The fifth weekend of the unique 2020 NFL season is here.
With games currently scheduled for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, there are plenty of betting opportunities. Our experts Drew Dinsick, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans combine to give their opinions on every game.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-2, 54)
Tuley: The Panthers are coming off back-to-back upsets of the Chargers and Cardinals, so they’re tempting underdogs against the 0-4 Falcons. However Atlanta is another team taking a step down in class after a rough opening schedule. The best bet here is to tease the Panthers up over a touchdown and mix and match with other teasers that give us the key numbers of 3 and 7: Rams down to -1, Cardinals down to -1, Steelers down to -1, 49ers down to -2, Browns up to + 7.5, Seahawks down to -1 and Saints down to -7.5 (I say mix & match as you’ll see I like some of the opposite sides of those teasers, so not playing them all but just pointing out the “advantageous” teasers on this week’s card).
Pick: Tease Panthers up over a touchdown
Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-13, 56.5)
Dinsick: Divisional games return in Week 5, giving us an opportunity to use a broader sample of historical matchup data between teams and coaches that have familiarity with game-planning and facing each other in past seasons. Sunday will mark the 10th head-to-head between Jon Gruden and Andy Reid, as Gruden’s 2-2 Raiders head to Kansas City to face the undefeated Chiefs. In their past nine contests, Reid holds the straight-up edge with a 5-4 win-loss record, while Gruden has managed five covers out of the nine games; totals have gone 3-6 to the under, including the last three, by an average of nearly five points.
The Raiders have a major matchup disadvantage in this handicap: Their pass defense is bottom 10 in the league in both success rate conceded and EPA per dropback -- a problem against the high-flying Patrick Mahomes-led passing attack. To make matters worse, Derek Carr is limited in his ability to run the offense when under interior pressure; the Chiefs excel at this, led by Chris Jones and Frank Clark. Given that this is a short week for Kansas City, it’s reasonable to expect the Chiefs attempt to shorten the game and limit the exposure of their most potent offensive plays. That makes the very high total of 56.5 a fair play to the under as my numbers make this total 53.
Pick: Under 56.5
Los Angeles Rams (-7.5, 45) at Washington Football Team
Youmans: Fair or not, Washington coach Ron Rivera has pulled the plug on second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins and is going back to Kyle Allen, his pet project with the Panthers. Rivera replaced Cam Newton with Allen last year and then traded a fifth-round pick to Carolina for Allen instead of signing Newton on the cheap in D.C. The Football Team remains in the race in the NFC East, and Allen does figure to give Washington a slightly better chance to win this week. The line was as high as 10 and has dropped to 7 at most books, but sharp money was driving the number down before the QB switch, so it’s not a three-point adjustment for Allen. The Rams are in a negative scheduling spot. After playing at Philadelphia and Buffalo in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively, the Rams returned to L.A. to turn in a poor performance in a 17-9 victory over the Giants, so this is their third East Coast trip in less than a month.
Allen had instant success last season when Newton was sidelined by a foot injury. In the first five games he started, Allen passed for nine touchdowns with no interceptions as the Panthers went 5-0. Things went downhill from there, but Rivera kept Newton on the bench. The combination of the quarterback change and the bad spot for the Rams will put me on the ugly underdog. BetMGM and DraftKings are among the books still offering 7.5.
Pick: Washington + 7.5
Dinsick: The Rams were disappointing overall on Sunday, despite winning by 8 points in Week 4 and taking their record to 3-1. Many of their dynamic offensive sets were ineffective against a poor Giants defense to go along with uncharacteristically sloppy play overall. It is fair to attribute this lackluster performance to either fatigue or low motivation given their status as an overwhelming favorite, but regardless the result has depressed the price on the Rams this week from the lookahead of -9.5 to just -7 as the Rams head to the East Coast for the third time in four weeks.
The Washington Football Team has been in freefall since their opening week upset over the Eagles and the loss of confidence in Haskins has led Rivera to make the switch to Allen. This was a relatively poor decision, in my opinion, as Haskins had a stunted development during the dysfunction of the 2019 season and has shown some growth on the job in 2020, whereas we know Allen isn’t an NFL starting-caliber QB based on his Carolina performances. In light of the shortened price and what is at best a lateral move at QB, the Rams are a play, as fair price by my numbers is closer to -10.
Pick: Rams -7.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6, 54.5)
Youmans: There’s no reason to overanalyze this one: Bill O’Brien is out as Houston’s coach and that’s a buy sign on the Texans, who were no longer interested in playing for him. J.J. Watt called it a “fresh start” this week, so expect to see an inspired effort from a refocused 0-4 team. Deshaun Watson has been sacked a league-high 16 times, but he should get more time to breathe against Jacksonville’s weak pass rush. Joe Burrow had been sacked 14 times going into a Week 4 game against the Jaguars, who sacked Burrow only once in his 37 dropbacks. I’m not crazy about the Texans, but I do like the fired coach angle and this is a reasonable number to lay with a winless favorite that’s stepping down in class after facing the NFL’s toughest schedule the first three weeks.
Pick: Texans -6
Arizona Cardinals (-7, 47) at New York Jets
Dinsick: The promising 2-0 start by the Cardinals was derailed the last two weeks when Arizona was upset as a small favorite versus Detroit and at Carolina, respectively. The Jets have failed to take off entirely for the 2020 season, compiling an 0-4 ATS and SU record. More misery is expected for Gang Green in Week 5, as QB Sam Darnold is out with a shoulder injury, making Joe Flacco the starter.
Two positive factors are in play for the Cardinals. First, Arizona’s pass rush matches up well against a poor offensive line and immobile QB like Flacco. Also, the Cardinals offense will likely find its form against the Jets defense that struggles to create pressure and provide coverage in the passing game (Jets currently 31st in EPA per dropback on defense). Expecting a nice bounce-back for the Cardinals, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins should be able to take the lead and put pressure on Flacco to come back from a deficit while under duress; this game state suggests laying the points is a fine strategy considering the relatively short line of -7.
Pick: Cardinals -7
Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7, 44)
Tuley: The undefeated Steelers come in off an unplanned and unwanted bye week due to the COVID-19 outbreak on the Titans and they’ll be a popular public play in sides, parlays and teasers. However, I like the Eagles, who finally put together a complete game in upsetting the 49ers on Sunday night and are actually in first in the NFC Least at 1-2-1. This is a much easier travel week and the Eagles should be able to keep it within one score, if not pull another upset.
Pick: Eagles + 7
Dinsick: Due to the postponement of their Week 4 contest against Tennessee, the Steelers are coming off an unplanned bye week and will be a formidable test for an Eagles team that saved its season last week. Despite numerous injuries to offensive lineman and skill position players, Carson Wentz led an outstanding comeback to secure Philadelpa its first win of 2020 and will look to build on this success as wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and JJ Arcega-Whiteside look likely to return to action. With these returning weapons, Wentz will likely positively regress from his current rank of 30th among active QBs in EPA per play (at -0.069), to somewhere closer to his career average of 0.136 points per play.
Similarly, the bye week afforded the Steelers the opportunity to return several of their offensive lineman and skill position players. The full-strength Pittsburgh offense matches up well against Philadelphia, which lacks depth in the defensive backfield and relies heavily on its pass rush to stop drives; overall, the Eagles defense ranks bottom 10 in both red zone trips allowed (16) and red zone TD rate (69%). Given the returning players and competitive offenses taking the field the total is surprisingly low at only 44 points; a fair total by numbers is 47 so the over is in play in the battle for the Keystone state.
Play: Over 44
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-13, 51)
Tuley: You’ve probably seen the stat that the Seahawks and Packers and are the only 4-0 ATS teams, but the Bengals are right behind at 3-0-1 ATS. Joe Burrow has justified his hype as the No. 1 draft pick as he’s already made them competitive beyond what anyone expected. The Ravens are playing at a high level, but if Washington can stay with 14 points then the Bengals have a great chance to stay within 10 or less. Note: Lamar Jackson missed two practices this week, so monitor that situation (if he’s out, this line will be adjusted lower, but I’d still take the underdog Bengals).
Pick: Bengals + 13
Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (-9, 51.5)
Tuley: This was off the board earlier this week with uncertainty about whether or not Jimmy Garoppolo would be able to return for San Francisco this week. The Dolphins have been competitive most of the early season as Ryan Fitzpartick continues to work his magic and the 49ers certainly came back to Earth in their loss to the Eagles. San Fran should have enough to win this game no matter which QB starts, but the Dolphins should be able to do enough to cover.
Pick: Dolphins + 9
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5, 54)
Dinsick: In years past, Giants-Cowboys matchups were prime-time events that carried huge significance in the NFC playoff picture; now, both franchises are desperate to get into the win column and at risk of fading out of the race for the division title.
The Giants, to their credit, have been playing hard for new coach Joe Judge but it hasn’t been enough to overcome the talent deficit and poor offensive scheme to notch a win through four games. Similarly the Cowboys have wildly under-performed so far in 2020, losing twice as a small favorite and failing to cover the spread in all four games to this point. Out of the four main units that will take the field, only the Dallas offense stands out as above average, generating 0.08 EPA per play based largely on the strong QB play by Dak Prescott; the Giants offense ranks 31st, Giants defense ranks 22nd and the Cowboys defense ranks 29th in EPA per play through four games. With a healthy corps of wide receivers and running backs, Dallas’ offense will truly test the Giants defense, particularly a secondary that lacks top-tier talent and depth.
The main concern regarding the Cowboys offense currently is its offensive line health, however Prescott has adjusted his game nicely delivering the ball more quickly to avoid the rush and the Giants are only managing to create pressure on 25% of passing downs, which is league average. Dallas’ path to victory is to score early and often with aggressive play-calling, much like we saw in each of the 2019 matchups; fair price should be over 10 in this game by my numbers (lookahead was -11), so laying the points with Dallas is a reasonable play.
Pick Cowboys -9.5
Indianapolis Colts (-1.5, 46) at Cleveland Browns
Youmans: Baker Mayfield and the Browns just embarrassed the NFL’s worst scoring defense in Dallas (36.5 PPG) and now get to test their strength against Indianapolis’ No. 1 scoring defense (14.0). The Colts might not be as dominant as advertised after their defense faced a foursome of seldom-feared quarterbacks in Gardner Minshew, Kirk Cousins, Sam Darnold and Nick Foles. In Indianapolis’ 19-11 win at Chicago in Week 4, the immobile Philip Rivers dropped back to pass 30 times and was sacked only once. The Browns’ defensive front will put more pressure on Rivers, and Cleveland runs the ball more effectively than the Bears.
The Browns piled up 307 rushing yards against the Cowboys, with only 43 of those yards coming from Nick Chubb, who is out with a right knee injury. Rivers is rarely reliable as a favorite, and I’ll bet against him winning as a road favorite two weeks in a row. This line peaked at 3, but + 2 still is available for ‘dog bettors.
Pick: Browns + 2
Dinsick: The game of the week from a competitive standpoint is clearly Colts vs Browns with each team clearly in the playoff picture in the AFC and carrying 3-game win streaks into this match-up. The early season success for the Colts can be somewhat attributed to an easy schedule but their pass defense stands out above all others in the NFL conceding an impressive -0.156 EPA per dropback which is almost 0.05 points better than the next best team in the NFL. The Browns have also gotten to this point in surprising fashion, their offensive line is playing at a superlative level which has helped Baker Mayfield improve his performance relative to last season and has paved the way for the Browns rushing attack which is currently ranked 4th in the NFL in EPA per rush ( 0.075). The injury status will be very important in this game as the linebacking corps for Indianapolis is dealing with several key injuries and the Browns pass rush and secondary are in a depleted state outside of superstar Myles Garrett.
I played an opening line of pick ’em on the Colts at -110 and would not buy out even though the market has come back significantly since getting to Colts -3 earlier in the week. The Colts pass defense will likely be the distinguishing factor in this handicap as they play a Cover 2 style that will bait the gunslinging Mayfield into potential turnovers in the passing game and tilt the balance ever so slightly in favor of Indianapolis. The Browns have also been the beneficiaries of significant turnover luck in the last two weeks which is unsustainable and the Colts are due for some positive regression in terms of their red zone efficiency. Passing at the current price but worth playing Colts if we see a pick’em again before kick-off.
Tuley: This is an intriguing matchup between 3-1 teams. The Colts have the league’s No. 1 defense, but that’s aided by facing the Jaguars, Vikings, Jets and Bears. We’ll see if they still rank No. 1 after facing the Browns, who showed a balanced attack (307 rushing yards including Odell Beckham Jr.’s 50-yard reverse for the clinching TD, plus three TD passes, the first by WR Jarvis Landry to OBJ and two by Mayfield) in beating the Cowboys 49-38. With the Colts’ step up in class, I’ll take the Browns with the short points as I expect them to win outright.
Pick: Browns + 2
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-7.5, 51)
Dinsick: The Vikings and Seahawks meet in primetime, in Seattle, for the third straight season as Minnesota looks to build on its first win of the season while Seattle attempts to remain undefeated. Kirk Cousins and Co. have steadily improved in Weeks 3 and 4 after a miserable start to their season that saw a young defense exposed and an offense that desperately missed the production of Stefon Diggs. Seattle has emerged as one of the top teams in the NFL on the back of an offense that is producing 0.225 EPA per play (No. 2 in the NFL) led by Russell Wilson in the midst of a career season and MVP campaign.
The Week 1 game between the Packers and Vikings was a decent analogue for what a balanced offense with a diverse passing attack can do to the Minnesota defense and is a clear sign that it is fair for Seattle’s expected scoring total in this game to be above 30 points. The Vikings offense will be asked to keep pace, which will be difficult considering key secondary pieces will be returning for the Seahawks and the overall scheme and sequencing of play-calling in Minnesota limits the potential for them to sustain drives given their propensity for early down running. The second straight week of travel makes things even tougher for Minnesota and will likely result in their third straight primetime loss at CenturyLink Field. Fair price in this game is Seattle -10 by my numbers so laying a touchdown is a reasonable betting angle.
Pick: Seahawks -7
Tuley: The Vikings finally got off the schneid with their Week 4 win over the Texans, but that’s not saying much and this number seems a little short (even with Seattle’s home-field advantage not being what it used to be). Still, the lean is to the Vikings getting the touchdown as the Seahawks, even though they are 4-0 SU and ATS, have allowed three of their four opponents to stay within one score. I’m also including the Seahawks in my teaser portfolio, so I think there’s a great chance at hitting a middle with these if the Vikings can stay within a field goal.
Pick: Vikings + 7, but also Seahawks teased down to -1