The column is back for another week. We are coming off back to back winning weeks and will look to extend that streak once more. We are 14-8 through the first four weeks of the season. Week 5 packs a punch. This one of the tougher slates we have had to handicap this entire year. But we were able to fit in five detailed game previews to get you ready to take on Sunday.
All lines are presented by DraftKings Sportbook.
Pro Football Trends through Week 4
Favorites: 25-38 ATS (40%)
Home teams: 28-36 ATS (44%)
Overs: 27-37 (42%)
Home favorites: 15-25 ATS (38%)
Green Bay at Cincinnati
Spread: Green Bay (-2.5)
This is the definition of a “fishy” line. While I typically don’t like taking public sides, I don’t think I have much of a choice here. Cincinnati is a team that is vastly overrated by the public. They have three wins - over Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Jacksonville. Their last win against Jacksonville, they didn’t lead until the final second.
Overall, Cincinnati has been great on the defensive end ranking fifth overall in DVOA. They have also played three out of the bottom five offenses in football. Cincinnati has been great against the run ranking fifth in rush DVOA. Green Bay has a stellar offensive line that ranks ninth in adjusted line yards and sixth overall in adjusted sack rate. The Cincinnati defensive line will need to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers, but they have only been pressuring the quarterback at a 22 percent clip.
After a poor Week 1 against New Orleans, Aaron Rodgers is slowly returning to form. Green Bay’s offense ranks eighth overall in DVOA. They should be able to move the ball on the road against this Bengals defense. Aaron Jones and Davonte Adams have been sensational as of late.
Offensively, for Cincy Joe Burrow has been getting a lot of attention. Analytically, Cincy has not been good on the offensive side of the ball ranking 20th in offensive DVOA, they have a down to down success rate of 47 percent and a passing success rate of 44 percent. They heavily rely on explosive passing and running plays. That’s not how you beat the Green Bay defense, who does a great job of keeping plays in front of them. I fully expect Green Bay to come away with a win here.
The pick: Green Bay (-2.5)
Miami at Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay (-10)
Tampa Bay is coming off an emotional win on Sunday Night Football which was centered around Tom Brady’s homecoming to New England. Now Tampa has to come home to play a Miami team that we aren’t really sure of. Miami is in a tough spot playing with a back up quarterback and now they have to go on the road at the defending champions to prevent a 1-4 start. Miami head coach Brian Flores and Tom Brady have a lot of familiarity with each other due to their time together in New England.
Miami’s offense has struggled all year averaging 15.5 points per game to rank 31st in the NFL while managing only 252 yards per contest. Miami ranks 28th in overall defensive DVOA. They are still trying to find their offensive identity with George Godsey and Eric Studesville as co-offensive coordinators. Tampa Bay’s depleted secondary got help with the addition of Richard Sherman. Miami will not be able to run the ball against this front. I just don’t see a path for Miami to move the ball consistently here.
Tampa Bay ranks fifth overall in offensive DVOA. Brady has found his rhythm. However, now he gets a matchup against a secondary who can match up with his receivers on the outside. Xavien Howard and Bryon Jones are the best cornerback duos in the league and they will give Brady trouble. The Dolphins are susceptible against the run, but Tampa has struggled with their ground game. This would be the week where Bruce Arians will want to incite confidence in that group. I expect the Buccaneers offense will be centered around the ground game.
Tampa Bay should win this one comfortably, but I don’t give out double digit favorites in the NFL. We will go with the under here to protect from a backdoor cover. Expect Miami’s defense to keep them in it during the first half, and Tampa’s ground game will find a resurgence to put them over the top. I expect Tampa to win this in the 27-14 range. That spells under for me.
The pick: Under 48
Denver at Pittsburgh
Spread: Denver (-1.5)
This is another line that did not sit right with me. The projected line for this game a couple weeks ago was Pittsburgh -4.5 and now they are a short dog at home. There is some major overreaction to the line in this one.
In terms of the biggest story entering this one, Teddy Bridgewater was a full participant in practice, so we should expect the Denver QB to play Sunday. But even with Bridgewater under the center, I can’t justify Denver being favored on the road here. We saw Denver struggle when facing a top 15 defense for the first time this year last week against Baltimore. Yeah I know Bridgewater left the game with an injury, but even when he was on the field he averaged 4.4 yards per attempt while only completing 43 percent of his passes. Denver is going to struggle with Pittsburgh's D-Line. Denver’s offensive line ranks 20th in adjusted sack rate, and they will be facing a Pittsburgh defense that is 6th in pressure rate.
The negative narrative around the Steelers is that Ben Roethlisberger is “washed”. I think it’s dangerous to bet on narratives that are declared over social media. I’m not going to pretend Big Ben's QBR of 38.9 is anything good here. I’m just interested to see how this veteran Steelers group responds after three straight losses. They still have plenty of weapons with Chase Claypool and Juju Smith on the outside. I think Ben is enough to get it done.
The books haven’t given up on Pittsburgh's offense, Ben passing yards props is 252.5. That’s a pretty solid expectation, and if he gets a little help from the run game the Steelers have a good shot. This is a great spot for Pittsburgh at home and they get the job done here.
The pick: Pittsburgh (+1.5)
New York (G) vs Dallas
Spread: Dallas -7
Daniel Jones is 10-4 ATS and is 9-2 ATS as a road underdog during his career. Jones is coming off a 404 yard passing performance on the road against the Saints. Jones should be licking his chops playing a Dallas defense that’s allowing over 300 passing yards per game. On the road Jones has 25 touchdown passes to seven interceptions while averaging 299 yards per game. Another positive point for New York is Jones only has two turnovers in four games so far.
Dallas is coming off their third straight win and fourth straight cover after beating the Panthers 36-28. Dallas is starting to feel themselves a little bit. This is the point where it is best to fade them. Dallas just released Jaylon Smith and now they are even thinner at linebacker. I do worry about Dallas’s ability to run the ball against a Giants front seven that is a little bit banged up. I think Jones and the New York offense has a good chance to be competitive throughout this game. A lot of value with the Giants, take the points.
The Pick: New York (+7)
Indianapolis at Baltimore
Spread: Baltimore -6.5
This is a plug the nose hope it works kind of play. I don’t like betting on a team with an offensive line and quarterback struggles. But you simply have to trust me here, we are getting value on Indianapolis and following sharp money here. Over 60 percent of the bets are on Baltimore yet the spread is going down. Indy ranks 26 in offensive DVOA and their O-line ranks outside the top 15 in adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate, not pretty. Baltimore is coming off a big road win at Denver. Now they have a Monday Night Football crowd at home.
So why am I picking Indy here?
One you get Carson Wentz facing against a banged up Baltimore secondary with Jimmy Smith and Deshion Elliot out at practice all week. Baltimore also may miss both tackles with Ronnie Staley and Alejandro Villanueva out all week as well. Indy should be able to stifle Baltimore’s ground game with their fifth ranked rushing defense. I’m not sure if I like Lamar giving 6.5 points if he doesn’t have a running game. Indy is a desperate team and they have the talent to keep this game competitive.
We will look to see if backing road dogs continues to be a popular strategy moving forward.
The pick: Indianapolis (+6.5)
Make sure to follow Austin on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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