NFL Picks Week #5



University Professor. PhD in stats. Proud dad of 2 boys.


(click here for audio MP3 version, corresponding to episode #9 of "The Sports Investor Podcast")

My NFL picks went 1-3 over the first two weeks of the season before proceeding to go 10-2 over the last two weeks. So my overall record now stands at 11-5, which is just below a 70% success rate. Here’s one important thing I’ve learned throughout my sports investing career: never get too excited about your winning streaks, and never get overly depressed over your slumps. So let’s keep a cool head and do our best to continue our winning ways on Week #5 in the NFL!


PICK #1: Indianapolis Colts -1 against the San Francisco 49ers

There is a lot to like about this play:

  • This match is going to be San Francisco’s 3rd road game over their past 4 contests (also a second in a row).
  • The game will be played at 1pm Eastern Time, which amounts to 10am for a 49ers team coming all the way from the West Coast.
  • The Colts were doing well in Seattle last Sunday night before completely collapsing near the end of the third quarter, en route to a 46-18 loss. In my opinion, teams that get crushed tend to rebound the following week because of better focus and attention to details when executing plays.
  • Each team’s two non-conference road games are probably the least motivating matches of the season because the playoff implications are not as vital, and there is usually no rivalry. Sure, the same could be said with respect to the home team, but playing in front of your crowd keeps your mind more focused.
  • The 49ers are coming off three games in which they faced their division opponents, so is a letdown possible here?

In injury news, 49ers running back Carlos Hyde was limited in practice because of a hip injury, but he should be good to go. Meanwhile, Indy’s starting tight end Jack Doyle should also be in the lineup despite being limited because of a concussion.

The action is fairly split between the two teams with slightly more bets coming on the Colts.

For what it’s worth (probably not much), Indy has won the last 3 matchups against the Niners by an average of 16 points.


PICK #2: Cleveland Browns pick’em against the New York Jets

I also like this pick a lot. Some people expected the Jets to go 0-16 this season, but they are surprisingly sitting on a 2-2 record after beating Miami 20-6 and Jacksonville 23-20 in overtime. I do expect a letdown from the Jets following those two wins that may make them feel too good about themselves. Add in the fact that New York may be looking ahead to its games against New England, Miami, Atlanta and Buffalo (their three divisional opponents, plus a very strong Falcons team), and you have a nice recipe for a trap game when facing a 0-4 team.

In their first home game, the Browns did well in a 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh. However, the wheels came off last week in a 31-7 beating against the Bengals. They won’t let the same thing happen two times in a row at home against a very beatable opponent.

Cleveland may also be looking for revenge following a 31-28 home loss to those same Jets in 2016.

As a contrarian, I like the fact that 70% of gamblers are taking New York. Grab the Browns, please.


PICK #3: Jacksonville Jaguars +8.5 at the Pittsburgh Steelers

Generally speaking, I like betting teams coming off a bad loss facing a team coming off a great win. That’s exactly the case here. After looking great in London against Baltimore, the Jags lost in overtime to the lowly Jets last week. As for the Steelers, they must be feeling good about themselves after handling easily their archrivals in Baltimore. Notice how this could be seen as a “sandwich” game for Pittsburgh since they were playing the Ravens last week and are traveling to Kansas City next week. A setback is possible. Close to 55% of the bets are going Pittsburgh’s way. I’m a bit worried about the status of WR Marqise Lee who may not be able to play because of a rib injury.



PICK #4: New York Giants -3 against the Los Angeles Chargers

As was the case for my first pick, we’ve got a team from the West traveling three time zones to play at 1pm Eastern Time. And once again, we’re talking about a non-conference road game. The Chargers may also be looking ahead to matches against Oakland, Denver and New England over their next three contests, albeit you might argue it’s less likely to happen to a team whose record is 0-4 (can they really afford to “look ahead”?). Still, this is not a super exciting game for them on the road. Notice that both Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall are expected to be in the lineup despite injuries. The Giants offense has shown significant signs of improvement over the last couple of weeks.


PICK #5: Cincinnati Bengals -3 against the Buffalo Bills

One of the biggest surprises in the NFL thus far, the Buffalo Bills, are traveling to Cincinnati this week. Their defense has been very impressive by allowing just 13.5 points per game. Buffalo is the only team who has beaten Denver and Atlanta (both are 3-1).

That being said, their offense is far from spectacular as shown by their 18.25 points per game average. They have taken good care of the ball so far and have not turned the ball over many times. Losing their leading WR Jordan Matthews will hurt a lot, considering they were already very thin at this position. Look at their top 5 players in terms of receptions in 2017: 21 by RB LeSean McCoy, 18 by TE Charles Clay, 10 by WR Jordan Matthews, 6 by WR Andre Holmes and 4 by rookie WR Zay Jones. Who will step up its game? I highly doubt Holmes or Jones can do it, especially Jones who has been targeted 17 times but only caught 4 of them, which is just plain awful!

Meanwhile, the Bengals just keep improving and you could see an immediate change after they fired their offensive coordinator before week #3 where they lost a heartbreaker in overtime in Green Bay. They played pretty well in this game and deserved a better fate. Then, they went on to defeat the Browns very easily on the road by a 31 to 7 score. They seem to be on the rise.

So basically I’m expecting a letdown by the Bills following their two huge victories against Denver and at Atlanta. They will also be playing a 3rd road game over their past 4 contests (second straight).

The Bengals could be looking for payback from a 16-12 home loss against those same Buffalo Bills last season. I’m crossing my fingers Cincy won’t be looking ahead to its key matchup at Pittsburgh next week.

I’m happy to see that more than 60% of the bets are going on Buffalo.


PICK #6: Baltimore Ravens +2.5 at Oakland Raiders

The big topic here is Derek Carr being out for the Raiders; he will be replaced by EJ Manuel. The former first-round pick by the Bills is bad. I don’t know any other way to put it. Over the course of his career, he has thrown 19 TD passes against 16 interceptions, while completing just 58.5% of his passes. I find it amazing how often he throws interceptions when trying to lead his team to a late rally. He did it many times with Buffalo, and he did it again with the Raiders last week. His pocket awareness is very bad; he doesn’t seem to feel the pressure coming. His career QB rating is just 76.9.

The motivation behind this pick goes beyond Manuel, of course. The Ravens are coming off a couple of very bad losses (44-7 in London against the Jags, and 26-9 at home against their rivals from Pittsburgh). I’m confident they will rebound in a hostile environment, despite having to travel three time zones. They will also be looking for revenge following a 28-27 home loss to Oakland in the previous season.

This week’s game against the Ravens is sandwiched between games against all 3 of the Raiders’ divisional opponents, so they may not be super pumped for this game (especially after losing their starting quarterback to an injury).


PICK #7: New England Patriots -5 at the Tampa Bay Bucs

After losing at home 42-27 to the Chiefs, the Patriots rebounded nicely with a 36-20 win over the Saints. I expect the same pattern to repeat this week following a surprising 33-30 home loss to the Carolina Panthers. Playing a primetime game also helps get your focus back. When Bill Belichick gets mad, his team usually finds a way to play great. One of my followers, Jeff Loop, came up with a great stat: Belichick is 36-13 against the spread after a loss. That’s simply amazing! Thanks a lot for the insight, Jeff.

Another major factor going in favor of the Pats is how banged up the Bucs pass defense is, which is very bad news when facing Tom Brady and company. Linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander are out, while strong safety T.J. Ward is doubtful.


Final thoughts:

  • Though not an official pick, I’m leaning towards Dallas -2 against the Packers following a disappointing home loss to the Rams last week, while Green Bay cruised easily against a weak Bears team. Also, the Cowboys had probably circled that game a long time ago since being eliminated by the Cheese Heads last year. I decided to stay away from that game mainly because of the 3 extra days of rest for McCarthy’s squad. The Packers have suffered many injuries thus far, and the status of many of them is unclear at the moment.
  • The line on Minnesota-Chicago’s Monday night game is currently off the board. Mitch Trubisky will be making his NFL debut for the Bears. Depending on what the spread is, I will either stay away or bet Chicago. Why? First of all, Chicago will benefit from 3 additional days of rest after playing the Thursday night game on Week #4. Secondly, this could be viewed as a sandwich game for the Vikes after playing Detroit and facing Green Bay next week. I’m aware that Chicago is also a divisional game for Minnesota, but a matchup against Da Bears is not as exciting. Also, I expect Chicago to rebound after a poor outing in Green Bay last week.


Here are the lines for my 7 picks with three different bookies (Pinnacle ranked #1 in my sportsbook reviews section, Bookmaker ranked #2 and Nitrogen Sports ranked #5):



Colts -1.5 at 1.95 against 49ers

Colts -1 at 1.87 against 49ers

Colts -1.5 at 1.95 against 49ers



Browns pick’em at 1.925 against Jets

Browns pick’em at 1.95 against Jets

Browns pick’em at 1.921 against Jets



Jaguars +8.5 at 1.925 at Steelers

Jaguars +8 at 1.91 at Steelers

Jaguars +8.5 at 1.921 at Steelers



Giants -3 at 1.91 against Chargers

Giants -3 at 1.80 against Chargers

Giants -3.5 at 2.06 against Chargers



Bengals -3 at 1.91 against Bills

Bengals -3 at 1.91 against Bills

Bengals -3 at 1.91 against Bills



Ravens +2.5 at 2.09 at Raiders

Ravens +2.5 at 1.93 at Raiders

Ravens +2.5 at 2.09 at Raiders



Patriots -5 at 1.95 at the Bucs

Patriots -5 at 1.91 at the Bucs

Patriots -5 at 1.95 at the Bucs


Want to open an account with a new bookie? You don’t have time to make a thorough investigation as to which one you should choose? I spent weeks evaluating 20 sportsbooks, writing in-depth reviews and grading each one. Simply go to my sportsbook reviews section to help you make a well-informed decision.

Thanks again for reading and enjoy Week #5 in the NFL!

Professor MJ