Week 5 in the NFL featured a lot of games that came down to the wire. Competitive games that either fall near the point spread or come down to the final seconds mean that sportsbooks don’t have to adjust the lookahead lines all that much going into the next round of games.
Still, there were a lot of injuries during what felt like an unusually violent Sunday around the league. Just in the late window alone, Kyler Murray and Derek Carr were banged up pretty good and Daniel Jones left with a scary concussion. Several skill players and linemen also went down.
Injuries are such an enormous part of the handicapping process in the NFL and as much info as possible on those key players should be gathered. However, if you want to get out in front of some line moves, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone a bit and bet early in the week.
Here are three lines I like for Week 6:
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns (-2.5, 54)
The Browns scored 42 points and lost in Week 5; the Cardinals scored 17 points and won. It was quite the dichotomy between the two offenses, as well as the two defenses, though facing Justin Herbert is a much taller task than Trey Lance in his first NFL start.
For the third time in four games, the Cardinals failed to impress me. They did cash every number on the spread against the 49ers, so they played above the expectation in that regard, but the Niners outgained the Cardinals in both total yardage and yards per play. San Francisco was stopped four times on fourth down in the one-score loss, including once at the goal line.
As mentioned, Murray was also injured in the game, as he received treatment on his throwing arm and shoulder on the sidelines. The Browns came out of the Chargers game fairly healthy. Cleveland returns home now, whereas the Cardinals have the long travel to the Buckeye State. It is a late kickoff, but that should enhance Cleveland’s home-field advantage with a crowd that should be buzzing.
Ultimately, the Cardinals are not as impressive as their 5-0 record indicates. They have not played a running game like Cleveland’s and really haven’t played many good offenses. This is a wake-up call kind of game for the Cardinals in my estimation.
Pick: Cleveland Browns -2.5
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5, 48) at New England Patriots
The Cowboys offense kept humming right along with a big win over the New York Giants. The Dallas defense still has some concerns, but the ‘Boys are not the only team with worries on that side of the ball. New England managed to win for survivor contestants, but gave up 312 yards on just 21 completions to Davis Mills and gave up 6.4 yards per play overall to the Houston offense while never coming close to covering. The Patriots led for 15 seconds in the game.
What will Dak Prescott and the bevy of skill position weapons for the Cowboys do to this defense? Bill Belichick has lost some zip on his fastball, so to speak. The Patriots look to be in good hands with Mac Jones, but the lack of skill players has created a major lack of explosiveness for this offense.
Going into Week 5, the Patriots only had 9.3 yards per reception, which ranked 30th in the league. They improved slightly with 10 yards per catch against the Texans. New England has averaged 5.1 yards per play on offense; Dallas has averaged 6.5 yards per play.
The Patriots defense benefited from the weather and an intimate knowledge of Tom Brady to have a good showing in Week 4, but there were a lot of bad signs in Week 5. Furthermore, the Patriots have faced Tua Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson, Jameis Winston, Brady and Mills. Suffice it to say that Prescott is a big step up.
Pick: Dallas Cowboys -3.5
Green Bay Packers (-4, 46) at Chicago Bears
The Packers are early road favorites against the Bears, who won again with starting QB Justin Fields by a 20-9 count over the Las Vegas Raiders. It was a stout defensive performance for the Bears, but the offense was once again lackluster at best. Chicago managed just 4.2 yards per play in the game.
The loss of David Montgomery was extremely evident, as the Bears didn’t have a play longer than 18 yards. They did a great job holding down the Raiders offense, though, as the longest play on that side was just 29 yards.
The Packers offense hasn’t exactly been explosive either. Davante Adams had a huge game against the Bengals and Green Bay had 7.4 yards per play, but came into the game 22nd in the NFL with 5.2. A 57-yard Aaron Jones run and a few long pass plays to Adams skewed the number a bit.
The Bears were embarrassed defensively by the Packers last season to the tune of 76 points in two games, so you have to think that they’ll be looking to make amends here. Also, the defense knows that the margin for error is slim with where the offense is right now.
The Packers have only cashed in on 11 of their 20 red zone trips. The Bears only have 13 trips into the red zone through five games. Points could certainly be at a premium here.
Pick: Under 46