We are somehow a quarter of the way through the NFL season already. It seems like 15 minutes ago we were sitting down to watch the opener in Kansas City, but time is relative these days, isn’t it?
A handful of teams have already distinguished themselves as cross-offs, and the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes appears to be wide open with a number of worthy contestants. We’ve already had the “first coach fired” prop bet settled with Bill O’Brien at + 1,500 taking home the cash. Somehow, eight months ago O’Brien’s Texans were a play or two from putting away the Chiefs and advancing to a home AFC championship game in which they would have been favored. The Texans failed to hold on, of course, and O’Brien’s 22-19 overtime victory against Buffalo the week before ended up being his last as the Texans’ coach.
It never seems to work out when organizations in any sport yield full front-office power to the coach. Doing two jobs at once seems like a recipe for failure. Bill Belichick and the Patriots, as always, are the exception. O’Brien’s dismissal is one heck of a bad beat for anyone who bet Adam Gase to be the first coach fired. The Jets have become unwatchable and reached the point where oddsmakers are daring you to take them. Right bet, wrong result for those who tabbed Gase as the first to go.
Let’s get to the picks for Week 5 ...
Steelers (-7) over Eagles
Gutsy win Sunday night for the reeling Eagles, who were up to + 10 in some shops before kickoff, a line I thought was absurd considering the 49ers’ injuries. Carson Wentz played with toughness, running more than usual and using his legs to extend a few drives, and he even helped cash in “first touchdown scorer” bets at a lofty 50-1. However, his issues with accuracy were still on display, and he will face a much healthier team that is home and off a pseudo bye. The Eagles still have plenty of holes, and Pittsburgh will exploit them to win this one by double digits.
Rams-Washington Under 45.5
Washington has no team name and no quarterback. Whispers that Kyle Allen could replace Dwayne Haskins as the starter are justified, as Washington has struggled to move the football despite the unsung monster production of wide receiver Terry McLaurin. The Rams, who led the dismal Giants only 10-9 late Sunday, know the only way to lose this game is to turn the ball over. They will be conservative, they will run the ball and they will leave with a low-scoring win that stays Under this number.
Browns (+ 3) over Colts
Say it loud: “The 4-1 Cleveland Browns?!?” Everyone jumped on the Browns’ bandwagon in 2019, and they were favored to win the AFC North after acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. The 49ers in ’18, after a 5-0 finish to the ’17 season, were the “it” team heading into the season. They picked third in the draft after a four-win season in a year when they were a popular bet to win the Super Bowl. The lesson: Sometimes these trendy teams take a year longer than expected to pop. The Browns have run the ball at an elite level. They average 5.9 yards per carry and have 11 runs of 20+ yards and eight rushing touchdowns, all league bests. The Colts look like they’d be Super Bowl contenders if they still had Andrew Luck or a semi-prime Philip Rivers. But they have neither. I’ve always been a huge fan of Rivers and would have no objection to him getting a spot in Canton, but he looks like a pitcher who can throw only off-speed pitches to get people out. He has lost his fastball, and that will ultimately cost the Colts this season. Getting a field goal with the home team here is a gift.