Week 6: Chiefs at Patriots
The stat book. The record book. The sports book.
Drew Brees saw his fortunes improve in all three to cap Week 5 of the NFL season. The New Orleans Saints’ quarterback put on a show on Monday Night Football against the Redskins, completing 26 of 29 passes for 363 yards to pass Peyton Manning as the league’s all-time leading passer in a 43-19 victory.
By the odds, the performance also put him closer to the one thing that’s eluded Brees throughout his career — an MVP trophy. Brees is now a plus-450 (risking $1 to win $4.50) third choice to win the NFL’s top individual honor, behind only Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (3-to-1) and Rams quarterback Jared Goff (4-to-1).
Brees has twice finished second in MVP voting, in 2006 and 2011, and twice won Offensive Player of the Year honors, in 2008 and 2011, but never broke through like his peers Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Brees is currently 39 years old, which may sound like an advanced age to claim the trophy, but Brady earned his third last year in his age-40 season.
The Saints have also seen their Super Bowl fortunes improve in recent weeks as they’re now 10-to-1 and behind only the Rams (7-to-4), Chiefs (6-to-1) and Patriots (6-to-1). The latter two play each other on Sunday Night Football this week, meaning it’s conceivable Brees and the Saints could continue moving up despite their bye week.
Read below to find out which side Talking Points likes in that marquee game, along with picks on all of the Week 6 contests. Picks are separated in three confidence categories, with lines the best on the chosen side in Las Vegas at the time of publication. The blog’s overall record picking every game this season stands at 40-33-5.
Oakland Raiders plus-3 vs. Seattle Seahawks The Seahawks put up a terrific fight in a 33-31 loss to the Rams as 7.5-point underdogs last week, but over the last several seasons, they’ve consistently performed below expectations without injured safety Earl Thomas. That should catch up to them again and it might start against Oakland as the Raiders’ pass offense quietly ranks eighth in the NFL in averaging 7.8 yards per attempt.
Pittsburgh Steelers plus-2.5 at Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati’s status as an AFC contender is constructed on a shaky foundation considering it was outgained in its first three victories and needed a pair of defensive touchdowns to come back and beat Miami last week. The Steelers will be the best offense the Bengals have seen all year with the only comparable attack belonging to the Falcons, which torched Cincinnati for 8.2 yards per play.
New England Patriots minus-3 vs. Kansas City Chiefs There’s no doubt the Patriots have a better defense than the Chiefs, with Kansas City still ranking 29th in the NFL in giving up 6.5 yards per play. But over the last two weeks, the Patriots have also been better on offense as they’ve gradually gotten their full complement of players back. Taking the deflated field-goal price is a must, even if it means paying minus-120 — and it currently does at the few sports books that haven’t moved to 3.5.
Philadelphia Eagles minus-3 at New York Giants A lot of factors are pointing upwards for the Eagles including Carson Wentz getting more comfortable, positive regression to be expected after losing three games by less than a touchdown and a likely tunaround from a minus-4 turnover margin. The Giants have a lot less working them.
Dallas Cowboys plus-3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars There’s been a lot of talk about how poorly Dallas has performed on offense, but Jacksonville hasn’t played much better — and the Jaguars are even more inconsistent. Offensive no-shows against the pitiful Chiefs’ defense and average-at-best Titans’ unit make laying points on the road too much to ask.
Washington Redskins minus-1 vs. Carolina Panthers Must think this number would be a couple points higher if the Redskins were even respectable against the Saints on Monday Night Football. The Panthers don’t have the Saints’ explosive offense to pull away, and more importantly, have really struggled on defense to rate 26th in the league in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus-3.5 at Atlanta Falcons Extra half-point makes the pick on the Buccaneers a little easier. No team has been better than Tampa Bay at creating explosive plays — and it’s short-sighted to think that will change with Jameis Winston replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick considering the former was higher rated coming into the season — and no team has been worse at limiting big plays than Atlanta.
Baltimore Ravens minus-2.5 at Tennessee Titans Not the Chiefs, but the Ravens lead the AFC in point differential at plus-55 through five games. Baltimore is unlucky to be sitting at 3-2 straight-up, while Tennessee has benefitted from many breaks to post the same record.
Miami Dolphins plus-3 vs. Chicago Bears An additional half-point, if it appears, could go a long way in what totals imply will be the lowest-scoring game of the week. Not sure if this is the ideal situation but looking for spots to fade the Bears, as it’s hard to maintain the level of defensive success they’ve had early in the season regardless of how many stars are on the roster.
San Francisco 49ers plus-10 at Green Bay Packers With a 223-yard and 0.6-yard per play advantage over the last two weeks, the 49ers have played well enough to win a game under injury-replacement quarterback C.J. Beathard despite dropping both contests. Never hesitate grabbing double-digit spreads with competent coaches, and Kyle Shannahan certainly belongs in that category.
New York Jets minus-2.5 vs. Indianapolis Colts The Jets have arguably been better on both sides of the ball — gaining 5.6 yards per play to the Colts’ 5, and giving up 5.4 yards per play to the Colts’ 5.6 — and yet the vast majority of the early action is on the Colts. The home team has to be the pick at below a field goal.
Minnesota Vikings minus-10.5 vs. Arizona Cardinals One isolated, unrelated result holds no bearing over this game, so don’t get sucked into the Cardinals based off of the Vikings failing as a double-digit favorite over the Bills earlier in the season. If anything, the Vikings’ Week 3 loss might put value on them here as they were 17-point favorites in that game and the Cardinals are not a touchdown better than the Bills.
Houston Texans minus-8.5 vs. Buffalo Bills Remember how the Bills bounced back from that triumphant aforementioned victory? They got shut out 22-0 as 8.5-point underdogs at Green Bay. History may repeat, as Houston’s defense is consistently improving and ranks fifth in the NFL in adjusted sack rate.
Los Angeles Chargers minus-1 at Cleveland Browns The Chargers have risen to No. 5 in DVOA, and are quite possibly undervalued in the betting market based on their unexceptional 3-2 straight-up, 2-3 against the spread record. But it’s important to remember two of the losses in each category came against a pair of Super Bowl favorites in the Chiefs and Rams.
Denver Broncos plus-7 vs. Los Angeles Rams Los Angeles is dealing with a few of injury clusters — including in the defensive backfield and wide receiving corps — that makes it a stay away at inflated prices for the next couple weeks. From an overall team-value standpoint, Denver is practically a mirror image of the Seattle team that nearly upset Los Angeles last week.