WEEK 5: NFL Weekly with TJ Calkins
Thanks for stopping by for week 5 for your NFL betting needs. Week 4 showed us the consequences when average talent is managed by poor coaching. The Falcons and Bengals are prime examples of that. Dan Quinn had his typical ineptitude on full display in the Falcons home loss while Bengals coach Zac Taylor showed just how green he is and was consistently outschemed on both sides of the ball with no adjustments made.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden gets a pass from me for the benching of Case Keenum and the lopsided loss, as I believe one of two scenarios were at play. The first would be a mandate from ownership that if the team were losing by two scores at a certain point, keeping his job relied on making a change to project and longhair to be a legitimate NFL starter Dwayne Haskins. The second scenario would be that Gruden recognized the inevitability of the loss and wanted the rest of the world to see what he sees: Haskins is not close to ready. Haskins proceeded to throw for just 107 yards and three interceptions on just 17 attempts and leads to the probability that finally healthy Colt McCoy will take over as starter for as long as he can remain healthy going forward.
The biggest story of the week is probably the delayed emergence of the Cleveland Browns in an easy road win in Baltimore as a full touchdown underdog. The Browns reminded everyone why the hype existed to begin with and was the signature game for running back Nick Chubb so far in his young career.
Both plays of the week were winners last week, as both the Panthers and Jaguars secured road wins as underdogs. The Jaguars were dicey for a bit as the defense couldn’t have played worse in a game they should have dominated, but ultimately got the job done and cashed both ATS and money line. Let’s keep it rolling and on to week 5.
I’ll be debuting a more identifiable system of betting plays versus betting leans this week to more easily identify the strongest plays.
Play of the week
Ezekiel Elliott will lead the Cowboys to an easy cover against a Green Bay defense that has allowed over 600 yards of offense and 6 touchdowns to running backs over the last three games. What’s more, the Packers will likely be without top wide receiver Davante Adams in their effort to keep pace.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Opening Line: Ravens -3 and 42.5
- Current Line: Ravens -3.5 and 44.5
There is a glaring play in this game and one that may go mostly overlooked due to a few factors. The first being that the Steelers looked great on MNF, rolling out a wildcat attack and utilizing the RB position heavily, and it caught their opponent by surprise. The element of surprise will not be present the second time around and the Steelers may not have such an easy time hiding work in progress Mason Rudolph. Another factor pertaining to Pittsburgh is the defensive front feasted on an awful defensive line and that matchup is far more even this week. Despite the Ravens being owned by Nick Chubb last week, they are a team that is generally stout against the running back position and adjustments will be made and it is a good bet they dare the Steelers to beat them with the pass. The Raven offensive line will have a much easier time pass blocking than the Bengals did and the beatable Steeler secondary will be in trouble on that side of the ball.
Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders
- Opening Line: Bears -6 and 41
- Current Line: Bears -4.5 and 40.5
Not many teams get an upgrade when their incumbent starting quarterback goes down and a career backup becomes the quarterback, but that is exactly the case for the Bears as Chase Daniel replaces the injured Mitchell Trubisky. Daniel is simply the more capable and accurate passer and his presence will make this game no play versus the underdog play it would have been if Trubisky were starting. The Raiders are capable but this spread is right on and is just a game to avoid.
No plays or leans
Arizona Cardinals at Cincinnati Bengals
- Opening Line: Bengals -4 and 48.5
- Current Line: Bengals -3.5 and 47
Help, one of the league’s winless teams *should* get into the win column this week, but let’s not put a tie past these inept teams. The Bengals has a simply putrid performance Monday night against a Steeler team that is so much less than what the Bengals made them appear to be. We were well aware of the Bengals offensive line woes, particularly pass blocking, entering the season, and those have quickly come to a head. Both coaching and quarterback play seem to refuse to acknowledge they exist to this point and in turn the offense is a disaster. Until Zac Taylor shows he can formulate a game plan to overcome these issues, the Bengals will be a betting target, particularly if favored. Take the points with the Cards here.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers
- Opening Line: Panthers -3 and 42
- Current Line: Panthers -3.5 and 41
This is a matchup of two stout defenses and two competent offenses. Here’s the weekly reminder the Panther offense is better with Kyle Allen while Cam Newton is out and they still feature the league’s premier skill position player in running back Christian McCaffrey. I do think the Jaguars will have a difficult time securing a second consecutive road win and the Panthers get the job done at home. This is a much more concerning matchup should the Jaguars find themselves without Jalen Ramsey again and the individual matchup of DJ Moore against AJ Bouye is one the Panthers can win with. Panthers are the lean.
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants
- Opening Line: Vikings -5.5 and 46
- Current Line: Vikings -5.5 and 45
There is much (correctly) made of wide receiver Adam Thielen’s comments generally summed up that team’s will eventually need to be able to pass to win. The Vikings run heavy season to date is well documented, but now that they’ve have two losses in the last three weeks, there are squeaky wheels that need greased. If there were an ideal get right spot to pick in the league for a quarterback to wide receiver connection needing a boost, it would be exactly the Giants. The Vikings offense should face little resistance as a whole and there should be talk next week of the passing game fixing its issues. The Giants offense is limited to shorter passes with Daniel Jones for the foreseeable future and is in a spot for the sound Minnesota defense to exploit that predictability. The Giants will put a few points on the board at home, but just enough to get the over home.
New England Patriots at Washington Redskins
- Opening Line: Patriots -13 and 47.5
- Current Line: Patriots -15.5 and 43.5
The Redskins fully bottomed out last week, showing how bad an offense can conceivably be in a truly simple matchup with the Giants. Even if Colt McCoy is under center this week to restore competence, this matchup is among the worst imaginable. The Patriots defense has performed as the league’s elite to this point in the season and the Redskins are going to have problems moving the ball from the opening snap. The Patriots wide receivers are just going to have a field day against the overmatched Washington secondary. It’s difficult to envision a way the Redskins keep this game close, however the line movement is clearly unideal.
New York Jets at Philadelphia Eagles
- Opening Line: Eagles -13 and 44.5
- Current Line: Eagles -14 and 44
The Jets will remain an absolute offensive mess as long as Luke Falk is filling in for Sam Darnold, and it looks like that will be for one more week. LeVeon Bell remains one of the league’s elite backs, but the matchup with Philly is exploitable only through the air and by picking on the secondary, and it takes away much of the difference making potential Bell brings. The Philly offense showed off a new element with Jordan Howard last week, and if it gets a healthy Desean Jackson back, they will be on the short list for the league’s best offense. Even without DJax, the Eagles remain a high end offense as long as Carson Wentz is under center and will cruise to an easy win here at home. If Darnold were to play, the Eagles would move from a play to a lean.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
- Opening Line: Saints -6.5 and 47
- Current Line: Saints -3.5 and 47
The Bucs pulled off a massively improbable win at the Rams last week on the back of wide receiver Chris Godwin’s dominant performance. They were aided by mistakes by Rams quarterback Jared Goff making plenty of mistakes, even in a game he threw for over 500 yards. The Bucs won’t have to worry about numbers like that this week, facing a Teddy Bridgewater lead offense. Both teams are coming off hard fought wins in polar opposite types of games, and this one is a candidate to simply be a flat and ugly game. The total is set too high for any Saints game in which Bridgewater starts.
Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans
- Opening Line: Texans -4.5 and 49.5
- Current Line: Texans -5 and 48.5
Not to mince words, this game could be one that costs Falcons coach Dan Quinn his job if the team puts forth a lackluster effort. Fortunately for him, the Texans defense is most easily exploited by wide receivers, and he has Julio Jones at his disposal and additionally a nice individual matchup for slumping Calvin Ridley to bounce back. No matter the matchup this year, the Falcons are a team that will have to simply outscore their opponents as the defense as a whole is quite inept. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will have a bounce back week in this matchup and we will see a steady and healthy scoring pace in this one. I still believe Houston will finish the year with a winning record but will continue to play close games with all or most of their opponents and the underdog is a prudent lean until further notice. The over is a spot to attack here and the underdog is worth a long look.
Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans
- Opening Line: Titans -1 and 38
- Current Line: Titans -3 and 38.5
This is a matchup of two sound defenses, and with the status of Bills QB Josh Allen in question, a game to avoid. The line will move back down if it comes out that Allen is in line to play, and should be avoided either way. Neither of these teams are highly predictive on week to week offensive output, and this is a spot to fully sit out.
No plays or Leans
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers
- Opening Line: Chargers -6.5 and 44
- Current Line: Chargers -6.5 and 44.5
The Broncos are going to remain helpless this season. They had an ideal spot in a home game last week where the very high end defense they were facing came out flat and allowed some early points, but they simply could not capitalize. The offense exceeded expectations for the game but the defense collapsed and folded like a lawn chair late. They were simply out muscled and ground down by the physical running game and did not have an answer. Now they have to go on the road to face a Charger team that will have top back Melvin Gordon return to the lineup. The Chargers will overmatch them on both sides of the ball and this one could turn into a laugher. Oddsmakers are continuing to give the Broncos too much respect.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
4:25 PM EST
- Opening Line: Cowboys -4 and 48
- Current Line: Cowboys -3.5 and 47
The rest of the league has seemed to have solved the “puzzle” of the Packers defense that Bears coach Matt Nagy was unable to solve in week 1. The Packers are helpless against running backs. In the three games since that defense was exalted after a strong week 1 outing, they have allowed 486 rushing yards and five scores. Running backs have additionally caught 17 passes for another 124 yards and a touchdown in that span. Now they go on the road to Dallas to see Ezekeil Elliott make those numbers look even worse, in a game Dallas should control front to back. To make matters worse, the Packers are likely to be without top wide out Davante Adams. This line gives the Packers far too much respect and one to get in early on before Adams is officially ruled out.
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
8:20 PM EST
- Opening Line: Chiefs -8.5 and 54
- Current Line: Chiefs -11 and 56.5
The Colts are going to need top wide out TY Hilton back healthy if they are going to be competitive in this one, competitive against the spread that is. This is just a nightmare matchup and the worst in football they can possibly face. The way the Colts are built in the post Andrew Luck era, they are simply going to have mountains of trouble keeping up with teams that will put a big scoring pace on them, and no team fits that bill better than the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. Now, the massive betting line movement is the correct one, and makes the game much more difficult to play, for either the Chiefs or the over. Right now I’ll call the Chiefs a lean but would only truly entertain it if TY Hilton were ruled out.
Cleveland Browns at San Francisco 49ers
8:15 PM EST, Monday Night
- Opening Line: 49ers -4 and 47
- Current Line: 49ers -3.5 and 46.5
This should be another fun prime time game. After what we’ve gotten to this point in the season, we absolutely deserve it. The 49ers have started the year off strong despite quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo being quite turnover prone, handing it away five times in their first three game. Enter the Browns defensive front, by far the best they’ve faced and one that will have Jimmy G under duress all night. The Browns secondary should also be back to or near full health and the game is likely decided on this side of the ball. The Browns offense is also the best the 49ers has faced and this is a great underdog spot with simply the better team getting points.