The headline of Week 5 in the NFL is Buffalo at Kansas City on Sunday Night Football, which you can read about in The Professor’s NFL Week 5 Games of the Week and How to Bet Them column, but for fans who are looking for an angle to make other NFL games more fun, this column highlights four games where The Professor sees an advantageous line.
All spreads and totals are provided by DraftKings.
Chicago at Las Vegas (LVR -5.5, Total 44.5)
Model Projection: Las Vegas 28.03 – Chicago 21.87 (LVR -6.16, Total 49.9)
BET: Over 44.5
It’s been an interesting week in Chicago, where rookie quarterback Justin Fields was far more effective with Bill Lazor in charge of the offense. Fields’ game came against a talent-deficient Lions defense, but he appeared far more comfortable in a run-heavy approach that emphasized his arm talent in the downfield passing game. Head coach Matt Nagy then provided the world with a convoluted explanation of how he’s filled his time since firing himself as offensive coordinator (again), created more controversy by suggesting Andy Dalton would start if he returned, and reversed course to announce that Fields is now the full-time starter.
Fields now has an opportunity for a big game against a Raiders defense that saw several cornerbacks leave their Monday Night game with injuries. It will help the Las Vegas defense out significantly if the offense can get out to a lead, which might force Chicago into a pass-first approach early. Las Vegas has the talent advantage in the trenches and it could be a problem if Chicago’s offensive tackles have to consistently drop back in pass protection against Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue, but the schematic advantage Fields provides in the running game could keep the Las Vegas line in check. Starting Bears running back David Montgomery is out, but Damien Williams looked good in relief last week and could be in line for a productive game. If Chicago can keep the game in a spot where they can emphasize the run game and deep shots in the passing game, they could challenge the Raiders in this one.
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is coming off a poor performance that was fueled in part by the Chargers’ pass rush. Rookie Alex Leatherwood is reportedly being moved from tackle to guard after Joey Bosa dismantled him on Monday Night; his replacement at tackle, Brandon Parker, has consistently shown that he is best suited to be a backup, so it’s uncertain whether this shift will yield any improvements. Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks may be out after exiting last week’s game, which would be a boost for Las Vegas given Carr’s issues with interior pressure, but Chicago edge rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have both been productive in the early part of the season and will have a significant talent advantage over whoever starts at right tackle.
The offensive line issues could derail Las Vegas, but Chicago’s slot corner (Duke Shelley) and left corner (Kindle Vildor) have both struggled to make plays this season, and the Raiders have enough depth at receiver to exploit the weak points in this defense. As the Raiders also have issues at cornerback, which Fields has the arm to exploit, this one could be more of a shootout than some expect.
The model has a mean total projection of 49.9; I’ll take the over on 44.5.
Philadelphia at Carolina (CAR -3, Total 45.5)
Model Projection: Carolina 25.62 – Philadelphia 22.41 (CAR -3.21, Total 48.03)
BET: Over 45.5
The Eagles and Panthers both lost to NFL heavyweights last weekend, but quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Sam Darnold continued to show they can produce points, even if some of their numbers came in relatively hopeless rallies.
Philadelphia’s decision to use a pass-heavy approach with Hurts in the past two weeks has been curious but could continue against a talented Carolina defensive front. Dallas was able to run the ball against the Panthers last week, so Carolina’s defensive front can be beaten, but their talent level is still notable. It would go a long way if Philadelphia offensive tackles Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, who missed last week’s game against Kansas City, are back on the field for the Eagles in this one. Their presence would make it easier to run the ball and get the offensive tackles involved in the wide receiver game, and they would also provide improved protection against the edge rush tandem of Brian Burns and Haason Reddick.
Philadelphia’s defense is coming off a poor performance against Kansas City, and while Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat are playing well on the defensive line, there should be opportunities for Sam Darnold and the Panthers to move the ball against this unit. Philadelphia doesn’t have a player to match up with receiver D.J. Moore, who continues to show he is one of the more talented receivers in the league and has an offensive coordinator in Joe Brady who is intent on getting him in advantageous matchups. Brady did an excellent job getting Moore away from Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs by lining Moore up as a running back in shotgun looks, as well as running him on “hide” routes behind the offensive line on rollout actions. These defenses aren’t bereft of talent, but this matchup has the feel of a shootout, particularly if running back Christian McCaffrey returns for the Panthers.
The model has a mean total projection of 48.03; I’ll take the over on 45.5.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (DAL -6.5, Total 52.5)
Model Projection: Dallas 29.3 – New York Giants 20.37 (DAL -8.93, Total 49.67)
BET: DAL -6.5
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is coming off one of the better performances of his career, but the good vibes may be short-lived, as New York faces a team as hot as any in the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas has the luxury of deciding whether they want to run their offense through quarterback Dak Prescott or running back Ezekiel Elliott; last week it was Elliott, who may be running better than he has at any point in his career. His combination of contact balance, vision, and explosive burst make him as dangerous as any back in the league, and the offensive line in front of him is doing an outstanding job. Right tackle La’El Collins is nearing the end of his suspension, but his replacement, Terence Steele, has played well enough to warrant significant use of six offensive lineman personnel sets once Collins is back. Quarterback Dak Prescott has been exceptionally efficient when Dallas goes to the air, so they should be able to move the ball against the New York defense regardless of what the Giants try to take away. Saints receivers Marquez Callaway and Kenny Stills both got behind the New York defense last week for explosive gains (Stills’ touchdown came back on a holding penalty), so Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb could have a chance for a big play.
Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs continued his incredible start to the season with his fourth and fifth interceptions before he exited with a back injury last week, but he should be back for this game and could follow Giants receiver Kenny Golladay. It’s a surprise to say given how the unit played last year, but this Dallas defense has reminded us the NFL often stands for Not For Long. New York’s defense was good last year and is solid this year, but Dallas has significantly more talent on their unit at this point. Defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, who flashed big-time ability as a rookie, is on the verge of returning from an elbow injury, which could give Dallas four significant contributors who are first or second-year players in Diggs, Gallimore, defensive end/linebacker Micah Parsons, and defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa. With rookie second-round corner Kelvin Joseph likely to return from a groin injury in the next few weeks, the last two Dallas drafts and the addition of Quinn as coordinator to go with the Dak Prescott-led offense may have set them up with a multi-year Super Bowl contention window.
The Giants managed a comeback victory over the Saints, but the model doesn’t rate the Giants as high as the Panthers, who needed garbage time scores to get the game within eight last week.
The model has Dallas as an 8.93 point favorite; I’ll take the Cowboys at -6.5.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (BAL -7, Total 45.5)
Model Projection: Baltimore 27.06 – Indianapolis 18.23 (BAL -8.83, Total 45.29)
BET: BAL -7
Indianapolis picked up their first win of the season over the Miami Dolphins this weekend, but it’s hard to be impressed with either team based on that game. The Colts have clear issues on the offensive line; they are missing two of their three best players in left guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Braden Smith, whose replacements have been problems, and left tackle Eric Fisher got worked over by Dolphins rookie Jaelen Phillips last week. Quarterback Carson Wentz’s mobility is notably impacted by his ankle injury, which is going to be an issue against a Ravens pass rush that features a stable of edge rushers.
Baltimore also has issues on the offensive line; left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was the latest player to depart a game early, which left the Ravens with a 34-year old Andre Smith at left tackle and converted center Patrick Mekari at right tackle. The Lamar Jackson-based scheme is offensive-line friendly, but there are reasons that this game’s total dropped from an opener of 50 down to 45.5 and the accumulated injuries on these respective offensive lines is one of them.
The line issues might slow Jackson to a degree, but he’s found ways to create explosive plays through the air while providing his usual production on the ground in recent weeks. With Wentz’s injuries, Baltimore has a significant advantage at quarterback, which is the biggest difference in this game. It would be greatly preferable to get this game at BAL -6.5, but the Ravens appear to be on track for playoff and division title contention, while the Colts appear headed for a bottom-ten finish in the NFL standings, which, amazingly, could be good enough to win the AFC South.
The model has Baltimore as an 8.83 point favorite; I’ll take Baltimore at -7.
This article previewed four NFL matchups for the coming week and talked about how to bet them. For more content from The Professor, including the rest of his game previews and his fantasy content, check out The Professor on BeerLife Sports!