Week 5 was a tough one and a good reminder that when handicapping we are trying to predict the most likely game scripts and results but we are always vulnerable to randomness. So for me the teaser loss last week is the one that really hurts. I should have trusted my cap and played Panthers straight, over the long term having a week like that go 2-3 rather than 1-4 makes a big difference. If the process is right we can’t let results impact us too much and got to keep firing.
Week 5: 1-4
Game 1: Cle +10 @ Hou
Bet%: Cle 40% Hou%
This feels like the perfect week to be on Cleveland and also the perfect week to fade Houston, add those together and I think there is a legitimate shot for the Browns to pull out a big upset and get their 1st win. Whether they do or not 10 points here is great value.
Cleveland has made a change at QB going with Kevin Hogan over Deshone Kizer and while Hogan may not have a long track record as a successful player it can only be an improvement. Kizer through 5 games has been overwhelmed, he has the lowest QBR in the league among starters, has thrown 9 interceptions and also fumbled 3 more times for 12 total turnovers. It is hard for any team to overcome that type of play at QB never mind one that is as young as the Browns. Hogan has played in just 7 games over the last 2 years and we don’t have a lot to go on but in his limited snaps has looked more comfortable than Kizer and should be able to have success this week.
The Browns defense has underperformed expectations so far but I think injuries are a big reason why. Last week #1 overall pick Myles Garrett played his first game of the year and had 2 sacks, Danny Shelton also came back after missing a could of weeks and this week Jaimie Collins will return to the defense. That front 7 should be much better with those 3 back and should give the Houston line some issues.
For Houston they are coming off of 2 straight big games, a big divisional win vs the Titans where they put up 57 points and then last week in primetime on SNF vs the Chiefs and have Seattle next week. Deshawn Watson’s stock couldn’t be hotter and now they have – Cleveland in town. The Texans defense was already underwhelming and now this will be the first game without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilous who they lost for the season on Sunday. Watt is the big name but they were without him all of last year, it’s the Mercilous loss that will cause big problems especially here in the first week without both.
Game 2: Det @ NO-4
Bet%: Det 56% NO 44%
This is another game where I think we get one team in a great spot vs one that is in a tough one. The Saints are coming off of a bye, the Adrian Peterson noise is now behind them and Drew Brees should also get his #2 receiver Willie Snead back in his game.
The Lions are coming into this game off of a tough loss at home to Carolina, have a bunch of key players banged up and looking forward to their bye week next week. While Matt Stafford, Ziggy Ansah and Ricky Wagner are to play, none of them were full participants in practice most of the week and will be less than 100%.
A lot has been made of the improved Detroit defense but I think much of their success can be attributed to takeaways, they have 11 takeaways through 5 weeks which is 3rd best in the league. Last year the Lions had 14 total so I am not sure it is fair to expect them to keep his up. This week the Lions play Drew Brees who always has one of the best TD-INT ratios and 0 through the first 4 games those year though we would have to expect that to change at some point.
The Saints defense in the first 2 weeks put up 2 historically bad performances but followed them up with 2 very impressive games in Carolina and then in the London game vs Miami. I would be lying if I said I knew which 2 games was the real Saints defense but I would guess it’s somewhere in between and if that is the case they should be able to enough vs Detroit to let Brees and the offense lead the way to a double digit win.
Game 3: LAR @ JAC Under 21 1st Half
Bet%: Over 59% Under41% (Full Game)
In the 3 years of this blog, I’m not sure there has been a team that has more of an under profile than the Jaguars do and yet through 5 games the total has gone over 3 times. This is a team that is doing everything they can to keep the game out of their QBs hands, they lead the league in rush attempts per game with 35, have the highest run/pass play percentage and still manage the 6th most efficient run offense in football. On defense this is the best pass defense in the league through 5 weeks and the worst run defense meaning every Jags game should feature both teams running 30 times a game which is an under bettors dream.
So why hasn’t every game gone under? Well let’s start with the fact that in 2 of the games so far the Jags scored 2 defensive TDS, the other is that when trailing the Jags have to open up their offense in 2nd half’s. In the first half’s, 4 of the 5 jags games have gone under.
This week I expect the Rams to feature a lot of Todd Gurley early to try to protect Goff from that Jags pass rush. Last week the Steelers ran only 22 times out of 77 total plays and played right into the Jags hands as they turned Roethlisberger over 5 times. Coming off of their own 5 turnover game I expect the Rams to try to set up the pass by establishing the run early and as a result we should have a quick moving low event 1st half.
*If the Jags are leading in the first half and the 2nd half total is 21 or higher I will likely be on that number as well. (will post on twitter if that happens)
Game 4: Chi +6.5 @ Bal
Bet%: Chi 40% Bal 60%
We get Mitchell Trubisky in his 2nd start here and in game 1 against a very good defense he was fine for most of it and then threw a terrible interception to kill the Bears chance at winning. We don’t need the Bears to win straight up here though I think they will be in this game the whole way through and could very well win.
I’m not sure how good the Ravens can be with this offense and as a result games like this where they are being asked to cover almost a full TD seems like a lot. The Ravens are 24th in offensive DVOA, 25the in passing and 17th in rush offense, the Bears are 28th, 30th and 19th by comparison though they are obviously hoping those numbers get a boost with the change at QB.
Ravens defense has been very good, 6th overall in DVOA and 2nd best vs the pass but only 22nd vs the run and this week they will be without one of their best run defenders in DT Brandon Williams. So that is where I expect the Bears to focus their attack on, using Howard and Cohen in the run game and Trubinsky’s mobility should help here as last week we saw them use some run-pass options vs the Vikings and Trubinsky rushed for 22 yards on 3 attempts.
The Bears defense has been playing pretty well through the first 5 weeks, 17th in DVOA and in 4 of those 5 games they have played much more dangerous offenses than the Ravens in the Falcons, Steelers, Packers and Bucs. The Ravens will be without Terrence West again and Jeremy Maclin is questionable, I can’t see the Ravens putting up a lot of point’s vs the Bears without getting turnover help. Turnovers have been the biggest difference in these 2 teams seasons, the Bears are -9 while the Ravens are +3, if the Bears can protect the ball they should have a chance to win this game.
Game 5: LAC @ Oak- under 1st half 24.5
Bet%: Over 36% Under 64%
This is all about Derek Carr and what I expect to be a slow start to the game. I think it is impossible to expect him to come back and step right in at his regular level, not to mention that the Raiders offense wasn’t exactly humming before he got hurt. I also think we will see more of an attempt to get Lynch going in the run game.
For SD, Anthony Lynn seems to want to try to establish the run every game and keep running no matter how inefficient it is until they get behind and he needs Rivers to pass him out of trouble. If this game gets over the full game total, I think it will be late when Carr gets going or if one team is down late and needs to pick up tempo to get back in.
Other Games under consideration
NE @ NYJ +10
I see mostly 9.5’s around but at 10 I would definitely have to look the Jet way. The Patriots have a habit of playing these road division games close when they are big favorites. New England also has the Superbowl rematch with Atlanta on deck next week which may take some of their attention away from this game as well. I just wish the Jets were a little healthier and will wait closer to kickoff before deciding.
SF +12 @ Was
The 49ers have played tough all season in fact their last4 losses have been by a combined 11 points and this seems like way too many points for Washington. The thing that has me off this game so far is the schedule spot here isn’t great, 4 straight tough losses including 2 straight OT losses and this is the 3rd straight road game for SF.