It seems easy to nail down upsets in the NFL right now.
Not that would-be NFL bettors should get cocky while playing the lines, but the start of this season has made it quite fun for those who enjoy rolling with the underdogs.
Look at Week 4. The latest example saw the Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans pull off upsets of teams that at least look like playoff hopefuls on paper. The New England Patriots sitting at 2-2 with the same record as the New York Jets is one of the week's biggest shocks.
Those Patriots will turn it around like they always do, of course. But it doesn't mean other favorites won't experience more upsets as soon as Week 5, so let's look at the full slate courtesy of oddsmakers and pick out winners and losers, with an emphasis on the must-bet underdogs.
NFL Week 5 Schedule, Odds
New England (-6) at Tampa Bay | O/U 56
Arizona at Philadelphia (-6.5) | O/U 45
Buffalo at Cincinnati (-3) | O/U 39
Carolina at Detroit (-3) | O/U 43.5
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-8.5) | O/U 44
L.A. Chargers at N.Y. Giants (-3.5) | O/U 44.5
N.Y. Jets at Cleveland (-1) | O/U 39
San Francisco at Indianapolis (-1.5) | O/U 44
Tennessee (-3) at Miami | O/U n/a
Baltimore at Oakland (-4) | O/U n/a
Seattle at L.A. Rams (-2.5) | O/U 47
Green Bay at Dallas (-2) | O/U 52
Kansas City (-3.5) at Houston | O/U n/a
Minnesota (-3.5) at Chicago | O/U n/a
Bold denotes predicted winner against the spread and over/under projection.
Carolina at Detroit (-3)
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Newton and the Panthers have looked rough around the edges this year, though Week 4 was an exception as they stormed into Foxborough and upset the Patriots.
There, Newton totaled four touchdowns against the struggling New England defense, securing a 33-30 win and a 3-1 record. NFL Research pointed out what a more versatile Newton can do for the Panthers:
None of this is meant to suggest Detroit's defense is a slouch set to go down without swinging. Giving up 30 in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons isn't the worst thing in the world, though a Week 4 14-7 escape of the Minnesota Vikings against Case Keenum should raise some eyebrows.
Carolina's defense enters this one battle-tested after bouts with Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Detroit's lack of a running game (3.6 yards per carry) should let the unit focus on slowing Matthew Stafford.
Right now, it doesn't seem like there is any slowing Newton, whose rediscovery of running the ball and its impact on the offense as a whole will give the Lions fits, creating one of the week's closer upsets.
Prediction: Panthers 24, Lions 20
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-8.5)
This one has the feel of an upset.
That sounds like taking the easy way out, of course. But the Jacksonville Jaguars are off to one of their best starts of the past decade, an up-and-down affair resulting in a 2-2 record. Blake Bortles and Co. have blown away the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens, then turned around and took an overtime loss to the New York Jets.
"Absolutely making progress," linebacker Paul Posluszny said, according to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco. "You can just feel the attitude of the team, the feel of the team, the entire culture that's been established. We’re definitely heading in the right direction."
Sounds like perfect upset material when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that hardly slipped past the Cleveland Browns (21-18) and took an overtime loss to the Chicago Bears.
Granted, Ben Roethlisberger has done well spreading it around, firing his six touchdown passes to four different players. Le'Veon Bell finally seemed to arrive in Week 4, rushing for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, doesn't know which Bortles it will get every week. He's thrown four touchdowns without a pick in a game and only one of the former in every other game.
Given the inconsistency, the Jaguars will likely come up short on the road against a Steelers team trying to round into form. But the spread here is too much given the oddities from both sides and on the season as a whole, so look for the Steelers to give up a few chunk plays—especially in garbage time—that let the Jaguars take this one against the spread.
Prediction: Steelers 28, Jaguars 24
L.A. Chargers at N.Y. Giants (-3.5)
It makes sense oddsmakers would take a look at the 0-4 Los Angeles Chargers needing to travel across the country and slap them as underdogs.
Then one takes a look at the 0-4 New York Giants.
There's a good opportunity here for bettors who like to wager on winless teams. The Chargers haven't been perfect, but three of the four losses have come by three or fewer points. One came against the 3-1 Denver Broncos on the road, the other a two-point loss to the 3-1 Philadelphia Eagles.
As for the Giants, we're talking about two blowouts, a loss to those Eagles and another mediocre showing.
Odell Beckham Jr. or not, the Giants offense has looked like one of the worst in the league. There are big problems when the 36-year-old Eli Manning has to take off on his own for the team's first rushing score of the year:
Manning, the recipient of eight sacks already, has thrown six touchdowns against four interceptions. His running game is averaging 3.2 yards per carry and an addition like Brandon Marshall (16 catches on 30 targets) hasn't provided the expected boost.
The Chargers, at least, have spread defenses out in a big way, with Philip Rivers tossing six scores, all to different weapons. This approach won't have any problems getting the lead on the Giants, which then throws Manning in the tough position of needing to avoid a pass rush led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, a duo that has already combined for eight sacks.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Giants 20