Top 4 NFL Bets: Week 5

numberFire's got your back - here are four games from our premium product and some trends behind them.

We have a motto at numberFire: there is no such thing as too many numbers. And especially when the minds in Vegas like to rely on public perception as a crucial factor, it pays to know exactly what the numbers behind each individual game are. At numberFire, we offer an exclusive premium product with our official game projections, totals picks, picks against the spread, and moneyline offerings, as well as how confident we are about each. If you're looking to make some serious money, that's where to turn.

But we consider ourselves nice people; we like to give a sneak peek into the numbers behind the picks we make every once in a while. So, here for the numberFire readers, are four of the trends and matchups we find extremely interesting heading into what is expected to be another wild weekend of football.

San Diego at New Orleans: Total 54.0

Wait, 54 points? Does that line look outrageously high to anyone else? It should; that line matches the single highest totals line in any game this season with the Saints-Packers contest last weekend. When seeing a totals line that high, my initial thought is to say, "Ewww, the odds of that happening are slim to none." But historical data says that the odds are not nearly that bad. In fact, they may just swing the other way.

Since the start of the 2011 season, Vegas has set 12 totals lines at 53 points or above, including two this season. As would be expected with their amazing offense and absolutely pitiful defense, the Saints have been involved in half of those games with high lines, including each of the past five. Looking at those results, you will find that not only was the bounty program outlawed by the NFL, but it was apparently extremely poor at creating low-scoring games as well (and to think, all that money wasted for nothing!)

Opponents Year/Week Line Winning Bet
GB/NO '12 Week 4 54 Over
CAR/NO '12 Week 2 53.5 Over
CAR/NO '11 Week 17 55 Over
ATL/NO '11 Week 16 53 Over
MIN/NO '11 Week 15 53.5 Over
DET/NO '11 Week 13 53.5 Under
GB/NYG '11 Week 13 54 Over
DET/GB '11 Week 12 55 Under
DAL/NE '11 Week 6 55 Under
BUF/PHI '11 Week 5 53 Over
NE/OAK '11 Week 4 55.5 Under
BUF/NE '11 Week 3 54 Over

As you can see, the "over" has won eight of the 12 totals lines above 53 since the start of the 2011 season for a winning percentage of .667. Perhaps even more interesting to me, though, is the current streak the Saints are on beating the line. In each of the past five totals lines of at least 53 points, the Saints have been one of the participants. And in each game, the two teams combined for more than the totals line. Whether the Chargers will conform to this particular trend remains to be seen. However, I can tell you that numberFire's projections feel very strongly about this totals line; it's one of our five-star picks. You'll need to sign up for the premium product to find out whether we think this game will go with the trend or against it.

Atlanta (-2.5) at Washington

Atlanta has been absolutely dominant so far this season, and a large Southern-fried portion of the success has to go to Matt Ryan. Through the quarter mark of the season, he's numberFire's MVP, due in large part to his excellent 11 TD passes. Ryan has been consistent with those TDs as well; he has at least two in every single game so far this season. And that's a good thing for the Falcons, because when Ryan does not get his two TD passes, the Falcons fall into mediocre-team territory (2006-2008 Falcons territory?) Last season, the Falcons went 6-1 when Ryan got two TD passes, with the only loss being an OT thriller to the eventual NFC South champion Saints. On the other hand, when Ryan threw one or (it only happened once) none, the Falcons dipped to a 4-5 record. In 2010, same deal: the Falcons only lost four games including the playoffs, but in three of those losses, Ryan threw for one TD or less. Quarterback play is always a huge indicator, and it seems to be even moreso for Atlanta with how much they rely on Matt Ryan. Luckily for the Falcons, numberFire's projections have Ryan throwing for 2.27 TDs this week.

Buffalo (+335) at San Francisco

Just as Matt Ryan has been the indicator for the Falcons over the past 16 games, the Bills' rushing game has been their indicator of either victory or crushing, hopeless defeat. To be generous, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have not been the most effective backs for the Bills. They have only managed 11 individual 100+ rush yard games in the 36 contests the Bills have played since the start of 2010, when Spiller came to the team. In those rushing attack successes, the Bills have played exceptionally well, posting a 9-3 record with three wins against teams that ended the season at .500 (Denver, Oakland, and Philadelphia in 2011). But in games where the running attack has not gotten going, the team has been a disaster of Norwoodian proportions: 3-21 since the start of the 2010 season. This week, the numberFire projections are not too hot on either back being able to get 100 yards. Fred Jackson is projected at only 52.74 rushing yards, and Spiller comes in at a much worse 26.03. The Niners are +11 point favorites in this game for a reason.

Philadelphia (+3) at Pittsburgh

Michael Vick's play has been about as effective as his PETA ads so far this season at getting people to jump on the bandwagon. Through four weeks, his -2.92 passing Net Expected Points (NEP) total (explained in the introduction here) ranks 29th among all NFL starting QBs, ahead of only Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden. He has only been slightly better scrambling, managing 4.32 NEP of value, but even that pales in comparison to the elite numbers established by runners like, err, Andrew Luck (14.02 rush NEP), Matt Ryan (7.55), and Aaron Rodgers (6.29). Mobility is a wonderful thing, isn't it? If he's doing that poorly, how could you even think about taking him against the Pittsburgh defense?

Because the Pittsburgh defense has been, quite frankly, pitiful as well. numberFire adjusts our defensive rankings based upon the quality of opponents faced, because yards allowed tells you way too little. In those adjusted rankings, the Steelers are our #25 defense - you read that right, that's the bottom ten of the entire league. I'm somewhat scared that Troy Polamalu's flowing mane is going to find me and choke me out for that, but the numbers back me up. That could bode well for the Eagles offense, as Michael Vick has not gotten his licks against soft, ineffective defenses often this season. His first three games this season were against defenses in the top half of the league: Cleveland (#10), Baltimore (#13), and Arizona (#2). In those games, Michael Vick put up an absolutely pitiful -12.58 NEP passing, the worst mark in the NFL. But in week 4, against numberFire's #24 Giants defense, Vick had his best game of the season with a solid +9.66 NEP passing. We could see a repeat in the Battle of Pennsylvania on Sunday.