Expert NFL Picks for Week 5, Including Browns-Chargers, 49ers-Cardinals and Bills-Chiefs on “Sunday Night Football”
Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 5 games, including the peaking Packers taking on a surprising Bengals squad and the Bills heading to Arrowhead for a Sunday evening tilt with the Chiefs.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Green Bay Packers (-3, O/U 51) at Cincinnati Bengals
A compelling matchup because … the Packers head to Cincy having won three in a row against a Bengals team that has not lost at home this season and will be well rested after last playing on Thursday Night Football in Week 4. The Packers, who have scored 95 points and surrendered 100, are the only team in the NFL with a winning record and a negative point differential (due in large part to the 38-3 shellacking they took at the hands of the Saints in Week 1, the widest margin of defeat in Aaron Rodger’s career). The Bengals have scored 92 but only given up 75.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Packers (3-1 SU, 3-1 against the spread) lead the NFC North and covered as six-point home favorites last week. Similarly, the Bengals (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS) lead the AFC North and have won two straight, beating the Jaguars 24-21 last week but failing to cover as 7.5-point home favorites. This line opened with Green Bay listed as a 3.5-point road favorite. The public sees an easy win and cover for Aaron Rodgers and company laying a short spread. However, despite this lopsided betting, we’ve seen the line fall from 3.5 to 3. This signals some wiseguy reverse line movement on the Bengals plus the points at home. The Bengals are your top contrarian play of the week as they are only receiving about one-quarter of bets across the market. The Bengals have a rest and game-plan advantage. This line looks fishy. Why is it so low? It looks gross but I’ll take the Bengals plus the points at home.
Gable’s Guess: The Packers, they’re dealing with all sorts of injuries. Their offensive line is banged up and wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling is on IR with a hamstring injury. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith had back surgery last week and now cornerback Jaire Alexander could miss extended time. They are pretty much in injury hell, especially defensively. The Bengals mounted a nice second-half comeback last week and Joe Burrow threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase leads all rookie receivers with 297 yards and is averaging 17.5 yards per catch and also has four touchdowns. Looking at all the injuries on defense with Green Bay and factoring in that Cincinnati’s offense has been playing well, I’m going to take the over.
Rogers’ Recommendation: The public is going to be all over Green Bay in this one as the Packers are short favorites at Cincinnati. Green Bay was impressive in last week’s rout of Pittsburgh, but Cincinnati is also 3-1 after rallying past Jacksonville last week. The Bengals are 2-0 SU/ATS this season in the role of an underdog, including victories over the Vikings and Steelers. This is a huge game for both teams, but a bigger deal for Cincinnati to get to 4-1 with a win. Best Bet: Cincinnati +3.
Our Pick: The Bengals, at some level, are still the Bengals. We’ll lay the points with Green Bay in Week 5.
New Orleans Saints (-2, O/U 44) at Washington Football Team
A compelling matchup because … the Saints have yet to win or lose two games in a row this season and head to Washington to take on a football team that is actually in the exact same boat. That streak will be broken for one of these teams on Sunday afternoon barring a tie, as Washington will win its second in a row or New Orleans will drop its second consecutive game. The Saints have surrendered 69 points this season while Washington, which was supposed to be a defensive powerhouse, has given up 122, third most in the NFL.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: These NFC opponents are trending in opposite directions. The Saints (2-2 SU, 2-2 ATS) just fell to the Giants 27-21, losing straight up as 7-point home favorites. On the flip side, Washington (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) has won two of their last three, including a 34-30 win over the Falcons last week, covering as 2-point road favorites. This line opened with New Orleans listed as a 1-point road favorite. The public is all over the Saints laying a short number, which has driven this line up to 2 or even 2.5 at some shops. This vaunted Washington defense has struggled thus far, but a date with turnover-prone Jameis Winston might be just what the doctor ordered. I’ll buy low on the Football Team as a short dog at home with an inflated line.
Gable’s Guess: One thing the Saints have demonstrated this year is they start slow. Through four games, they’ve only scored one first-quarter touchdown and only have 10 points total in the first quarters they’ve played this year. One of Alvin Kamara’s greatest strengths is catching the ball and they didn’t target him at all last game. Washington has been impacted by several injuries, including one to starting tight end Logan Thomas. He was their leading receiver as far as receptions for the first three weeks before being injured in the first quarter on Sunday. That injury goes along with injuries to two starting defenders and a starter on the offensive line. This is a team that has struggled defensively, a surprise to many who thought they were an elite defensive team coming into this year. Washington’s giving up 30.75 points per game and they’ve been terrible on third downs and opening drives. This may be an opportunity for New Orleans to finally score some points in the first quarter. I’m going to lay the two with the Saints here.
Rogers’ Recommendation: New Orleans looks to rebound after the Saints were stunned in their home opener to previously winless New York in overtime last week. The Giants’ offense torched the Saints. As a favorite, New Orleans has lost twice outright while winning twice in the underdog role. Unfortunately for the Saints this week, they are laying points at Washington, who came back to beat Atlanta last week. The Football Team is getting good play out of quarterback Taylor Heinicke and Washington has responded well as a home underdog and should be looked at here to cash. Washington +2.
Our Pick: Both teams have been inconsistent so far, but believe in the Saints more. Lay the points.
Cleveland Browns (+1.5, O/U 47) at LA Chargers
A compelling matchup because … following a Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, the Browns have reeled off three straight wins and have only given up 13 points combined in their last two victories. Cleveland’s stingy defense will be tested against a Chargers team that put up 28 points in Week 4 after going for 30 in Week 3. LA’s defense is also solid but vulnerable against the running game — which is Cleveland’s strength on offense.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Both of these AFC contenders enter with 3-1 records and are riding win streaks. The Browns (3-1 ATS) have won three straight and just took down the Vikings 14-7, covering as one-point road favorites. Similarly, the Chargers (3-1 ATS) have won two straight and just beat the Raiders 28-14, covering as three-point home favorites. This line opened at a pick-’em or with Los Angeles as a one-point home favorite. The public is riding Justin Herbert and company at home, which has driven this line up to -2 in some places. This seems like a smart buy-low opportunity on a good Browns squad in a rare contrarian dog spot. Short road dogs of +6 or less are 19-6 ATS (76%) this season. The Browns are a great rushing team and the Chargers are fourth-worst in the NFL against the run. Cleveland also has a one-day rest advantage, as the Chargers played on Monday night. I’ll take the Browns plus the points. Cleveland is also in a great teaser spot (+2 to +8).
Gable’s Guess: I think this is going to be a really good game. Herbert looks spectacular this year and Austin Ekeler has emerged as a nice weapon for the Chargers as well. Los Angeles is in the driver’s seat for the AFC West now as they find themselves at the top of the division. We’ve seen the offensive play calling be much more aggressive this year under Brandon Staley. Some of the very befuddling things we saw in the past from the Chargers were really a product of Anthony Lynn being there. They don’t seem to be making mistakes under Staley as they did in previous years. This will be a good showdown here with a very good Cleveland defense that held the Vikings to only seven points at home on Sunday. The play of Baker Mayfield is holding the Browns back from being in the conversation of true contenders. He was only 15-of-33 passing for 155 yards on Sunday. They have a great running game. Mayfield got off to a bad start last season, too, and then was able to turn it around. I have a feeling this is going to be a spot where he gets right. I’m going to take Cleveland as the underdog here.
Rogers’ Recommendation: The news of Mayfield having a torn labrum in his shoulder isn’t positive for Cleveland, whose offense put up 14 points in last week’s win at Minnesota. Mayfield’s numbers haven’t been great and it doesn’t get easier against this improved Chargers’ defense. Herbert continues his breakout as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL and his performance in Monday’s victory against Las Vegas gives hope the Chargers will pull out another close win at home against the Browns. Best Bet: Chargers -2.
Our Pick: We can see the appeal of the Browns but don’t trust Mayfield yet. Lay the points at home with LA.
San Francisco 49ers (+5.5, O/U 50) at Arizona Cardinals
A compelling matchup because … in what could be Trey Lance’s first career start, San Francisco will look to get back on track on the road in the desert after dropping two straight games at home. The 49ers will have their hands full against Kyler Murray and the undefeated Cardinals, the only unbeaten team in the NFL. The highest-scoring team in the NFL (140 points through four weeks of play), Arizona has found success this season after asking Murray to rely on his arm more than his legs to make big plays.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The 49ers (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) just fell to the Seahawks 28-21, losing outright as 2.5-point home favorites. On other hand, Arizona (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) just upset the Rams 37-20, winning outright as 4-point road dogs. This line opened with Arizona listed as a 4-point favorite, leading to the public hammering the Cardinals based on their impressive record and laying a short number at home. The lopsided betting pushed the line up to -5.5. Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance, I’ll take the points with the short road dog. Divisional dogs are 56% ATS over the past two seasons. Also, the love for the Cardinals is so high right now they’ve likely become overvalued.
Gable’s Guess: It’s still possible Garoppolo could play, but the spread certainly reflects Lance is going to be the starter for San Francisco. If Lance starts, coach Kyle Shanahan will have to game plan around his strengths. He has arm strength and the speed to generate plays that Garoppolo can’t, but you have to remember he’s a rookie quarterback with very limited college experience. You have to expect mistakes. This just seems to be setting up for a perfect spot for Arizona to increase their division lead. The Niners have been prone to turnovers this year. They have six turnovers through the four games and their defense has been bailing them out. I’m not sure they’re going to be able to do that this week with Murray and the way he’s playing. He looks like an early-season MVP candidate. The offensive line has been solid and they’ve only allowed five sacks so far. Their defense is top 10 in points allowed. Especially if Lance is starting, I’m laying the points with Arizona.
Rogers’ Recommendation: Garoppolo is still a question mark as the Niners try to rebound from a home loss to the Seahawks last week, so it may be Lance who will have to save the day for the 49ers. Arizona crushed Los Angeles last week, but this could be a letdown spot against a San Francisco team coming off two losses as the home favorite. Best Bet: San Francisco +5.5.
Our Pick: The 49ers have not looked impressive, The Cardinals have. Lay the points in the desert.
Buffalo Bills (+2.5, O/U 56.5) at Kansas City Chiefs
A compelling matchup because … the two favorites for MVP entering this season, Josh Allen of the Bills and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs, will match up for the first time since Kansas City bounced Buffalo from the playoffs last season with a 38-24 win in January. The Bills have the best point differential in the NFL by far at +90 on the season, while the Chiefs have nearly given up as many points on defense (125) and they’ve scored on offense (134).
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bills (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) have bounced back from a Week 1 loss to the Steelers by posting three straight wins, outscoring their opponents 118-21 along the way. Buffalo just waxed Houston 40-0 last week, easily covering as 18.5-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Chiefs (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) snapped a two-game losing skid last week with a 42-30 win over the Eagles, covering as 7-point road favorites. This line opened with Kansas City listed as a three-point home favorite. Sharps have pounced on the Bills getting points, dropping this line off the key number of three down to 2.5. Primetime dogs are 7-5 ATS this season and 35-24 ATS (59%) over the past two years. Josh Allen is 14-8 ATS (64%) as a dog in his NFL career. This is also a revenge game for the Bills. I’ll hold out for Bills +3 and if not I’ll take the +2.5. I also like Buffalo in a tease (+2.5 to +8.5) as you go through multiple key numbers, the preferred wiseguy method.
Gable’s Guess: Buffalo’s defense has looked outstanding with two shutouts this year. But this is going to be their toughest test yet against an offensive unit that is used to taking whatever they want. Historically Buffalo has not been able to figure out how to beat the Chiefs, but this certainly could be the year with their improved defense. On the Kansas City side, their defense has been anything but impressive. It seems like they’re happy to make one or two stops per game and allow their offense to score at will to bail them out. They allowed the Eagles to stay within striking distance for much of the game on Sunday, until the very end, when Mahomes was able to connect with Tyreek Hill and put the game out of reach. The Eagles’ offense is not one I look at as being very high-powered and Philly seemed to be doing whatever they wanted on offense on Sunday. So while history has not been on the side of Buffalo in this matchup, I’m going to take the points with the Bills here.
Rogers’ Recommendation: Kansas City had Buffalo’s number last season, beating the Bills twice by double-digits, including in the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium. Buffalo was stunned by Pittsburgh in the season opener, but has rebounded with three straight wins. Yes, the Bills have not faced an offense like the Chiefs in this span, but the defense has been excellent all season and this is a huge statement game for the Bills in the rare underdog spot against the 2-2 Chiefs. Best Bet: Buffalo +2.5.
Our Pick: The Chiefs need this game more than the Bills do. Reluctantly, we’ll take KC and lay the points.
Last Week: 2-3; Season: 9-11
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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