The Playbook with Davis Sanchez: Week 5
The first quarter of the 2021 NFL season delivered a handful of surprises for bettors.
After all, who picked the Dallas Cowboys to be the last remaining undefeated team against the spread entering Week 5?
While Dallas is 4-0 ATS, every single team in the league has covered at least one time, including the winless Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams had their perfect 4-0 run towards the over stopped in a 26-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.
On the flip side, the Los Angeles Chargers, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers are a combined 16-0 to the under.
While those trends are history, we can’t completely ignore them looking ahead to this weekend.
Here are our best bets for Week 5 in the NFL.
Domenic Padula: Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers Under 48
The Browns are coming off back-to-back wins over the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in which they held those two opponents to an average of 6.5 points.
With Baker Mayfield wearing a harness on his non-throwing shoulder due to a torn labrum, Cleveland will need to lean on its defence and rushing attack once again in Los Angeles this weekend.
The Chargers averaged 29.5 points per game in back-to-back wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Las Vegas Raiders over the last two weeks.
However, even with those offensive outbursts, Los Angeles is still one of four teams that are 4-0 to the under this season.
Part of that equation is a defence that sacked Derek Carr four times in a 28-14 win over the Raiders on Monday Night Football.
The Browns rank first in the NFL in rush attempts per game, and with Mayfield nursing that injury, my guess is that they will want to continue to run the football as much as possible to avoid exposing him to the Chargers’ pass rush.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s pass rush should have the same impact on L.A.’s play-calling, as Justin Herbert won’t have the time he needs to air it out the way he did against Las Vegas.
Both of these defences rank in the top-seven in scoring.
I’ll bank on big performances from them on Sunday in another low scoring game and take the under.
Pick: Browns at Chargers Under 48
Chris Amberley: San Francisco 49ers +5 at Arizona Cardinals
Can we pump the brakes on the Arizona Cardinals hype?
Yes, they’re the only undefeated team remaining, but look at who they’ve played.
They beat up an overrated Tennessee Titans team, got bailed out by a missed game-winning field goal attempt from the Minnesota Vikings, and struggled to put away the winless Jacksonville Jaguars.
Last week’s win against the Rams was their first victory over a serious contender, but that doesn’t warrant making them a near touchdown favourite over San Francisco.
The lookahead line for this game was Arizona -1.5, and you could argue that the 49ers are more dangerous now that Trey Lance is starting at quarterback.
The third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft gives the Niners a new dimension on offence, and everyone knows Kyle Shanahan is going to scheme up a game plan to maximize his talents.
That will surely involve a heavy dose of the run, something that the Cards are not equipped to deal with.
Arizona ranks 25th in adjusted line yards, and has surrendered the most 5+ yard rushes of any team in football.
San Francisco may be 2-2, but this was a top-five contender in the Super Bowl futures market at the start of the season, and both of their losses were to quality opponents.
The Niners have dropped back-to-back games by a combined total of just nine points.
Last week, we mentioned how Shanahan teams struggle to cover as favourites.
As underdogs, it’s a different story.
During Shanahan’s tenure, the 49ers are 23-16 ATS as an underdog, and 16-9 ATS as a road dog.
I’ll take the points with San Francisco
Pick: 49ers +5
Luke Bellus: Washington Football Team vs. New Orleans Saints Over 43.5 points
In this game we have a matchup of one of the worst statistical defences in the league, and the other team just gave up 400 passing yards to Daniel Jones in Week 4.
Do I really need to say anything else?
The Washington Football Team has surrendered the third-most points in the league (122) after four games, and only three teams have given up more than their 1,670 yards on defence.
On the flip side of the ball, quarterback Taylor Heinicke has been good enough to keep the offence afloat with his nine total touchdowns since starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with an injury in Week 1.
However, Heinicke has shown in his young career that ball security could be an issue on Sunday.
In 13 career games, the quarterback has turned the ball over eight times and faces a Saints defence that has forced at least one turnover in every game this season and ranks fourth in the league in turnover percentage.
Meanwhile, New Orleans has also managed to score at least 21 points in three games this year, despite the over cashing just once in their opening four games.
In Washington the over has gone 3-1 to start the season and I believe we will see some short fields thanks to turnovers leading to higher scoring game than the oddsmakers believe.
I’m riding with the over.
Pick: Saints at Football Team Over 43.5