Bleacher Report’s Expert Week 5 NFL Picks
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After going 19-10 against the spread in the first three weeks of the 2021 NFL season, road underdogs were only 5-5 in Week 4.
Bleacher Report national NFL writers Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski, B/R Gridiron editors Ian Kenyon and Wes O’Donnell, and B/R Betting host Connor Rogers weren’t convinced that trend would continue in Week 4, so they wound up having their best week yet. Gagnon went 12-4 ATS to move to 36-28 on the year as the leader of the pack.
The gang is generally fading road ‘dogs again this week, with one glaring exception on Sunday night.
Here are their ATS picks for every game on the slate.
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DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -2.5
The Los Angeles Rams have covered in three of their last four matchups with the Seattle Seahawks. However, they’ve lost in their last two regular-season trips to the Pacific Northwest, and they could be in for a tough night on short rest Thursday.
That’s how the majority of the panel sees it with the Seahawks getting 2.5 points at home.
“The Seahawks and Rams are similar-caliber teams,” Gagnon said. “But L.A. is coming off an ugly loss and traveling to a tough environment on only three days’ rest, while Seattle is unlikely to lose a second consecutive home game in front of a full, loud stadium to start the season. Russell Wilson is the league’s highest-rated passer, and I can’t see his team falling to 2-3 here. I’m surprised the Rams are favored.”
In that case, the Seattle moneyline could be tempting. But on a short week, you’ll want to monitor injuries to Seahawks running back Chris Carson (neck), who is a game-time decision.
O’Donnell: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Seahawks 28, Rams 27
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DraftKings Line: Atlanta -3
The Atlanta Falcons may not be trustworthy in the sports betting realm, and they won’t have home-field advantage against the New York Jets in London on Sunday. However, the Jets were outscored by 50 points in their first three games before their surprise Week 4 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The majority of the gang can’t see them hanging around for a second week in a row. They’re only getting a field goal from the more experienced Falcons at a neutral site.
“Laying points with Atlanta feels like asking for trouble,” Davenport said. “The Jets are coming off their first win of 2021, and this game being in London adds a layer of uncertainty. But while the Falcons aren’t good, they’re still the better of these two teams. They also appear to have found something with Cordarrelle Patterson.”
Ultimately, we’re looking at two of the worst three teams in the league in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders. Rogers and Sobleski aren’t willing to lay an even field goal, and it’s hard to fault them. This might be one to avoid.
Rogers: New York
Sobleski: New York
Score Prediction: Falcons 26, Jets 20
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DraftKings Line: Carolina -3.5
It’s hard to back a banged-up team in a free fall, even if the odds may account for that dynamic.
So while laying a field goal and a hook might still not feel right with the Sam Darnold-led Carolina Panthers, the majority of the group is doing exactly that as Carolina hosts a Philadelphia Eagles squad that is 0-3 straight-up and against the spread over the last three weeks.
“Even if star running back Christian McCaffrey can’t return from his hamstring injury, Sam Darnold and Co. should be able to put up points on the Eagles’ putrid defense, which has surrendered 83 points over the last two weeks,” Kenyon said. “This game should remain close, but I’d expect the Panthers to cover 3.5.”
For what it’s worth, two-thirds of public bettors agree, which aligns with how our pickers see it. But Sobleski has been the second-best predictor of the group thus far, and he isn’t willing to lay that hook.
He and Davenport might be considering the concerning state of the Carolina defense, which lost cornerback Jaycee Horn in Week 3 and linebacker Shaq Thompson in Week 4. The Panthers did trade for Stephon Gilmore on Wednesday, but he isn’t eligible to return from injured reserve until Week 7.
Score Prediction: Panthers 27, Eagles 21
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DraftKings Line: Green Bay -3
The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t lost a game by more than three points this season. They’ve also lost by more than one score only twice in the 13 games started and finished by quarterback Joe Burrow over the last two years.
They consistently hang in there, but nearly the entire crew believes that trend will be curbed with the determined Green Bay Packers coming to town Sunday afternoon.
“The Bengals are an up-and-coming team,” Sobleski said. “Burrow and Co. already showed marked improvement over last year’s squad. But their 3-1 record should be put into perspective. Their three wins came against opponents with a combined 2-10 record.
“They haven’t faced an opponent with a winning record until this weekend, when the NFC North-leading Packers come to town. The Bengals are better, but they must prove themselves against a quality opponent before getting the benefit of the doubt.”
That was also the case when Burrow was healthy last year. He was 1-6 in seven starts against playoff teams in 2020, and five of those losses came by more than a field goal. Are they really ready for Aaron Rodgers and a streaking Green Bay squad?
Add a hook and this gets tricky, but the Pack feel like a pretty safe gamble as a mere field-goal fave.
Davenport: Green Bay
Kenyon: Green Bay
O’Donnell: Green Bay
Rogers: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 31, Bengals 21
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DraftKings Line: New England -8.5
The Houston Texans have lost three consecutive games by double-digit margins and are coming off a humiliating 40-0 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
All trends end at some point, and NFL teams eventually battle back, but the entire panel is surprised to see the New England Patriots laying fewer than 10 points in Houston following a tough but spirited loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Bill Belichick’s team is coming off two straight home losses, the latter of which was a big, emotional roller coaster,” O’Donnell said. “I’ll lay those points as they’ll take out their frustrations down in Houston against a Texans team that has gotten worse each game since their Week 1 victory.”
The Texans were widely expected to be the worst team in football this season, and that’s how they looked in Buffalo. Even if you’re daunted by 8.5 points for a road team featuring a rookie quarterback, it’s hard to justify getting behind Houston at this stage.
Belichick won’t likely let his team cut it close here, and he has always been able to roast rookie quarterbacks. Since the start of 2018, he’s 6-1 with an average scoring margin of 30-10 against first-year passers.
Good luck, Davis Mills!
Davenport: New England
Gagnon: New England
Kenyon: New England
O’Donnell: New England
Rogers: New England
Sobleski: New England
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Texans 10
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DraftKings Line: Tennessee -4
Meanwhile, another lowly AFC South team will host another team with Belichick roots that is coming off a disappointing loss. And in this case, the Tennessee Titans are giving only four points to a Jacksonville Jaguars squad absorbed by turmoil and riding a 19-game losing streak.
Nearly the entire panel is fine with laying those points.
“The Titans need a bounce-back game after their disappointing loss to the Jets,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t matter how banged up they are; they get a sinking ship in the Jaguars this week to get right.”
The Jags do enter this game on more rest, and they did battle hard last Thursday in Cincinnati. But their head coach is mired in controversy, and it’s easy to see them going back to their ugly losing ways.
The Jaguars had lost seven consecutive games by double-digit margins before falling by a field goal to the Bengals. Between Jacksonville wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. now being out for the season and Titans wideouts A.J. Brown and/or Julio Jones perhaps returning, this seems like a no-brainer.
Score Prediction: Titans 31, Jaguars 17
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DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -1
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a bottom-10 team in terms of DVOA, but they’re trying to save their season in front of their home crowd Sunday. They might get to tee up on a mistake-prone backup quarterback, too.
With that in mind, the majority of our experts are down with laying one point with Pittsburgh even though these squads have inverted records.
“Pittsburgh has looked awful for most of this season,” Davenport said. “The offensive line is a mess, and Ben Roethlisberger seems cooked. But this is a proud organization that peeled off 12 wins last season.
“With Teddy Bridgewater on the shelf last week, the Denver offense ground to a halt, and the Steelers are still a good defensive team. It won’t be pretty, but Pittsburgh will find a way to stop the bleeding and hand the Broncos their second consecutive loss.”
Drew Lock is not reliable, especially on the road against a desperate and opportunistic unit led by the ferocious T.J. Watt. And while the Denver D ranks seventh in DVOA, Big Ben eventually has to string together a decent performance.
The Broncos surrendered 23 points and more than 400 yards to the Baltimore Ravens last week. Injuries to Bradley Chubb, Patrick Surtain II, Josey Jewell and Ronald Darby aren’t helping their cause.
Score Prediction: Steelers 23, Broncos 20
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DraftKings Line: New Orleans -2
Sunday’s matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Football Team at FedEx Field is a Gothic novella known as Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Both teams have been frustratingly unpredictable this season, with New Orleans in particular hitting extreme highs (38-3 over Green Bay at a neutral site) and lows (a home loss to the lowly New York Giants).
Considering neither team can string two wins or two losses together, the Saints would appear to have the advantage coming off their L in this spot. But the majority of the panel doesn’t think the WFT is getting enough spread love at home.
“This line suggests the Saints are a significantly better team than Washington, but I don’t believe that to be the case,” Gagnon said. “The WFT’s defense is too good to keep struggling, and they’ll now get to feast on a notoriously mistake-prone quarterback who will be in trouble behind a banged-up offensive line. Fade the public hard with Washington.”
That quarterback is Jameis Winston, who has been intercepted in only one game this season but hasn’t faced a defensive front like Washington’s. And he may again be without stalwart left tackle Terron Armstead (elbow).
With that said, Washington has also been hit by the injury bug, and O’Donnell and Sobleski are laying the points with Sean Payton’s squad. Tread carefully with two inconsistent teams here.
O’Donnell: New Orleans
Sobleski: New Orleans
Score Prediction: Washington 23, Saints 21
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DraftKings Line: Minnesota -8.5
The Detroit Lions have battled hard at home this season, but they’re still 0-4. They’ve been defeated by double-digit margins in both of their road games, and they’re now in particularly rough shape from a health perspective.
With star center Frank Ragnow (turf toe) on injured reserve along with pass-rusher Romeo Okwara (Achilles), it’s hard to see Detroit sticking around with the desperate Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday. That’s why the majority of our predictors are laying 8.5 points with Kirk Cousins and Co.
“Minnesota isn’t nearly as bad as its 1-3 record indicates,” Sobleski said. “The Vikings lost one game in overtime and another by a missed field-goal attempt as time expired. They ran into the Cleveland Browns’ defensive buzzsaw last week, yet they still remained within a score during that entire contest.
“Meanwhile, the Lions aren’t good. They’re the team others go up against to get back on track.”
That should happen here, although you might be kicking yourself if you missed a chance to grab the Vikings -7 back before the news hit regarding Ragnow. Still, if you have make a pick one way or the other, the Vikings look like the safer selection.
Score Prediction: Vikings 31, Lions 20
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DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -10
Riding a high coming out of New England, could the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get caught overlooking a well-coached and desperate Miami Dolphins team Sunday at Raymond James Stadium?
The panel is again far from unanimity with Tampa Bay laying 10 points in this spot, but the majority is still siding with the home fave against a Miami squad that does appear to be spiraling.
“The Buccaneers have looked mortal over the past two weeks after losing to the Rams and squeaking out a win over the Patriots on Sunday night,” Kenyon said. “However, Tom Brady still leads one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses, and the Bucs have the league’s best run defense. Meanwhile, Miami ranks 28th in rushing yards and 26th in yards per carry. If this game comes down to Jacoby Brissett needing to outgun Brady, my money would be on the Buccaneers in a blowout.”
In the last three weeks, the Dolphins have been blown out at home by the Bills, fallen in a winnable game in Las Vegas and lost by another double-digit margin at home against the Indianapolis Colts. They’ll also be without veteran receiver William Fuller V, who is now on IR after breaking a finger against Indy.
This is a tough spot for them, but 10 points isn’t a small number, and Brian Flores is a hell of a coach. Bettor beware.
Kenyon: Tampa Bay
O’Donnell: Tampa Bay
Rogers: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Dolphins 17
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DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -2.5
The gang isn’t split on any early kickoffs or prime-time games this week, but we have three deadlocks among the four late-afternoon starts. The first comes with the Los Angeles Chargers laying a tricky 2.5 points at home against the Cleveland Browns.
Gagnon on the Browns: “There are just too many tough-to-call dynamics here for me to bet this one. Baker Mayfield has been a mess for the Browns, but they keep finding ways to win. Justin Herbert has been phenomenal for the Chargers, but they lack a real home-field advantage at SoFi Stadium. I’m siding with Cleveland because I’m getting more value from the more talented team in what should essentially be a pick’em. And whereas the Chargers are basically on top of the world right now, Cleveland has plenty of room to improve on its play from the first four weeks.”
Davenport on the Bolts: “Frankly, this spread should be bigger. The Browns just can’t seem to put it all together. The first two games, the offense was rolling but the defense struggled. Now the defense is stout but the offense scuffled in Minnesota last week. The Chargers don’t have that problem. In back-to-back wins over the Chiefs and Raiders, the Bolts looked like the best team in the AFC West, if not the entire conference. Taking the hotter team at home in essentially a pick’em situation isn’t a tough call.”
Cleveland is coming off more rest, and L.A.’s home-field “advantage” is definitely questionable, but it isn’t easy to bet on Mayfield over Herbert right now. We wouldn’t blame you for sitting this one out.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Kenyon: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Chargers 22, Browns 21
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DraftKings Line: Las Vegas -5
Meanwhile, hung jury No. 2 comes with the Las Vegas Raiders laying five points at home against the Justin Fields-quarterbacked Chicago Bears.
Gagnon on the Bears: “This has moved from -3.5 even though the Las Vegas is on short rest following a tough loss to the Chargers in what felt like a home game. The Raiders are getting far too much credit. They’re a bottom-12 DVOA team, just like the Bears. Chicago has the better defense, led by former Raider Khalil Mack, and now an already-vulnerable Raiders secondary is banged up for a matchup with an unpredictable rookie quarterback. Chicago could win this one outright.”
O’Donnell on Las Vegas: “The Raiders may have been exposed in their ugly Monday Night Football loss to the Chargers. However, going back to Vegas and taking on Fields, who was awful in his first road start two weeks ago, is a pretty good remedy to at least right the ship for the time being.”
If you decide to throw some change on this one, consider waiting on more clarity regarding injured Raiders cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen Jr. (foot) and Damon Arnette (groin). Ditto for Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (groin). And keep in mind that running back David Montgomery (knee) is already out for Chicago.
See why this one is so tough to get a read on?
Davenport: Las Vegas
O’Donnell: Las Vegas
Rogers: Las Vegas
Score Prediction: Raiders 26, Bears 21
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DraftKings Line: Dallas -7
The final split comes with the Dallas Cowboys laying an even touchdown at home versus the New York Giants. The G-Men are coming off their first win of the season, but they’re significant public ‘dogs against a Dallas team with the best DVOA in the NFC.
Rogers on the Cowboys: “Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and most importantly the Giants offensive line are all trending in the right direction. I’m just not convinced Big Blue’s defense can slow down Dak Prescott, who has thrown for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last two weeks. The Cowboys have scored 77 points in that same span. They might have the most lethal offense in football.”
Kenyon on the G-Men: “Three of the Cowboys’ four games have been decided by eight or fewer points, and the Giants seem to have found some rhythm on offense last week against the Saints. This is the third road game in four weeks for the Giants and the Cowboys’ third straight home game, so there could be a rest advantage for Dallas. The Cowboys are likely to win this game outright, but I like the Giants getting seven points here. It feels like the perfect backdoor-cover scenario, with Daniel Jones leading the Giants to some late points after falling into a hole.”
The oft-maligned Jones is actually the league’s third-highest-rated passer on deep attempts, and he has added 188 rushing yards and two rushing scores while throwing only one interception thus far. But Prescott is the NFL’s fifth-highest-rated passer, period, and he still has more support than Jones.
Nobody is doubting that Dallas should be the favorite, but seven points might be too on the nose.
Gagnon: New York
Kenyon: New York
O’Donnell: New York
Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Giants 23
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DraftKings Line: Arizona -5.5
The Arizona Cardinals are the league’s only unbeaten team, but they’ll now have a larger target on their back as a result. And on Sunday, a Cards team that was once the underdog for its Week 5 matchup with the banged-up but experienced San Francisco 49ers is laying 5.5 points at home.
That number is too high for the majority our pickers.
“There’s no real rhyme or reason for this one other than simply preferring to have the points,” O’Donnell said. “The NFC West is arguably the best division in football, and strange things happen regularly when division foes meet. These two teams split last season, with each winning on the other team’s field. I’ll back that up and take the points in a close game.”
A bet on San Francisco is also a bet that rookie quarterback Trey Lance can hold it down against a quality defensive front in his first career start, or that shaky veteran Jimmy Garoppolo can overcome a calf injury to not only start but excel against that D. You can see why we’re far from unanimity, with Davenport and Sobleski riding the hot Cardinals as an increasingly heavy fave.
Gagnon: San Francisco
Kenyon: San Francisco
O’Donnell: San Francisco
Rogers: San Francisco
Score Prediction: Arizona 26, San Francisco 23
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DraftKings Line: Kansas City -2.5
The Buffalo Bills went 0-2 straight-up and ATS in two meetings with the Kansas City Chiefs last year, and the Chiefs rebounded from their rough start with a decisive victory over the Eagles last week.
However, the majority of the panel is backing red-hot Buffalo with only 2.5 points in their back pocket Sunday at Arrowhead.
“The Bills’ Week 1 throttling at the hands of the Steelers seems like a cosmic joke in retrospect,” Sobleski said. “Since then, Buffalo has dismantled its opposition while averaging 39.3 points per game. Playing the Chiefs is different than playing Miami, Washington and Houston. But the Bills getting points when the Chiefs have the league’s second-worst defense feels like a slap into the face to Josh Allen and his crew.”
Kansas City routinely gets pumped up by oddsmakers and the public. This line has bounced up to a field goal on several occasions this week, and ideally you can get Buffalo at +3. But Kansas City is just 3-12 against the spread in its last 15 games, and that defense appears more vulnerable than it was last year.
Still, can you fault Gagnon and Kenyon for getting behind Patrick Mahomes in a critical home prime-time game when all you need is a three-point victory to cash? This one isn’t easy to handicap, but it should be plenty of fun.
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kenyon: Kansas City
Score Prediction: Bills 28, Chiefs 27
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DraftKings Line: Baltimore -6.5
Are the Indianapolis Colts back? A strong performance from Carson Wentz and Co. in a decisive road victory over the Miami Dolphins was encouraging, but the vast majority of our experts still can’t see Indy keeping things close as a 6.5-point road ‘dog Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
“This is a lot of points, and Baltimore’s offense has yet to really get rolling,” Rogers said. “With that being said, their defense shut down the Broncos last week. They should be able to limit Wentz and win by at least a touchdown.”
The Ravens finally overcame the Chiefs in their only other home game this season. That fully loaded stadium should be fired up for this one, and the Ravens are good at winning big (they won a league-high nine games by at least 14 points last season, one of which came in Indy). That hadn’t happened yet this year before they easily disposed of a formerly undefeated Broncos squad on the road last week.
With that said, don’t count out Davenport’s solo selection. Lone wolves went 4-0 in last week’s picks.
Score Prediction: Ravens 28, Colts 17
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