Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

The 49ers have gotten off to a very strong start and come out of their bye week at 3-0. They rank 2nd in first down rate differential behind the Patriots at +11.13% and have an average margin of +14.0 points per game. Their only win by fewer than two touchdowns came by 4 against the Steelers in a game in which the 49ers lost the turnover battle by 3, but still won because they won the first down rate battle by 14.24%. 

The 49ers have had a pretty easy schedule so far though, facing the Buccaneers, the Bengals, and the Steelers, who are a combined 3-9. The Browns coming to town this week are by far their toughest test so far and the 49ers will have to play without two key starters, left tackle Joe Staley and cornerback Akhello Witherspoon, who remain out following the 49ers’ bye. The Browns, meanwhile, are getting healthier, with safety Morgan Burnett and wide receiver Rashard Higgins set to return from a 2-game and a 3-game absence respectively. 

The 49ers do have one key edge though, as a west coast team playing an east coast team at night. Teams have historically done well in that situation, due to differing internal time cycles. In fact, in games between west coast and east coast teams at night, the west coast team covers about 65% of the time. We’re not getting any line value with the 49ers, as this line at San Francisco -4 is exactly where I have it calculated, so I wouldn’t recommend betting the 49ers, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

San Francisco 49ers 23 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -4

Confidence: Low

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

The Colts lost at home to the Raiders last week, but that wasn’t all that surprising. Not only did the Colts have this huge game in Kansas City looming as a potential distraction, but they also were without some of their best players like wide receiver TY Hilton, linebacker Darius Leonard, and safety Malik Hooker. The Colts aren’t much healthier this week either. Hilton looks likely to return, but at less than 100%, and their other starting safety Clayton Geathers is also out with injury. 

This line has shifted from Kansas City -8 on the early line last week to Kansas City -11 this week, but I think that’s justified given the players the Colts are missing and how they looked without them last week. In fact, I’m taking the Chiefs, who have won 5 of 9 home games with Pat Mahomes as the starter by 11 points or more. This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week though, as I think this line is about right.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Indianapolis Colts 22

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -11

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2)

The Giants blew out the hapless Redskins last week 24-3, while the Vikings lost 16-6 to a Bears team that lost it’s starting quarterback to injury in the first half. The Vikings were favored over the Giants by 5 points on the early line last week and I was hoping the line would move significantly as a result of last week, because I was looking forward to betting the Vikings, but for some reason the line has stayed still at 5.

The Vikings seem like the kind of team that is going to struggle against top level teams, as quarterback Kirk Cousins has done throughout his career, and then look great against everyone else. They’ve lost to the Packers and Bears already this season, but they won their other two games by a combined 36 points. Much has been made about the Vikings’ passing game struggles, but they have a great defense and a strong running game, which allows them to build and hold leads against less than top tier teams. 

The Giants have won back-to-back games since switching from Eli Manning to rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, but one win came against the Buccaneers, who would have won if they hadn’t missed a very makeable game winning field goal, and against the Redskins, who are one of the worst teams in the league. Jones has yet to face a defense anywhere near as tough as the Vikings. He’ll get wide receiver Golden Tate back from suspension, but he’ll also likely miss running back Saquon Barkley much more than he has so far in a much tougher matchup.

The Giants are also in a tough spot, having to play in New England on Thursday Night Football 4 days after this game. Teams are 64-114 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, including 2-6 ATS before a short week. The Giants may not be full focused, while the Vikings should be able to execute their ball control offensive strategy much better against a mediocre opponent, especially with right guard Josh Kline back from a one-game absence. Unfortunately, we simply aren’t getting any line value with the Vikings as 5-point road favorites, so I wouldn’t recommend a bet.

Minnesota Vikings 20 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (0-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)

Earlier in the week I was thinking I was going to bet on the Broncos as 6-point underdogs this week in Los Angeles against the Chargers, but then the news broke that the Broncos will be without edge defender Bradley Chubb for the rest of the season with a torn ACL that he apparently played with at the end of last week’s loss to the Jaguars. Chubb wasn’t off to the best of starts this season, but the Broncos are very thin at the edge defender position after losing Shaq Barrett in free agency this off-season, so losing Chubb is a big blow.

That being said, we’re still getting line value with the Broncos this week. Even with the Broncos missing Chubb, the Chargers are in a worse injury situation. With top offensive lineman Russell Okung and stud safety Derwin James still out indefinitely, the Chargers will also be without tight end Hunter Henry and possibly edge defender Melvin Ingram, who barely practiced this week with a hamstring injury. Because of all of the injuries, the Chargers are not nearly the team that went 12-4 last season, but the general public doesn’t seem to realize it yet.

They are off to a 2-2 start, with their two wins coming in overtime against the Colts in a game they would have lost if the Colts had made makeable field goals and against the Dolphins, who are the worst team in the league. The Broncos, meanwhile, are expected to get talented defensive back Kareem Jackson back from a 1-game absence and could also get starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James back from a 3-game absence as well. They are 0-4, but could easily be 2-2 right now, twice losing on last second field goals. 

The Chargers also have next to no fans or homefield advantage in Los Angeles and, even with the Broncos being 0-4, based on history, this crowd could be primarily Broncos fans. The Chargers are just 6-10-1 ATS at home (as opposed to 13-5-2 ATS on the road) since moving to Los Angeles. I have this line calculated at Broncos +4 and, depending on what happens with the injury report and any line movement Sunday morning, I may decide to place a bet on them. If Ingram doesn’t play and James does and the line doesn’t move, the Broncos should be a smart bet.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Denver +6

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

On paper this looks like an exciting matchup between a pair of NFC contenders, but neither team is coming in at 100%. While the Packers will be without #1 wide receiver Davante Adams with injury, the Cowboys will be without left tackle Tyron Smith and could be without right tackle La’El Collins as well. Collins not playing would be a big blow because he’s been one of the best right tackles in the league so far this season, but if the Cowboys are only without Smith I like their injury situation a lot more than the Packers. 

Smith is a great left tackle, but the Cowboys have an experienced and capable backup behind him in Cameron Fleming and a great offensive line beside him, while the Packers completely lack proven wide receivers behind Adams. Much was made this off-season about how Aaron Rodgers doesn’t trust any of his young receivers behind Adams, who has received 29.4% of Rodgers’ non-throwaway targets over the past 2 seasons. 

Rodgers, who has overall not quite been his dominant self so far this season, could struggle on the road against a good Dallas defense, while Dak Prescott should still be sufficiently protected if Collins can suit up. Even with Collins questionable with a back injury, after only getting in one limited practice this week, I have this line calculated at Dallas -6, so assuming Collins can go I will be betting on the Cowboys tomorrow morning.

Sunday Update: Collins is expected to play, so Prescott should be sufficiently protected. He’ll also get wide receiver Michael Gallup back from a 2 game absence and the Packers will be without starting cornerback Kevin King. The Cowboys should be favored by more than a field goal and are worth a bet.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Green Bay Packers 17

Pick against the spread: Dallas -3

Confidence: Medium

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (3-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-2)

The Bills lost their first game of the season last week, but I have a higher opinion of them coming out of that game than going into it. Their 3-0 start came against the Jets, Giants, and Bengals, with the Bills trailing in the fourth quarter in two of those games. Against the also 3-0 Patriots, the Bills were in the game late and could have won had they not had a punt blocked and returned for a touchdown earlier in the game. Their offense predictably struggled against a dominant New England defense, but their defense was very impressive, holding the Patriots’ offense to just a 19.35% first down rate (just 11 first downs and 1 touchdown on 62 snaps) and causing Tom Brady to have one of the worst passing days of his career. In terms of first down rate differential, they actually won by 14.45%, despite losing the game by 6. 

The Titans also had an impressive game last week, winning by 14 in Atlanta against an underrated Falcons team. They’ve been pretty hit or miss over the past couple years, but their two losses this year came before a Thursday game and during a Thursday game, which can be tough situations, while their two wins have both come on the road by double digits. Their defense, which ranked 4th in first down rate allowed last season and ranks 7th in first down rate allowed this season, is a strong unit and quarterback Marcus Mariota is still healthy, which is a big plus because the Titans went 6-2 down the stretch with him healthy last year, with wins over the Cowboys and Patriots. They also get back stud left tackle Taylor Lewan from a four game suspension this week.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost line value with the Titans in the past week, as this line has moved up from Tennessee -1.5 on the early line to Tennessee -3 this week, despite Buffalo’s dominant defensive performance last week. I have this line calculated at Tennessee -4, so we’re still getting some line value with the Titans, but not nearly enough to bet them confidently. They should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a low confidence pick.

Tennessee Titans 17 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders vs. Chicago Bears: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-2) vs. Chicago Bears (3-1) in London

Ordinarily, it’s smart to take the favorite in these international games. Favorites are 23-10 ATS all-time in international games and it makes sense that better teams would be better prepared for an unusual situation like this. However, I think this line is too high at Chicago -5. The Bears are 3-1, but they aren’t playing as well as they did last year, ranking just 21st in first down rate differential at -1.52%, despite playing a pair of winless teams in the Broncos and Redskins. 

The Bears’ defense has played well, ranking 6th in first down rate allowed, but not as well as last year, when they finished first by a wide margin, while their offense has really struggled, ranking 29th in first down rate. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky seems to have taken a step back in his third year in the league, but his absence with a shoulder injury could still hurt this team, as now they have to turn to journeyman backup Chase Daniel, who can’t challenge defenses with his mobility or his arm downfield.

The Raiders haven’t been great this year, but they’ve been a little better than I expected and I only have them calculated as 3-point underdogs in that game. That number would drop even further if stud defensive linemen Akiem Hicks were unable to play for the second straight week due to injury, which looks like a real possibility. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but I may decide to bet the Raiders on Sunday morning if Hicks is ruled out.

Chicago Bears 20 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland +5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at New Orleans Saints (3-1)

The Saints have won both games started by Teddy Bridgewater, but they can’t get Drew Brees back quickly enough, as their offense has completely sputtered in his absence, even as much talent as they have on offense around the quarterback. In 27 drives since taking over for Brees, Bridgewater has led the Saints to just 46 first downs and 3 touchdowns on 160 plays, a 30.63% first down rate, which would be the 4th worst in the NFL. By comparison, the Saints had a 43.17% first down rate in 2018. 

As a result, the Saints have actually lost the first down battle in both games started by Bridgewater, winning the two games by just a combined 8 points, despite a +2 turnover margin and a +2 return touchdown margin, two things that tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. On the season, they rank just 27th in first down rate at -4.24% and that includes 12 drives where Drew Brees was under center. Their defense gets a boost with stud defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins returning from injury, even if he might not be 100% immediately, but their offense should remain a concern until Brees returns. 

Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the Buccaneers, the Saints’ opponent this week, as this line has shifted from New Orleans -6.5 to New Orleans -3, even though the Saints pulled the upset win at home over the Cowboys last week. That’s because the Buccaneers pulled the upset in Los Angeles last week against the Rams, but I’m not as impressed by that as most, for three reasons. 

For one, the Rams were an overrated team that could have been 1-2 instead of 3-0 if their first opponents (Panthers and Saints) had healthy quarterbacks. Two, the Rams were in a tough spot, with a key divisional game against the Seahawks on deck on Thursday Night Football. Three, the Buccaneers actually lost the first down rate battle in that game by 4.18%, despite winning by 15. They won the turnover margin by 3, but that tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis.

Ranking 16th on the season in first down rate at +0.77%, the Buccaneers seem to be improved on both sides of the ball with new head coach Bruce Arians and his staff, but they might be a little overrated after last week’s win. The Saints may be overrated too because winning has diverted attention from how much their offense has slowed, but I still have this line calculated at New Orleans -3.5, as they still have a lot of talent around the quarterback, especially on defense. There’s not nearly enough here to bet the Saints with confidence, but they seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

New Orleans Saints 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3.5

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)

This line is pretty high at Philadelphia -14, but I don’t think it’s high enough. In their last game, the Jets were 21-point underdogs at New England and only covered because they got two late return touchdowns off of a muffed punt and a pick six thrown by backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham when Tom Brady was taken out of the game with the game in hand. The Eagles aren’t the Patriots, but I have them third in my roster rankings, so they’re not far behind. They’re only 2-2, but both of their losses were close and they won the first down rate battle in one of them. 

The Jets had their bye last week, but it didn’t help them get healthier, as they will remain without starting quarterback Sam Darnold, top offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele, top linebacker CJ Mosley, and top edge defender Jordan Jenkins, with only defensive lineman Quinnen Williams able to get healthy over the bye. The Eagles are also coming off of a mini bye as well, with their last game coming on Thursday Night Football against the Packers. I have them calculated as 18-point favorites against a depleted Jets team that is starting a third string quarterback.

The only thing preventing me from betting on the Eagles is that they’re not in a great spot, with a much tougher game in Minnesota on deck. The Eagles are 3-point underdogs in that game on the early line and favorites of 10+ are just 63-84 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs, including just 14-28 ATS as favorites of 13+ points. They can still cover this spread even if they don’t play their best game though.

Philadelphia Eagles 27 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -14

Confidence: Low