B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 5October 3, 2019
B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 5
How weird has this NFL season been? Well, it's October, and home-field advantage has yet to become a thing.
Home teams are only 27-35-1 straight up and 22-40-1 against the spread this season. There have been 41 home favorites through four weeks, which isn't significantly lower than in recent Septembers. But while home favorites have posted an average win-loss record of 27-13 before Week 5 this century, they're only 21-20 on the moneyline this year.
Based on their records one month in, Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski clearly joined Vegas in overrating home teams and/or favorites during the first four weeks of the 2019 campaign.
Here's a look at the damage, with last week's records in parentheses:
1. Brent Sobleski: 31-32 (9-6)
2. Brad Gagnon: 29-34 (7-8)
3. Gary Davenport: 28-35 (6-9)
Consensus picks: 30-33 (8-7)
Those three will now be tasked with jumping on the road-team bandwagon or predicting when a seemingly inevitable correction will occur.
Nobody said picking all 256 games against the spread using mid-week lines would be easy. Regardless, here are 15 more kicks at the can.
Lines from Caesars as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
Los Angeles Rams (3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (3-1)
Fair warning: You won't find many unanimous consensuses this week. That could make you feel even better about fading our consensus choices, but if you do that here, you'll essentially be betting that the Los Angeles Rams will beat the Seattle Seahawks straight up on the road.
Sure, that happened when the Rams beat the Seahawks in Seattle this same week last year, but that game wasn't played on three days' rest. And as Gagnon noted, "That Rams team was playing a level above this one."
"These Rams just haven't looked right," he added. "It seems like defenses have figured out Jared Goff, and it hasn't helped that Todd Gurley II isn't the player he was for much of 2018. Seattle has been the best home team in the NFC throughout the Russell Wilson era, and a mentally strong, well-coached and well-quarterbacked team should bounce back from a surprising home loss two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints."
Russell Wilson (eight touchdowns, zero interceptions, 118.7 passer rating) has outplayed Goff (six touchdowns, six picks, 82.9 rating) this year, but reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald can be a great equalizer. He has the ability to pick on a vulnerable group of pass-blockers, which is why Sobleski isn't a goof for dissenting with Los Angeles plus-1.5.
It's also worth noting that he's leading the pack thus far this season.
Davenport: Seattle (-1.5)
Gagnon: Seattle (-1.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (+1.5)
Consensus: Seattle (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 26, Rams 23
Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)
Our gang does unanimously agree that the Arizona Cardinals can get within a field goal of the Cincinnati Bengals in a matchup between downtrodden, winless teams Sunday in Ohio.
Arizona has struggled for the last two weeks, but the Cards did at least hang with the Baltimore Ravens and cover the spread when they were last on the road. They're now getting points from an opponent that was hammered in its only home game to date and looked disinterested in a Week 4 blowout loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Vegas is doing the Bengals no favors by handing them a typical three-point home spread," Sobleski said. "The previously winless Steelers thumped Cincinnati with their backup quarterback, Mason Rudolph, leading the way in his second start. The Cardinals' Kyler Murray is far more talented. Furthermore, the Bengals feature the league's worst offensive line, and the unit can't protect Andy Dalton. Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs are salivating at the opportunity to rack up sacks."
While the Cardinals haven't played well, their pass rush has at least performed strongly, and they're coming off a four-sack performance against Seattle. That could be problematic for Dalton, who won't have top receivers A.J. Green or John Ross III due to injury.
Watch for the Cards to contribute to early-season trends with a straight-up victory as a road 'dog.
Davenport: Arizona (+3)
Gagnon: Arizona (+3)
Sobleski: Arizona (+3)
Consensus: Arizona (+3)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Bengals 23
Atlanta Falcons (1-3) at Houston Texans (2-2)
Nobody trusts the Atlanta Falcons, and for good reason. Atlanta is a league-worst 6-14 against the spread since the start of 2018.
"This pick has less to do with the Texans and far more to do with an inconsistent Falcons team," Sobleski said. "Atlanta can move the ball with the NFL's second-best passing offense, yet the Matt Ryan-led squad ranks 26th overall at 17.5 points per game. Houston, meanwhile, is a top-10-scoring defense at 19.5 points per game. And the Falcons, who have managed only five sacks so far, can't capitalize on the Texans' biggest weakness: their offensive line."
In fact, the trenches could cause problems for the Falcons on both sides of the ball. Only seven offensive lines have worse adjusted sack rates at Football Outsiders, while a talented Houston defensive front ranks above the league median in the same category.
The Texans are also unlikely to fail to cover the spread in three consecutive home games, which is what they're facing after squeaking by the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 and losing to the Carolina Panthers in Week 4.
But we don't have a unanimous consensus, partly because Gagnon wonders if oddsmakers are catching up with the Falcons. This marks only the third time in their last 47 games that they've been an underdog of more than five points. They're a talented team with a Super Bowl pedigree, and it's fair to wonder if they're due.
So tread carefully here.
Davenport: Houston (-5.5)
Gagnon: Atlanta (+5.5)
Sobleski: Houston (-5.5)
Consensus: Houston (-5.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 28, Falcons 21
Baltimore Ravens (2-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)
This line has jumped back and forth between a field goal and 3.5 points, but our analysts agree that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the pick against the struggling Baltimore Ravens regardless.
In fact, the Steelers could be the latest road team to land a W straight up.
"The Pittsburgh defense can mask a lot of the team's offensive problems," Gagnon said. "The Steelers struggled the first two weeks, but they have nine sacks and seven takeaways over the past two weeks, and they completely shut down the Bengals on Monday. This will be a bigger challenge, but the Baltimore offense has been significantly less crisp than it was Week 1 against Miami.
"Mason Rudolph appears to be finding a groove, too, which should be enough for the Steelers to keep this close or even win it outright."
Rudolph is quietly the league's ninth-highest-rated passer, and he's now going up against a toothless Baltimore defense that has surrendered 73 points the last two weeks and has only five sacks and one takeaway since that season-opening blowout in Miami. So Pittsburgh feels like the safe pick here.
Davenport: Pittsburgh (+3.5)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (+3.5)
Sobleski: Pittsburgh (+3.5)
Consensus: Pittsburgh (+3.5)
Score Prediction: Steelers 23, Ravens 21
Chicago Bears (3-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)
Home/road trends go out the window for London games, but it is worth noting that the Seahawks smashed the Oakland Raiders in England last October.
In fact, when the Raiders lose, they typically lose in ugly fashion. Ten of their last 11 losses have come by 14 or more points, and they're now traveling more than 5,000 miles for a matchup with the league's second-best scoring defense.
"No one can accurately predict which version of the Raiders will show up on any given weekend," Sobleski said. "They've looked impressive in their two wins and rather pedestrian in their two losses. The Bears D is the one constant in this matchup. Plus, Chicago's backup signal-caller, Chase Daniel, isn't a downgrade with Mitchell Trubisky on the shelf."
Daniel posted a triple-digit passer rating in a turnover-free performance against a talented Minnesota Vikings defense last week, so there's little reason to doubt he can hold it down against a pass D that ranks 27th at Football Outsiders in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).
Throw in Vontaze Burfict's suspension and injuries that appear to be limiting key Oakland offensive starters Tyrell Williams and Josh Jacobs, and this looks like a no-brainer.
Davenport: Chicago (-6)
Gagnon: Chicago (-6)
Sobleski: Chicago (-6)
Consensus: Chicago (-6)
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Raiders 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-2)
A hook has been added to this line that wasn't previously there. If you can't land the Carolina Panthers minus-3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, you might want to consider staying away from this one. It certainly feels like a field-goal game.
Still, the majority of our experts are reluctantly siding with the Panthers despite having to give up 3.5 points, partly because the Jags may be due for a slip-up.
"The Panthers could provide the perfect speed bump for Jacksonville," Gagnon said. "Carolina's surprise quarterback has been even better than Jacksonville's, the Panthers are unlikely to lose three consecutive home games to start the year, and the Jags are unlikely to win back-to-back road games.
"Jacksonville faces a much bigger challenge here than it did hosting the Tennessee Titans on short rest or against a winless Denver Broncos squad. I don't trust Leonard Fournette to sustain his success from last week, and rookie Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II could have his hands full with a top-notch pass defense."
That Carolina pass D has surrendered an NFC-low 5.2 yards per pass attempt this season, shutting down Jared Goff, Jameis Winston, Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson. And indeed, Carolina's Kyle Allen (four touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 118.3 passer rating) has arguably been better than Minshew (seven touchdowns, one pick and a 106.9 rating).
At home, where they started 5-0 last year, look for the Panthers to come through. But be wary of that hook.
Davenport: Carolina (-3.5)
Gagnon: Carolina (-3.5)
Sobleski: Jacksonville (+3.5)
Consensus: Carolina (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Jaguars 17
Minnesota Vikings (2-2) at New York Giants (2-2)
In their last six quarters under the tutelage of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones on offense, the New York Giants have outscored their opponents 46-6.
With that in mind, the majority of our analysts are happy to take 5.5 points with the Giants hosting the untrustworthy and inconsistent Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
"The NFL hasn't seen anything like the Danny Dimes phenomenon in a long time—like, a year, at least," Davenport said. "After blasting the hapless Redskins, the Giants are 2-2, and it's fair to wonder what their record would be had they not wasted two games with Eli Manning's corpse under center. Are the Giants good? Not especially. But after watching a 60-minute sputter-fest from the Vikes last week, I'm not sure they are, either. Besides, I was originally going to lay the points with the Vikings, but after my September of suck, I'm in full Costanza mode now. Do the opposite, Jerry!"
Jones could also get a boost from Golden Tate's return from suspension. Tate is the most accomplished pass-catcher on the New York roster, and he could take advantage of the fact Minnesota slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander is being eased back from injury.
Still, while much has been made of Minnesota's struggles in big games against winning teams with Kirk Cousins under center, this is a regular Sunday 1 p.m. ET kickoff against a non-winning team. Under those circumstances in the last calendar year, the Vikes are 7-0 straight up and 6-0-1 against the spread.
So it's easy to see why we lack a unanimous consensus here.
Davenport: New York (+5.5)
Gagnon: Minnesota (-5.5)
Sobleski: New York (+5.5)
Consensus: New York (+5.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 24, Giants 23
New England Patriots (4-0) at Washington Redskins (0-4)
During the first nine years of this decade, no NFL road team was favored by 15 or more points. We've now had three 15-plus-point road faves in a four-week span.
The New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins 43-0 as an 18-point road favorite in Week 2. The Los Angeles Chargers defeated the Dolphins 30-10 as a 15-point road favorite last week. New England is now laying 15.5 points on the road against the Washington Redskins.
Two of our three analysts are so repulsed by the 0-4 Redskins that they're willing to bet 15-plus-points that road favorites can go 3-0 to start the year.
"Washington isn't sure who should start at quarterback, while the Patriots have yet to surrender a passing touchdown," Sobleski said. "Yikes. Whoever starts—Case Keenum, Colt McCoy or the rookie Dwayne Haskins—doesn't have a chance against league's No. 1 defense.
The Redskins offense is a complete mess. They've scored only 18 points while turning the ball over nine times in the last two weeks, and they were even worse on paper against a mediocre Giants defense in Week 4 than they were against the mighty Bears defense in Week 3. Now they face the first defense in 13 years to give up fewer than two touchdowns in the first four games of a season.
With that said, the Patriots have failed to cover the spread in back-to-back games, and the New England offense has generated only nine points in the last five quarters. Gagnon figures that in light of that, this number is too high.
Davenport: New England (-15.5)
Gagnon: Washington (+15.5)
Sobleski: New England (-15.5)
Consensus: New England (-15.5)
Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Redskins 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) at New Orleans Saints (3-1)
Once again, the hook might drive bettors crazy here. Those who figure the New Orleans Saints should prevail at home against an inconsistent Tampa Bay Buccaneers team might think twice about giving up more than a field goal.
That appears to be the case with the majority of our analysts.
"Oh, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will almost certainly make a major mistake or two against the Saints defense," Sobleski said. "But Tampa Bay has more than enough firepower on offense to score points. Currently, Bruce Arians' squad ranks fourth overall at 30.8 points per game (which is skewed slightly after scoring 55 against the Rams). It's hard to imagine a Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints offense keeping up if this contest turns into a shootout since the Saints signal-caller hasn't exactly opened up the passing offense."
Bridgewater has generally struggled (he's got a sub-90 passer rating and ranks fourth-worst among qualified quarterbacks in yards per attempt), but he's been saved by Alvin Kamara and the New Orleans defense. The D might do more to slow Tampa Bay than the Giants or Rams could, but Kamara might not be able to shine against a Bucs run defense that has been phenomenal.
Tampa Bay has surrendered a league-low 2.9 yards per rushing attempt and has completely stumped standout backs Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley in the last three weeks.
Winston is so damn unpredictable, the Saints are tough to get a feel for without Drew Brees, and both Gagnon and Davenport admit they waffled here. You might want to sit this one out.
Davenport: Tampa Bay (+3.5)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+3.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+3.5)
Consensus: Tampa Bay (+3.5)
Score Prediction: New Orleans 24, Tampa Bay 23
Buffalo Bills (3-1) at Tennessee Titans (2-2)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen remained in concussion protocol at press time, making it tough to gauge Buffalo's Week 5 matchup with the Tennessee Titans. But Allen has struggled anyway, and now his Bills are going up against the league's fourth-best scoring defense.
The majority of our analysts are willing to lay just a field goal with the Titans at home.
"By picking the Titans, I have absolutely and without question damned the team," Davenport said. "It never fails. If I pick the Titans to win (like two weeks ago), they get trounced. If I pick them to lose (like last week), they win in convincing fashion. Outside of implying that the franchise only has six fans, I haven't done anything to deserve this vendetta, but here we are. Now Matt Barkley will throw for 752 yards, and Frank Gore will score as many touchdowns as he has birthday candles."
The Bills defense is getting a lot of pub after giving up 10 points to the Patriots, but it's not as though the Titans haven't been superb on that side of the ball, as well. Tennessee has surrendered 20 or fewer points in seven of its last eight games.
The difference is that while the Bills could be forced to use the abysmal Matt Barkley at quarterback, Titans signal-caller Marcus Mariota has somewhat quietly put together a strong season. The 25-year-old has yet to throw an interception and possesses the league's seventh-best qualified passer rating.
That said, Tennessee has been egregiously inconsistent and is coming off a win. That should give you some pause, along with the fact our top picker is taking the points with a Buffalo team that still has a better record this year.
Davenport: Tennessee (-3)
Gagnon: Tennessee (-3)
Sobleski: Buffalo (+3)
Consensus: Tennessee (-3)
Score Prediction: Titans 20, Bills 14
New York Jets (0-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)
Allen isn't the only second-year franchise quarterback from a New York-based AFC East team in jeopardy of missing Week 5, as it looks like Jets quarterback Sam Darnold's mononucleosis might keep him out for a third game in a row Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
And even if Darnold suits up in Philly, you have to wonder how effective he'll be against a talented defensive front after dealing with a brutal illness. The Eagles have been vulnerable through the air this season, but the Jets don't appear positioned to take advantage of that, which is why our guys are willing to give up nearly two touchdowns with Philadelphia.
"I well and truly despise point spreads this big," Davenport admitted. "Were this for any reason save entertainment value, I wouldn't go within 25 feet of this game. But early indications are that Sam Darnold's super-sized spleen is going to keep him off the field Sunday against the Eagles. If that's the case and Luke Falk gets another start for the Jets, a two-touchdown spread may not be close to enough."
In his first career start two weeks ago, Falk completed just 12 of 22 passes for 98 yards while taking five sacks. He won't be facing New England's top-rated scoring defense this time, but Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is probably licking his chops considering the state of New York's offense.
Throw in that Jets star linebacker C.J. Mosley is still dealing with a groin injury (which at least counterbalances some of Philly's injuries) and it's hard to justify taking even 13.5 points with Gang Green.
Davenport: Philadelphia (-13.5)
Gagnon: Philadelphia (-13.5)
Sobleski: Philadelphia (-13.5)
Consensus: Philadelphia (-13.5)
Score Prediction: Eagles 31, Jets 13
Denver Broncos (0-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)
The Denver Broncos appear to be in free fall. Rising star pass-rusher Bradley Chubb is out for the year with a torn ACL, they're still waiting on injured cornerback Bryce Callahan, veteran corner Kareem Jackson is fighting a hamstring injury, and they could be looking at a fire sale at 0-4.
Considering Denver has scored just three touchdowns in two road games this season, the majority of our experts are willing to give up 6.5 points and side with the Los Angeles Chargers in Sunday's AFC West battle.
"Given my success (or lack thereof) picking games this year, this will be one of those games in which Philip Rivers and Co. go full Chargers and not only fail to cover but lose outright to an inferior opponent," Davenport said. "Still, the Bolts are fresh off a blowout of the Dolphins in Miami, and this week's contest should bring with it the return of tailback Melvin Gordon III to game action. If the Chargers want to hang on to any hopes of challenging the Chiefs in the AFC West, they have to win games like this—in emphatic fashion."
The Broncos were just gashed by Leonard Fournette on the ground and could again have their hands full now that Gordon is back alongside September standout Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply the better team, and they've got almost every advantage in this game.
But the Chargers started slow in Miami, and they've yet to win in regulation at home this season. They're just 3-3 in their last six home games, and they lost to the Broncos in Los Angeles last November.
The Broncos aren't healthy, but the Bolts are also in bad shape with Hunter Henry, Mike Pouncey, Mike Williams, Russell Okung, Derwin James, Melvin Ingram III and Adrian Phillips all hurting. With that in mind, Gagnon isn't willing to join his cohorts in surrendering nearly a touchdown with the Chargers.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-6.5)
Gagnon: Denver (+6.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-6.5)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-6.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 26, Broncos 17
Green Bay Packers (3-1) at Dallas Cowboys (3-1)
We'd like to suggest that if you're going to abstain from one game this weekend, it should be Sunday's featured late-afternoon tilt between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. We'll let Gagnon explain:
"Both teams are coming off tough losses. Both are facing tough injuries (top receiver Davante Adams for Green Bay, left tackle Tyron Smith for Dallas), and the Cowboys' home-field advantage could be outweighed by the fact the Packers have had more time to prepare after playing on Thursday Night Football. It makes sense that Dallas is favored, but that hook is a huge pain. I'm not touching this game."
Still, Gagnon figures a new Green Bay coaching staff should benefit from a long layoff, and the sample we have thus far indicates Green Bay's defense is more like the one that dominated the Bears, Vikings and Broncos than the one that was embarrassed by the Eagles. Za'Darius Smith should also be healthier on that side of the ball, and Green Bay's talented young secondary should be able to take away Amari Cooper.
That has Gagnon and Sobleski believing the Packers can at least keep this within a field goal. But again, this game has so many unpredictable variables that it's toxic from a betting standpoint, especially if you're on the Cowboys and facing that hook.
Davenport: Dallas (-3.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (+3.5)
Sobleski: Green Bay (+3.5)
Consensus: Dallas (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 23, Packers 21
Indianapolis Colts (2-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
The Indianapolis Colts have been crushed by injuries of late, which could explain why they fell flat in a Week 4 home loss to the Raiders. Now they have to travel to Kansas City, where the Chiefs smashed a healthier version of this Colts team in last year's playoffs.
The line is big, but the majority of our analysts figure the Colts will have trouble keeping the deficit to single digits Sunday night at Arrowhead.
"Yippee! Another massive point spread," Davenport said. "No wonder my record is bad: I keep laying huge sums in NFL games. Maybe I should let my dog Fred make the picks from now on. Kidding aside (were I kidding, which I'm not), the Chiefs are coming off a close call against the Lions and playing at home against a Colts team that could be missing both starting safeties. Jacoby Brissett is a decent quarterback, but he can't hang in a shootout with Patrick Magreatestquarterbackeverhomes. The Chiefs are going to light up Indy under the lights."
That 11-point spread could move a lot depending on what happens with injured Colts T.Y. Hilton, Darius Leonard, Marlon Mack and Pierre Desir between now and game time, so you're taking a risk either way. But the Chiefs are healthier and more explosive, so they look like the safer bet for now.
Still, Gagnon notes in dissent that the Chiefs are also far from healthy, and they've merely survived in back-to-back close victories over Baltimore and Detroit. Indy could also keep this close, and you always have to be wary of a potential backdoor cover in a case like this.
Davenport: Kansas City (-11)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (+11)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-11)
Consensus: Kansas City (-11)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 34, Colts 21
Cleveland Browns (2-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-0)
The Cleveland Browns gained a lot of buzz with a Week 4 drubbing of the division rival Ravens on the road, but they bullied a defense that hasn't been good at all this year and should be in for a much bigger challenge in prime time against a well-rested San Francisco 49ers team.
While the hook could again cause problems here, two of our three panelists are sticking with San Francisco minus 3.5 points.
"I'd normally be a little concerned that San Francisco could be caught looking ahead to a critical Week 6 matchup with the division rival Rams," Gagnon said. "But in this case, the 49ers have had two weeks to sit back, get healthy and prepare for Cleveland. The Browns, on the other hand, are still really banged up in the secondary and traveling three time zones to play an unbeaten team. I really wish I could at least get San Francisco by a field goal to be safe, but this should honestly be a six- or seven-point spread."
The Niners could get Tevin Coleman back on offense, while banged-up edge-rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford will have enjoyed 14 days off since they last played against Pittsburgh. That was a sloppy game on both sides of the ball for San Francisco, but that extra time to adjust could be crucial.
And while San Francisco might not be a realistic candidate to go 16-0, let's not overlook how good the 49ers have looked this year. They rank second to only the Patriots in DVOA, and the revamped defense has been special.
But alas, this also is not unanimous. Davenport is looking to take advantage of that hook with a Browns team that just might have turned a corner in Week 4. And that's worth considering because he's due to progress to the mean after a slow start, and he smashed his two colleagues with a 133-116-7 record ATS in 2018.
Davenport: Cleveland (+3.5)
Gagnon: San Francisco (-3.5)
Sobleski: San Francisco (-3.5)
Consensus: Cleveland (+3.5)
Score Prediction: 49ers 27, Browns 20