Week 6 of the very unique 2020 NFL season is here.
With no Thursday night football, but games scheduled for Sunday and two on Monday, there are plenty of betting opportunities. Our experts Drew Dinsick, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans combine to give their opinions on every game.
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers (-1.5, 44.5)
Dinsick: It is shocking to see both the Panthers and Bears firmly in the playoff hunt through five weeks given the low expectations for each team heading into this season. After three solid wins as an underdog, the Panthers have finally earned some market respect as a small favorite; this is warranted given their performance in the absence of star running back Christian McCaffrey. Carolina’s passing offense has emerged with a top-five offensive passing unit, adding 0.17 expected points per play.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, this newfound passing success runs directly into the strength of Bears defense, which is currently No. 4 in the NFL in passing defense, forcing a negative 0.06 points per dropback by opposing offenses. Considering the injuries to the Carolina defensive front seven, the Bears may finally get their ground game going which would shorten the game. When combined with the expectation of regression for the Panthers passing attack, it provides a nice edge on the under 44.5 in this contest with a fair total of 41 points by my numbers.
Pick: Under 44.5
Detroit Lions (-3, 54.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Tuley: These teams are at 1-3 and 1-4, respectively, or right about where they were expected to be. The Jaguars upset the Colts in Week 1 and played the Titans tough in Week 3 but haven’t really been competitive the other three weeks.
Meanwhile, the Lions upset the Cardinals in Week 2 and have given away early leads vs. the Bears, Packers and Saints, so they look like the better team. But I still don’t think they should be laying more than a field goal on the road against anyone. The Lions’ defense, allowing 31.8 points per game, should offer no resistance to Gardner Minshew, who should keep the Jaguars in the game the whole way if not pull the minor upset.
Best bet: Jaguars + 3.5
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (-4, 54)
Tuley: Here’s the true matchup of underachievers at 0-5 and 1-4, respectively. Atlanta fired coach Dan Quinn, and teams often step up to play well for interim coaches -- and their own jobs. Remember, we resisted going against Houston last week for this same reason, so I’m betting the Falcons but haven’t included it on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page. I know it’s early to go with my tendency to go with Overs when teams are playing out the string, but I doubt either team will step up. The better bet is probably that Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins get into a shootout.
Best Bet: Over 55, Falcons + 3.5
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3.5, 53)
Dinsick: This is an AFC South clash that will carry significant weight as the season matures. The Texans may be 1-4 compared to the 4-0 Titans, but both teams are 1-0 in division, each with a win at home against the Jaguars.
The Titans finally covered the spread on Tuesday night with a convincing win against the visiting Bills but the market was not overly impressed as the lookahead number was adjusted down from Tennessee -4 to -2.5 on the open; the betting market has since bet this side back across 3 to -3.5 which is a noteworthy move and makes for a fair price by my numbers. The Titans are riding a strong 2020 campaign from Ryan Tannehill, who has a multitude of weapons to attack the lackluster Texans defense. Houston is currently 29th in EPA per play allowed through five weeks and has lost key run-stopper Benardrick McKinney for the season. Similarly, the Titans defense has underwhelmed, ranking in the bottom 10 in terms of pressure generated (only 20.7% of dropbacks), which suggests Deshaun Watson will have the time needed to let routes mature and attack the Titans downfield throughout the game.
A wide variety of game states support a high-scoring affair with each team able to comeback from a deficit given the strength of their quarterbacks and weapons available, so Over 53 is in play with a fair total close to 55.
Pick: Over 53
Washington Football Team at New York Giants (-3, 43)
Tuley: Washington has the only win between these teams with its Week 1 upset of the Eagles, but the Giants have been the far more competitive team overall at 3-2 ATS, covering in their losses to the Bears, Rams and Cowboys. For that reason, I can’t back Washington, which should get Kyle Allen back at QB (and didn’t we all cringe every time Alex Smith was sacked Sunday).
Best Bet: Pass
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3, 51)
Dinsick: The 137th meeting between the Browns and the Steelers will be a doozy as the undefeated home team Steelers are a mere 3-point favorite. The Browns have only one loss on the young season, but it was in-division at the hands of the Ravens making this an imperative game to win if they want to keep hopes of winning the AFC North alive. This will be difficult as the list of players missing practice this week was both long and impactful; both starting wide receivers have missed time and standout guard Wyatt Teller is not expected to go, which suggests the outstanding rushing attack we’ve seen from Cleveland to this point in the season (No. 4 in Rush EPA at 0.039 points added per play) will likely be less effective than on a typical Sunday. To make matters worse, the Steelers have allowed the second lowest success rate to running backs this season at a paltry 26.1% and the ball-hawking defensive backfield for Pittsburgh (top 10 in interceptions despite playing only four games so far) is primed to force the error-prone Baker Mayfield into poor passing decisions.
Even an average performance by the Steelers dynamic offense makes the three points here seem short. A fair price for me in this game would be -4.5 so I will be laying the 3.
Pick: Steelers -3
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5, 47.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Youmans: The betting public soured on the Eagles after their ugly losses the first two weeks, but I believe the team’s worst days are in the past and we will start to see improvement in quarterback Carson Wentz. Philadelphia should have covered as a 7-point ‘dog at Pittsburgh in Week 5, but the game got away in the last three minutes and the result was a 38-29 loss. Wentz was under pressure most of the day, taking five sacks and throwing two picks, yet toughed it out and kept the Eagles in it. Miles Sanders was a boost to the offense by rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. It’s easy for critics to pick on Wentz by pointing to his league-high nine interceptions--— two more than he threw all of last season -- but look at the injuries that have depleted the receiving corps and offensive line. On a positive note, veteran wideouts DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery have a shot to play this week.
Philadelphia’s defensive front is a strength and a reason to like their chances against a Baltimore offense that has not been as efficient or explosive as in 2019. Lamar Jackson has not been anywhere near his best. Last week against Cincinnati, Jackson went 19-for-37 and averaged 4.9 yards per attempt. He carried the ball twice for 3 yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson completed four of 13 passes that he threw 10 or more yards downfield. It’s possible the Ravens will dominate this matchup with their defense, but I’ll go contrarian and take the ugly ‘dog.
Pick: Eagles + 7.5
Dinsick: The Eagles’ season to this point has been a fantastic disappointment (1-3-1 SU, 1-4 ATS), and what was expected to be a campaign that had upside of an NFC title has gone completely sideways. Most of the blame lays at the feet of Wentz, who is shockingly 28th in EPA per dropback and 30th in Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) among 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Injuries to the offensive line and skill position players have been a significant contributor to his poor performance, but Baltimore coming to town is not an ideal match-up to help turn things around in 2020.
The Ravens currently have the No. 3 defense by DVOA and are third in EPA allowed at -0.092 points per play, with much of their success due to a blitz-heavy scheme that is a brutal matchup for Wentz and the ailing Philly offense. The Ravens offense has also failed to live up to expectations so far this season (surprisingly, 17th in offensive DVOA) but they still do one thing very well: attack the seam with their tight ends receivers and backs. This presents a significant problem for Philadelphia, which has been exploited in exactly that manner several times this season (notably versus the Rams and the Steelers) due to its weak linebacking corps. These two key matchups favor the Ravens enough that there is an edge even with Baltimore as a 7.5-point road favorite (fair line would be nine by my numbers).
Pick: Ravens -7.5
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-7.5, 46.5)
Dinsick: The average total on the board in the NFL has crept up from 45.6 in Week 1 to 50.5 in Week 6, which is completely reasonable considering the way the game is being officiated and the scores we’ve seen to this point in the season (average total points scored is 51.4 through 77 games). This makes the total in Indianapolis relatively low by comparison at only 46.5.
The Bengals have struggled at times offensively this season and the Colts have put up impressive defensive statistics on the whole (currently No. 1 in defensive DVOA), so the low total and high spread seem fair at face value. What complicates the handicap in this game is the likely absence of key Indianapolis linebacker Darius Leonard, as well as dynamic Cincinnati run-stopper D.J. Reader. These two key pieces, along with other banged-up players in the secondary and pass rush for each team, suggest a reasonable adjustment should be made with respect to defensive expectation. After adjusting for likely availability the median expected score in this game is 28-20 by my numbers and the over 46.5 is in range.
Pick: Over 46.5
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (-9.5, 45)
Tuley: This game had been scheduled for last Sunday, then was moved to Monday and now is set for Sunday in Week 6. The Patriots will be another popular teaser play down to -2.5, but I also like Denver plus the points even though I know we’re not supposed to go against Bill Belichick off a loss. The last time we saw the Broncos, Brett Rypien was ripping up the Jets in a 37-28 win nearly two weeks ago in Week 4’s Thursday night game. Rypien would benefit from the added prep time, though it appears starter Drew Lock might be back as well as TE Noah Fant and CB A.J. Bouye.
Best Bet: Broncos + 9.5
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-9.5, 47)
Tuley: A division underdog getting more than a touchdown is usually a buy sign for me, especially against an overachieving team like the Dolphins that shouldn’t be favored by this much, but I still can’t talk myself into betting actual money on the Jets. The Dolphins will be a very popular teaser play, and I’m on board with that.
Best Bet: Pass, except teasing Dolphins
Green Bay Packers (-1, 55) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Youmans: A bye week can come at a bad time, and that could turn out to be the case for Green Bay. The last thing a hot team needs is time off, and a chance to cool off. The Packers are 4-0 SU and ATS, and have covered games by an NFL-best 10.9 points per game. Aaron Rodgers is performing at an MVP level, completing 70.5% of his passes with 13 touchdowns and no picks while taking only three sacks. What makes those numbers more impressive is that Rodgers has been throwing to an inexperienced group of receivers. One positive to the week off will be the return of wideout Davante Adams.
This is a better spot for the Buccaneers, who are off a loss at Chicago last Thursday, when Tom Brady failed on a potential game-winning drive and could not count to four. Brady was without a few key weapons, including wideout Chris Godwin, who’s expected to play for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 3. Brady and Rodgers have squared off twice in their careers, with the home team winning each time. Tampa Bay ranks No. 2 in the league in total defense (298.2 YPG), compared to Green Bay at No. 12 (353.3 YPG). Rodgers’ recent play inspires more faith, but Brady should still be a good bet to bounce back from a bad loss.
Pick: Buccaneers + 2
Los Angeles Rams (-3, 51.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Youmans: A month ago, this line would have been flipped, but most bettors want nothing to do with the 49ers right now after they were blown out at home by Miami. San Francisco is riddled by injuries, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was just benched during one of his worst games. The Rams appear to be rolling at 4-1, but it was not a remarkable accomplishment to sweep four pathetic NFC East teams with losing records. The coaching edge the Rams’ Sean McVay exploited against the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Washington is not there with Kyle Shanahan on the other sideline. This is a buy-low situation on a motivated, talented and well-coached home underdog that would have been favored in this matchup not long ago. I think the Rams should be favored, but by less than a field goal, so I’ll take 3.5.
Pick: 49ers + 3.5
Dinsick: The Rams find themselves in a tricky spot this weekend as they head on the road for the fourth time in five weeks on the back of a third trip to the East Coast this season. As 3-point favorites on the road, their market value is higher as it could possibly be and in my opinion is inflated based on convincing wins against bad teams, including Philadelphia, the New York Giants and Washington. Similarly, the market value for the 49ers has bottomed out following embarrassing losses at the hands of the Eagles and the Dolphins at home in Weeks 4 and 5.
This has set up a classic sell-high/buy-low spot to back San Francisco as the 49ers look to save their season that has been derailed by the injury bug. While it is acknowledged that the replacement level players for the 49ers defense will be tested by the Rams dynamic offense (fifth in the league in EPA per play at 0.174), the weapons and scheme that Shanahan has to call on match up very well against a Rams defense that can be exploited by a physical, run-heavy approach complemented by targets to all-world tight end George Kittle. With the lookahead line in this game flipping from SF -3 all the way to SF + 3 (a whopping 20% swing in implied win probability based on moneyline prices), and the history of competitiveness between these division rivals, it is reasonable to back the dog in this contest as my numbers make this a 1-point game.
Pick: 49ers + 3