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NFL Week 5 Picks Against the Spread

This is the week for several favorites to win big, including the Packers covering in London and the Bills to beat up on new Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

How is it already Week 5?

We’ve got another full slate of games on the schedule, including our second London matchup (place your bets and set your fantasy lineups accordingly) and some large spreads, none bigger than the Bills being favored by two touchdowns against the Steelers. Lines are from FanDuel. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted.

Week 4 record: 8-7-1

Season record: 36-27-1

Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-3.5)

This feels like a huge game for both of these teams. The Colts are showing a bunch of signs that suggest they might just be a terrible team. They’ve been outscored by 42 points in the first halves of their four games—the second-worst differential in the NFL. Matt Ryan leads the NFL with nine fumbles. And they very easily could be 0-3-1, if the Chiefs didn’t hand them a win in Week 3. Now the Colts go to Denver without running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Shaquille Leonard.

The Broncos have been shaky as well, but I like what I’ve seen from their defense. It’s hard to see a scenario where the Colts move the ball consistently against that group.

The pick: Broncos (-3.5)

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)

The Packers needed overtime last week to beat the Patriots and third-string QB Bailey Zappe. They’re 3-1, but their last two wins have come by a combined five points.

The Giants are also 3-1. They completed just nine passes in last week’s win over the Bears. I think the Giants’ defense will be creative and aggressive enough to keep the team competitive against bad offenses most weeks, but this game feels like another story. Aaron Rodgers has seen every blitz known to man. And, it was just a couple weeks ago that the Cowboys went up and down the field against the Giants. Green Bay takes care of business in London.

The pick: Packers (-7.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-14)

Two things stood out with quarterback Kenny Pickett in his NFL debut last week against the Jets:

  1. For better or worse, he’s going to let it rip.
  2. He’s going to make some plays with his legs.

But this is a tough spot for the Steelers. They’re sloppy on offense, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada has not shown that he’ll give them any kind of an edge schematically. Pickett will be going up against a talented defense with veteran coaches in Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Maybe he’ll make some second-reaction plays, and their receivers will win some one-on-one matchups, but I don’t see this going well for Pickett.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers have looked like a mediocre defense without T.J. Watt, and star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury.

I generally don’t like going against Mike Tomlin when he’s an underdog, but the Bills never take their foot off the gas. This one could get ugly.

The pick: Bills (-14)

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7)

Trevor Lawrence didn’t give the Jaguars a chance in the rain last week against the Eagles. He turned the ball over five times and left plays on the field all afternoon. The weather affected him as much as any quarterback I’ve seen in recent years.

The Texans go into Week 5 as the NFL’s only winless team, putting them in the driver’s seat for the no. 1 overall pick. But they’ve been competitive. Even last week against the Chargers, they scored 17 straight at one point to get back into the game.

Jaguars win, but I’m taking the points.

The pick: Texans (+7)

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-9)

Success rate measures how often each play produces a positive result in terms of Expected Points Added (EPA). It strips away outliers because a seven-yard completion on 3rd-and-6 is treated the same as a 50-yard completion. Both are deemed successful. Through four games, the Falcons’ offense ranks second in success rate. The Bucs are all the way down at 18th. Who could’ve seen that coming?

There are plenty of reasons to think that this line is too high. The Falcons have moved the ball well, and Tom Brady is listed on the Bucs’ injury report with finger and shoulder ailments. The Bucs have lost two in a row.

Still, I’m not sure the Falcons’ approach is sustainable. Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed just seven passes in their win over the Browns last week. Plus, the Falcons will be without Cordarrelle Patterson, who is on injured reserve. I think Tampa will eventually find itself on offense, and that process might start right here.

The pick: Bucs (-9)

Tennessee Titans at Washington Commanders (+2.5)

The Commanders’ season is quickly turning into a nightmare. It’s hard to identify anything that they actually do well. Washington is 30th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric—28th on offense and 24th on defense. Quarterback Carson Wentz currently ranks 26th in EPA per pass play.

The Titans are a flawed team, but the offense has had flashes, and running back Derrick Henry looked terrific during last week’s win over the Colts. The Commanders haven’t covered or beaten the spread since Week 1. It feels like the move is to continue to fade them until I get burned.

The pick: Titans (-2.5)

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-7)

The Bears’ 67 pass attempts through four games are the fewest by any team in TruMedia’s database, which goes back to 2000. Their 34 completions are also the fewest.

The Vikings defense has been shaky, but with the Bears’ issues on offense, that might not matter. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, has the pieces around him to be successful here. The Vikings rank sixth in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric, and it’s hard to see the Bears having an answer for Justin Jefferson, who’s coming off of a 10-catch, 147-yard performance against the Saints.

The pick: Vikings (-7)

Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints (-5.5)

I thought this Seahawks offense was going to stink. I thought we’d look back at Week 1 like it was a cute little moment before they came back down to earth. Yet, four games in, the Seahawks rank second in EPA per drive and fourth in offensive success rate. Last week’s performance against the Lions was the best we’ve seen by an offense in terms of EPA per drive all season. Quarterback Geno Smith looked comfortable all game long, and Rashaad Penny gashed the Lions for 151 rushing yards.

The Saints have a much better defense than the Lions, but they seem to make game-changing mistakes every week. Seattle’s defense has been the worst in the NFL in terms of EPA per drive, so maybe this is a get-right game for the Saints offense. But I feel good taking the points here.

The pick: Seahawks (+5.5)

Detroit Lions at New England Patriots (-3.5)

As of this writing, we don’t know who’s playing quarterback for the Patriots. Mac Jones was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice. If he can’t go, it’ll be rookie Bailey Zappe making his first career start after replacing an injured Brian Hoyer last week.

The Lions offense has been legitimately impressive. They’re averaging a league-best 34.5 points per game. Even without wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back D’Andre Swift last week, they piled up 520 yards against the Seahawks. Unfortunately for Detroit, they have the NFL’s worst defense, according to DVOA.

This is a tough game. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Bill Belichick put together a game plan that flusters Jared Goff (after all, he’s done it before). But given New England’s uncertainty at quarterback, combined with what the Lions have shown offensively so far this season, I’ll ride with Detroit.

The pick: Lions (+3.5)

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (+3)

Teddy Bridgewater gets the start at quarterback, as Tua Tagovailoa remains in the concussion protocol following last week’s head injury on Thursday night and while the NFL and NFLPA continue their review on how Tagovailoa’s concussion evaluation was handled in Week 3.

The Jets are 2-2, but their offense could have a tough time here. Quarterback Zach Wilson, who returned last week after missing much of the preseason and the first three games with a knee injury, is now dealing with an ankle injury, and the Dolphins rank second in pass rush win rate. I’m looking forward to some fun reps between Jets rookie corner Sauce Gardner and Dolphins receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. But I don’t think New York’s offense will move the ball consistently enough to pull off the upset.

The pick: Dolphins (-3)

Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns (+2.5)

Despite a loss last week to the Falcons, the Browns’ run game once again looked incredible. Nick Chubb led the way as Cleveland ran for 177 yards. The Browns offense has been efficient through four games with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. Defensively, they can’t stop the run, but the Chargers have the 30th-ranked rushing offense, per DVOA.

Defensive end Myles Garrett returned to practice Wednesday after missing last week’s game due to injuries sustained in a car crash. This feels like a spot where the Browns can control the game with their rushing attack, and if Garrett plays on Sunday, the Chargers could face serious issues protecting Justin Herbert.

The pick: Browns (+2.5)

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (-5.5)

I thought the Cowboys were cooked after the Dak Prescott injury. I was wrong. They’ve won three in a row, and Dallas’ defense has held opponents under 20 points in every game this season.

As for the Rams, it’s early, but the Allen Robinson II signing ($15.5 million per year with $30.25 million guaranteed!) is shaping up to be a disaster. He has nine catches for 95 receiving yards. There have been 62 wide receivers who have run at least 100 routes this season. Among that group, Robinson ranks 61st in yards per route run.

The Rams allowed seven sacks in their loss Monday night to the 49ers. Now they have to face Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence. I’ll take the points.

The pick: Cowboys (+5.5)

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals (+5.5)

The biggest rivalry in American sports right now is Kliff Kingsbury vs. the play clock. Every half of every game, the play clock nears zero, the Cardinals call timeout, and Kyler Murray and Kingsbury yell at each other. In a world filled with uncertainty, it’s one of the only things we can count on as a society.

This is an “any given Sunday” game. There’s no real reason to think the Cardinals should win. The Eagles are the better coached team and the more talented team. Their offensive line dominated last week in a win over the Jaguars. They’re the only remaining undefeated team and are second in the NFL with a +44 point differential. If you played this game out 100 times, the Eagles would more often than not win by double digits.

But football is weird. Murray thrives in chaos. Turnovers swing games. The Eagles have some injuries, and they’ve been shaky on special teams. It’s conceivable that they look past the Cardinals and ahead to their big Week 6 matchup against the Cowboys. But given what we’ve seen from these teams so far this season, I’m not going to be the one predicting that will happen.

The pick: Eagles (-5.5)

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+6.5)

Every once in a while, I’ll look at a game and think: How could anyone possibly take THAT side? This game, with this line, qualifies. The Panthers are 1-3 and have lost 10 of their last 11 games going back to last year. Baker Mayfield ranks 32nd in EPA per pass play. No caveats necessary. This team stinks.

And now the 49ers come to town boasting what looks to me like the best defense in the NFL. Offensively, we know that Kyle Shanahan is going to make sure that Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t asked to do too much. We also know that Shanahan will be conservative with his in-game decision making.

Still, it’s hard to even come up with a scenario where the Panthers are competitive. But one of my rules for game-picking is: If it looks too easy, take the other side. So, here we go. What could go wrong?

The pick: Panthers (+6.5)

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-3)

For the reasons outlined in the video below, I think John Harbaugh made the right call going for the touchdown on fourth down against the Bills last week—even though the Ravens ended up losing. Having said that, one challenge Harbaugh faces is making sure his players understand why he’s doing what he’s doing, especially when his unorthodox decisions don’t work out. Last week, cornerback Marcus Peters was livid with Harbaugh, and the coach will have to manage that type of thing going forward.

The Bengals are coming off of a Thursday night win against the Dolphins. I’m not convinced that they’ve solved all their problems, but they handled the Ravens last year, winning both games by a combined score of 82-38. I know it’s a different Ravens team, but this feels like a coin-flip game. I’m taking the points.

The pick: Bengals (+3)

Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)

Version 2.0 of the Chiefs offense without Tyreek Hill is off to a pretty good start. Here’s where Kansas City ranks in a number of different offensive categories:

  • EPA per drive: 1st
  • Points per drive: 1st
  • Points per game: 2nd
  • Success rate: 3rd

Last week, against a good Bucs defense, Patrick Mahomes made plays inside of structure and outside of structure, the Chiefs ran the ball well, and Andy Reid pulled out his usual tricks in the red zone. Mahomes leads all quarterbacks in EPA per pass play through four games.

The Raiders, meanwhile, ran for 212 yards and got their first win of the Josh McDaniels era last week against the Broncos. Their three losses came by a combined 13 points. The Raiders aren’t a great team, but they’re a competitive one. I think they’ll be able to move the ball well enough to keep this one close.

The pick: Raiders (+7.5)