Last week didn't go so well but that was true for most NFL prognosticators. While our picks went 2-3, the Super Contest consensus was 0-5. Overall we are 10-10. Not great but not a deep hole either. Now is the time to go for the jugular so 5-0 here we go!
Our picks this week represent a nice blend of favors and dogs as well as home and away teams. We are focusing on small spreads but of course selecting teams that will match up better against their opponents. Here are our Week 5 selections.
Arizona Cardinals +3. I know, I know. This is an absolute trash game and logic tells us to stay away. Combined records of these teams is 0-7-1. Ouch! While Arizona has struggled, one can argue that Cincinnati has struggled more. Hence, why not take the dog here in a battle of two dogs! There is no one on the Bengals offense that gets me excited but the Cardinals have dynamic playmakers in Kyler Murray, David Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald. If you take a look at the DVOA numbers on Football Outsiders for the Bengals defense, you will see why we like Arizona. The Bengals are 2nd to last in Offensive DVOA and 3rd to last in Defensive DVOA. True, Arizona does not rank well in those categories either but Cincinnati is really bad. Only Miami is worse. If you want to get more granular with DVOA, the Bengals are 2nd worst to #1 WRs and 3rd worst to pass catching RBs. This might be Kyler Murray's first victory as he should find Fitzgerald and Johnson open often. Our model actually likes Arizona to win outright so consider the moneyline bet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5. Another crazy bet but sometimes you need to get crazy to get to the top of the heap in the Super Contest. The Bucs actually epitomize the word "crazy" when it comes to the NFL. Their last 2 games have been barn burners. They blew a huge lead to the NY Giants two weeks ago but nonetheless looked very dominant in the 1st half. Then a week later they traveled cross country to put up 54 points against the defending NFC Champions. In fact, the Bucs were responsible for ruining most survivor pool entries. Those who regularly wager on sports know full well that lines are largely based on public perception. Even though the Bucs are 2-2 and rank high in offensive and defensive DVOA (much higher than New Orleans), the public still does not believe in Tampa Bay and why should they? From 1997 - 2007, the Bucs made the postseason 7 times. Since then, the Bucs have experienced an 11 year playoff drought. We are not used to thinking that Tampa Bay is a good team but the reality is that they are a good team. The Saints have done well without Drew Brees but this is a divisional matchup. Plus we are getting 3.5 points. Even if we lose by a field goal, we cover. Like Arizona, the model believes the Bucs will win so moneyline the dog again. This should be an entertaining game with Bucs probably winning by 1 point on a late score.
Baltimore Ravens -3. After a super impressive Week 1 victory at Miami, the Ravens have looked rather pedestrian. They did not cover against Arizona and lost to Kansas City. However, we can live with those results since Kyler Murray is not an easy out and Patrick Mahomes is pretty much unbeatable. The real issue is how Cleveland dominated Baltimore. That game took many of us by surprise but maybe it shouldn't. The Ravens defense is not that great with a defensive DVOA that ranks 29th. However, the Baltimore offense is legit. That is how the Ravens are winning games unlike what were used to during the Ray Lewis era. Furthermore, the Steelers have a mediocre offense. They looked good on Monday Night Football but that was against Cincinnati. Expect Lamar Jackson to have a monster game at Heinz Field. Russell Wilson carved up the Steelers in Week 2 so expect a mobile QB like Jackson to do the same. Don't be fooled by the fact that Pittsburgh is a game behind Baltimore in the standings. We will see serious separation between these two teams over the next few weeks and it all starts with this head-to-head matchup. Our model has Baltimore winning by 7 points. Could be more but regardless the chalk is OK to eat here.
Jacksonville Jaguars +3.5. Back to another dog. Yes, the Panthers have looked solid the last two weeks and this game is in Carolina. Christian McCaffrey is an uber-talented RB and Jacksonville does not defend the run game particularly well. Still, Jacksonville is 2-2 like Carolina and has won 2 in a row after a slow start to the season also like Carolina. Also, there is a lot to like about the Jaguars offense. Leonard Fournette is a talented RB in his own right, especially after a 200+ rushing yard performance last week in high elevation. And how can you not like Gardner Minshew! The kid has charisma and is winning over his locker room and the state of Florida. This game should be close so getting 3.5 points is awesome value. Just like our Tampa selection, lose by a field goal and we still cover. However, moneyline is probably too risky here. Just take the points. Uncle Rico might disagree!
San Francisco 49ers -3.5. Monday Night Football has been good to us so we will trust our model here. They host a talented Browns team that may have finally found its mojo after beating Baltimore 40-25 last week. Still, the 49ers are one of the top teams based on DVOA and their undefeated record. They will host Monday Night Football and finally Levi's Stadium should be raucous. Not sure if it will rival the energy of Candlestick Park but maybe the 49ers fans will prove us wrong. The long travel and time zone change for an evening game could mess with Cleveland. Plus if you look more closely at what personnel packages Cleveland runs on offense, it makes sense that they did well against Baltimore but will probably have trouble against San Francisco. Check out the link below.
Expect the 49ers to stay undefeated by running the ball well successfully in several 2 RB formations (something Cleveland does not defend well) and forcing at least a couple of turnovers when the Browns are in their 2 TE sets (something San Francisco defends very well). Just like the Tampa Bay - New Orleans line, the public is influecing this spread given that the 49ers have been a dismal team for the past 5 seasons. An undefeated team hosting a 2-2 team on Monday Night Football should be favored by 6 or 7 points, especially if it is a matchup nightmare for the visiting team. We have the 49ers winning by double digits so don't over think this one.
Three dogs and two favored teams. Two of our dogs we like to win straight up. Parlay the moneylines! Also, parlay the Ravens and Jaguars against the spread. If all goes well, place some of your profits on the 49ers. 5-0 here we come!