Freedman’s NFL Week 5 Trends & Early Bets: The Bengals Have Value As Road Underdogs
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Minus the rare midseason Monday Night Football doubleheader, Week 4 is in the books … the sportsbooks! (That joke never gets old to the writer. I am my own audience.)
Let’s take a look at some applicable trends for the early Week 5 spreads.
Although I am not a trends bettor, I find that trends help me identify spots I should consider further when analyzing games. Using our Bet Labs database, I have uncovered some intriguing NFL trends for five games this week.
All lines are from our NFL Odds page.
Bengals +13.5 at Ravens
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS
The Bengals intrigue me this week for a couple of reasons.
First, I’ve noticed that road underdogs tend to outperform against the spread (ATS) when they play within division, offering investors a vig-beating return on investment (ROI).
- Divisional Road Dogs: 540-474-33 ATS | 3.8% ROI
- Non-Divisional Road Dogs: 901-883-56 ATS | -1.3% ROI
A 3.8% ROI might not seem like much, but over a sample this large it’s significant. And we can dig further into this sample to discover more value.
I have this theory: Early in the year, when divisional opponents tend to face each other for the first time, road dogs have an undeniable edge relative to the market. Later in the year, when divisional rivals are more familiar with each other and their markets are more efficient, road dogs are disadvantaged when they meet for their rematch.
At least that’s my theory, and it’s born out by the regular-season numbers.
- Divisional Road Dogs (Sep. – Nov.): 354-280-23 ATS | 8.8% ROI
- Divisional Road Dogs (Dec. – Jan.): 186-194-10 ATS | -4.6% ROI
Still in the early days of October, the Bengals are in the sweet spot of this trend.
Additionally, as great as the Ravens are, opponents are actually 10-4 ATS (38.3%) against them when quarterback Lamar Jackson is a home favorite.
- Action: Bengals +13.5 (+100) at FanDuel
- Limit: +10.5 (-110)
Panthers (+3.5) at Falcons
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX
I’m writing this right as Sunday Night Football is ending, and the Falcons don’t play until Monday Night Football, so we’re dealing with some uncertainty.
But the Falcons have opened as home favorites of more than a field goal, and I will gladly bet against them in that scenario.
Not only will the Panthers be early-season divisional road dogs (see the trend highlighted above), but they will also be facing a team whose head coach is Dan Quinn.
Now that Jason Garrett is no longer with the Cowboys, Quinn tops my personal “Bet against him no matter what” rankings.
During Quinn’s tenure of five-plus years with the Falcons, opponents are 46-37 ATS (7.7% ROI) — and 40-27 ATS (15.9% ROI) if we remove the Kyle Shanahan-spurred 2016 season.
Underdog opponents are an A-graded 33-18 ATS (25.5% ROI) against Quinn.
Seize the day, my friends. Not always will we have the luxury of betting against Quinn’s Falcons.
- Action: Panthers +3.5 (-105) at FanDuel
- Limit: PK (-110)
Bills at Titans (Off the Board)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS
There’s so much unknown about this game. Given that the Titans had a COVID-forced bye in Week 4, their status for Week 5 is highly uncertain.
This game might be cancelled or postponed.
But if they play, the Titans will almost certainly be disadvantaged: Within the past week, they’ve been hit by COVID and unable to access their facilities.
On top of that, they have a wholly fraudulent 3-0 record.
In each game this year, they’ve won thanks to a field goal within the final two minutes. There’s something to be said for teams that consistently win close games — but the Titans have outscored their opponents by just six points.
They could easily be 0-3.
Meanwhile, the Bills are a legit 4-0 with a point differential of +23, and in quarterback Josh Allen’s road starts they are 10-3-2 ATS (41.5% ROI).
I imagine that the Bills will open as favorites, but as long as the spread is less than -3, I can’t imagine not betting this when it opens.
- Action: Bet Bills on Road
- Limit: -5 (-110)
Dolphins (+8) at 49ers
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX
This bet has more to do with feel than with numbers. I backed the Eagles against the 49ers in Week 4, and I like the Dolphins against them this week.
On Sunday, the Dolphins competed to the end with the Seahawks in a 31-23 loss, and they are a manageable 10-7 ATS (14.4% ROI) in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 17 starts dating back to last year.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have issues. They just lost at home to the previously winless Eagles, and they are dealing with a whole host of injuries to key offensive and defensive players.
- QB Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle)
- RBs Raheem Mostert (knee) & Tevin Coleman (knee, IR)
- EDGEs Nick Bosa (knee, IR), Dee Ford (back) & Ziggy Ansah (arm)
- LB Dre Greenlaw (quad)
- DT Solomon Thomas (knee, IR)
- CBs Richard Sherman (calf, IR), Emmanuel Moseley (concussion) & Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring)
In Week 4, backup quarterback Nick Mullens was “rage benched” (hat tip to Matt Harmon) for throwing one of the worst interceptions I’ve ever seen.
This week, the 49ers might actually go with third-stringer C.J. Beathard.
And yet they’re big favorites.
I don’t think so.
It’s not as if 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has done well in the past when laying points at Levi’s Stadium. Road underdogs are 10-3-1 ATS (42.5% ROI) against Shanahan’s 49ers.
This is a FitzMagic spot if there ever were one.
- Action: Dolphins +8 (-110) at FanDuel
- Limit: +7 (-110)
Patriots (-5) vs. Broncos
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS
Once again, I’m writing about a MNF team in the Patriots, so uncertainty abounds.
But if we assume that the Patriots don’t suffer any major injuries in Week 4 and don’t have any pandemic-related setbacks in Week 5, then they should be sizable favorites against the Broncos, even without quarterback Cam Newton (COVID).
And I’ll be betting on them.
The Broncos are a bad team, especially without edge defender Von Miller (ankle, IR), cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder, IR), wide receiver Courtland Sutton (knee, IR) and tight end Noah Fant (ankle).
They haven’t been to the postseason since their Super Bowl-winning 2015 campaign, and they won’t be going this season either.
Since 2004 (as far back as our database goes), Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 115-59-6 ATS (29% ROI) against teams that did not make the playoffs in the previous season.
Under the Belichick regime, the Pats have been a “no mercy” franchise against overmatched opponents.
They have also been hard on teams relatively unfamiliar with them — teams that don’t play them every year. Against non-divisional opponents, Belichick is 105-63-4 ATS (22.9% ROI).
And against non-divisional opponents that didn’t play in the postseason, Belichick is an imposing 65-25-1 ATS (41.7% ROI).
The Patriots will be without Newton, but Belichick is still 12-7 ATS (24.6% ROI) without Newton and longtime quarterback Tom Brady.
Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) is reportedly eyeing a Week 5 return (per James Palmer), but I’m skeptical that he will actually play — and if he does, I’m skeptical that he’ll have success.
If Lock can’t play, the Broncos will likely go with undrafted second-year third-stringer Brett Rypien, who threw three interceptions last week in his first NFL start. I’m sure he’d have no problems whatsoever against Belichick’s defense (he said sarcastically).
Here’s one more angle: As double-digit dogs against the Chiefs, the Pats will probably lose on MNF, which means that they should be especially focused and motivated to dominate in Week 5. After a loss, Belichick’s Pats are 41-15 ATS (45.2% ROI).
Note: This line might be off the board at various sportsbooks.
- Action: Bet Patriots -5 at DraftKings
- Limit: -7 (-110)
Matthew Freedman is 640-516-26 (55.4%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
He’s the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Rosemount, Minnesota, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.