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

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (4-0) at Washington Redskins (0-4)

Ordinarily, the Redskins would be in a great spot to bet on this week. While the Patriots have to play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, the Redskins have the easiest game of their season on deck, a trip to Miami for a game against the Dolphins in which they are currently favored by 6 points. While favorites are 57-78 ATS since 2012 before Thursday Night Football, home underdogs are 42-20 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites. Based on historical trends, the Redskins are much more likely to be fully focused for this game.

However, the Redskins also have a likely lame duck head coach in Jay Gruden and an uncertain situation at quarterback, with long-time backup Colt McCoy getting the nod this week over a banged up Case Keenum and first round rookie Dwayne Haskins, who was disastrous in relief of Keenum in his NFL debut last week. They might not play their best game given those circumstances and even if they do it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots still win by 20, even if the Patriots don’t play their best game. The talent gap between these two teams is just that big, especially with the Redskins continuing to be without top offensive lineman Brandon Scherff due to injury. 

Also, the Patriots play the Giants next week, so it’s not like they have a big look ahead game, even if it’s on Thursday. Double digit favorites are 45-31 ATS before being double digit favorites again since 2002, and, though they are just 2-4 ATS before Thursday Night Football, that’s still worth noting. The Redskins seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes, but it would be hard to bet on them this week, even as 16-point home underdogs.

New England Patriots 27 Washington Redskins 13

Pick against the spread: Washington +16

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)

The Bengals were favored by 4 points on the early line last week and, despite getting blown out on Monday Night Football by the Mason Rudolph led Steelers, they still briefly opened as 3.5-point favorites this week, before the line quickly dropped to 3. Even at 3, I was still considering betting on the Cardinals, as that line suggests these two teams are about even, which I didn’t quite agree with. Neither of these teams has a win, but the Cardinals have a better first down rate differential (-7.18% vs. -10.15%) and seem to be in a better spot, as the Bengals may not be fully focused against a winless non-conference opponent, 6 days after a blowout loss, and before a divisional rivalry game against the Ravens. However, then I saw the injury reports on Friday.

The Bengals have had terrible injury luck thus far this season and, while they’ll still be without several players, including #1 wide receiver AJ Green and left tackle Cordy Glenn, they do get back a pair of key contributors on the defensive line, Ryan Glasgow and Carl Lawson, while the Cardinals could be without starting wide receivers Christian Kirk and Damiere Byrd, starting left guard Justin Pugh, starting cornerback Tramaine Brock, starter edge defender Terrell Suggs, and rotational defensive lineman Zach Allen. Only Allen and Kirk have been ruled out, but none of the others got in a full practice on Friday, so there’s too much certainty to bet the Cardinals right now. Depending on injury reports Sunday morning, I may decide to place a small bet on the Cardinals. They’re the pick for pick ‘em purposes regardless, as even if the Cardinals are without everyone I still have this line calculated at Cincinnati -3.

Sunday Update: Pugh, Brock, and Suggs are all playing for the Cardinals. I’m going to put a small bet on the Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals 20 Cincinnati Bengals 19 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: Medium

Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-2)

These two teams are in very similar quarterback situations. Both have lost their starting quarterback indefinitely and have turned to a non-highly drafted backup that has thus far greatly exceeded expectations. The Jaguars are starting sixth round rookie Gardner Minshew, who has completed 69.4% of his passes for an average of 7.48 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 1 interception since taking over for Nick Foles in the first half of the Jaguars’ first game of the season, while the Panthers have turned to 2018 undrafted free agent Kyle Allen, who has won all 3 career starts while completing 69.2% of his passes for an average of 8.34 YPA, 6 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Both quarterbacks are still pretty unproven and might not continue their high level of play, but it’s hard to say one quarterback is more likely to do so than another, so the quarterback position is essentially a wash between these two teams.

Where the Panthers have the edge is the rest of the team, as they rank 10th in first down rate differential at +2.66%, while the Jaguars rank 23rd at -1.95%. Despite that, this line suggests these two teams are about even with the Panthers only being favored by a field goal at home, so we’re getting significant line value with the Panthers. The Panthers nearly won their first 2 games despite Cam Newton playing at far less than 100% and could easily be a 4-0 team right now if they had gotten competent quarterback play all year. 

I wish the Panthers had a more favorable injury report though, because they’ll be without a pair of starters on the offensive line (left tackle Greg Little and right guard Trai Turner), starting cornerback Donte Jackson, and possibly defensive lineman Gerald McCoy, who didn’t practice on Friday. Despite those injuries, I still have this line calculated at Carolina -6, so the Panthers are still worth a bet. If McCoy ends up playing and this line doesn’t change, I may increase this to a high confidence pick.

Sunday Update: McCoy is expected to play, while the Jaguars will be without both Jalen Ramsey and his replacement DJ Hayden. Despite that, this line is still at 3, so I am increasing this to a high confidence pick.

Carolina Panthers 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against the spread: Carolina -3

Confidence: High

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2019 Week 5 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

The Ravens got off to a 2-0 start against still winless teams like the Dolphins and Cardinals, but have fallen back to earth against tougher competition, losing in Kansas City in a game in which they trailed by double digits for most of the game and then losing at home to Cleveland by 15 last week. Their offense is better this year than last year, with Lamar Jackson making a second year leap, but their defense lost five 2018 starters in the off-season and then another two due to injury early in the season. 

A year after finishing 2nd in points per game allowed with 17.9, the Ravens have now allowed a total of 73 points in the past 2 weeks. Last year, they allowed 32 defensive touchdowns. So far, they are on pace they allow 44 defensive backs. This week they get back defensive lineman Brandon Williams, who missed the Cleveland game, which should help, but this is nowhere near the defense it once was.

The general public doesn’t seem to realize the Ravens don’t have a good defense anymore, as the Ravens still seem to be overvalued, favored by 3.5 points on the road in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season with an elbow injury, but they have a solid roster around the quarterback and backup Mason Rudolph has shown some flashes. Even including their week 1 blowout loss in New England, the Steelers have just an average margin of just -3 points per game, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them play the Ravens close or even pull the upset in Pittsburgh. 

Their best game of the season did come against a banged up Bengals team, last week on Monday Night Football, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they carried that momentum into this week, as teams are 85-56 ATS since 1989 after a Monday Night Football win of 17+ points. I have this line calculated at even and, with a strong situational trend on their side, the Steelers could easily win this game outright. With about 1 in 4 games decided by a field goal or less, we’re getting a good cushion in case the Steelers can’t pull the upset.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +155

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week