It looks like I was correct about trading off good weeks with bad weeks! 4-1 last week! 13-11-1 overall and a nice way to go from not profitable to profitable in just one week. Only blemish was Baltimore not getting the job done in Pittsburgh even though they had an early 10-0 lead. There are some things I learned about that game as well as a couple of other games in the evening time slots: don't roll with mobile QBs on the road! Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, and Jordan Love all looked awful during Week 5. They were making throws that you don't expect a high school QB to make. Also, I should have known better about selecting a game between bitter division rivals. I won't make that same mistake for Week 6.
Of course I have to brag about the 49ers. They have to be on the best five game start in NFL history. They have not scored fewer than 30 points in any game so far this season and they have won by double digits except for their game against the Rams in Week 2 but that should have been a 10 point win if Sean McVay was not so insistent on kicking a meaningless field goal with just 4 seconds left. FYI, the 49ers were favored by 7 points in that game. Something smells fishy there!
For this week, we have a few big spreads which speaks volumes of the disparity in quality we are seeing among NFL teams. Some teams look great, especially at home, like San Francisco, Buffalo, Miami, Kansas City, and Detroit. All of them have had at least one dominant home win (2 TD margin of victory or higher) during this young season and their combined record is 21-5 and their combined point differential is +324 points. On the flip side, some teams look downright awful, both at home and on the road, like New England, Denver, NY Giants, Chicago, and Carolina. All of them have lost by double digits multiple times and we are only 5-6 weeks into this season. Their combined record is 4-22 and their combined point differential is -333. Perhaps they are all tanking to get Caleb Williams from USC but I highly doubt Carolina gives up on Bryce Young so soon and Justin Fields still has loads of potential. Regardless of the reasons why the bottom five teams look so bad, it's clear there is a huge gap between the NFL elite and the bottom feeders. Fortunately this week, we have two games tomorrow between those groups and we already had one on Thursday night in which Kansas City covered but barely. Again, games between division rivals are tough to predict!
Enough posturing about last week and the current standings. Let's get to the Week 6 picks!
- Cincinnati -3
At this time last week, several NFL pundits were hitting the panic button for the Bengals. A loss on the road to Arizona would mean that Cincinnati would start the season 1-4 and this is a team that has been part of the AFC elite for the last two years. Well that didn't happen. Ja'Marr Chase singlehandedly destroyed the Arizona secondary with a 15 catch, 192 yards, and 3 TD performance. That has probably catapulted Chase to the top of the Offensive Player of the Year race. Needless to say, the Bengals got their groove back and now they return home and face another NFC West team with a suspect secondary. Seattle ranks dead last in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and while I rarely use fantasy points when analyzing the games against the spread, I think it is noteworthy to mention it here given how bad Seattle has been against the opposition's top WR and how good Chase has been since his rookie year. In fact Chase was great at LSU where he had Joe Burrow as his QB in 2019, easily one of the best offensive teams in college football history. Meanwhile Seattle might be 3-1 but two of those wins were against the NY Giants and Carolina Panthers. They have allowed 4 WRs so far to crack 100 yards and now it looks like Tee Higgins might return for Cincinnati after a full practice yesterday. No way Seattle will be able to handle both Higgins and Chase. The spread has already moved from -2 to -3 and it could move more if Higgins is active for tomorrow. The Bengals offense will put up at least 30 points on Seattle, just how the Rams and Lions have done that already to them. Cincinnati 31 - Seattle 21.
- Cleveland +9.5
Don't worry, I am still picking the 49ers to win! It's just that I don't think the 49ers win big. First off, the spread and point total make no sense to me. The 49ers are favored to win by nearly 10 points but the over-under is at 36 points. So Vegas thinks the 49ers win 21-10 or something like that? I am not terribly comfortable picking a team to win by double digits if scoring points will be difficult, especially if the game will be played in nasty weather. There is a 60% chance of rain in Cleveland with game time temperatures in the mid-50s. The biggest issue is the wind with wind speeds near 20 mph and gusts over 30 mph. That is much different than the beautiful California weather the 49ers have enjoyed in their 3 home games so far this season and a road game at the cozy SoFi Stadium which has served as a 2nd home venue for the 49ers. Throw in the fact that the 49ers will have to travel cross country and quickly adjust to a 3 hour time zone change. May I also add that the game starts at 1 PM local time which will feel like 10 AM for the 49ers. Don't underestimate a dramatic shift in time zones and long travel for NFL teams, even for the cream of the crop. Look at what happened to Buffalo last Sunday in their London game against Jacksonville. Again, I don't think the 49ers lose, especially with DeShaun Watson out. However, backup QB PJ Walker is not half bad, especially when he is started at home. This game will be ugly and close but the 49ers will prevail, just not cover with the model having the 49ers win by 8.11 points. San Francisco 17 - Cleveland 10.
- Miami -14
We now shift our attention to a place where the weather should be fine and this time we will eat the chalk. Giving up 14 points is a big ask but Miami is not your typical offense. Remember, this team scored 70 points at home not that long ago. They also scored 31 points last week and 36 points in Week 1. This is a juggernaut offense with crazy speed. What Miami does especially well is cover against weak opponents. Denver and the NY Giants are in the bottom 5 of the league and Miami beat the former by 50 points and the latter by 15 points. Carolina is 0-5 and now missing its top RB. Each of Carolina's home losses have been by double digits with one of them being an 18 point loss week in Detroit. Much like the Lions, the Dolphins are part of the NFL elite so I expect a similar result. Just pick your poison with the Miami offense: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, or Raheem Mostert. This is an explosive offense that will run up the scoreboard tomorrow. Vegas thinks so as well with the line moving from 10.5 to 14 in favor of Miami. Let Tua cook! Miami 35 - Carolina 14.
- Detroit -3
Except for a 37-31 loss at home to Seattle during Week 2, all has been humming along nicely for the team from Motor City. The Lions started the season with a surprising 21-20 victory on the road in Kansas City which actually knocked a lot of people out of their survivor pools (unless you had a chance for a re-buy). Rarely do defending Super Bowl champions lose the home opener so Detroit's Week 1 victory is not something to overlook. After losing to Seattle in Week 2, the Lions have gone on to dominate their last 3 opponents by winning each game by at least two TDs. They have done it with the ground game or through the air. This is a versatile team but a physical one. Head coach Dan Campbell and QB Jared Goff have given the Lions a winning identity, something they haven't had since the Barry Sanders days of the 90s. On the other hand, Tampa Bay lost at home earlier this season to another NFC contender that also plays physical: Philadelphia. I am not saying Detroit is better than Philadelphia but they are close in record and how they play the game. I expect a similar result and do does my model with the Lions winning by 8.92 points. Detroit 27 - Tampa Bay 16.
- Buffalo -15
Sorry for so much chalk this week but the past results indicate that we are seeing some college football type of results with the top teams blowing out the weak teams. The NY Giants have to be thinking about Caleb Williams given how poorly Daniel Jones has played. Of course not all of the Giants struggles are his fault. The offensive line for New York has to be the worst I have ever seen and it's the defense that has given up so many points, not the QB. Still, when your QB is running for his life as soon as the ball is snapped and then making big mistakes by throwing the ball into heavy traffic or fumbling the ball to the opposition instead of going down quickly after your pass protection crumbles, you are not giving your defense much of a chance to get a breather and you are giving them a very short field to defend. This has been an ugly start for the Giants and it will only get uglier now that Jones is out and Tyrod Taylor is in. The last time Taylor started a game was in 2021 and in two of those starts, he was sacked 5 times each. In fact, Taylor played for current Bills head coach Sean McDermott in Buffalo in 2017 when Taylor was keeping the QB spot warm for Josh Allen. McDermott knows Taylor well so I expect the Buffalo defense to dominate him. I should also add that Taylor led the league in sacks allowed in 2016. This will be a get right game for Buffalo after losing in London last week. Plus they will be at home and on Sunday Night Football. I am still baffled as to how the Giants keep getting prime time spots. It will be their 4th prime time game in 6 weeks. Can we please flex them out?! Buffalo 42 - NY Giants 10.
Like the stock market, pick the blue chippers to win if the conditions seem right. That will be the case for four of the favors I picked but I am being realistic about the 49ers. By the way, my model doesn't have Cincinnati, Miami, or Buffalo covering but picking against the spread is both an art and a science. Balance is key. Enjoy the games and let's hope we get the elusive 5-0 week!