NFL Spreads Week 5: Favorites Who Will Cover Minimal Margins

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 3, 2013

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 29: Quarterback Brian Hoyer #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks for a pass during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns are slight favorites at home on Thursday in taking on the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium, but the hosts are one of several teams in Week 5 who are locks to cover small spreads.

Coming off of a bye, a road trip looms for the Carolina Panthers to square off with the Arizona Cardinals, who hosted QB Cam Newton's NFL debut, in which he threw for 422 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Carolina is a minimal favorite and will also cover.

Finally, one of the league's elite teams in the Seattle Seahawks will continue to prove itself away from home in knocking off the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

Read on for further analysis of these games and why the outcomes will tip in favor of those favored.


Cleveland Browns (-3.5) over Buffalo Bills

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 29:  Running back Willis McGahee #26 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates after a run against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Riding the wave of a two-game winning streak, the Browns have plenty to be excited about in hosting their second-consecutive home game.

New starting quarterback Brian Hoyer has won his first two starts for his hometown team, living out a dream thanks largely to the rise of third-year tight end Jordan Cameron and dynamic receiver Josh Gordon.

Those weapons will be difficult for the banged-up Bills secondary to account for. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin is questionable with a hamstring injury and Stephon Gilmore is out with a wrist injury, per the team's official website.

On top of that, Buffalo's No. 2 rushing attack should be limited, given that C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are both battling injuries. Jackson is probable with a dinged knee, while Spiller is questionable with a bum ankle.

That seems like too much to overcome for the Bills on the road. Plus, rookie QB EJ Manuel is facing a complex, Ray Horton-coached defense that allows the third-fewest yards per game in the league.

Prediction: Browns 27, Bills 14


Carolina Panthers (-1.5) over Arizona Cardinals

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 22:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It will be a battle of strengths in this one—Carolina's third-ranked ground game versus the Cardinals' No. 2 rush defense.

That means it comes down to Newton, who, believe it or not, quarterbacks the dead-last passing offense in the NFL at the moment.

The former No. 1 overall pick has to deliver the goods in his third season, but after losing two nail-biters in as many games to begin 2013, Newton helped right the ship in a 38-0 blowout over the New York Giants in Week 3.

As bad as the Giants look, it was nevertheless a huge boost for Carolina entering the idle week.

While Arizona looks to neutralize Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, Newton will step up with a big game at the site of his first NFL start, where he threw for 422 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns.

The Panthers defense is the best it's been since Newton's arrival in 2011, too, so that's working in his favor. A porous Cardinals offensive line won't be able to block well enough for Carson Palmer to get the ball to his playmakers on a consistent basis, leading to a Panthers road victory.

Prediction: Panthers 31, Cardinals 20


Seattle Seahawks (-3) over Indianapolis Colts

Trailing by 17 points in the third quarter of Week 4's clash with another AFC South foe in the Houston Texans, Pete Carroll's Seahawks didn't flinch and proceeded to mount a comeback to win in overtime.

A lot of thanks can be given to lockdown cornerback Richard Sherman's pick-six off an ill-fated Matt Schaub pass, but Seattle star signal-caller Russell Wilson simply took the game over.

Wilson is making a case for himself as the best quarterback in the renowned 2012 class, rivaling the likes of Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, the top overall draft pick.

Luck has shown improvement in his second year but is still taking a number of big hits. He faces what is arguably the best secondary in football on Sunday, which has the ability, between Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, to take away Reggie Wayne, since T.Y. Hilton is the next-most reliable Colts receiver.

This is just a bad matchup for Indianapolis.

The myth of newly acquired running back Trent Richardson giving the Colts unprecedented balance in the brief Luck era will be dispelled on this day. Richardson is receiving premature, undue praise—even by B/R's finest in the video above—yet he's averaging 2.9 yards per carry in two games since arriving.

It's still early, and that number should go up in the future. Not this week, though. Not against the best team in the NFC.

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Colts 17