NFL Week 5 Picks
By Zach Zaffos (Twitter: @zachzaffos)
Season To Date Against the Spread (ATS):
Best Bets: 4-0 (100%)
Units: 12-2 (86%)
All Bets: 8-2 (80%)
Week 4 Recap:
1.5 units (Best Bet): OAKLAND (-2.5) OVER Cleveland
I can honestly say I wrote this one off when Cleveland seemingly converted a game-clinching first down with less than two minutes to go. But when you’re running hot, you’re running hot. After the refs questionably overturned the aforementioned conversion, Hue Jackson’s squad allowed a one-minute touchdown drive, a two-point conversion, AND an overtime scoring drive to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We all like to complain when we suffer a bad beat, so we’ll take games like these when we can get them.
1 unit: Cincinnati (+5) OVER ATLANTA
Like the Oakland game, we saw another wild finish in Atlanta, but unlike the Oakland game, we already had a push in hand before A.J. Green won it with a last-second touchdown. In a contest that expectedly went back and forth, we took the five points and the underrated quarterback, which proved to be the difference.
Furthermore, while it’s better to be lucky than good, we have certainly been both thus far in 2018. But, let me be clear: The 80+ percent run we are on right now is absolutely unsustainable. We haven’t lost a single game since Week 2, and if not for the New Orleans Saints, a team we are 0-2 backing this season, we would have a perfect 8-0 record.
However, if we keep following the logic we have been, we will put ourselves in a fantastic position to profit the rest of the season.
With that being said, we have learned a lot about all 32 teams in the first four weeks. But not everything. In Week 5, we will blend what we’ve seen in the first four weeks with our preseason opinions as well as some predictive situational spots and trends. Let’s get to the picks (HOME teams in all caps).
NEW YORK JETS (PK) OVER Denver (2 units)
Many were quick to anoint Sam Darnold the next Joe Namath after Week 1, and some of those same people are beginning to consider him the next Mark Sanchez instead.
Stop. The. Overreactions.
Let’s consider the following facts:
• New York has played three of its four games on the road.
• Rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle on the road.
• Spreads are formulated based on to-date performance. If a team has played 3 of 4 on the road, it may be undervalued.
• After starting its season on Monday Night Football, the Jets played a Sunday game against the Dolphins, followed by a Thursday road game in Cleveland.
• That’s 3 games in 11 days. No other team in the NFL has done that this season.
• The Jets followed its three-game opening stretch with a trip to Jacksonville. The Jags haven’t allowed more than six points in a first half all season (or over 20 in a game).
We talked a lot in last week’s post about backing teams that are hitting rock bottom, and it’s clear the Jets are this week’s undervalued team. Coming back home with a top-10 defense, the Jets are in a great spot to come out with a victory.
But one team doesn’t form a best bet by itself. We also have some reasons to be skeptical of this Denver team for many of the inverse reasons we like New York:
• Denver is off an emotional Monday Night Football loss versus its archrival, Kansas City.
• The Broncos will be on short rest coming into New York.
• While everyone saw Denver have a semblance of an offense last week, it has been anemic on that end in 2018. Seriously, don’t be fooled – Patrick Mahomes does not play defense, and the Kansas City Chiefs have been awful on that side of the football in 2018.
• In fact, Case Keenum is 29th of 33 qualified quarterbacks in QBR in 2018 – despite his passable performance in Week 4. It seems he has reverted to his historical level of play, and that last year was likely an anomaly.
• Unlike the Jets, Denver has played 3 of its 4 games at home this season.
• Denver has one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL due to the altitude.
• The Broncos’ largest margin of victory in its three home games is three points (and it’s not like Seattle or Oakland are juggernauts).
• Thus, Denver is likely overrated as a road team.
Based on the factors above, we will happily take the undervalued Jets in a pick’em spot facing a Broncos team traveling across the country on short rest.
OTHER BETS I’LL DABBLE WITH
DETROIT (+1.5) OVER Green Bay (1.5 units)
Let’s talk about the obvious: Aaron Rodgers is incredible. Many believe that without him, Green Bay would be a bottom-five NFL team, with last season’s Brett Hundley experiment as Exhibit A.
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not believe Mr. Rodgers is fully healthy. And while a gimpy A-Rod may be enough to get by the lowly Buffalo Bills, it won’t be quite as easy when traveling to Detroit.
How do I know he’s not healthy, you may ask? Well, Green Bay is 19th in the league in yards per play this season. When was the last time one could have imagined an Aaron-Rodgers-led team in the bottom half of the league offensively? And if you blame the rest of his offense – well, then that’s the point. Green Bay’s offense isn’t going to magically improve just because they have Aaron Rodgers. They haven’t been able to perform that way all year with him.
Additionally, are we sure Green Bay is an elite team? The Pack, who have traditionally taken care of Lambeau Field, have played 3 of 4 at home. In those games, the team has experienced some mixed results:
• The Packers have required a miraculous comeback to beat Mitch Trubisky and the Bears in Week 1 at home.
• Green Bay tied Minnesota at Lambeau. All indications are that the perception of the Vikes may have been overstated coming into the season, at least thus far.
• Aaron Rodgers and Co. was absolutely beat down at Washington.
• The team beat Buffalo 22-0, but afterward internally complained about how the offense should have performed better.
Green Bay is by no means a poor football team, but it’s not clear it’s a great one either.
Furthermore – on the Detroit side – I believe the Lions to be one of the most underrated teams in the NFL, and my reasoning has more to do with our preseason expectations than the team’s performance thus far in 2018. There’s no getting around it – Detroit came out with two duds to open the season, but Matthew Stafford and the Lions have looked a lot more like themselves in Weeks 3 and 4, with a win over New England and a last-second loss in Dallas. Relatedly, I do like the fact that Detroit is coming off that aforementioned loss, so the team will be extra motivated to right the ship in Week 5. We are lucky the market hasn’t budged much on Detroit in the past two weeks, so we have a certainly little bit of value here.
Consequently, let’s not allow our love of Aaron Rodgers to get in the way of a great bet. Give me the home underdog Detroit coming off a loss versus an overvalued Packers squad.
Oakland (+5) OVER LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (1 unit)
We’ve dived into a lot of detail for our first two handicaps, but our reasoning here is pretty simple: Vegas is improperly accounting for home-field advantage. While the ex-San Diego Chargers thought its move to LA would bring in a larger fan base, results haven’t met expectations. In fact, many actually anticipate the Raiders to have more fans than LA on Sunday. Thus, I’m considering this game as if it is being played on a neutral field, and based on such, five points is far too much. Though I’ll admit we’re slightly concerned about a tired Oakland team coming off an OT battle last week, I don’t mind fading the Chargers, a team with major question marks on its roster, a non-existent home-field advantage, and one coming off a measly two-point home win versus San Francisco’s backup quarterback.
With that, the picks are in, and it’s time to sign off for the week. May the picks be with us!