Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-3)

Both of these two teams enter this game incredibly banged up. The Buccaneers are missing their two top running backs (Doug Martin and Charles Sims), their top two defensive linemen (Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers), and starting defensive tackle Clinton McDonald. The Panthers, meanwhile, are missing starting quarterback Cam Newton, starting running back Jonathan Stewart, starting left tackle Michael Oher and first and second round rookies Vernon Butler and James Bradberry, who were both playing roles on defense.

Cam Newton’s injury is obviously the big one as he’ll miss his first and the Panthers hope his only game with a concussion, after being knocked out in the middle of last week’s loss in Atlanta. With so many missing players, it’s tough to figure out where the line should be, but I’d estimate that Newton missing is worth about 5 points on the line. This line at 5 suggests the Panthers should be favored by around 10 points with a healthy Newton, even without Stewart, Oher, and the others. I think that’s a little high given that Carolina hasn’t played nearly as well this season as last season, missing the presence of Josh Norman on defense immensely and not executing offensively the way they did last year either. I’m going to take the points, especially since about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, but Tampa Bay is too banged up for me to be confident in them this week.

Carolina Panthers 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (2-2) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

This is a line that doesn’t make a ton of sense, as the Ravens are mere 3.5 point home favorites for the Redskins. The Ravens are 3-1 on the thanks to 3 straight wins to start the season. None of those opponents were tough though, as they faced the Bills, Browns, and Jaguars, and all 3 games were close. On top of that, last week they lost at home against easily the best team they’ve faced thus far, the Oakland Raiders. However, that game was close as well (1 point) and the Ravens still rank 5th in rate of first down percentage differential.

On top of that, their opponents this week, the Washington Redskins, are much closer in talent level to the first 3 teams the Ravens faced than they are to the Raiders, who are a legitimate playoff team this season. The Redskins have a talented offense, but rank dead last in first down percentage allowed on defense, largely as a result of the worst run defense in the league. Free agent acquisition Josh Norman is playing well at cornerback, but the rest of the secondary has been terrible, largely thanks to injuries to #2 cornerback Bashaud Breeland, #3 cornerback Dashaun Phillips, and top safety DeAngelo Hall, all of whom remain out.

Overall, they rank 30th in first down percentage differential, only ahead of the Browns and Rams. They played the former last week and allowed a whopping 26 first downs in a game that was a lot closer than the final score suggested. There’s not quite enough for me to put money on the Ravens this week, but that will change if the line moves to a field goal before gametime. On average, about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Even still, this line is too low at 3.5 and the Ravens are the pick.

Baltimore Ravens 23 Washington Redskins 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

The Cowboys have gone 3-1 to start the season, but have played a pretty easy schedule so far. They’ve beaten up on the Bears and 49ers in the past two weeks, two of the worst teams in the league, and their toughest games came against divisional rivals Washington and New York, neither of whom have a great team this year. There’s a very good argument to be made that the Bengals are the toughest team the Cowboys have faced this year. The Cowboys are at home, but the Cowboys have fans all over the country, so they really haven’t had much homefield in advantage in recent years, going 16-34 ATS at home since 2010, as opposed to 29-21 ATS on the road. Over that time period, they’ve outscored opponents by 0.61 points per game at home and been outscored by 0.72 points per game on the road, meaning their homefield advantage hasn’t even been worth a point over that time period.

The Cowboys are 7-5 ATS as home underdogs over that time period, but this line isn’t at the full field goal yet, so basically all the Bengals would have to do is cover straight up. The Cowboys do get defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence back from a 4-game suspension and left tackle Tyron Smith back from a 2-game absence with back problems, but they’ll likely be without top wide receiver Dez Bryant for the second straight game and top cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the third straight game, after neither player practiced at all this week.

The Bengals are still the better team and have a good chance to win straight up in a stadium in which the Cowboys haven’t had a ton of success. Neither of these teams are in a great spot, as the Bengals head to New England next week, while the Cowboys to go Green Bay, two very tough and important upcoming games for these two teams. For that reason, I don’t have a great lean on this game at all, but I’m going to take the visiting Bengals unless the line does get up to a field goal. It’s a no confidence pick, but this game has a good chance to be a field goal game.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -2

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

New York Giants (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1)

This one I’m torn on. On one hand, the Giants are 62-42 ATS as road underdogs since 2004 and they’re in their 2nd of two road games, which is even better. Teams are 131-98 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 106-66 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 231-233 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.53 points per game, as opposed to 331-451 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.81 points per game.

On the other hand, the Packers are one of the best teams in the league, legitimate 7 point home favorites and are expected to be legitimate 6+ point home favorites again next week against the Dallas Cowboys, a comparable team to the Giants. Big home favorites tend to cover before being big home favorites again, as good teams tend to take care of business if they don’t have an upcoming distraction. Teams are 86-49 ATS since 2012 as 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point favorites again. On top of that, the Packers used to have strong homefield advantage, going 36-23 ATS in Lambeau Field from 2008-2014, but they’re just 4-4-1 ATS since the start of last season. I’m taking the points, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Green Bay Packers 33 New York Giants 27

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +7

Confidence: None

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (1-3) at Indianapolis Colts (1-3)

The Colts played in London last week, losing 30-27 to the previously winless Jaguars. The Jaguars have a bye this week, but the Colts are the first team in NFL history to play a game the week after playing an overseas game. I don’t know if this was their decision or the league’s decision, but they don’t go on bye until week 10. That’s gotta hurt them this week. That’s just a ton of traveling, going from Indianapolis to London and back. There’s a reason teams normally go on bye week after going overseas.

Making matters worse, the Colts have to turn around and go to Houston next week for a huge divisional rivalry with a team currently in first place, next week on Sunday Night Football. The Bears, meanwhile, host the Jaguars next week, which is not nearly the same distraction. With an easy game on deck, they should be completely focused for an opponent who might not be. That’s historically been the case, as underdogs are 82-57 ATS since 2012 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs.

That being said, this isn’t a big play for a couple reasons. The first is how many players the Bears are still missing with injury. Middle linebacker Danny Trevathan is expected to return after missing the last few games with a thumb injury, which is a big re-addition, but the Bears are still missing outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and LaMarr Houston, top cornerback Kyle Fuller, and top defensive lineman Eddie Goldman for an extended period of time. Joining them on the sidelines this week are this year’s first round pick Leonard Floyd, which leaves them very thin at outside linebacker, and last year’s first round pick Kevin White, their #2 wide receiver. Quarterback Jay Cutler also remains out, but experienced backup Brian Hoyer has played pretty well in 2 spot starts, to the point where there are rumors he might keep the job from Cutler permanently.

The Colts, meanwhile, are much healthier than they were earlier this season, with defensive Henry Anderson and cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Patrick Robinson back from injury. Those are three of their best defensive players. The Colts still don’t have a ton of talent around the quarterback position on either side of the ball, but we’re not really getting much line value with the Bears at +4.5, even though 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. The second reason I’m not confident in the Bears is because they could be a little overconfident and overvalued off of last week’s home upset victory over divisional rival Detroit, as teams are 52-75 ATS since 2012 off of a home upset win. I can’t saw for sure they’ll be overconfident, but we did lose a lot of value with the Bears in the past week, as this line was at 6.5 on the early line last week. The Bears are the play, but it’s a low confidence pick unless the line happens to creep back up to 6.

Indianapolis Colts 27 Chicago Bears 24

Pick against the spread: Chicago +4.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (1-3) at Oakland Raiders (3-1)

Going into the season, I had the Chargers on my underrated list. They went 4-12 in 2015, but that was largely a result of bad injury luck and a poor record in close games (3-9 in games decided by 8 points or fewer). Both of those things tend to even out in the long run, which is why I expected significantly more wins for them this season, but they haven’t evened out so far for the Chargers. The Chargers are legitimately a few plays away from being 4-0, but blew late leads to Kansas City, Indianapolis, and New Orleans. Meanwhile, they’ve also lost top wide receiver Keenan Allen, talented passing down back Danny Woodhead, slot wide receiver Steve Johnson, and top cornerback Jason Verrett for the season with injuries. Verrett is their newest loss and he’s as big of a loss to this defense as Allen is to this offense, as the 2014 1st round pick has become one of the best cornerbacks in the game.

The Chargers record in close games should still even out in the long run and they should still win more games than they did last season, but there’s no denying the amount of talent the Chargers are missing with injury. Tight end Antonio Gates is expected back from a 2-game absence, while #3 overall pick Joey Bosa will be making his NFL debut after missing the first 4 games with hamstring problems, but the Chargers will also be without cornerback Brandon Flowers. The Raiders were also on my underrated list before the season started and they’ve delivered so far, starting 3-1. It’s tough to tell exactly how good they are as their first 4 games have decided by a combined 16 points, but I still think they have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. This line is way too low at 3.5, so I’m going with the Raiders.

Oakland Raiders 27 San Diego Chargers 20

Pick against the spread: Oakland -3.5

Confidence: Medium

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2016 Week 5 NFL Pick

New York Jets (1-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

The Steelers slipped up week 3 in Philadelphia, losing 34-3, but bounced back in a huge way last week, blowing out the Chiefs 43-14 on Sunday Night Football. That Philadelphia game was likely a fluke. The Eagles are a good team, but when we look back at the Steelers’ season that 31 point loss is going to look like a major outlier. They’ve always had issues with non-divisional road games against seemingly easier opponents in the Mike Tomlin era, but they have one of the most talented rosters in the league, especially with Le’Veon Bell back from injury and suspension. Here they are 7.5 point home favorites over the Jets, which seems reasonable.

They’re also in a much better spot than the Jets, as they have an easy trip to Miami on deck, while the Jets have an equally tough opponent next week when they head to Arizona, where they are likely to be at least 6+ point underdogs once again. Teams are 46-72 ATS since 2012 as 6+ point underdogs before being 6+ point underdogs again, as teams tend to not be as focused as they need to be to keep it close with a tough opponent when they have another tough game on deck. Meanwhile, teams are 82-60 ATS before being 4+ point road favorites and the early line has the Steelers as 4.5 point favorites next week against the Dolphins. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Steelers (that will change if this line happens to fall below a touchdown tomorrow morning), but they should be the right side.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -7.5

Confidence: Low

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]

[switch_ad_hub]_