Week 4 was all about the underdogs, which is why I had a strong showing in my NFL contests.
The week of the ‘dog started on Thursday night with the Eagles winning outright in Green Bay, and then seven underdogs of 2.5 points or more won on Sunday. In addition, the Lions and Bills came close to winning at home, with both covering the spread.
While I often target underdogs, oddsmakers might shade lines in the underdogs’ favor this coming week in light of last weekend’s results, so be wary of blindly betting underdogs in Week 5.
My picks will be separated into five categories. Keep in mind that some game theory could factor into my selections because of the large-field NFL “picks” contest I’m in. For example, I might avoid a game in an attempt to be contrarian if I think a large amount of the field will be on a certain side.
There’s some solid options this week that I’ll need more time on as I make my selections. Here’s what I’m currently thinking for the Week 5 slate:
Note: My picks could change based on information and any injury news that is not factored into the contest line. I will tweet from @natejacobson1 when I have a change in opinion on a game. I will also discuss and finalize these picks on a Periscope show I host called Weekend Warriors. The show starts an hour before college football games kickoff on Saturday at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on Stadium’s Periscope or Stadium’s Twitter.
Sides I’ll use unless there’s an injury
Steelers (+3) over Ravens: I have used the Steelers in contests three times this season, and I’m, again, rolling with Pittsburgh in the home underdog role. This is more of a pick against the Ravens, who I believe are very overrated. Baltimore’s defense was exposed the last two weeks by Kansas City and Cleveland, while their two wins were against the Dolphins and at home against the Cardinals, who entered the season as the two worst teams in the NFL. I made this line a pick ’em so there’s enough value to confidently back Pittsburgh here.
Sides I’ll likely use
Falcons (+5) over Texans: The Falcons have really disappointed me this season. They’ve gotten out to slow starts in all three of their losses, and Dan Quinn and his staff consistently get outcoached. However, if there’s a game where Quinn has a coaching edge, it’s in this game against Bill O’Brien and the Texans. Houston dropped to 2-2 this season with a loss at home against the Kyle Allen-led Panthers in Week 4. My contest line for Panthers-Texans was Texans -4, so I think there’s line value on the Falcons here because Atlanta is not worse than Carolina. Atlanta also needs this game to keep their season alive, and I’m taking them to cover this number.
Buccaneers (+3.5) over Saints: The line in this game has moved quite a bit after the Buccaneers’ upset victory against the Rams last week. Combine that with the fact that the Saints failed to score a touchdown in a 12-10 win over the Cowboys in front of a national audience, and the Bucs have a solid spot to cover. While there’s not much line value to bet on Tampa Bay with the point spread at a field goal, I still like the Buccaneers when they’re getting the 3.5.
Picks I’m considering
Vikings (-5.5) over Giants: I was hoping this line would be lower after the Vikings struggled against the Bears and the Giants cruised past the Redskins last week. However, the market knows the Redskins are terrible, so there wasn’t too much of an adjustment to the line. It’s now obvious that Kirk Cousins is an above-average quarterback against bad teams and below average against strong defenses. The Giants do not have a good defense, so this is a matchup the Vikings offense can exploit.
Jets (+13.5) over Eagles: I want to keep this game in consideration if Sam Darnold plays, but the current line indicates that Darnold will be out. If he is cleared to play the line would be closer to Jets +11 because there’s around a three-point upgrade at quarterback from Luke Falk to Darnold.
Titans (-3) over Bills: The Titans are 2-0 as underdogs and 0-2 as favorites this season. That being said, I can only take Tennessee in this spot because of numerous factors. Buffalo might be without quarterback Josh Allen, and I would downgrade the Bills one point if Matt Barkley plays instead. Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan is returning from a four-game suspension, which is a big plus for Tennessee’s offense. I also want to fade the Bills coming off an “all-in” effort against the Patriots — and don’t forget that this is a revenge game for the Titans after losing an ugly one last year in Buffalo.
Cowboys (-3.5) over Packers: My decision to use this game in the contest likely hinges on the injury status of Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, who is unlikely to play as of Thursday morning. I do like the Cowboys to bounce back here after a poor offensive showing in New Orleans. Dallas is a better offense at home, and the Packers are coming off a loss to the Eagles in which their rush defense was exposed. I would’ve preferred if this line was Cowboys -3, but Dallas is the only way I can look in this game.
Colts (+11) over Chiefs: This line is inflated because of the Colts’ loss to the Raiders last week, but Indianapolis is a well-coached team that I can see showing up for a Sunday night game. However, the Colts’ injury report looks ugly with key players not practicing on Wednesday. I’m going to wait and see which players on Indianapolis are able to suit up before making a decision here.
Browns (+3.5) over 49ers: The Browns’ offense finally clicked for the first time this season in a win over the Ravens last week. That’s why this number is trending towards a field goal, so keep in mind that there is some value lost. The 49ers are 3-0 and coming off a bye, and while most bye weeks are seen as a positive, the early break will definitely kill some of San Francisco’s momentum.
Games I’ll likely avoid
Rams at Seahawks (-1.5): I like the Rams here because there has been an overreaction to their loss to the Buccaneers, but because this is Thursday Night Football I’m going to leave it out of the contests I’m in so that I can focus on the other games.
Jaguars at Panthers (-3.5): I have a slight lean to the Panthers because I’m still not sold on Jags rookie QB Gardner Minshew. However, I’m not super excited about betting on Kyle Allen either.
Games I’ll definitely avoid unless there’s a major injury
Bears (-5.5) vs. Raiders in London: This line is exactly where it should be. Bears QB Chase Daniel is a one-point downgrade to Mitch Trubisky and that is factored into the line.
Cardinals at Bengals (-3): There’s no way I’m taking a winless Bengals team as a field-goal favorite even though the Cardinals are also bad at football.
Patriots (-15.5) at Redskins: I would never bet on a road favorite of more than two touchdowns in the NFL, but I also want to stay away from the reeling Redskins.
Broncos at Chargers (-6.5): The injuries for the Chargers continue to accumulate, but the Broncos have really struggled, and I’m worried about the motivation of the team.
Follow my Twitter for updates.