In my five-plus years writing the NFL picks column, I can’t remember a week where I thought so many of the point spreads were off. You should never question Vegas, so I’m committing one of the handicapper sins. Still, there are a handful of games that I think are a couple points too high and picking games is all about finding value.
Favorites went 8-5-1 against the spread (ATS) in Week 4 and are 31-28-2. Home teams went 6-9 straight up and 4-10-1 ATS, bringing their totals to 31-31-1 and 28-33-2.
My three most confident picks are Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Arizona. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Buffalo-Tennessee game, stay away from it. The same goes for Denver-New England.
ARIZONA (2-2) AT JETS (0-4)
TV: Ch. 2, 1 p.m.
Arizona by 7; O/U: 47
I wrote last week that the NFL is the ultimate week-to-week league and each matchup and spread should be looked at separately. Sometimes, though, there's an exception to the rule. Meet the Jets, who are 0-4 ATS and have given no reason to back them. Oh, and now they don’t have Sam Darnold. Arizona has lost two in a row but an overmatched and undisciplined Jets defense will be the perfect remedy for Kyler Murray and a talented offense to get back on track.
The pick: Arizona
GIANTS (0-4) AT DALLAS (1-3)
TV: Ch. 5, 4:25 p.m.
Dallas by 9; O/U: 54
The Giants have scored 16, 13, 9 and 9 points. The Cowboys have allowed 20, 39, 38 and 49 points. If not for Dallas’ miraculous onside kick recovery and wild comeback in Week 2 against Atlanta, this would be a battle of 0-4 teams. This spread just doesn't make sense to me. Maybe I'm about to fall into a Big Blue trap but this is way too many points, even against a low-scoring Giants offense. Jason Garrett will hopefully be motivated returning to Dallas, and if the Giants can't score in the 20s, then there are serious issues. The Cowboys' last three finals were 40-39, 38-31 and 49-38. While this one won't be as high scoring, Daniel Jones and the Giants surely could hang around in a 34-27 type of game.
The pick: Giants
1 p.m. GAMES
PHILADELPHIA (1-2-1) AT PITTSBURGH (3-0)
Pittsburgh by 7; O/U: 44
This is another spread that feels too high to me. Pittsburgh had an unexpected bye last week and could be a little rusty. Philadelphia – in PHIRST PLACE AT 1-2-1! – just scored a much-needed win at San Francisco on Sunday night and that winning feeling figures to carry over. The Steelers’ wins are against the Giants (26-16), Broncos (21-16) and Texans (28-21), teams with a combined 1-11 record. This one won’t be decided till the fourth quarter, either.
The pick: Philadelphia
LAS VEGAS (2-2) AT KANSAS CITY (4-0)
Kansas City by 11.5; O/U: 55 (Ch. 2)
When you pick every game every week every year, you take note of certain things. Like: Derek Carr never wins at Kansas City. Carr is 0-6 at Arrowhead, including last year’s 40-9 loss. Patrick Mahomes likes playing at home (13-3) and against the Raiders (4-0). Expect the trends to continue as Kansas City – like Buffalo and New England the last two weeks – proves to be too much for Las Vegas.
The pick: Kansas City
CINCINNATI (1-2-1) AT BALTIMORE (3-1)
Baltimore by 12.5; O/U: 51
Lamar Jackson and Baltimore beat up on bad teams, so expect another win. But Joe Burrow's Bengals don't seem that bad. In addition to picking up his first NFL win last week, Burrow is 3-0-1 ATS. I'm willing to take a shot with all these points.
The pick: Cincinnati
L.A. RAMS (3-1) AT WASHINGTON (1-3)
Los Angeles by 7.5; O/U: 46.5
The NFL is consistently weird. Case in point: After the Rams scored 37 points at Philadelphia and 32 at Buffalo, they managed just 17 last week against a bad Giants defense. Don't expect it to happen again as Sean McVay's offense fires on all cylinders in his return to Washington. His old team is a mess, already making a change at QB.
The pick: Los Angeles
LOCK OF THE WEEK
JACKSONVILLE (1-3) AT HOUSTON (0-4)
Houston by 6; O/U: 54
Shocker: This spread is way too high! Please, someone, tell me why the 0-4 Texans – 0-4 ATS as well – are favored by so many points against any team not named the Jets? It doesn’t make sense. If you think the Texans will be fired up after firing their coach, then go for it, but I’ll fade the overvalued, underachieving team. The Jaguars have lost three in a row, but Gardner Minshew can match Deshaun Watson in a high-scoring game. There is great value here with this inflated line. TAKE. THE. POINTS.
The pick: Jacksonville
CAROLINA (2-2) AT ATLANTA (0-4)
Atlanta by 1.5; O/U: 54
Dan Quinn has to be coaching for his job, right? I'd say to expect a big sense of urgency from the Falcons but I said that two weeks ago and they blew a 26-10 fourth-quarter lead to the Bears. Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers have won two in a row, and shown enough fight to believe they could keep this close and even win.
The pick: Carolina
4 p.m. Games
INDIANAPOLIS (3-1) AT CLEVELAND (3-1)
Indianapolis by 1.5; O/U: 46.5
After a 38-6 loss in Week 1, the Brownies have been cooking. Scoring 35, 34 and 49 points in three straight wins has finally given Cleveland something to cheer about. So why are the Browns 'dogs in the Dawg Pound? Because they're the Browns! There's plenty of reasons to pick Baker Mayfield, a resurgent Odell Beckham Jr. & Co. to keep the winning streak going, but history - and a solid Colts team led by one of the most underrated coaches in Frank Reich - suggest this one will end in typical Browns heartbreak.
The pick: Indianapolis
MIAMI (1-3) AT SAN FRANCISCO (2-2)
San Francisco by 9; O/U: 50.5
I'm 0-4 ATS picking Miami games, so whatever I choose, just go George Costanza and take the opposite. San Francisco is still dealing with a lot of injuries, and weirdly enough is 0-2 at home and 2-0 at MetLife Stadium. This number could produce another Ryan Fitzpatrick backdoor cover.
The pick: Miami
MINNESOTA (1-3) AT SEATTLE (4-0)
TV: Ch. 4
Seattle by 7; O/U: 56.5
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are one of only two teams 4-0 ATS (the idle Packers are the other). Wilson loves playing in prime time (26-7-1 straight up) and at home (50-16) so expect a 5-0 start . . . but I'm not sure it'll also be 5-0 ATS. Minnesota finally got its first win and could keep this close in a high-scoring game. Seattle's first two home wins wouldn't have covered this number: 35-30 over New England and 38-31 over Dallas.
The pick: Minnesota
L.A. CHARGERS (1-3) AT NEW ORLEANS (2-2)
New Orleans by 7.5; O/U: 50.5
Justin Herbert has played well but the Chargers still have lost all three of the rookie's starts. Not having Austin Ekeler will hurt, as the Saints could bolt away from the Bolts if they get a big lead. Drew Brees could have Michael Thomas back, and who doesn't want to run up the score against their old team?
The pick: New Orleans
BUFFALO (4-0) AT TENNESSEE (3-0)
Buffalo by 3.5; O/U: 51.5
This battle of unbeatens was pushed back two days, and as a result Buffalo's anticipated Week 6 matchup with Kansas City was moved from Thursday to Monday. The Bills have a complete team, and Josh Allen has taken that next step as they appear to not only be AFC East contenders but Super Bowl contenders. The Titans are 3-0 but 0-3 against the spread, winning their first three games by 1, 2 and 3 points. Their 31-30 win at Minnesota was 16 days ago, and you have to think the positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent facility shutdown has made for a confusing, unpleasant two weeks. Buffalo will be more focused as it improves to 5-0.
The pick: Buffalo
STAFF PICKS AND STANDINGS
(best bets in bold)
27-34-2 overall, 2-2 best bets
Last week: 6-8-1
Arizona Giants Philadelphia Kansas City
Cincinnati L.A. Rams Jacksonville Carolina
Indianapolis Denver Miami Minnesota New Orleans BuffaloStaff Picks (please add to bottom newsbox that has all Week 5 picks):
Last week: 7-7-1
Jets Dallas Pittsburgh Kansas City
Baltimore L.A. Rams Houston Atlanta
Indianapolis New England San Francisco Seattle New Orleans Buffalo
Last week: 6-8-1
Arizona Giants Pittsburgh Las Vegas
Ravens L.A. Rams Houston Carolina
Cleveland Denver Miami Seattle New Orleans Buffalo
Last week: 9-5-1
Jets Dallas Pittsburgh Kansas City
Cincinnati L.A. Rams Houston Atlanta
Indianapolis Denver San Francisco Seattle New Orleans Tennessee