I’m in a NFL contest where you need to submit five picks against the spread each week. Through four weeks, those picks are 13-7 after finishing 4-1 last week for the second time this season. Picking a single winner can be tough, much less picking five, but it’s a good challenge. It’s worth noting that the lines are set spreads released each Wednesday and selections are submitted Friday night.
Here are the five ATS picks I like for Week 5.
Cowboys +5.5 vs. Rams
This a game for the Dallas pass rush. Both LB Micah Parsons and DE DeMarcus Lawrence should feast on a battered Los Angeles offensive line. Three starters are (likely) coming back from a concussion, a groin injury or a knee injury. As a result of the injuries up front, we’ve seen Rams QB Matthew Stafford sacked 16 times this season, while only throwing for four touchdowns with six interceptions. The Cowboys sacked Bengals QB Joe Burrow six times in a 20-17 win in Week 2. This matchup could be similar.
Seahawks +5.5 vs. Saints
The Seattle offense has either reached the red zone or scored a touchdown on 47% of its drive, trailing only the Chiefs. It’s in part due to the consistent play from Seahawks QB Geno Smith, who leads the league in completion percentage (77%) and sits top 10 in passing yards. The New Orleans defense is a bigger test but it’s the Saints offense that I’m fading. The Saints lead the league in turnovers with 10 fumbles and five interceptions. No way I’m backing a near touchdown favorite that's vulnerable to giveaways.
Cardinals +5.5 vs. Eagles
Philadelphia looks dominant but one leak is second-half scoring. The Eagles were shut out in the second half of two games, against the Vikings and Washington. That's not counting them being shut out in the fourth quarter in Week 1 against Detroit. The Eagles put up nine last week against the Jaguars but it was two turnovers from Jacksonville that led to a field goal and touchdown. With the Cowboys on deck in a Week 6 NFC East showdown, this has backdoor cover written all over it.
49ers -6.5 vs. Panthers
The San Francisco defense is strong. The 49ers lead the league in opponent punts per play. Teams just aren’t getting downfield against this unit, much less scoring. In fact, the San Fran defense has yet to allow a touchdown in the first half of games this season, allowing zero red zone trips in the first half of games in 22 total possessions.
That makes things tougher for a Panthers offense that has been anemic thus far with only six touchdowns scored in 46 drives — tied for the lowest rate in the league. They are also averaging only five plays per possession, the fewest in the league. Carolina QB Baker Mayfield and this Panthers offense is either getting sacked, turning the ball over or punting the ball away. Good luck improving this week against a stout 49ers defense.
Bucs -8.5 vs. Falcons
I’m not putting weight into the off-field issues Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady may or may not be going through. I can only use the data I have and the data shows the Bucs are in a solid bounce-back spot. In four games against the Falcons, Brady has 15 touchdown passes to just two interceptions, outscoring Atlanta 153-96. Atlanta’s Swiss army knife of a player in RB Cordarrelle Patterson is out, and he accounts for half the total rushing yards and scores.
Falcons QB Marcus Mariota has been a fine QB, but with four interceptions to just three touchdowns, he doesn't appear to have the chops to manage a ‘play from behind’ situation. His pass attempts have been dwindling each week, starting at 33 pass attempts to Week 1 to just 19 last week against Cleveland. This is a bad matchup for Atlanta, who will fall as the league’s only team that's perfect against the spread.