Week 5 NFL picks against the spread
A wild Sunday of football awaits with 12 spreads under a TD! Picks for every game, with Packers and Titans best bets
Baseball playoffs have begun, the NHL season is here, and the NBA is knocking on the door. But Sundays belong to football, and this Sunday looks especially promising. Only two of 15 games this week have more than a touchdown spread, and one of those already happened Thursday night. Over half the games are projected within a field goal! That means a lot of good football and plenty of close finishes. NFL RedZone Channel better be ready.
Six of the eight divisional leaders match up this week, and that doesn’t even include an NFC Championship rematch between the Eagles and Vikings. Add in an always entertaining Rams-Seahawks showdown and a potential loser-goes-home battle between the Falcons and Steelers, and Sunday shapes up to be a heck of a day of football.
It’s been a wild season thus far, and we went 7–5–3 last week, pushing two of our three best bets. We’re hanging around and already hit one of our Week 5 best bets, so let’s keep the good times rolling with some picks …
The stay aways
Arizona +4 at San Francisco
Our first unwatchable game of the season. The 49ers were my worst-to-first division winner pick before the bottom fell out with a litany of injuries, and the Cards’ season was over before it started. Both teams have played hard but neither is very good. Arizona’s lost on a late field goal two straight weeks and its opponents are a combined 11–4, and the Cardinals have weirdly won six in a row in this series. Take the points.
Carolina -6.5 vs New York Giants
The Giants just aren’t very good, and the Panthers continue to be the Panthers. They’re a tough defense with a very specific sort of offense that either works or doesn’t work depending on the matchup. It should work just fine here against a team that doesn’t have the linebackers to cover Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield or spy on Cam Newton. Carolina is coming off an early bye and should roll with the extra rest advantage.
Dallas +3 at Houston (Sunday night)
It’s a Sunday night snoozer unless you’re from the Lone Star State. Way back on September 8, 2002, the Texans won their franchise’s first ever game against the Cowboys, but Dallas has won all three since. Both teams boast a nasty pass rush, but only one of them has an offensive line able to stop it. The Dallas OL isn’t what it once was, but Houston’s line should get dominated. Houston is a Frank Reich gift from being winless in their last ten games, and Dallas is so listless they’re an underdog. Honestly, do yourself a favor and skip this one for some Divisional Round baseball or some God Friended Me.
Trust the defense
Denver +1 at New York Jets
Another shocking line as S-S-Sam Darnold and the Jets are actually favored against the visiting Broncos. The Jets may have thrown everyone off the scent with a Week 1 Monday Night Football explosion against the Lions. They’ve scored under 14 ppg in three games since, and this is a Denver defense that just kept the Chiefs in check for three quarters. Darnold’s never played against someone like Von Miller before.
Baltimore -3 at Cleveland
I still believe in Baker Mayfield, but I’m starting to come to grips with the coaches and bad juju he’s attached to. The Browns have made every Cleveland finish must-see, but this week may be different. Like Darnold, Mayfield has never faced this caliber of defense. Baltimore is nasty, allowing just 10.3 ppg with C.J. Mosley on the field, and now they get Jimmy Smith back too. The Ravens have destroyed Cleveland over the past decade, winning 20 of 22 in the series, and five of those 20 wins were even single digits.
Los Angeles Chargers -5 vs Oakland
The Chargers defense doesn’t quite measure up to the others in this section without Joey Bosa, but they’re rounding into form. The Chargers are the far superior team and should win the game, but they love to sweat out the cover with an uncanny ability to stall in the red zone and poor special teams play. Seven of the last eight in this series have been one-score games, and Oakland has been in every game at halftime. All signs point to a close Raiders loss, but I’ll bet on the Chargers talent.
Seattle’s last stand
Seattle +7.5 vs Los Angeles Rams
The Seahawks were 0–2 and D.O.A. a couple weeks ago, but this game is the chance to save their season. Everyone’s been talking about Earl Thomas and the bird all week, but Pete Carroll teams always seem to respond with their backs against the wall. Carroll’s Seahawks have been favored in 47 of their last 50 home games in the Russell Wilson era and they’ve never been more than a four-point underdog at CenturyLink. Can they stop the runaway freight train that is this Rams offense? Call it a bet on Seattle resiliency and pride. If you really believe, the Seahawks are +300 to win outright.
Loser’s in trouble
Atlanta +3 at Pittsburgh
Both teams are too talented to call this a Loser’s Out game already in Week 5, but the team that loses here will be in some serious trouble. Would anyone have expected either of these teams to leave Week 5 with only two wins, let alone one? Both teams have moved the ball well but struggled on defense. Atlanta is 1–3 but finally has the offense clicking again, and perhaps we can forgive their defense for struggling against Philly, Carolina, New Orleans, and Cincinnati while adjusting to the loss of three starters. Pittsburgh should probably be 0–4. Something’s not right on that team, and they got shredded by a similar offense against Kansas City. The over/under for this one is 58 points, and these teams have played four times this century and gone to overtime thrice. The Falcons save their season on the road.
Philadelphia -3 vs Minnesota
Look, I’m not going to be able to talk cogently about this game. Remember the NFC Championship? These teams do, and they’ve combined to win just four games since. I still believe in both these rosters, both in the top seven of my power rankings, but one will be in a serious hole after a loss here. Minnesota had a semi-bye to figure out its defense after a Thursday night beatdown, but I’m not sure that’s enough to fix these defensive schemes, especially against the team that so exposed them in January. Philadelphia’s defense has done its job and the offense is beginning to come around. Neither team can run the ball right now, so expect a lot of passing. And with the way this Vikings secondary just got shredded, advantage home team. Prove me wrong, Vikes.
Division leader showdowns
Cincinnati -5.5 vs Miami
Exactly no one predicted this game to be a showdown of division leaders one month ago, but here we are. I’m not buying either team yet, with neither in the top 20 of my quarter-season power rankings, but I buy the Bengals more. Miami’s three wins were against the Jets and Raiders and in a monsoon before getting blown out by New England. The Bengals have been much more impressive, averaging over 31 ppg even without Joe Mixon, and he’s back this week. The Dolphins have won 13 of 15 matchups, but these teams have never played as division leaders. It won’t happen again any time soon.
Washington +6.5 at New Orleans (Monday)
Drew Brees needs 201 yards to set the all-time NFL passing record Monday night, and Mark Ingram is finally back, so there’s a chance this offense could just explode early and crush the Redskins. But Washington is coming off a bye and should be able to move the ball against this defense. Neither of these teams has been particularly convincing yet, so Monday could tell us a lot. I’m taking the points until the Saints show me they can really roll a decent team.
Kansas City -3 vs Jacksonville
The Jaguars defense is nasty, but so is the Chiefs offense. Jacksonville is at its best covering base 11 personnel (one RB, one TE, and three WRs). The Chiefs run among the league’s fewest 11 sets, using a variety of motion and schemes that often includes multiple tight ends or backs, and that will be even truer with Sammy Watkins sidelined. Jacksonville has a month of game tape on Patrick Mahomes now, and that could be a problem. But Mahomes getting out and running could be a problem too, and I’m not sure the Jags will have a good answer for Travis Kelce. This game is about defense and physicality versus offense and speed. I’m going with the glitz and glam.
Week 5 best bets
New England -11 vs Indianapolis
We’re off to a good start. The Pats have now won eight straight against the Colts by an average of 18 points. Turns out they’re still pissed about SpyGate.
Tennessee -6 at Buffalo
Wait, what? I’m not sure there are five teams in the league the Bills should be less than a touchdown underdog to, and the Titans sure ain’t one of them. Here’s what Buffalo has scored in each half this season: 0, 0, 0, 3, 6, 14, and 27 — and the 14 was in garbage time and the 27 was aided by like 400 Vikings turnovers. The Titans defense is for real and Mariota looks healthy enough. If he were 100%, we would have locked this one in. UPDATE- this line leapt to 6 which makes more sense. We’ll stick with the Titans but it’s no longer a best bet.
Green Bay PK at Detroit
I’m sorry, since when is Aaron Rodgers a coin flip against the Detroit Lions? Rodgers has played 16 games against the Lions in his career. That’s the equivalent of a full season. Here’s what that 16-game “season” looks like: 37 TDs, 6 interceptions, and over 4000 yards. Basically, Rodgers against Detroit is the MVP. Who cares if all the Packers receivers are hurt this weekend? Rodgers ain’t losing to the Lions.