NFL Betting Guide: Week 5
Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.
Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.
That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.
Week 4 Recap
Last Week: 3-2
Year-to-Date Record: 12-8-0 (60.0%)
No matter how the games "feel," we seem stuck on this very passable 60% clip. Last week was definitely an ugly grind.
Let's start with the good. The Patriots were right there with Green Bay despite a quarterback injury. Despite the fact I literally said I took the Jets only because Kenny Pickett wasn't playing for Pittsburgh, New York still beat the rookie in come-from-behind fashion. The Seahawks also outlasted Detroit in a defense-optional contest.
However, the Commanders got me again. They're in a week-long timeout despite the fact I like them for a bet again in Week 5. The Texans also lost their late-game backdoor effort against the Chargers on a final-drive touchdown.
The totals also split 1-1, so let's keep rolling with a fifth straight winning week.
Pick #1: Browns (+2.5) vs. Chargers
This is the "Pros vs. Joes" capital of the week.
Even without the betting splits, I loved this spot for Cleveland. They're a run-first team against the Bolts, who were the league's worst rush defense a year ago. LA is giving up an above-average 0.09 Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry, and they're without Joey Bosa.
The Browns' defense (29% pressure rate) gets after the quarterback enough to wonder if the Rashawn Slater injury finally comes back to bite Los Angeles. Myles Garrett is back at practice and will play, and Jadeveon Clowney is a true question mark.
Even if this isn't your favorite spot, sharp money is all over the Brownies. While 67% of bets are on the Chargers, Cleveland is getting 66% of the handle. I believe Cleveland -- with their season in the balance at 2-2 in a brutal division -- wins outright at home, too.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Browns 23-21
Pick #2: Saints (-5.5) vs. Seahawks
How about those Seattle Seahawks?
Left for dead after the Russell Wilson deal, Geno Smith has filled in admirably. He's even getting MVP buzz from my employer. However, Smith's last two weeks against Atlanta and Detroit -- and their porous pass defenses -- isn't what he'll face this week.
The Saints are a team led by their defense. They've given up the 4th-fewest Rushing NEP per carry (-0.06) and 11th-fewest Passing NEP per drop back (0.09). Geno will now drop from two bottom-10 total defenses to a top-10 one.
The last time that happened? The Seahawks were blown out by San Francisco. Moreover, Seattle's defense got beat like a drum by the Niners, and they're the worst defense in the NFL in terms of Offensive NEP allowed per play (0.22).
The public is all over the Seahawks. They love teams they see scoring points and winning. I prefer the team with the better roster -- with or without Jameis Winston -- not having to win by even a touchdown.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Saints 27-20
Pick #3: Patriots (-3.5) vs. Lions
The Hard Knocks heartthrobs are back.
However, Detroit's offense likely won't find that same success against New England. I just mentioned Seattle has the league's worst defense in terms of Offensive NEP per play allowed, but New England is much closer to the league average (0.07).
Bill Belichick's guys have been opportunistic, forcing 11 sacks and 6 takeaways in their four contests. Jared Goff is outdoors for the first time all season, and it's looking like he'll be without Amon-Ra St. Brown and D'Andre Swift.
Importantly, the Lions' run defense is horrific. They're allowing a league-worst 0.33 Rushing NEP per carry. That'll be the Pats' exact gameplan -- as it was last week -- behind Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson.
Quietly, New England is 2-2 against the spread (ATS) this year. The sky isn't falling, and this is a win Belichick has picked up comfortably for years.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Patriots 19-13
This one was too gross to feature.
I believe Minnesota wins outright, but this is a massive number for a divisional game. Honestly, this line is a bit fishy that it's not larger. Justin Jefferson was going nuts and hitting the griddy in London, Minnesota is 3-1, and they're on the playoff radar. The Bears are perceived as a total fraud at 2-2 with no functional passing game. Yet, this line is only a touchdown?
The hook on said touchdown is especially crucial. Plus, the Vikings played last week in London without a bye week, which does affect the aforementioned Saints, as well. There are no definitive betting trends on that yet, but it is worth pondering.
Personally, I want to buy the Bears' rushing attack in this matchup. The Saints still ran for 111 yards with a M*A*S*H unit at running back last week, and Chicago's 0.10 Rushing NEP per carry so far (eighth-best in the NFL) has been exceptional.
The cardiac Vikings lost more one-score games than anyone in NFL history last year. They've now played two in a row, and one included a double doink. As someone with a small fortune on Minnesota to win the NFC North, nothing is ever easy with them. Take the points here.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Vikings 24-20
I'll never get these teams at more polar opposite stock prices.
The Rams have been left for dead, but that's just what happens when they play the 49ers. They went 0-2 against them last year -- and 12-3 against everyone else. It's easy to forget the Rams really had started to figure things out in Arizona, and their win over Atlanta is aging better by the week.
To me, the key matchup here is that McVay's offense should get back to doing what it needs most -- running the football. Dallas' pass rush has been good, but they've ceded the fourth-most Rushing NEP per carry (0.19) on the ground.
This line opened on FanDuel Sportsbook at 4.0 points, and it's been lifted up to 5.5 points despite more tickets and money on the Cowboys. There's likely a driving force behind that -- a few really sharp minds who love the Rams.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Rams 21-13
Totals of the Week
Pick #1: Dolphins at Jets (Over 45.5)
Even last week, Tagovailoa posted -0.01 Passing NEP per drop back before departing with the scary-looking head injury. Bridgewater posted -0.02 in relief. I roughly see them as the same quarterback, and Miami is numberFire's top passing offense through Week 4. Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill are still on the outside here.
I'm also all in on this Jets offense with Zach Wilson back. Wilson posted 0.07 Passing NEP per drop back last week in a tough environment, and he's now well-surrounded with a quality running game (hello, Breece Hall) and solid weaponry. The second pick in 2021 might finally start to live up to that billing.
While 55% of bettors believe this one stays under, 61% of the total money here is on the over. I can dig sharp money coming behind two offenses I really like.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Dolphins 27-24
Pick #2: Bengals at Ravens (Under 47.5)
The stars in this game make it feel like an over. The analytics don't.
My cohort, Brandon Gdula, points out in his adjusted pace and pass rate report that this is the slowest game in Week 5 in terms of adjusted seconds per play. Despite the loaded offensive personnel, the Bengals are especially slow. That dynamic might be what's led to the under cashing in all four of Cincinnati's games so far.
Plus, there are paths to failure for both offenses. The 33% pressure rate for Cincy's D is outstanding, and we've seen Baltimore's pass protection (25% rate allowed) be iffy at times. The Bengals' 26% pressure rate allowed is even higher, and they've surrendered four sacks per game.
I think the public is falling into the same trap with Cincy again in this primetime spot. A whopping 68% of bets are on the over in this one, but 66% of the money is on the under. Given the pace metrics, it's no surprise to see sharps valuing play volume over name value.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Ravens 23-20