants keep staying 4-1 somehow. Credit Brian Daboll for really getting the most out of this roster. But Baltimore is really good, and this could be a reality check.
New York's defense hasn't been particularly great outside of pressuring the quarterback, a Wink Martindale specialty. Hey, guess who knows exactly how to play a blitzing Martindale defense after practicing against it every day the last few years? It's Lamar Jackson and Wink's old Ravens squad, and even better now that Ronnie Stanley has returned to bolster the line.
Baltimore ranks No. 2 in passing DVOA and should light up this secondary. This is another bad situational spot for a post-London team without a bye. The trends tell us to take the opponent's team total over at 6-1, and that lines up perfectly with the matchup so bet the Ravens over 24.5.
Credit the good Giants start, but this team is almost certainly getting too much credit now. Our Action Network Luck Rankings have New York's win-loss record 36.5% more lucky than Baltimore's, the highest differential in the league this week. Teams with at least a -33.3% luck differential are 15-2 ATS. The hidden numbers match the eye test: the Giants are winning but overrated.
The Ravens have only trailed for a few minutes all season. Look for Baltimore to hang a big number on the Giants, and I expect this line to hit the key number by the weekend so don't wait around.
THE PICK: Bet Ravens -5 and Ravens Team Total over 24.5
We bet the Seahawks last week and had a fourth quarter lead before coming up short by a two-point conversion, but I'm going back to the well again.
The Seahawks offense is good, I swear! It might be great! Seattle leads the league in Offensive DVOA. The Seahawks rank No. 1 in passing DVOA, ahead of the Ravens, Bills, and Chiefs. Seattle has the NFL's most lethal passing attack, and Geno Smith continues to put up incredible numbers that are closer to Josh Allen and Pat Mahomes than all the rest of the NFL mortals.
Seattle blocks well, runs the ball, hits DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett deep, and schemes Geno into position to succeed. At some point, we have to accept that this is real. Five games feels like that point, especially since Arizona's awful secondary means their defense isn't much better than Seattle's.
Honestly, I'm not really sure what Arizona is better at other than run defense. Seattle has the better WRs and O-line, the better coaches and special teams, and the metrics say they have the significantly better QB right now too. Kyler Murray ranks 28th in EPA + CPOE without turnovers, near the bottom of the entire league; Geno Smith ranks 2nd. Seattle leads the league in explosive pass play percentage; Arizona's defense allows the second most such plays.
Both defenses stink, but only one team is ready to take advantage and that's Seattle. The trends love this spot for the Seahawks too:
- Kliff Kingsbury as a favorite: 8-14 ATS (36%)
- Kingsbury as a division favorite: 1-3 ATS (25%)
- Pete Carroll as an underdog: 43-28-3 ATS (61%)
- Carroll as a division underdog: 17-10 ATS (63%)
- Geno Smith as an underdog: 15-10-2 ATS (60%)
- Pete Carroll after a loss: 43-25-4 ATS (63%)
The books and public are sleeping on Seattle. I think this line is way off. I'll play Seattle +3 and I'll grab the moneyline too. I find Seattle's season over/under of 5.5 insulting, with two wins already and 12 games left on a soft schedule. I'm still playing Seahawks playoff and division odds too.
THE PICK: Bet Seahawks +3 & Seahawks ML