Week 5 FO Staff Picks: Best Bet to Win AFC North?
NFL Week 5 - Compiled by Vincent Verhei
Sometimes, gambling advice is objective—like in the NFL picks you get with FO+, for instance. But sometimes gambling advice is subjective. We're trying something new this week, with staff picks from the FO writers. We'll do this every week if it gets a good response: picks against the spread, straight-up upsets, and player prop bets the FO staff likes in Week 5, plus a bonus question each week. This week's bonus question asks about the best odds in the AFC North.
Lines are taken from the consensus at Vegas Insider.
Favorite Pick Against the Spread
Cale Clinton: New England Patriots (-3) vs. Detroit Lions. The Lions, even when banged up, have managed to put up numbers in each of their first four games. What do those four games have in common? All of them have been in domes. This is Detroit's first game outdoors this season, and if receiver availability is limited, an already uncertain passing situation just got more difficult. Detroit's bottom-of-the-league defense shouldn't pose too big a threat against Bailey Zappe. Maybe even parlay this one with the Under 46 points.
Bryan Knowles: Denver Broncos (-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts. Jonathan Taylor may not play. Even if he does, he'll be banged up, and even if he is healthy, the Colts have been terrible on the ground; 32nd in rush DVOA. Shaq Leonard will be out as well, with a concussion. Matt Ryan seems to be several flavors of toast. And the Colts are flying two time zones west, which seems to matter for Thursday nights—teams are 2-12-1 against the spread when having to travel multiple time zones out west since TNF became a thing. Colts go to bed early; Broncos cover handily.
Ian O'Connor: San Francisco 49ers (-6.5) at Carolina Panthers. This Panthers offense has been bad. They're 31st overall and 31st in passing. The run game has been better at 16th, but they have the unenviable task of taking on the league's top-ranked defense. San Francisco is first against the run, fourth against the pass, and third in adjusted sack rate. Baker Mayfield and company are going to have a tough time scoring, so give me the 49ers by a touchdown or more.
Jackson Roberts: Philadelphia Eagles (-5) at Arizona Cardinals. This is a mismatch in every sense of the word. The Eagles are second in DVOA and the Cards are 29th. Philly also has four offensive skill players I like more than any of Arizona's. It's hard for me to see this one staying close.
Aaron Schatz: Philadelphia Eagles (-5) at Arizona Cardinals. I'm still driving the Eagles bandwagon but it's nice to have so many people joining me at this point. Really, the Eagles are much improved thanks to players such as Haason Reddick and A.J. Brown? Who could have known! We were also particularly down on Arizona before the season and their defense has certainly played down to our projections, currently ranking 29th in DVOA. This is a bigger mismatch than the line indicates, but hey Cardinals fans, at least DeAndre Hopkins is coming back in two weeks.
Tom Strachan: Washington Commanders (+2.5) vs. Tennessee Titans. I'm not going to pretend I think the Commanders are a good team, or playing particularly well, but I also don't think the Titans can keep being as efficient as they are in their red zone metrics. Washington operates as a pass-funnel defense, ranking sixth-best in rush defense DVOA in contrast to their pass defense DVOA which is third worst in the league. The Titans are incredibly thin at receiver and if Washington can neutralize Derrick Henry they might just stand a chance here.
Mike Tanier: Pittsburgh Steelers (+14) at Buffalo Bills. As regular readers know, I won big with Cooper Rush in his first start, then won bigger with the Brian Hoyer/Zappe Branigan experience and their glorious overtime cover last week. Betting a backup in his first start is a controlled substance for me, and I am totally hooked again after those fixes. So Kenny Pickett and the Steelers +14? Cannot … resist … the … siren … song.
Vincent Verhei: Philadelphia Eagles (-5) at Arizona Cardinals. Lemme get this straight. You're gonna let me take the No. 4 offense (by DVOA) against the No. 29 defense, and I also get the No. 3 defense against the No. 22 offense, and I don't even have to spot you a full touchdown? Yes, please.
Upset of the Week
Limited to teams that are underdogs by three points or more.
Cale Clinton: Seattle Seahawks (+5.5) at New Orleans Saints. Don't want to touch most of the underdogs here with a ten-foot pole, but I'm all aboard the Geno Train at this point. Plus, the Saints are playing immediately following a game in London. Of the 60 teams to play across the pond, only five played the following week. According to Action Network, those teams are 2-3 straight up in the following week. Mostly noise, but the inspired football by Seattle with a slight competitive advantage on the rest front makes this one intriguing.
Bryan Knowles: Cleveland Browns (+3) vs L.A. Chargers. This will require a certain game script to happen, because I don't think Jacoby Brissett can keep up with Justin Herbert if this becomes a shootout. But while it is close, I like the matchup of Nick Chubb against the Chargers' 18th-ranked run defense. Both James Robinson and Dameon Pierce went for 100-plus yards against Los Angeles on 17 rushes or fewer over the past two weeks; there's little doubt in my mind Chubb can do the same if given the opportunity. Keep an eye on the status of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, however; both are questionable as of press time.
Ian O'Connor: Dallas Cowboys (+5.5) at Los Angeles Rams. L.A. looked awful on Monday night, outside of Cooper Kupp. The line has allowed the second most sacks through four games and the fourth-highest adjusted sack rate. That's not ideal against a Dallas defense with the highest adjusted sack rate and second most sacks. Micah Parsons should continue to wreak havoc and give Matthew Stafford fits all day. The Cooper Rush-led Cowboys offense wasn't great last week, but was fifth and 11th in DVOA the prior two weeks. I think they can do enough to pull off the upset against an underwhelming Rams defense.
Jackson Roberts: Dallas Cowboys (+5.5) at Los Angeles Rams. Cooper Rush has proven himself more than capable of managing this offense well enough to score 20 or 30 points. I don't care that it's a road game, because SoFi Stadium will be packed to the gills with Dallas supporters. And have you seen the Rams try to move the ball lately? It's like watching a passenger van trying to weave deftly through L.A. traffic.
Aaron Schatz: Detroit Lions (+3) at New England Patriots. OK, Detroit, it's nice that you currently rank 18th in DVOA -- one spot ahead of the Patriots, in fact -- but it's time to actually win some games. I think the new improved Jeff Okudah can shut down DeVante Parker, which means that if Jakobi Meyers doesn't play the Patriots will be down to (probably) Bailey Zappe throwing to... Nelson Agholor, I guess? Will they finally use the underrated Kendrick Bourne? More Lil'Jordan Humphrey? Meanwhile, the Patriots are 27th in ESPN's Pass Rush Win Rate and we know Jared Goff is at his best when he gets the time to throw in structure.
Tom Strachan: New York Jets (+3) vs. Miami Dolphins: I seem to be strangely optimistic on underdog teams this week, and I just can't shake the feeling that this Jets team might have enough to deal with Teddy Bridgewater. The Jets didn't play incredibly against the Steelers but they did show spirit and the Dolphins are banged up in their secondary. Maybe, just maybe...
Mike Tanier: Houston Texans (+7.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm still strangely bullish about the Texans, who look for a downright capable team for two quarters per game and then turn into UMass for the other two quarters. I honestly don't think the gap between them and the Jaguars is as wide as it appears.
Vincent Verhei: Detroit Lions (+3) at New England Patriots. (Deep, exhausted sigh.) I am already kicking myself for this one. Every week I find myself impressed with the Lions only to see them make enough big mistakes to lose yet another winnable game. That's not a good recipe against Bill Belichick. But I trust Detroit's offensive firepower more than I trust Brian Hoyer or Bailey Zappe.
Do You Have a Particular Player You Like to Put Up Really Strong Fantasy Points or Go Over His Betting Props This Week?
Ian O'Connor: Travis Kelce, TE, KC. Kelce has averaged seven catches and 101 yards on 9.5 targets in 8 games vs. the Raiders since Patrick Mahomes became the starter. He has scored a touchdown in four of those eight, but was held without a touchdown catch against them last season. I like Kelce to have another big game and get into the end zone on Monday Night Football.
Jackson Roberts: Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, RBs, CLE. Did you know that the Chargers and Browns also met in Week 5 last season? That day, Chubb and Hunt combined for 265 total yards and three touchdowns. And if you think this year is going to be any different, I'll just point out that the Chargers are currently 31st in DVOA for pass coverage against running backs…
Aaron Schatz: Khalil Herbert, RB, CHI. The Vikings had a slightly better day in run defense last week, moving up to 27th in run defense DVOA, but they are still pretty bad against the run. And we know the Bears like to run the ball because anything is better than their passing game right now.
Tom Strachan: Dallas Goedert, TE, PHI. Goedert has THE matchup of the week as he faces an Arizona side that ranks 29th in DVOA against tight ends and has allowed 29.1 fantasy points per game to the position. No other defense has surrendered more than 22.2 per game. All signs point to a big game.
Vincent Verhei: Jamaal Williams, RB, DET. Doubling down on the Lions against the Patriots is not something I would generally recommend. But with D'Andre Swift sidelined, I picked Williams last week, and he rewarded me with 108 yards and two touchdowns. That's a league-high six rushing touchdowns for Williams this season, and now he gets to face a New England defense that ranks 31st in run defense DVOA—and since the Lions themselves are 32nd, this is the worst run defense Williams will face all season.
The top three teams in the AFC North are now 2-2, with Pittsburgh at 1-3 and about to (maybe) start a new quarterback. Where do you think there is value in betting that division? Current consensus odds are:
Cale Clinton: I feel like this might be the best money you get Baltimore at the rest of the year, especially considering the level they've played at thus far. Their toughest games are behind them, facing a pedestrian 16th-best strength of schedule going forward. Getting plus money, though, the right bet is probably Cleveland. They technically sit atop the AFC North right now because of their 1-0 division record. It's a risk, gambling on whether Deshaun Watson still looks like the player we last saw almost two years ago, but once they get past Tampa Bay, the Browns have a great six-game runway into the postseason, three of which are against division opponents.
Ian O'Connor: I lean with Baltimore to win the division, and getting nearly even money isn't bad. But Cincinnati would be my pick here at +200. I wouldn't even entertain the idea of putting money on Pittsburgh.
Jackson Roberts: Don't overthink this one. Baltimore has trailed for a grand total of 14 seconds this entire season. Yes, it's a disappointment that they're only 2-2 given that factoid, but I feel better about their chances to avoid random stinkers against mediocre-to-bad teams than I do the Bengals. It's the Ravens' division as long as they have their MVP candidate under center.
Aaron Schatz: I'm still all about Baltimore here, I think they're still one of the best teams in the league and they're not going to constantly be blowing fourth-quarter leads all year. There's some randomness to those losses. Cincinnati has the hardest remaining schedule by average DVOA of opponent; Baltimore's future schedule is average.
Tom Strachan: Batimore might have had a couple of uncharacteristic games this season, but it's worth noting that none of the starters played in preseason and trained at a much lower tempo than usual. As the Ravens feel their way into the season they'll sort their issues out.
Mike Tanier: The only value here is wagering on you-know-who to come back from suspension and go HAM. I'd rather stuff my money down the garbage disposal than do that.
Vincent Verhei: I have an angel on one shoulder telling me not to overthink this, that Baltimore is probably going to win the division, and they're a fair bet at those odds. I have a devil on the other shoulder telling me that the Ravens have shown they are vulnerable, and that the Bengals could still get things figured out and go on a second-half run like they did last year, and the payoff for a Cincinnati win would be much greater. Today, I am going to listen to the angel. Today.