Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 5 NFL Picks
Well, this has been the weirdest week yet in an already-weird NFL season. Fresh quarterback controversies, new COVID-19 cases and potential postponements have loomed ahead of Week 5, leaving multiple games off the board for much of the week thus far.
Here's where they stand through Week 4:
T-1. Kahler: 36-25-2 (7-7-1 last week)
T-1. Miller: 36-25-2 (8-6-1 last week)
T-3. Davenport: 35-26-2 (5-9-1 last week)
T-3. Gagnon: 35-26-2 (7-7-1 last week)
T-3. Sobleski: 35-26-2 (8-6-1 last week)
6. Tesfatsion: 28-33-2 (5-9-1 last week)
Consensus picks: 32-22-1 (4-6-1 last week)
And here are their attempts to get past some of the fog surrounding the league in Week 5.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at Chicago Bears (3-1)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -3.5
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dropping a field goal plus a hook on the road against a Chicago Bears team that has just as many wins this season, but the majority of our writers are still willing to lay the 3.5 points with Tom Brady and Co.
"I waffled back and forth on this pick," Davenport said. "I'm still not entirely sold on the Buccaneers, and the Bears are neither as good as their record nor as bad as they looked last week. But at the end of the day, I just don't think Nick Foles can keep pace with Tom Brady, who has won all five of his career starts against Chicago. Bucs by a touchdown."
Don't stress too much about the venue. For obvious reasons, home-field advantage isn't a big factor this season. Home teams are 31-31-1 straight-up and 29-34 against the spread this season, and home faves are 20-23 ATS. Plus, the Bears still won't have fans at Soldier Field on Thursday night.
That said, Tampa Bay's top four receivers are dealing with injuries, and going on three days' rest can't be easy on a 43-year-old, even an immortal one like Brady. Both Gagnon and Tesfatsion considered that and weren't prepared to spot a defensively stout Chicago team more than a field goal.
So this is by no means our top bet of the week.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Kahler: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Consensus: Tampa Bay -3.5
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 26, Bears 20
Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -13.5
This one has jumped on and off the board as a result of the fact Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson sat out practice Wednesday, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that was just a precaution and Jackson's knee injury "is not considered serious."
Assuming you can still get a double-digit spread, our gang is siding with the Cincinnati Bengals in this AFC North battle Sunday afternoon.
"I'm going back and forth on this," Tesfatsion admitted. "I want to take the Ravens, but it's hard for me to bet against a nearly two-touchdown underdog in a divisional matchup. Joe Burrow has looked better than I expected given the Bengals' protection issues, and Joe Mixon had a great game in Cincy's first win of the season. It's hard to bet against Jackson, but I think the Bengals keep it within two scores here."
The Bengals did exactly that when they fell by just six points in their 2019 trip to Baltimore, and they're a hell of a lot better with Burrow, a healthy A.J. Green and a red-hot Mixon this time around. And while Cincinnati has obvious pass-protection issues, the Ravens D actually has the 11th-worst pressure rate in the NFL.
Don't be surprised if this is far from a blowout.
Consensus: Cincinnati +13.5
Score Prediction: Ravens 30, Bengals 20
Arizona Cardinals (2-2) at New York Jets (0-4)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -7
"Much like my picks, the Arizona Cardinals were terrible last week," Davenport said, "getting rolled by the Panthers in Carolina. And there are legitimate concerns about Arizona's defense and one-dimensional offense.
"Thankfully, none of that matters in Week 5 because the Cardinals are playing the raging dumpster fire that is the New York Jets—a team that will likely be starting Joe Flacco under center Sunday. This spread isn't close to big enough for me to consider taking New York."
That's fair, and Davenport isn't alone. Four of his five colleagues are joining him in hopes that the Cards will bounce back from consecutive losses. Arizona hasn't done a lot right the last couple of weeks, but the Jets' poor pass defense might not be able to do much to stop DeAndre Hopkins.
On the B/R App last week, a commenter expressed interest in hearing from lone wolves when our writers fall just short of a unanimous consensus. So let's give Gagnon the floor.
"This is, to a degree, a law-of-averages pick," he said. "Oddsmakers are catching on and adjusting to the horrible Jets, who are 0-4 against the spread this season. Meanwhile, the Cardinals suddenly look very human after a strong start. Quarterback Kyler Murray has an abysmal 45.1 passer rating on third down and an even worse 27.8 rating on deep passes this season, and the Arizona defense isn't right at all. This could very well be a blowout, but the push is on the table—along with a backdoor cover even if the Jets don't really hang."
Still, he's all alone. Nobody else trusts Gang Green enough to take them with only seven points in their back pocket.
Gagnon: New York
Consensus: Arizona -7
Score Prediction: Cardinals 30, Jets 17
Los Angeles Rams (3-1) at Washington Football Team (1-3)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -7.5
Ever since surprising the depleted Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1, the Washington Football Team has seemingly been in a freefall. They've lost three straight games by 14-plus points, and now they've thrown second-year first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. under the bus and benched him in favor of Kyle Allen.
Haskins has the worst QBR in the NFL, but a weak offensive line and a lack of depth at the supporting skill positions has played a big role in Washington's struggles, as well.
Allen, who was the NFC's lowest-rated passer last year, isn't likely to make a major difference with two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald ready to pounce against a Washington offensive line lacking standout guard Brandon Scherff.
"I made this pick when Haskins was still the starting quarterback for Washington," Kahler said, "but I'm going to stick with it even though he is now the No. 3 quarterback. I just don't see much of a plan right now in Washington, so I expect the Rams to cover easily here."
She won't get any pushback from her colleagues. Everyone here is siding with the Los Angeles Rams minus a touchdown and a hook.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -7.5
Score Prediction: Rams 28, Washington 16
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0)
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -7
The Philadelphia Eagles are (barely) alive! They might be the NFL's most-injured team, quarterback Carson Wentz has been a mess with almost nobody to rely on, and they're only above water because the NFC East is terrible and they avoided losses against the rebuilding Bengals and equally banged-up San Francisco 49ers.
But it could be a very different story against a rested Pittsburgh Steelers team that has the defensive playmaking ability to exploit Philadelphia's badly damaged offensive line.
With that in mind, our whole crew is down with laying a touchdown with Pittsburgh for Sunday's battle of Pennsylvania.
"Wentz has been a disaster this season," Sobleski said, "and his offensive line is even worse. Now, the Eagles face the NFL's most aggressive defense. The Steelers are going to attack and pressure Wentz throughout this contest, and mistakes are bound to be made by the NFL's current 'leader' with seven interceptions. Only two quarterbacks—Burrow and the Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson—have been sacked more frequently this season."
The Steelers are averaging a league-best five sacks per game, and they led the league in that category in 2019. With none of Philadelphia's regular offensive line starters fully healthy, that could be problematic.
Consensus: Pittsburgh -7
Score Prediction: Steelers 28, Eagles 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) at Houston Texans (0-4)
DraftKings Line: Houston -6
Our gang's first split call of the week comes in a fittingly unpredictable game.
If we showed you this line in the spring, you'd likely leap all over the Houston Texans and their superstar quarterback, Deshaun Watson, with only six points on the line against a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that has been stripped for parts. But nobody knows how the Texans will react to the firing of head coach Bill O'Brien, Houston is in rough shape at 0-4, and the Jags haven't been a complete dumpster fire this season.
"I wouldn't be surprised if the Texans completely bombed now that O'Brien is gone and they're essentially toast," Gagnon said. "The Jags fell by only one point in Houston last year and could easily win this game. But the Texans are a hell of a lot more talented than Jacksonville, they're at home, and I get the feeling O'Brien's firing will be galvanizing based on reports that the locker room had become disenchanted with him. I'll lean Houston as a result, but I wouldn't spend my pocket change on it."
Put it all together and this is a divisional matchup to avoid.
Score Prediction: Texans 30, Jaguars 24
Las Vegas Raiders (2-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -13
The Kansas City Chiefs demolished the Las Vegas (then Oakland) Raiders last season, outscoring them 68-19 in two victories. Few would likely be surprised if the 4-0 Chiefs handed Las Vegas another slice of that pie Sunday, especially considering they've already won three games by 14-plus points this year.
But on the other hand, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been one of the most efficient signal-callers in the league this season, and that 13-point spread is no joke.
Unsurprisingly, we have another split.
"Nine of out 10 times, I'm going to take a double-digit 'dog in a divisional game," Tesfatsion said in explaining his decision to roll with K.C. "This is that 10th time. Assuming Patrick Mahomes doesn't get COVID-19 (which is a wild thing to say), this Chiefs offense has more than enough firepower to cover a two-score spread. The Raiders have a ridiculously long injury list, and while Las Vegas has been able to be competitive in games this season, I don't think it has enough to hang with Kansas City."
Indeed, the Raiders have been ravaged by injuries. But top Chiefs defender Chris Jones is dealing with a groin injury, and Kansas City is squeezing this short-rest game in between big matchups with the New England Patriots last Monday night and the Buffalo Bills in Western New York next Thursday.
This could be a trap. Save your cash.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: Las Vegas
Miller: Las Vegas
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Tesfatsion: Kansas City
Score Prediction: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17
Buffalo Bills (4-0) at Tennessee Titans (3-0)
DraftKings Line: OFF THE BOARD
For the second straight week, the Tennesee Titans are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. This time, it could result in the postponement of their matchup with the Buffalo Bills. Thus, most books aren't offering a point spread at the moment for Buffalo-Tennessee.
Stay tuned for picks and analysis if and when a line is posted between press time and Sunday.
Carolina Panthers (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (0-4)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -1
This week is filled with tough-to-nail-down divisional games, and as a semi-pick'em, Sunday's matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons qualifies, as well. Our predictors are siding with the Panthers plus a point by the smallest possible margin (with Kahler abstaining), likely because nobody trusts the choke-happy 0-4 Falcons.
"These are two teams heading in opposite directions," Davenport said. "The Panthers are coming off their best effort of the season in an impressive win over the Cardinals. The Falcons are reeling after getting handled with ease to fall to 0-4 in Green Bay. Atlanta's top two receivers are hurt. So is half the defense. And head coach Dan Quinn is spending half of every practice looking at help-wanted ads. I'd be comfortable laying a field goal here. Getting points is a gift."
The Panthers are 2-0 without star running back Christian McCaffrey, and a double-digit-point Week 4 victory over the Cardinals is no joke. They rank in the top 12 both through the air and on the ground in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders, and the Atlanta pass defense can't stop anybody.
Our writers are expecting Teddy Bridgewater and DJ Moore to get it done, with the Falcons struggling to keep up due to key injuries in the receiving corps. But expect a close game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Kahler: No pick
Consensus: Carolina +1
Score Prediction: Panthers 27, Falcons 26
New York Giants (0-4) at Dallas Cowboys (1-3)
DraftKings Line: Dallas -9.5
Yup, another divisional matchup between untrustworthy teams—this time from the league's most inept division. The Dallas Cowboys can break scoreboards but can't stop anybody, while the New York Giants can't score at all but have quietly put together two respectable defensive performances in the last three weeks.
Which Giants team will show up Sunday in Texas? The one that went toe-to-toe with the Bears and Rams or the one that was embarrassed by the Steelers and 49ers? Dallas is 1-3, with its only win coming by a single point in miraculous fashion. Who is confident it'll suddenly beat a division rival by a double-digit margin?
Fittingly, we've got another split here.
"Aside from the Cleveland Browns' 11-point win, every other game the Cowboys have played has been really close," said Kahler of her decision to take the 'dog. "I'm not saying the Giants will win this NFC Least matchup, but I think it'll be another close game unless Dallas can fix its defensive woes."
Considering that Leighton Vander Esch, Sean Lee, Chidobe Awuzie and Anthony Brown remain injured, it's hard to imagine that suddenly happening. But the Giants have the league's lowest-scoring offense by a wide margin, so this one gets another shoulder shrug.
Did we mention this is a weird freakin' week?
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: New York
Tesfatsion: New York
Score Prediction: Cowboys 31, Giants 21
Indianapolis Colts (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (3-1)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -2
The Indianapolis Colts have the league's hottest defense, but their offense has yet to put it together. And now, linebackers Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke are both hurting. The Cleveland Browns have one of the league's hottest offenses, while their defense remains vulnerable. But early Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner Myles Garrett can easily make up for deficiencies elsewhere on that side of the ball.
With those dynamics in mind, our panel appears surprised the Browns are getting points from the Colts at home in Week 5.
"The fact that we're all on the Browns is more than a little unsettling," Davenport joked, "because Cleveland. The spread dropping from three points to two is a bummer, as well. The Colts have been excellent defensively, allowing just 14 points per game and leading the league in several categories. But Indy's opponents this year have a combined record of 5-11, and the only team it has played with a winning record is a Bears squad many don't believe in. Add in an inconsistent Colts offense and this feels like a low-scoring game the Browns win outright, which means they'll lose by 20. Again, because Cleveland."
Yeah, backing the Browns is still scary. But the fact is they've averaged 39.3 points per game in three consecutive victories, and they've turned the ball over just once during that stretch. Meanwhile, Garrett is the only player in the league with five sacks and three forced fumbles, and now Indianapolis left tackle Anthony Castonzo is dealing with a rib injury.
This is a tough spot for Indy, especially with at least some fans present in Cleveland.
Consensus: Cleveland +2
Score Prediction: Browns 26, Colts 21
Miami Dolphins (1-3) at San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
DraftKings Line: San Francisco -8.5
More than 80 percent of the betting public is backing the Miami Dolphins with more than a touchdown in their back pocket Sunday against the 49ers in San Francisco. Oftentimes, slanted numbers like those present opportunities to fade the public and capitalize on public-driven line movement. But in this case, our crew isn't biting on the still-depleted Niners.
"I just think this line is multiple points too high," Gagnon said. "I know San Francisco somehow still bullied the terrible Jets and even worse Giants with all those injuries, but the attrition has begun to catch up to them. That Week 4 performance against Philadelphia was pretty ugly, so even if Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Raheem Mostert are out there, I'm not sure I'm cool with laying 8.5 points against the feisty Phins."
You may want to wait on status updates regarding some of those key 49ers before making a decision here, but the reality is none of those guys will be 100 percent, and San Francisco will be shorthanded regardless.
The Dolphins are by no means a good football team, but they haven't lost by more than 10 points all season and haven't fallen by more than eight since Week 1. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can get very hot very quickly, and the San Francisco defense might not have the ability to shut him down right now.
So why, then, are the 49ers such a large favorite? It probably has something to do with those big wins in New York without, well, everybody who mattered in the lineup. But that shine has come off a little, and they might have to deal with a healthier Byron Jones in the Miami secondary, as well.
Kahler: No pick
Miller: No pick
Tesfatsion: San Francisco
Consensus: Miami +8.5
Score Prediction: 49ers 26, Dolphins 21
Minnesota Vikings (1-3) at Seattle Seahawks (4-0)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -7
For the third consecutive season, the Seattle Seahawks are hosting the Minnesota Vikings in prime time. Seattle won and covered in each of the previous two matchups, but the majority of our experts figure the Vikes can at least keep it close in a desperate situation Sunday night at CenturyLink Field.
"These two teams played a damn close game last year in prime time in Seattle," Gagnon said, " and that famously loud environment should be a little less intimidating for the desperate, increasingly hot Vikings this time around. Not only will there be no fans in the stands, but Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen and rookie sensation Justin Jefferson will get to go up against a pass defense that ranks 29th in DVOA."
The Seattle secondary has been hit hard by injuries, and star safety Jamal Adams has already been ruled out. Of course, Minnesota's defense has lost a step without Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr up front, and the secondary is essentially rebuilding, which means the league's highest-rated passer, Russell Wilson, could certainly take over here.
But most signs point to a shootout with both teams scoring at will in this spot, which could make it tough for Seattle to pull away or avoid a backdoor cover.
Consensus: Minnesota +7
Score Prediction: Seattle 30, Minnesota 27
Los Angeles Chargers (1-3) at New Orleans Saints (2-2)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -8
And we could have another shootout on our hands Monday night in New Orleans, where the Saints and Los Angeles Chargers will clash in a battle between raging offenses.
"The Chargers may be 1-3," Sobleski said, "but they're a scrappy lot that comes to play each and every week. The Saints are clearly the more talented squad. At the same time, the Chargers have more than enough firepower to keep this contest close. In fact, Los Angeles' three losses—two of which came at the hands of the Chiefs and Buccaneers—have been by a combined 15 points, which makes this eight-point spread very enticing."
Bolts rookie quarterback Justin Herbert completed four of his six deep passes for three jaw-dropping touchdowns against one of the NFL's highest-rated defenses in Week 4. But Saints signal-caller Drew Brees has posted a 123.6 passer rating in back-to-back wins despite the absence of All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, who could return from an ankle injury against a vulnerable Chargers defense that struggled in Tampa.
This could easily go either way with such a high spread, which is why it's appropriate that two panelists sided with the Saints.
Davenport: New Orleans
Gagnon: New Orleans
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles +8
Score Prediction: Saints 28, Chargers 24
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO) or 1-800-BETS OFF (IA). 21+. NJ/PA/WV/IN/IA/CO/IL only. Odds and lines subject to change. In partnership with Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions. Odds and lines are subject to change.
Denver Broncos (1-3) at New England Patriots (2-2)
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the game will be played next Sunday.
DraftKings Line: OFF THE BOARD
Ditto for Sunday's matchup between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, which is surrounded by doubt after Patriots star cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19 midway through the week. He joins New England quarterback Cam Newton on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Barring a postponement, check back for a line along with picks and analysis later in the week.