I famously wrote back in early September how I’ve started to view the NFL as nothing more than my personal piggy bank. How the enjoyment I get out of watching football these days is almost entirely due to winning money on bets, in Pick ‘Em leagues or via fantasy leagues. How the mismanagement of the NFL and the continually questionable behaviors of many of its employees has taken the shine off the pure football watching.
But sometimes the football & scheduling gods shine down upon us and we get a truly intriguing weekend of games.
Welcome to week 6, where I believe we have four great matchups and three above average ones.
The above average ones, in my opinion, are:
- Baltimore (3-2) at NY Giants (2-3) - Why is this game interesting? Because both teams expect to be competing for their respective division titles, and after solid starts (3-0 for the Ravens and 2-0 for the Giants), both come into this game on losing streaks and in danger of falling too far behind their division leaders. And because let’s just be honest and admit that Odell Beckham Jr. is always intriguing because he’s either going to make some ridiculous catches or have a complete meltdown. Either way it’s Can’t Miss TV.
- Carolina (1-4) at New Orleans (1-3) - A couple of 1-win teams...why the hell would this be on my list? Because we’re all still wondering if the Panthers can turn things around, and this is truly their last stand. If they fall to 1-5 at the hands of the worst team in their division, it’s over. And because any game in the Superdome is immediately intriguing because 60 points will be scored one way or another.
- Indianapolis (2-3) at Houston (3-2) - OK, this one probably won’t be very interesting from an aesthetic standpoint. It might actually cause you to go temporarily blind if you stare at this game for too long. But it’s interesting because 1st place in the AFC South is on the line, and when the winner of this division isn’t likely to top 8 wins, every divisional game is crucial.
And the four great matchups are:
- Kansas City (2-2) at Oakland (4-1) - Obviously this is an AFC West matchup...a division that’s still wide open among the three good teams. Kansas City has gotten off to their usual slow start, and it might be too early to call this a must-win, but they fall behind Oakland by three games if they lose. And the Raiders are simply so much fun to watch right now. Everyone’s hyping this up as Oakland’s first real test, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they respond.
- Philadelphia (3-1) at Washington (3-2) - The NFC East looks ultra competitive again this year, and the Redskins were the first team in that division who was written off after an 0-2 start. But they have a chance to make a big statement here by giving the Eagles their second straight loss. And if the Cowboys lose in Green Bay, the Redskins move into a virtual tie for 1st in the East. Or Philly could reestablish that they’re still the best bet in that division.
- Dallas (4-1) at Green Bay (3-1) - Speaking of the Cowboys, they finally get to see how they stack up against one of the NFC’s contenders. The Packers need this game badly to stay on the heels of Minnesota, and the Cowboys are trying to stay ahead of the entire NFC East. And if these teams are both as good as they’ve looked through five weeks, they could also be determining playoff seeding in this game. This is about as big as it gets for a week 6 game.
- Atlanta (4-1) at Seattle (3-1) - And this final awesome NFC matchup looks similar to Dallas/Green Bay, but the difference is neither of these teams is in danger of falling out of 1st place with a loss. The stakes aren’t quite as high, but we could also be talking about this game in January when we see how the NFC playoff seeding shakes out. If Atlanta puts up the same record as the Seahawks, but they end up having to travel to Seattle for a playoff game because they lost in week 6, that’s going to be a rough ending to their season. So this one is still important for the hierarchy of the conference.
So there you have it. Some truly intriguing games from a pure spectator standpoint. But let’s move on to the money making.
Here are the week 6 picks.
Teams on Bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay
Denver (-3.5) at San Diego | over/under 44.5
The Pick: San Diego
The Score: Denver 27, San Diego 24
The Bets: Over (34.5) in a 3-way tease
So if you think the score of a game is likely to come in very close to the spread, make sure to check your pick ‘em league or the SuperContest and see if there’s a middle to be had. For example, last week my pick ‘em leagues on CBSsports.com and the SuperContest had the Sunday night game as Green Bay -6.5 vs the Giants, but on my betting website it was Green Bay -7.5. So I picked the Packers to cover in those leagues, but I bet the Giants on my website, and I hit the middle and won everything when the Giants lost by exactly 7.
My point is: I like the Chargers at +3.5, but I like the Broncos at -2.5. So I’ll be making bets and picks on a line-by-line basis for this one, and ultimately will hope the Broncos win by 3.
San Francisco at Buffalo (-8) | over/under 44
The Pick: Buffalo
The Score: Buffalo 29, San Francisco 20
The Bets: Buffalo (+2) in a 3-way tease
Remembering what David Johnson did to the 49ers last Thursday, it seems that a major San Francisco defensive weakness pairs nicely with Buffalo’s favorite thing to do on offense. I could see this getting out of hand somewhat quickly, and to me it doesn’t really matter that Colin Kaepernick is starting at QB for the Niners. In fact, that could very well help the Bills’ cause. Upon my initial review of the week 6 lines, nothing jumped out at me more quickly than getting the Bills into a two or three team teaser.
Philadelphia (-3) at Washington | over/under 45
The Pick: Philadelphia
The Score: Philadelphia 24, Washington 20
The Bets: None
I hate that this game hinges entirely on the health of Jordan Reed, and we probably won’t have clarity on his playing status until Saturday (long after this column is posted, picks are due, etc).
Before I knew he was in the concussion protocol, my assessment of these NFC East rivals was that the Eagles should win this game by exactly two points. But since teams seem to be erring on the side of caution with injuries now, I bet the Skins hold their star tight end out, and that means the Eagles cover the spread. Too bad for Washington as this could have been a huge statement game for them.
Also, don’t go thinking this is the easy over that it looks like. Both teams have a worse run defense than pass defense, and I don’t think the Eagles are the 30-pt juggernaut that they looked like vs Cleveland and Pittsburgh earlier this year. I think they’re more like the 23-26 points per game team that they were last Sunday in Detroit.
Cleveland at Tennessee (-7) | over/under 43.5
The Pick: Cleveland
The Score: Tennessee 20, Cleveland 15
The Bets: Under (43.5) / Under (53.5) in a 3-way tease
Serious question: Do you think the Browns would be competitive in the AFC South this year? I do. And that tells you everything you need to know about the AFC South.
While you couldn’t force me to put money on either team in this game, I do think the line is too high. It’s an overreaction because everyone saw the Browns lose by 20 to the Patriots while suffering another quarterback injury. But the Titans, by rule, don’t blow out any teams this side of the Dolphins.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Vegas is projecting Tennessee for 25 points and that’s why I like the under, especially teased.
Baltimore at NY Giants (-3) | over/under 44.5
The Pick: Baltimore
The Score: NY Giants 21, Baltimore 20
The Bets: Under (54.5) in a 3-way tease
So now the Giants, who were talked up in a big way after their 2-0 start, are in danger of falling to 2-4 and disappointing even the most tepid expectations from their fanbase. I kinda like them in this desperation mode, and I don’t think Baltimore’s offense can take advantage of the Giants’ suspect pass defense. Should be a close, ugly, low-scoring game...and the teased under is one of my favorite bets of the week.
Carolina (-3) at New Orleans | over/under 53.5
The Pick: New Orleans
The Score: New Orleans 29, Carolina 26
The Bets: Over (43.5) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with New Orleans (+3)
If football made sense, there’s no way you’d ever take the Panthers giving a field goal on the road, on a short week, with the Saints coming off a bye, and with Carolina looking piss poor all season but especially at home vs Tampa on Monday night (yes, I know Cam Newton was out, but still).
You know what? Sometimes football does make sense, and I hope this is one of those times. If Drew Brees can just avoid becoming a turnover machine in the 4th quarter, the Saints should be able to match points with Carolina. Give me the home underdog, and of course, since it’s a game in the Superdome, give me the over.
Jacksonville at Chicago (-3) | over/under 46
The Pick: Jacksonville
The Score: Jacksonville 23, Chicago 20
The Bets: Under (56) in a 3-way tease
Tough couple of teams to expect the expected to happen.
This is strange: The Bears are projected to put up 25 points according to the spread and total, but they’re averaging just 17 points per game. How are they supposed to put up eight more points than usual when they’re facing the 10th best defense in the league? (according to FootballOutsiders)
With Hoyer the Bears are up to 18 points per game over their last three games...big jump in production there.
I still think the Jaguars have enough talent to get to six wins even if they have a bad coach, a bad QB and some bad luck. The Bears are looking more like a three-win team.
Los Angeles at Detroit (-3) | over/under 43.5
The Pick: Detroit
The Score: Detroit 23, Los Angeles 18
The Bets: None
I can’t begin to tell you how little interest I have in watching this game, let alone making predictions for it. I’m going with Detroit, just barely, because Trumaine Johnson is out with an injury for the Rams, and he’s a major piece in their secondary. And also because Jeff Fisher must be dying to get back to a comfortable 3-3 record.
Pittsburgh (-8.5) at Miami | over/under 48
The Pick: Miami
The Score: Pittsburgh 26, Miami 21
The Bets: Pittsburgh (-2.5 or +1.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease
It took some time to figure this out last year too...The Steelers offense is a shell of itself on the road. But you gotta keep in mind that this Miami team just lost by 13 to the Titans, in Miami. Their only other home game so far was the ridiculously lucky overtime win against the Browns. So the Steelers teased is still a lock.
Looking back on the games from last year that Ben Roethlisberger was healthy for, the Steelers scored just under 26 points per game on the road, which is a touchdown lower than their 33 points per game average at home.
The Steelers are worse on pass defense than run defense, so this game probably falls on Ryan Tannehill’s sagging shoulders...good luck with that.
My one teeny tiny concern for Pittsburgh: Could this be a trap game where they’re looking ahead to a HUGE showdown against the Patriots next week?
Cincinnati at New England (-9.5) | over/under 47
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England 34, Cincinnati 23
The Bets: New England (+0.5) in a 3-way tease / Over 47 / Over 37 in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with New England (-9.5)
I think we have a rare opportunity to capitalize on the Patriots while they’re at nearly full health. This team is pretty much unstoppable as long as they have the full arsenal of offensive skill position players along with a really solid offensive line. But when injuries come, that’s when winning ugly will be back in play. For now, ride them at home against a mediocre team (Tom Brady’s first game back home). And jump on it now before public pushes it up beyond 10.
As for the bets I listed, remember that the Patriots are 28-3 in their last 31 home games when Brady plays. They will at least win this game outright. And New England averages over 30 points per game at home every single year. If you’re worried that the Bengals’ offense may not show up, put the over into a 3-way teaser. But I think you can confidently expect over 50 points in this game.
Kansas City at Oakland (-1) | over/under 47
The Pick: Oakland
The Score: Oakland 27, Kansas City 20
The Bets: Oakland (-1) / Oakland (+9) in a 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Oakland (-1)
I think this line is too low. The Chiefs’ 2-2 start is particularly unimpressive. An overtime win at home against San Diego and a beat down of the Jets at home when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions (somehow the Chiefs only put up 24 points in a game where the opponent gave them the ball six extra times). An ugly loss at Houston that looks worse now, and not showing up in Pittsburgh when the Steelers pummeled them.
The Chiefs come into this game with a good defense and a rested team after last week’s bye. So I’m not saying this will be the easiest game for the Raiders. And in fact, Oakland has played noticeably worse against the two good defenses they’ve faced this year---Tennessee and Baltimore---compared to their games against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, etc.
But as I crunched the numbers, I was baffled at how the Chiefs are supposed to keep up with the Raiders. Even if KC puts on a solid defensive performance, I still see Oakland getting to 24-27 points, and the problem with the Chiefs is that their offense sucks. I can’t picture their current offense getting past 20.
Atlanta at Seattle (-6.5) | over/under 46
The Pick: Seattle
The Score: Seattle 28, Atlanta 20
The Bets: Seattle (-0.5 or +3.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Seattle (-6.5)
I really don’t see the Falcons as a 5-1 team and the class of the NFC, and I highly recommend that if you don’t think Atlanta can win outright in this one, you go with Seattle (or stay away entirely).
Atlanta was consistently dropping 35+ points on teams to start the year, right up until they faced a good defense for the first time. That number dropped to 23 points last week in a big win for the Falcons in Denver. Obviously, Seattle’s defense is much more in line with the Broncos than the Bucs/Raiders/Saints/Panthers quartet that Atlanta got to feast on in the first month of the season. And sure, Atlanta’s defense looked real good for a change against Denver, but remember they were facing Paxton Lynch in his first start, and I have to imagine a lot of the offensive problems for Denver stemmed from that.
Seattle, meanwhile, seemed to be finding its offensive groove before last week’s bye, putting up 37 points on San Francisco at home in week 3 before adding 27 against the Jets in New York. I think we essentially see Seattle throw its hat into the ring this weekend as the only other NFC team on Minnesota’s level.
Dallas at Green Bay (-4.5) | over/under 47.5
The Pick: Green Bay
The Score: Green Bay 28, Dallas 20
The Bets: Green Bay ( Pick or +5.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease
SuperContest: Yes with Green Bay (-4.5)
The Cowboys are so incredibly predictable on offense. Using FootballOutsiders’ defensive DVOA rankings, all five defenses the Cowboys have faced fall between the 16th best defense and the 23rd best defense. And they have scored 19, 24, 31, 28 and 27 points in their five games. They haven’t had any huge games, and they haven’t had any no-shows. Since Green Bay is clearly the best defense the Cowboys will have faced after this week, I’m pegging them for right around 20 points.
The Packers get the chance to take down NFC East teams in back to back weeks. Dallas’ problem is going to be Green Bay’s awesome run defense. The Packers haven’t allowed an opponent to rush for more than 50 yards in a game yet. So this one really is all on Dak Prescott (or the Cowboys could run on the Packers all day long and we’ll know that the O-line / Zeke Elliott combination is truly unstoppable). Similar to my rationale with Atlanta, I don’t see the Cowboys as a 5-1 team, and I think Dallas loses similar to how the Giants lost in Lambeau this past Sunday night.
Indianapolis at Houston (-3) | over/under 48.5
The Pick: Indianapolis
The Score: Indianapolis 23, Houston 20
The Bets: None
Part of the difficulty with this game is that the Colts have only played one true road game so far, a 34-20 loss at Denver. We don’t know how much worse they are on the road versus at home.
Either way, this game is a complete stayaway for me. I’m picking the Colts because there’s a chance Houston’s last-ranked offense is the worst unit in all of football, and because it would make sense that this whole division basically evens out after this week.
NY Jets at Arizona (-7.5) | over/under 47
The Pick: Arizona
The Score: Arizona 27, NY Jets 17
The Bets: None
The once mighty defense of the Jets has fallen all the way to 30th in the league. While their run defense continues to be great (3rd best in the NFL), their pass defense is the worst in the league.
The Cardinals finally looked good last week because David Johnson took over the offense and bludgeoned San Francisco up and down the field. But what if he can’t do that effectively against the Jets? Are we super comfortable with Carson Palmer at this point, even if it’s against the worst pass defense on the planet?
I’m reluctantly taking the Cardinals because Ryan Fitzpatrick just played an interception-free game last week, he won’t do it again, and Arizona’s ball-hawking secondary will make him pay.
Here are the season-long stats I’m tracking:
- Favorites are 31-45-1 against the spread
- The point total has landed on Over 40 times, Under 35 times and Pushed 2 times
- I’m 40-37 against the spread
Enjoy week 6.