This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which football experts and handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season.
In the Week 5 edition of NFL Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Mike Golic Jr. of DraftKings share their opinions on five games that will highlight the NFL’s fifth weekend, including the Cowboys traveling to San Fran to take on the Niners on Sunday Night Football.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Jaguars (+5, O/U 48.5) at Bills
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This London showdown opened with Buffalo listed as low as a 4.5-point neutral site favorite. We’ve seen the Bills get steamed up from -4.5 to -5 or -6, signaling respected money laying the points. Buffalo is a massive public play, with 85% of bets and 88% of money backing the Bills. As a contrarian bettor, I respect the line move but can’t join the crowd on Buffalo. Instead, I’ll look at the total. It opened at 48.5 and has either stayed the same or fallen to 48 despite 70% of bets taking the over. Unders are 35-29 (55%) this season. If the total falls at least a half point the under is 27-18 (60%). I’ll root for a lower-scoring game and go under 48.5.
Gable’s Guess: This is the home away from home for Jacksonville and last week they got to 2-2 along with the rest of the NFC South. In beating the Falcons, the Jags produced four sacks and three takeaways and also scored their first defensive touchdown of the season. The Bills just dominated Miami and Josh Allen has emerged as the early-season favorite to win the MVP award. The Jags have issues staying on the field on offense by converting on third down. They were 5-of-14 against Atlanta. it really starts with Trevor Lawrence using his legs when needed and being mobile. Miami’s offense just couldn’t keep up with Buffalo and when Allen is rolling like he was, they’re extremely hard to stop. The Bills don’t blitz a lot because they can generate enough pressure with their front floor and mix up their coverages really well. After a poor Week 1 outing at the Jets, Buffalo has righted the ship. I’ll lay the points with the Bills.
Golic’s Gamble: The Bills are the best team in football right now. A blow-up game for Josh Allen is possible, but not probable coming off his best game of the year vs. an admittedly struggling Dolphins’ defense. He’s taking what’s there underneath and targeting Stefton Diggs in advantageous matchups, all while getting more production from the run game. They keep it rolling and spoil Jacksonville’s attempt for an undefeated 2023 in their home away from home across the pond. Laying the points.
IH Best Bet: Not sure if either team is there yet, but leaning Bills so will lay the points.
Titans (-2, O/U 43) at Colts
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Colts listed as a short 1-point home favorite. We’ve seen the line completely flip to Titans -2 or even -2.5 at some shops. This signals sharp “dog to favorite” line movement on Tennessee. The Titans are receiving 55% of bets but 65% of the money, indicating modest public support but also respected sharp action. I’ll back the veteran duo of Mike Vrabel and Ryan Tannehill over the rookie duo of Shane Steichen and Anthony Richardson. Give me Tennessee on the moneyline -135.
Gable’s Guess: This is essentially picking the winner because the favorite has already flipped and then flipped again. The Titans finally had a good offensive game against the Bengals with Derrick Henry running for a touchdown and also throwing for one. The Colts’ comeback fell a little short against the Rams, but this team has shown that it will continue to compete. Jonathan Taylor will become a participant in practice this week and there is a possibility he could play in this game. Having him back bodes well for the rest of the season for the Colts. This is a tough game to predict. Did the Titans actually find something on offense last week? I need to see more before I can back them, so I’m going to back Indy at home here.
Golic’s Gamble: The only thing more predictable than the Titans making mincemeat of one of the AFC’s usual top teams last week would be a letdown this week against a rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson. All eyes will be on the backfield featuring the likely return of Jonathan Taylor in some form, but the Colts’ defense should steal the day and make life difficult for King Henry. Taking the Colts with the points.
IH Best Bet: Would lean Titans, but not really sure on the side here so going to take the under.
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Ravens (-4, O/U 38) at Steelers
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Ravens started the week listed as a short 2.5-point road favorite. Early money hammered Baltimore, steaming the Ravens up from -2.5 to -4. The public is all over the Ravens, with 73% of bets laying the points. At this point, the Steelers are providing buy-low value as an inflated home dog. Pittsburgh is only receiving 27% of bets but 50% of the money, a sharp bet discrepancy. Divisional dogs are 12-10 ATS (55%) this season and 56% ATS since 2020. Dogs off a blowout loss of 20 points or more are 3-1 ATS this season and 62% ATS since 2018 (Pittsburgh got blown out 30-6 last week at Houston). Mike Tomlin is 2-1 ATS this season as a dog and 65% ATS in his career. I’ll go contrarian and take Pittsburgh +4 (shop around for a hook +4.5).
Gable’s Guess: The Steelers were thoroughly outplayed by the Texans in Week 4. I think the Ravens look like a team that can contend. They have been virtually unstoppable in the red zone and scored touchdowns on 12-of-15 trips there. You can attribute a lot of that success to Lamar Jackson and defenses not being able to figure out what he’s doing. The Browns have one of the best defenses in the league and Lamar ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more. The Steelers have injury issues they’re dealing with. Kenny Pickett suffered what’s being called a bone bruise to his knee. He hasn’t been ruled out of this game, but it will be Mitch Trubisky getting the nod to start if he is. The Steelers have gotten off to slow starts in every game so far and this is not a team that’s built to play from behind. They need to play hard-nosed Steeler football to win games and the defense is going to need to carry the load. I’m taking the under here.
Golic’s Gamble: Same formula as last week. Baltimore’s defense is rolling. I have to imagine the Steeler defensive will respond to a physical practice week courtesy of Mike Tomlin with a renewed effort after being pushed around by the Texans a week ago. But I still can’t trust a Matt Canada-led offense to put up points with a banged-up QB vs. a Ravens defense that continues to produce at a high level despite injuries. Think the Ravens win, but points will be hard to come by. I’ll take the under.
IH Best Bet: Ravens blew doors last week and seeing a repeat here. Laying the points.
Chiefs (-4, O/U 52.5) at Vikings
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 6.5-point road favorite. The public is all over the Chiefs with 74% of bets laying the points. However, despite this lopsided betting we’ve seen Kansas City fall from -6.5 to -4. This signals sharp reverse line movement on Minnesota, with pros grabbing the points — not laying them. The Vikings are receiving 26% of bets but 51% of money, a sharp contrarian bet discrepancy. I’ll follow the sharp action and take Minnesota plus the points.
Gable’s Guess: Patrick Mahomes had one of his worst quarters of football in the second quarter on Sunday night. That enabled the Jets to get back into the game after it really looked like a rout when the first quarter was done. But as long as Mahomes is on the field, this team is going to be tough to beat because he’s one of a few QBs in the league with enough talent to basically will his team to victory. I think Kansas City’s defense has not been forcing enough turnovers. That’s going to be key as they come into a really difficult part of their schedule. Meanwhile, the Vikings got their first win of the season against a very weak Carolina team. Minnesota just can’t seem to stop turning over the ball, so maybe this is exactly what the Chief defense needs. The Vikings have 11 turnovers through four games and all the turnovers are leading to points for their opponents. I don’t expect much to change here, so I’ll lay the points with Kansas City.
Golic’s Gamble: Zach Wilson carving up the Chiefs defense in primetime wasn’t on my bingo card last week and yet we all saw it. While we know Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins should be able to have success against any defense, I’m banking on Patrick Mahomes avoiding turnovers and getting back to form against a Viking defense that’s done more dying by the blitz than living by it this season under new DC Brian Flores. Laying the points with KC.
IH Best Bet: The sharps might be right but taking Mahomes over Cousins when possible. Laying the points.
Cowboys (+3.5, O/U 45) at 49ers
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This game opened with San Francisco listed as a 3-point home favorite. Currently 74% of bets and 79% of money is laying the points with the undefeated 49ers. This combination of heavy Pro and Joe support has pushed the 49ers up from -3 to -3.5. I’m usually not a fan of laying points with a popular favorite but how often do you get San Francisco laying such a short spread at home? The 49ers beat the Cowboys 19-12 in last year’s divisional round of the playoffs. I expect a similar result. I’ll protect myself from a 3-point win and take the 49ers to win the game straight up on the moneyline -190.
Gable’s Guess: Brock Purdy has done everything that’s been asked of him by the Niners. The Cowboys have looked dominant in three of four games this season and the Niners don’t look like they have any flaws, so this is going to be a fun game between two of the best teams in the NFC. The Niners have scored at least 30 points in all four games this season and no one has been able to stop them yet. Head coaches Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan are very familiar with one another. The Cowboys have the talent on defense to slow the 49ers’ offense, but Christian McCaffrey is playing like an MVP candidate. If you remember, the Niners eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs, so this is a revenge spot for Dallas. I’m not predicting an outright win by Dallas, but I will take the points with the Cowboys.
Golic’s Gamble: The Cowboys are on track to have their preseason starting five offensive linemen all back for the first time this year. That group vs this 49ers’ defensive front has “unstoppable force meets immovable object” vibes and I, for one, cannot wait to watch. I’m counting on Dak Prescott to continue to take care of the football while Micah Parsons continues his DPOY push. This comes all the way down to the wire, but the Cowboys keep it within a FG at the very least. Taking Dallas with the points.
IH Best Bet: The Cowboys lost to the Cardinals two weeks ago. Laying the points.
Last Week: 3-2; This Season: 10-9-1
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Double-check the odds before betting.