We are coming back from 3-0-1 week to boost our record to 10-8-1. Week 5 is definitely an interesting week. We have two primetime divisional matchups. The Giants are going to London with wide receivers they called up from the school yard. We got Cowboy Nation ready to invade SoFi Stadium. We will break down Zach Ertz first reunion with the Eagles. A lot of games on the slate and we are here to break them down.
Giants vs Packers (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium - London)
Spread: Green Bay (-9)
Aaron Rodgers isn’t the biggest story in this contest. It’s really been tracking the Giants injury issues at wide receiver and quarterback. Kenny Golloday and Kadarius Toney were late scratches to the New York receiving core. Which leaves New York with a starting lineup of Richie James, David Sills, and Darius Slayton. Jones hasn’t practiced all week.
So how is New York going to score?
I don’t think they will have to pass the ball much. Look for New York to run heavy sets and rely on their ground game that ranks seventh in offensive DVOA against the porous Green Bay run defense (28th in DVOA).
Beyond that, Green Bay’s offense hasn't been as explosive this year, as in years past. They rank 21st in scoring and they rank 13th in Red zone TD percentage- they ranked 1st in the NFL last season. The Giants are going to run the ball, chew the clock. The defense will do just enough to make sure it doesn’t get totally out of hand.
It’s interesting that four of the five games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium have been decided by just one possession. Give me New York to cover the nine.
The pick: Giants (+9)
Pittsburgh at Buffalo
Spread: Buffalo (-14)
The Steelers are two touchdown underdogs for the first time in over 50 years. The Bills (3-1) are considered the cream of the AFC crop. They have the best defense in the NFL (No.1 in overall DVOA) and they arguably have one of the two best quarterbacks in the NFL, with Josh Allen throwing to streaky Stefon Diggs.
Not an ideal circumstance for the Steelers to throw in Kenny Pickett to make his first NFL start. The Steelers will enter this game without TJ Watt once again. However they have had good news on the injury report with Terrell Edmunds (concussion), Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee), and Cam Heyward set to go. While I love backing dogs, I’m not rushing to the window to bet the Steelers here. Too many unknowns and the Bills are known for running up the score at home.
Still, you have to remember, the Steelers have had recent success against Buffalo. They upset Buffalo 23-16 in last year’s matchup. The Steelers have the formula with good pass rushers and ball hawking safeties over the top to take away the deep ball. Pittsburgh is going to play extremely conservative and muddy the game up.
Buffalo’s offense has not been electrifying to start the new ranking 10th in offensive DVOA. Their offense has been hampered by a complete lack of a running game ranking 31st in Rush DVOA. Pittsburgh is elite at stopping the run and we have seen Josh Allen make mistakes because he is asked to do too much.
I expect this game to be played at a snail's pace. These teams have combined to go 1-6-1 to the under this season. I think that trend continues here. I expect this line to trickle down by kickoff but would take the under all the way down to 44.5
The pick: Under 46 - or 44.5 or better
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay (-10)
This is the narrative game of the century. For those of you that have been living under a rock, don’t have Twitter, cable, whatever, the Brady’s are heading towards divorce. Coming from a divorced family, sympathies to all those involved. I hope everything gets resolved. By the way, Tom Brady has to deal with all of this off the field drama while preparing for a football game. The Bucs are 2-2 and they can’t afford to slip against Atlanta.
Historically, Brady has owned the Falcons, he is 9-0 straight up and 8-1 against the spread. How can we forget the 28-3 comeback in the Super Bowl. I think this is the first time in Brady’s career he is legitimately distracted by off the field trouble. So far this year, Tampa’s offense has been stuck in second gear. They rank 22nd in yards per play (5.2), they are converting third downs at a 34 percent rate, and they rank 15th overall in DVOA. The offensive line isn’t creating run lanes. Brady has faced more pressure than he has in his entire career. Brady will likely get Chris Godwin back along with Mike Evans.
I think the Falcons are well coached and we will be able to hang close. They are 4-0 ATS. The defense isn’t special, (22nd in DVOA). They are better at defending the pass than the run. Arthur Smith is a good coach. The Falcons are a team that I am comfortable backing.
The pick: Atlanta +10
Philadelphia at Arizona
Spread: Philadelphia (-5)
The Eagles are the last unbeaten team standing. They have grown from unknown wild card team a season ago, to top Super Bowl contender in just four weeks. They have been sensational. They rank fourth in offensive DVOA while the Cardinals rank 22nd. That something I didn’t see coming.
With teams that blast expectations- regression is always looming. It may hit Philly here.
Overall, three of the four defenses the Eagles have played rank in the bottom 24 in DVOA (24,26,32) to be exact. The one good defense they played against was Jacksonville last week. I’m still not convinced how good the Jaguars are on that side of the ball. They won’t be facing a defensive juggernaut by any means. The Cardinals ranked 27th in defense DVOA, thanks in large part to the near 50 burger they gave up to Kansas City.
The Eagles are in a very dangerous look ahead spot with Dallas on Sunday Night Football coming up next. There is a lot of familiarity between the teams. Zach Ertz spent nine seasons in Philly and he knows this Eagles roster. Positive regression is looming for the Cardinals and negative regression for the Eagles. Arizona does a great job stopping the run allowing teams to rush for just 87 yards per game (5th in the league). They go up against a running QB everyday in practice. Jalen Hurts dual threat speed won’t overwhelm them here.
The spread should be a lot closer to 3 than it is six. We are getting good line value with Arizona here.
The pick: Arizona (+5)
Dallas at Los Angeles Rams
Spread : Los Angeles (-5.5)
Who would have thought Cooper Rush would be one of only four Cowboy QBs to win their first four starts. Will that streak continue in Los Angeles? I think it might.
While the game will be played in LA, it’s going to feel like Jerry World at SoFi stadium. Before the Rams moved to LA, the Cowboys had the second largest fan base in the area. They hold their training camp in Oxnard, CA just an hour drive away from the Stadium. With an opportunity to see their team play, Cowboys fans are paying top dollar. In Friday’s press conference, Sean McVay asked fans not to sell their tickets. Fans are cashing in and there is going to be a lot of Cowboy blue there.
Let’s talk about the football handicap here. The Cowboys couldn’t be much tougher for the Rams’ offensive line. Dallas ranks first in the NFL with 13 sacks and ranks second in pressure rate (32.7%), according to Pro Football Reference. They also rank first in pass rush win rate at 56 percent according to ESPN stats and info. The Rams have injuries on the offensive line- center Brian Allen and guard Coleman Shelton are ruled out. Going into the game, the Rams ranked 19th in the NFL in pass-block win rate. They have a tougher chance blocking this Cowboys front. Blocking has been an issue for the Rams.
The other main factor that has caused struggles for this offense is their lack of separation from wide receivers not named Cooper Kupp. Receivers not named Kupp are averaging just 2.1 yards per route run. That’s abysmal. Some of it has to do with the lack of protection. Receivers are not getting separation. McVay does a great job of using Kupp in multiple ways. But that is a main reason why the Ram’s offense ranks 26th in offensive DVOA after being in the top 5 all last season.
Now to offense for the Cowboys, Rush doesn’t turn the ball over. Rush has a QBR of 73.1 (5th in the NFL) and has thrown for 737 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions. While the Cowboys have experienced their own injury issues on the O-Line, they still have managed to protect Rush with an adjusted sack percentage of 7.2 percent. It’s fair to note the Rams defense will be the toughest test Rush has face thus far. Look for Dallas to lean on the running game and ask Rush to only make a handful of plays.
I really think the Cowboys can win this game with a conservative game plan. The under has dropped down to 42, so that’s a little low for my taste. Getting the Cowboys at 5.5 seems like pretty good value to me. There won’t be a home field advantage for LA. The Cowboys are going to have a conservative game plan to keep the game close. Continue to ride the Cowboys hot streak in this one.
The pick: Dallas (+5.5)
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