The Indianapolis Colts scored their biggest win of the season this past weekend, handing the Seattle Seahawks their first loss. To the national media, this elevates the Colts to the coveted "contenders" discussion. To the sharps, this makes the Colts a vulnerable road favorite.
San Diego (+2.5) over Indianapolis
Indianapolis will be playing its third road game in four weeks. Coming off a resume-building win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Colts will likely be on the downswing emotionally against a Chargers team looking to bounce back after laying an egg in Oakland.
Against the up-and-down Chargers, Indianapolis may be looking ahead to a big nationally televised game against the Denver Broncos next week. This will mark Peyton Manning's much-anticipated return to Lucas Oil Stadium and the biggest game of the season to date for Indianapolis.
San Diego gets value as a home underdog on national TV. Teams in this position tend to play above their level of talent with incentive to impress on a high-profile stage. In fact, this season, underdogs in general are 3-2-1 against the spread (ATS) on Monday Night Football.
San Diego's ability to move the ball this season will put it in prime position to cover. The Chargers have scored touchdowns on 26.4% of their drives. This ranks fourth in the NFL and is a key reason for the team's impressive 3-1-1 ATS record. San Diego's per-drive production is a direct result of its revitalized passing game, with Philip Rivers currently ranking sixth in the league in passing.
The Indianapolis secondary has actually held up this season, ranking sixth in passing yards allowed per game. Unfortunately, the Colts have not played a single quarterback who ranks inside the top 20 this season. Expect a true test against the Chargers elite passing offense to bring Indy back down to earth.
Prediction: San Diego, 29-27
Pittsburgh (+1) over New York Jets
The New York Jets are coming off an emotional upset win and will have a short week to prepare for the Steelers, who will be coming off a bye. As overachieving as the Jets have been, their early-season performance simply cannot hold up given their struggles in critical categories.
The Jets lead the league in offensive penalties with 50, and are second in the league in penalty yardage with 369. Gangrene has only scored touchdowns on 13.8% of its drives, ranking higher than only New England, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville.
Although the Jets are 4-1 ATS this season, those aforementioned teams are a combined 3-11 ATS. It's only a matter of time before the Jets follow suit.
These statistics also indicate the Jets' inability to stay on the field. This will make it difficult to cover as a minor favorite against a disciplined Steelers team that has had the fourth-fewest penalty yards this season.
Expect a well-prepared Steelers team to get its first win in New York. Pittsburgh is 3-2 ATS coming off byes under Mike Tomlin's historically elite coaching.
Prediction: Pittsburgh, 27-10
Washington (+6) over Dallas
Right on cue, Jerry Jones' latest handpicked relic of the past is under siege as Monte Kiffin's defensive scheme was exposed by Peyton Manning last week. Dallas has given up the second-most passing yards in the league, and will host a Redskin team that ranks eighth in the league in passing.
Which team is least-likely to cover this weekend?
Washington is coming off a bye for an important divisional game. Even at 1-3, a win will put them right back in the thick of things in a weak NFC East.
Dallas is too weak defensively to be trusted to cover a touchdown spread, especially against a divisional opponent with extra time to prepare.
Prediction: Washington, 30-27
BONUS: Jacksonville (+27) over Denver
The Broncos may be looking ahead to Peyton Manning's aforementioned return to Indianapolis next Sunday night as they play an on-paper tomato can in Jacksonville.
With less than three seasons removed since Peyton Manning last played in the AFC South, there will be a handful of veterans on the Jags defense and coaching staff who are familiar with Manning's tendencies. This includes linebackers coach Mark Duffner as well as linebackers Russell Allen and Tyson Alualu.
As the old saying goes, football is a game of inches. Even with poor teams like Jacksonville, the largest point spread in NFL history is all the motivation an underdog needs to stay competitive if not for one week.
The addition of Justin Blackmon gave the Jags a much-needed jolt on offense. The second-year wide receiver piled up 136 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. He and fellow talented wideout Cecil Shorts should give a Denver secondary giving up the most passing yards in the league all they can handle.
The return of Chad Henne—an upgrade from the insufferable Blaine Gabbert—to the starting lineup should also give Jacksonville more than a fighting chance.
As a significant spread range underdog against a team averaging a ridiculous 46 PPG, the Broncos could come down in a perceived cake spot that may end up being a trap game.
Prediction: Denver, 34-17
Week 5 ATS: 2-1
Season ATS: 6-7-2