NFL Week 5 kicked off with the unusual occurrence of a decent Thursday night game. The Patriots overcame two turnovers, twelve penalties and an inability to finish (1-3 in red zone, settling for four field goals) to defeat the Bucs 19-14 in Tampa. Nick Folk’s three missed field goals were the bulls eye for the wrath of Buc fans, but there was more to their loss than that. Tampa Bay was unable to capitalize on either turnover, and the play calling deserved scrutiny as well. Doug Martin gashed the Patriot defense to the tune of 5.7 yards per carry, but he was not utilized at all on the final three possessions. Both teams are on the road next week: the Patriots at the Jets, and Tampa Bay at Arizona.
Pittsburgh (-8) is the only team favored by more than a touchdown this week. Tennessee (at Miami), Kansas City (at Houston) and Minnesota (at Chicago) join New England at Tampa as the Week 5 road favorites. The Patriots had spent most of the week at -5½ but Rob Gronkowski’s status spurred late money on the Bucs, bringing the final line to four points in most venues, and even 3½ at some parlors.
Some interesting Money Lines to consider this week include the underdog Chargers +150 at the Giants and Buffalo +150 at Cincinnati. On the other side favorites Tennessee -145 at Miami, Kansas City -120 at Houston, and Minnesota -145 at Chicago are worth a look. The largest point totals are Green Bay at Dallas (52½) and Seahawks at Rams (47½). On the other end of the scale Baltimore at Oakland and the Bills at Bengals both have over/unders of 39½.
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NFL Week 5 Early Games
Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants (-3½), o/u 45
The Chargers fired head coach Mike McCoy after losing so many winnable games a year ago. Fast forward to the 2017 season and it’s déjà vu. Under Anthony Lynn the Chargers are 0-4 with three losses by three points or less. The crowd could turn on the Giants should they fall behind, and they have never had much of a home field advantage over the years in East Rutherford.
Pick: Chargers 24, Giants 20
Chargers +3½ (two units)
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (-3), 39½
The Buffalo defense is allowing an NFL best 13.5 point per game. Cincinnati’s offense struggled mightily the first two games of the year, but has scored 55 points the last two weeks. Flying under the radar is the Bengal defense. Cincy’s D is giving up just 16.8 points per game and 4.4 yards per play, both third best in the league. The Bills are attempting to win consecutive road games, and face the challenge of playing three away games in four weeks.
Pick: Bengals 17, Bills 13
New York Jets at Cleveland Browns (pick), 40
Both teams are devoid of talent and looking ahead to the 2018 draft. The Jets have taken a page from the movie Major League and are sabotaging management’s plans to tank. Todd Bowles has Gang Green playing solid fundamental football on defense, forcing opponents to go on long drives while waiting to exploit a mistake. Cleveland’s defense has played well against the run but the Browns are allowing 8.3 yards per pass attempt.
Pick: Jets 20, Browns 17
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-9), 42½
The Steelers beat arch rival Baltimore last week, and face the undefeated Chiefs a week ago. This is the perfect setup for a letdown, and the Jaguar defense is capable of keeping this game close.
Pick: Steelers 24, Jaguars 17
Tennessee Titans (-2½) at Miami Dolphins, 43
Matt Cassel is expected to get the start for Tennessee due to Marcus Mariota’s hamstring injury. Since 2012 Cassel is 8-18 with 27 TD and 36 picks. Despite Miami’s offensive impotence (last in the NFL with 8.3 points per game), it is really difficult to picture the Titans going on the road for a win Sunday.
Pick: Dolphins 16, Titans 13
San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts (-1½), 44½
There is no justification to take the Niners on the road straight up, and this point spread is so low that is essentially what one would be doing. Indy plays well in spurts but then looks awful the next quarter. The Colt defense is dead last at 34.0 points per game and is allowing 6.1 yards per play (29th). San Fran’s offense has been equally inefficient, so something has to give there. The Niners rank 26th in scoring (16.5 ppg), 26th in yards per play (4.7), 28th in the red zone (38.5%) and 30th on third down (30%).
Pick: Colts 24, Niners 20
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles (-6½), 45
The Cardinals have been unable to do anything at all on the ground since losing RB David Johnson in week one. That puts more pressure on Carson Palmer to carry the team. Problem is that the Cardinal offensive line is a sieve. Once the Eagles take a lead they can tee it up against that OL. Palmer has already been sacked a league high 17 times and that number may reach 20 – by halftime.
Pick: Eagles 24, Cardinals 13
Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions (-2½), 42½
Detroit leads the league with 11 takeaways, while Carolina has none in the last three games and is 31st with a -5 turnover differential. The Lion defense Carolina’s signature win last week was more about what the Patriot defense did not do than what the Panthers did do. Carolina is scoring 19.5 points per game despite having played against three bad defenses. Last week Cam Newton wasn’t able to handle success very well; how will he handle a loss with all eyes upon him Sunday? It’s really difficult to win back-to-back road games in the NFL.
Pick: Lions 20, Panthers 16
NFL Week 5 Late Games
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-1½), 47½
What, the Rams are favored to beat Seattle?! The Seahawk defense has struggled against opposing running backs in both the running game (5.0 yards per carry) and catching passes out of the backfield (8 yards per pass attempt). Todd Gurley presents a matchup problem for the Seattle defense that will not have the benefit of their 12th man home crowd. On the other side of the ball the Ram defense has struggled (4.9 yards per carry, 26.3 points per game), but still should be able to take advantage of a porous Seattle offensive line.
Pick: Rams 23, Seahawks 20
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders (-3), 39½
Joe Flacco has now thrown an interception in ten straight games. The Raven QB has a league worst 5.0 yards per pass attempt and 31st ranked passer rating of 65.0. The Raven defense has struggled against the run, which plays right into Oakland’s game plan. With Derek Carr (back injury) out, EJ Manuel will be under center for the Raiders. That means plenty of carries for Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard.
Pick: Raiders 24, Ravens 17
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-3), 52½
Dallas plays much better at home, where Dak Prescott has a 109.6 passer rating in his last seven games. The Cowboy offensive line has not performed as well as they did last year, but should be able to easily handle a mediocre Green Bay defense. That means a big day for Ezekiel Elliott, who has underwhelmed to the tune of 3.6 yards per carry this year. The Packers will be able to score enough to make this game close, aided by the lack of Sean Lee on defense for Dallas. Cowboys get a small bit of revenge for last year’s playoff loss to Green Bay.
Pick: Cowboys 34, Packers 30
NFL Week 5 Prime Time Games
Kansas City Chiefs (-1) at Houston Texans, 45 (Sunday night)
Houston obliterated Tennessee last week with an aggressive defense that limited the Titans to two third down conversions and nine first downs, while amassing five turnovers. DeShaun Watson broke through for five touchdowns last week and appears to be the franchise quarterback the Texans have been lacking since their inception. Kansas City finally has a good offense to compliment their defense for the first time since Dick Vermeil was the KC head coach. The Chiefs are averaging an NFL-best 6.8 yards per play, spreading the ball around to Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. KC is in a bit of a tough spot, going on the road after a hard fought Monday night game. In case you missed it the ‘meaningless’ final play of the game left gamblers in either ecstasy or agony.
Pick: Texans 24, Chiefs 20
Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Chicago Bears, 40 (Monday night)
The Chicago defense is allowing 26.0 point per game (27th) and a 47% third down conversion rate (31st). Offensively they 29th in scoring (15.2 ppg) and 23rd in yards per play (4.9). It does not matter who the quarterback is for either team or where the game is played. Minnesota (and about 90% of the NFL) is more than a field goal better than Chicago.
Pick: Vikings 27, Bears 17
Vikings -3 (two units)
NFL Week 5 Byes
New Orleans Saints