Week 6: Steelers at Chiefs
Week 5 NFL betting concluded in a way that was at once fitting with the rest of the season so far and also out of the ordinary.
The Chicago Bears slipped in a cover of plus-3.5 on Monday Night Football with Mitchell Trubisky’s first career touchdown pass, to Zach Miller, in a 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
In one way, it should have come as no surprise in what’s so far been a year of underdogs on NFL point spreads. Teams taking points improved to a highly profitable 43-33-1 on the year.
The one place the underdogs hadn’t struck consistently, however, was in standalone primetime games, which traditionally draw the largest amount of betting volume. The Bears’ cover ended a stretch of six straight primetime contests, starting with the Cowboys’ 28-27 win over the Cardinals as 3-point favorites in Week 3, where the favorite won and covered.
Sports books have easily put together a winning year so far on the NFL, but the one thing that’s held them back from likely a record rake is the favorites coming through in big games.
Look below to see if Talking Points expects that to continue in Week 6 with picks on every game. They’re separated into three confidence categories as always, with lines the best currently available in Las Vegas. The overall record for the year stands at 45-31-1. Come back later for a pick on Monday Night Football between Indianapolis and Tennessee after a line is released.
New York Giants plus-12 at Denver Broncos The Giants’ last three losses have come by a total of 10 points, so the narrative that they’ve already quit on the season doesn’t check out. The Broncos’ offense has improved from last year, but it’s mostly gone from dreadful to mediocre, meaning they don’t have the firepower to lay two touchdowns early in the season.
Minnesota Vikings plus-3.5 vs. Green Bay Packers Green Bay has only seen one defense remotely as strong as Minnesota’s, and that was Cincinnati, which covered and nearly beat the Packers before losing 35-31 in overtime. The Vikings are 8-3 against the spread at U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last year, and 19-8 versus the number at home under coach Mike Zimmer.
Philadelphia Eagles plus-3.5 at Carolina Panthers Line implies Carolina is slightly better than Philadelphia, which any statistical information renders a preposterous notion. To pick one of the easiest measures in comparing teams that are both 4-1 straight-up and 3-2 against the spread, the Eagles have a plus-38 point differential to Carolina’s plus-11.
Washington Redskins minus-9.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers Washington has played the toughest schedule in the NFL thus far, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, so it’s in all likelihood better than its 2-2 straight-up and against the spread record indicates. Quarterback Kirk Cousins should pick apart a San Francisco pass defense that’s lacking.
New England Patriots minus-9.5 at New York Jets The cause of all the Patriots’ early-season problems comes from the defense, which played better in a 19-14 win over the Buccaneers as 5.5-point favorites. Now coach Bill Belichick has enjoyed 10 days to tinker further after that Thursday Night Football win going into a game against a terrible offense.
Tennessee Titans minus-7.5 vs. Indianapolis Colts Colts' two victories are by three points apiece against the only two winless teams in the NFL. The Titans at least have a couple victories, against the Seahawks and Jaguars, that show they're not among the dregs of the league.
Jacksonville Jaguars minus-2.5 vs. Los Angeles Rams The Jaguars are much better on defense; the Rams are much better on offense. Jaguars playing at home, with a minute point spread, breaks the stalemate.
Arizona Cardinals plus-2.5 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Never want to lay points with a team traveling West from the east coast, let alone one like Tampa Bay which lost 40-7 as 7.5-point underdogs in its trip to Arizona last year. Enthusiasm is dampened, however, by the fact that the Cardinals haven’t even come close to covering a spread all year.
Pittsburgh Steelers plus-4.5 at Kansas City Chiefs Steelers still rank second in the NFL by Football Outsiders’ DAVE ratings — which merges performance so far this season with a small adjustment for preseason expectation — so their demise has been greatly exaggerated. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing five interceptions, as he did in a 30-7 loss to the Jaguars last week, is more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come.
New Orleans Saints minus-5 vs. Detroit Lions The Saints, with their improved defense joining an always formidable offense, were the clear play when the number opened minus-3. Now as high as minus-6, it’s harder to commit to laying the inflated price.
Atlanta Falcons minus-11 vs. Miami Dolphins Keeping its current pace of 3.9 yards per play would make the Dolphins the worst offense in the NFL of the last 13 years. Miami will make minor improvements but look like such a mess that laying a big number against it is less of a concern than it would be under normal circumstances.
Oakland Raiders minus-3 vs. Los Angeles Chargers CG Technology is the only shop with a line on this game, as all the other sports books wait for clarification on the status of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. But it looks more likely than not Carr will play, and if he does, this line will likely close a point or 1.5 points higher.
Chicago Bears plus-7 at Baltimore Ravens It’s asking too much to lay a touchdown with a team like the Ravens, which are in the NFL’s bottom four in only gaining 4.6 yards per play on offense. The Bears are also stingier than expected on defense, slipping into the top 10 at giving up 5.1 yards per play.
Cleveland Browns plus-10 at Houston Texans Counting on moderate improvement with the Browns by virtue of swapping out green rookie DeShone Kizer, who racked up nine interceptions in less than five games, for serviceable veteran Kevin Hogan. Last week’s 17-14 loss to the Jets as 1-point underdogs was fluky, as the Browns had a dominant 200-yard and 1.7-yard per play advantage.