Even with scoring in the NFL at unprecedented levels, you still have to play a little defense to win games.
Maybe. The Seattle Seahawks might disagree.
The Seahawks are 4-0 and also 4-0 against the spread. Seattle and the Green Bay Packers are the only teams with a perfect record against the spread after four weeks. We know why the Seahawks are perfect still. Russell Wilson is playing out of his mind.
It won’t be a stat you see cited in Wilson’s MVP candidacy, but it says something that the Seahawks keep covering the spread with the defense giving up as many yards and points as it does.
The Seahawks have allowed the most yards in the NFL. Their inability to stop the pass is startling. The Seahawks have allowed 94 catches and 1,345 yards to receivers in four games according to Pro Football Reference. No other team has allowed more than 67 catches or 845 yards to wide receivers. The Seahawks are on pace to give up 5,380 yards just to receivers. That’s astonishing. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers led the NFL last year in yards allowed to receivers with 3,176. Only two teams allowed more than 3,000.
Part of that is game scripts. Teams are throwing a lot against Seattle to keep up with Wilson. But the efficiency stats aren’t much better. Seattle has the 21st-ranked offense and 29th-ranked passing defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Opponents have just an 89 passer rating, largely due to Seattle being second in the NFL with six interceptions.
Still, at some point giving up so much on defense has to cost them, right? Maybe it’s just a new era in which the NFL looks like most of college football, where it’s OK to give up as many big plays as you want because your own offense is going to score again anyway. Perhaps we’ll find out Sunday night when the Seahawks face the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings have two hot receivers, Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson. Based on the first four games, they should be able to find some room to operate. The Seahawks are 7-point favorites and that’s fair. Seattle has been great. But I’ll take the Vikings to score enough to cover the spread, even as scary as it can be to go against Wilson.
Here are the rest of the picks for Week 5 of the NFL season:
Buccaneers (-4.5) over Bears
I was skeptical on the Bucs before the season, but Tom Brady still looks like Tom Brady. The Bears’ offense is ugly. Tampa Bay is good on offense and defense and a decisive road win on Thursday night would boost their stock even further.
Panthers (+2.5) over Falcons
Sometimes, teams just change on a dime in the NFL. It’s infuriating for bettors but it happens. Carolina looks like a different team the last two weeks, and that’s without Christian McCaffrey. They have won two in a row. Meanwhile, the Falcons are beat up and it’s really hard to pick them right now.
Raiders (+13) over Chiefs
I won’t confidently pick against the Chiefs all year. But the Raiders aren’t a bad team and 13 points is a lot. I’ll be against the Chiefs a lot this season because I tend to be on most double-digit NFL underdogs, but it won’t be comfortable.
Rams (-8) over Washington
The Rams did not play well against a bad Giants team last week, squeezing out a 17-9 win. Going all the way east is never easy. But I don’t quite get the switch from Dwayne Haskins to Kyle Allen for Washington. Haskins hasn’t been great but we know who Allen is. I’d rather see Alex Smith get the start. At least that would be a fun story.
Texans (-5.5) over Jaguars
We might find out how much Houston players liked Bill O’Brien, who was fired. If they were just ready for him to be gone, you might see an inspired effort this week. Also, the Jaguars are looking more like what we thought they’d be before the season.
Cardinals (-7) over Jets
I don’t know what to make of the Cardinals right now. The loss to the Lions in Week 3 wasn’t the worst thing. They looked awful against the Panthers though. This pick is pretty simple: I can’t take the Jets with any kind of confidence, so I’ll likely be picking whoever they’re playing by default.
Eagles (+7) over Steelers
The Eagles showed some signs of life last week at the 49ers. Nick Mullens won’t be there to hand out turnovers this week, but Pittsburgh had a weird, unscheduled bye week and who knows if that affects their momentum. It also wouldn’t surprise me much if the Eagles looked like they have for most of the season and Pittsburgh cruised.
Bengals (+12.5) over Ravens
As long as Cincinnati is undervalued, I’ll keep picking them. The Bengals are 3-1 against the spread and could have covered in Week 1 too, against the Chargers. The Ravens are very good but the Bengals will continue to be a good underdog.
Giants (+9.5) over Cowboys
The Giants offense stinks. What better way to turn that around than to face a Cowboys defense that stinks? The Giants almost won road games at Chicago and the Rams so they’re not incapable like, say, the Jets.
Browns (+2) over Colts
Here’s an upset: Browns-Colts is the best matchup on the (admittedly bland) Week 5 slate. The Colts defense is the best in the league through a quarter of the season. The Browns are scoring like they haven’t since the 1960s. I’m buying the Browns as a pretty good team.
Chargers (+8) over Saints
The Saints looked good after falling behind 14-0 to the Lions last week. Still, New Orleans doesn’t quite yet seem like the team we were expecting. This Monday night matchup should be telling.
OFF THE BOARD
Bills-Titans, Dolphins-49ers, Broncos-Patriots
Unfortunately, this might be a weekly section. Due to COVID-19 news and other injury-related uncertainty, we have three games without a line yet.
Last week: 7-7-1
Season to date: 32-28-2
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