It was a weekend of upsets in both college football and the NFL. There were 22 outright upsets on the college side and six on NFL Sunday. Upsets are always fun, not just because they throw everybody for a loop, but also because they can have a big impact in the lines for the next week.
That is true of the NFL. Tennessee’s outright loss to the New York Jets coupled with a competent effort from Jacksonville on Thursday night caused a big shift in the Titans line against the Jaguars from -7 to -3.5. Arizona’s upset of the Rams coupled with the 49ers losing in a favorite role to the Seahawks also altered that line from -2.5 to -4. Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury may play a part in where that line ends up, too.
We see shifts in perception each week in the NFL and those have an impact on the opening lines. Once the bettors get a chance to digest what they’ve seen and what the new numbers are, they start to mold and shape the markets into the lines we will see throughout the week.
Even if you aren’t ready to bet the games on Sunday night or Monday morning, taking note of where the line is and anticipating where the line will go is a good practice that will help in the future.
Here are a few early lines that I like for Week 5:
Detroit Lions (+ 8.5, 49.5) at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings offense stepped up in class against the Browns and really struggled. Cleveland got a ton of pressure with just the front four and made Kirk Cousins very uncomfortable all game long. The Browns really should have won the game by some margin, but Baker Mayfield was terrible and missed several open guys.
The Lions were the recipient of a lot of money in the betting markets throughout the week, as the line came down from + 6 to + 3. As it turned out, those bettors were not rewarded for their confidence, as the Lions lost 24-14, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Detroit had five trips inside the Chicago 10-yard line and came away with only seven points. That is incredibly hard to do. The Lions had two fumbles and two turnovers on downs in premier scoring areas. The Bears jumped out to a 14-0 lead as a result of two of those possessions.
The Lions really haven’t looked that bad the last two games. A closer loss to the Bears and a delay of game call against the Ravens and this line is easily under a touchdown. The Vikings have enough flaws that they shouldn’t be laying this big of a number.
Pick: Detroit Lions + 8.5
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers (-4, 46.5)
Something to watch for in the NFL is how totals are adjusted based on the final scores of recent games. The Eagles and Panthers have a common opponent in the Cowboys. Dallas scored 41 on Philadelphia and 36 on Carolina. The Cowboys offense is extremely potent with a ton of skill position talent and a healthy Dak Prescott.
The Eagles followed up that poor defensive showing with another one against the Kansas City Chiefs. Playing back-to-back top-five offenses is going to make a lot of defenses look bad and that was certainly the case for Philadelphia.
Credit to the Panthers, who have played well offensively this season, but it has been clear the last two weeks how much this team misses Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers are going to be a team that wins with defense more often than not and that is the blueprint that should return this week against the Eagles.
As good as the Chiefs and Cowboys are offensively, those two defenses leave a lot to be desired and aren’t indicative of where the Eagles are truly at with Jalen Hurts at the helm.
This should be a much tighter affair than the wide-open games we’ve seen recently for these two teams. The under is the way to look with a total that looks to be a couple points too high.
Pick: Under 46.5
New York Jets (+ 3.5, 44) at Atlanta Falcons
Are the Atlanta Falcons really that much better than the New York Jets? The Jets have had major turnover problems so far this season, as rookie QB Zach Wilson has gone through a ton of growing pains in the early going, but the defense is scrappy and really battles hard.
The Falcons scored 30 points against Washington, which every team seems to be doing these days, but it wasn’t as impressive of a feat as it seemed. Atlanta still only managed 5.3 yards per play against the 28th-ranked scoring defense coming into play for Week 4. The Falcons could not run the ball yet again and Cordarrelle Patterson was really the only source of offense.
The Atlanta defense also allowed 6.6 yards per play to Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Football Team. Atlanta gets very little pressure on the quarterback, which should give Wilson time to go through his progressions.
Robert Saleh’s defense is ahead of Art Smith’s offense. In a game with a low-scoring expectation, that looks like something to bet on.
Pick: New York Jets + 3.5