Four games into the season, and we now have a fair sample size of what teams really are. If a team is ranked 30th in defense heading into the second week of October, they’re probably not going to jump into the top half this season.
Conversely, if a team has been a surprise on the offensive side of the ball and is ranked significantly higher than where one might have expected, barring injury, a bettor needs to adjust their predictions.
At the same time, linesmakers already have begun to adjust (and overcorrect). Hence, I find some of the best values on the board to come this time of year, which is likely why I like more underdogs this week than any other thus far.
Heading into Thursday, six of 16 games have point spreads of seven points or more and only two by fewer than three points.
Let’s see if we can find the best values and greatest overcompensation for teams and their lines this week. Better yet, let’s remain hot with our best bets and over/unders.
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of Wednesday) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll with $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
THE WEEK 5 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / Teaser, Green Bay -2 over NY Giants (in London) and MINNESOTA -1 over Chicago
WHEN: Green Bay-NY Giants at 9:30 a.m.; Minnesota-Chicago at 1 p.m. THE BET: $36 to win $30.
Teaser explanation: At most books, a bettor can parlay two teams in a “teaser” and get 6 points of cushion for each bet. However, it costs -120 to play and – like a parlay – both legs must hit to cash the ticket.
Last week, we won our big teaser and a few of those we didn’t list in this column, mostly because we involved Tennessee in all of them, and they not only covered the teaser, but covered their spread by winning outright at Indianapolis.
In Week 5, I am looking to put Green Bay in several teaser plays. I don’t quite understand why they are only an eight-point favorite against a Giants team that might not only be a little overrated in power points, but is likely down to their third-string quarterback, Davis Webb, as Daniel Jones (ankle) and Tyrod Taylor (concussion protocol) almost surely will be missing in London.
The best combo with the Packers seems to be the Vikings, who we would have liked at -7 had they not had just been coming from London following an emotional finish with the Saints. That being said, getting them in a teaser means they simply have to win, and against this incredibly limited offense for the Bears, we’ll go that route.
SCORE PREDICTION: Packers (-8) 29, Giants 19. (Over 41.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Vikings 23, Bears 17 (+7). (Under 44.)
2 / Miami at NY JETS over 46
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win 20.
When I began typing, one best bet I had was Jets +3.5, as not only does it fit squarely into the Golden Rule of taking a home underdog in a division game, but I think there could be lingering internal team issues following the Tua saga.
That being said, this total jumped out at me a bit more. In their two road games so far, Miami has allowed 38 points to Baltimore and 27 last week to Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Jets have given up an average of 25.3 points per game through four weeks.
It would be easy to think Teddy Bridgewater could struggle in his first game as starter this season, but I think the Dolphins will be able to find ways to get Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle (who is questionable as of Wednesday) involved.
SCORE PREDICTION: Jets 29 (+3.5), Dolphins 25.
3 / Cincinnati at BALTIMORE over 48.5
WHEN: Sunday at 8:20 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win 20.
We have talked a lot the first four weeks about how linesmakers seem to skew their totals a bit too high, and there has been value on betting unders (which is why we have been so successful in that department so far), but now it could be going a bit the other way.
Had this game been played two or three weeks ago, one could have expected the over/under to be more than 50, and rightfully so.
Except for the first half against Buffalo last week, the Ravens haven’t really been able to stop anyone thus far. And the Bengals? Their average of allowing just 17.5 points is skewed with opposing quarterbacks such as Mitch Trubisky, Cooper Rush, Joe Flacco and Bridgewater for more than a half.
In the two games these teams played against one another last season, the Bengals won both easily with a combined 120 points being put up on the board. Over the course of the past five games between them, the winning team has scored 38 or more in four of them.
SCORE PREDICTION: Bengals (+3) 31, Ravens 27.
4 / Houston +7 (-120) over JACKSONVILLE
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $24 to win $20.
I was all set to take the newest love of the sharps’ lives, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and was even going to take them as a knockout pick. Then I did a little research and saw that the Texans have not only won eight in a row STRAIGHT UP, but they have covered in six of those, including both games last season.
Not one to often ignore trends, I am certainly not going to ignore this one, as this could be one of the upsets of the day.
Houston has been good against the pass (ninth), and Trevor Lawrence has a three-interception game against them (last September), while completing about 56 percent of his pass attempts.
I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to actually bet the Texans money line, but I certainly love this spread.
SCORE PREDICTION: Texans 20, Jaguars 18. (Under 43.5.)
5 / CLEVELAND +2.5 over LA Chargers
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win 20.
My first question when I saw the line for this one was: Who in the holy heck are the Chargers to be laying points on the road against a decent team? And don’t let last week’s loss by Cleveland to Atlanta fool you: The Browns are certainly a decent team.
Conversely, that’s about where I put the Bolts. In other words, there is no reason why Cleveland shouldn’t be a slight favorite here.
And when we see value, we pounce. I am just slightly peeved I didn’t bet it right away when it was -3 on Tuesday. Still, we like it, and if you want to reach out and take the money line at +115, we aren’t going to stop you.
SCORE PREDICTION: Browns 26, Chargers 23. (Over 47.5.)
Extra pick / NEW ORLEANS -5.5 over Seattle
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $11 to win $10.
Last week, I said the Saints had to show up or this season was over, and they did that. This week is much different. Not only do they need to win to keep their hopes of a decent season alive, but I think they need to win by a large margin to gain some (well, a lot of) confidence.
Here’s what could be my final show of faith in the Black and Gold.
It’s early in the week, but one has to think Andy Dalton will make his second straight start after the long plane flight home could not have been favorable for Jameis Winston (missed Wednesday’s practice). (Although rest assured, Winston will be back in there when the medical staff and Winston himself deem him able to do so.)
The Seattle defense hasn’t been very good – 28th against the pass and 29th against the run – and it appears as if Alvin Kamara will be a full go on Sunday.
If the Saints can’t beat down Geno Smith and this bad defense, then I am not sure who they will beat up on.
SCORE PREDICTION: Saints 26 (-5), Seahawks 10. (Under 46.)
TOP KNOCKOUT PICKS
1 / Buffalo; 2 / Green Bay; 3 / Tampa Bay; 4 / New Orleans (risky!). Although tempting, stay away from Jacksonville, Minnesota and save Kansas City for later if you haven’t already used them. (Philadelphia, the Giants, the Chargers and Green Bay all advanced.)
(No bets for the following)
Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
Indianapolis (+3.5) 20, DENVER 19: Even with Jonathan Taylor and Shaq Leonard out for the Colts, this line is questionable at best. Hey Derry, how in the world can you like a team that is 27th in rushing WITH the NO. 1 consensus overall fantasy pick heading into the season and is now without him?
Well, it’s simple, Mrs. Aunt Mabel. Put down the fruitcake mix and save making the pralines for later and listen up. First, the Colts will be forced to lean on the passing game a bit more and will have to be creative. Second, the Broncos rushing defense hasn’t been impressive. Third, what in the world is wrong with Russell Wilson?
Nuff said. (Under 42.)
Sunday at 1 p.m.
TAMPA BAY 24, Atlanta (+8.5) 20: Something about this game smells funny. I came into the week expecting to pick the Bucs in a blowout, but the deeper I dive into the analysis, Tommy Boy doesn’t look quite right and this team has ZERO chemistry. (Funniest headline of the week: Tom Brady is about to lose one of his rings. But I digress.)
Meanwhile, the Falcons without Cordarrelle Patterson worries me, but this team as a whole has been one of the surprises of the season. Can’t bet against them, and if I had to make a bet on this one, I would simply take the under. (Under 48.)
BUFFALO (-14) 41, Pittsburgh 17: Multiple times in this column I have told you I went into a week thinking one thing and coming out of it with another result (such as the previous pick). Here is a perfect example of how things change when you dive into the numbers. In my head, I was thinking “No way I can give 14 points with a Mike Tomlin-coached team as the dog.”
Truth is, this is the largest spread Tomlin has ever faced in his 16 seasons as coach. And, in fact, his Steelers have only been double-digit dogs three times with two of them coming last year. He is 1-2 ATS in those games, having lost to Kansas City by 26 in 2021 and to New England by 21 in hist first season of 2007.
With Kenny Pickett just getting his feet wet, and the Bills playing at home for only the second time all season, I have to lay the points against this 24th-ranked defense. (Over 46.5. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Bills go over by themselves.)
WASHINGTON (+2.5) 22, Tennessee 19: Disclaimer, I hate this pick and won’t play it anywhere, any kind of way. Basically, this comes down to betting against the public. If I were to bet it, I would wait until Sunday, because I expect this line to go to 3. (Conversely, if you like Tennessee, bet it now. Like right now. Put the column away and come back.)
One thing that stuck out to me was last season when the Titans defeated Indianapolis in Week 3, they lost the following game to the lowly Jets in OT. I could see something similar happening here. (Under 43.5.)
Detroit (+3) 30, NEW ENGLAND 24: Although they rarely play one another, Detroit hasn’t won in Foxborough since 1993 when Tom Brady was still in high school. Well, let’s change that.
In their last meeting in 2018, Brady was shut down 26-10 to fall to 1-2. This week, I have no clue who is playing quarterback for the Patriots, which obviously makes handicapping this one even that more difficult. That being said, even though they’re also banged up, if there is any offense the Lions can slow down it is this one. (Over 45.5.)
Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
San Francisco 18, CAROLINA (+6.5) 14: Take last week out of the equation, and the Panthers – other than Baker Mayfield – haven’t been nearly as bad as the persona they have taken on would indicate. Meanwhile, the Niners played their best game of the season last week against the Rams, but was that really a surprise?
Carolina will frustrate Jimmy G just enough to keep this close, and all the Aunt Mabels and Drunk Joes of the world will be left wondering how they lost this one. (Under 39.)
Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
ARIZONA (+5) 24, Philadelphia 23: While most of the nation will be watching Dallas heading to Hollywood to take on the Rams in the late window, this one shapes up as potentially the most surprising and most entertaining game of the day.
The Eagles are way overdue for a bad performance and heading to the desert seems like a perfect spot. Another one I am taking to go against John Q. Public, and I am thinking I might even be sorry I didn’t put this in best bets. (Under 49.)
LA RAMS (-5.5) 27, Dallas 13: Well, ever since making one of my best picks of the season with Dallas to beat the Bengals straight in Week 2 after Dak went out, I have been dead wrong on the Cowboys. So let’s try this again.
The Rams will be ultra-focused after Monday night’s beat down, and Cooper Rush hasn’t seemed … well … er … a rush like this one all season. Could be a long afternoon for the Cowboys offense. (Under 42.5.)
Monday at 8:15 p.m.
KANSAS CITY 30, Las Vegas (+7) 26: As well as the Chiefs played last week, how are bettors supposed to believe they are back to being the old “Chiefs” after blowing a game they had no business losing in Indianapolis or getting a bit lucky against the Chargers the week before?
While I think the Raiders are underrated despite their slow start, I don’t love this pick simply because we don’t know which K.C. team is gonna show up. A complete pass for me. (Over 51.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 4 best bets: 4-1 (+$37; Extra pick with Saints -$10.50). Season best bets: 14-6 (.700; $1,063.50 balance – started with $1,000 prior to Week 1). Week 4 all picks: 9-6. (A little better …) Season all picks: 29-34 (.460)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 4: 9-7. Season: 32-31 (.508).
Week 4: 10-6. Season: 40-23 (.635).
PREVIOUS WEEKLY RESULTS
Week 4: 4-1 best bets (+$37); 9-6 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 3: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-11 ATS; 8-8 straight up; 8-7 over/unders
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders