Week 4 went very well in this space, as we handed out winners to the tune of a 4-1 record. Fortunately, the biggest handicapping story of the week did not, in fact, come back to bite us, as the Kansas City Chiefs produced a backdoor cover for the ages on Monday night against Washington. In short, KC’s Justin Houston scampered into the end zone with no time remaining to swing everyone’s bets on the total but, mercifully, we were spared by getting the best of the total early in the week (always get the best number, kids) and this paragraph would probably read in different fashion if not for that good fortune.
Before we get into the Week 5 slate, let’s pause and see where we’re at for the full campaign.
- Last Week: 4-1
- Season: 13-7
Let’s roll to the picks and, this time around, everything is focused on the Sunday slate.
Giants and Chargers UNDER 45 points
The Giants have scored 20-plus points in back-to-back (!) games but that won’t scare us away from the Under in this spot. Los Angeles is absolutely inventing ways to lose this season (with three losses by a field goal or less) but it hasn’t been the defense that is costing the Chargers games in their new city. To me, this feels a lot like a 20-17 game in which both offenses struggle mightily against two talented defensive groups.
Frankly, I have no idea who actually emerges victorious in the battle of defeated teams but, when 80 percent of the action is on the over and the total isn’t moving, that is usually a good indication to go the other way. Give me all the punts.
Bills and Bengals UNDER 39.5 points
Buffalo is, somehow, flat-out nasty on the defensive side of the ball and the results speak for themselves with 17 or fewer points allowed in every game. This week, the Bills get a beautiful match-up against the Bengals offense and, well, let’s just say I’m not buying the Andy Dalton renaissance after one victory over the hapless Browns.
This line is (very) low and I get that but I don’t see the Bengals scoring more than two touchdowns and it isn’t as if the Bills are likely to go on the road and post a big offensive number. Hold your nose and root for field goals all day in Cincinnati.
Jets and Browns UNDER 39.5 points
This is, quite simply, a principle play. The Browns are 30th in defensive DVOA and that is a bit scary but Cleveland does have some personnel on that side of the ball and, more than anything, this is a fade of both offenses. I can’t fathom a scenario in which I would give out the Over in this game given the two teams battling here and, anytime you get a total under 40 in the NFL, it usually means there is a reason.
I’d never forgive myself if I left this game off the slate. It just would be a departure from the brand.
Rams and Seahawks UNDER 23.5 points in the first half
The Rams have topped 35 points on three occasions this season and all of the momentum is on both Los Angeles and the over in this spot. Naturally, we’re going the other way.
We can probably agree that the Seahawks are the best defense that Jared Goff and company has seen this season and, even if you think they aren’t quite as good as Washington (I disagree), the Rams scuffled to only 20 points in that particular match-up. Moreover, Seattle’s offense has been notoriously slow-starting in the recent past and the first half number is jumping off the screen from an Under perspective.
For the record, I like the full-game Under as well but the first half is the play in this space.
Chiefs and Texans UNDER 23.5 points in the first half
The full-game line here is a field goal too high and it is easy to see why. The Texans scored 33 points in a loss to the Patriots before exploding for 57 (!) points in a win over Oakland. That has led to everyone buying in on Deshaun Watson as the “next big thing” and, while that may be true, it is time to slow things down a bit.
Basically, the Patriots are, well, terrible on defense and that same sentiment applies to the Raiders right now. Are the Chiefs the ’85 Bears? No, but this is a big step up in competition and it takes place on a national stage. The other side of the ball isn’t particularly scary to me in that the Chiefs have been quite good on offense but the Texans’ defense is legitimate and this could be a (somewhat) conservative game plan from Andy Reid.
I understand completely if you want to avoid the full game Under in this spot but the first half is usually the truer outcome and I love this pick.