Week 5 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday with a barn burner between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. It continues with 15 more games between Sunday morning and Monday night. We're taking a look at three different pairs of games with similar point spreads and talking through each game. Then we decide if push came to shove, which side we'd rather be on.
Saints or Rams?
The New Orleans Saints return from London to host the Seattle Seahawks. Currently, the Saints are a 5.5-point home favorite. Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas will miss yet another game for New Orleans, but Andy Dalton looked competent last week for the Saints' offense. Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Rams are a 5.5-point home favorite against the Dallas Cowboys. Los Angeles looked awful on Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers, while the Cowboys won their third straight game with Cooper Rush under center. Which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: I’m stunned that the Rams spread is so high. Their ravaged offensive line is scheduling Matthew Stafford meet-and-greets like it’s Comic-Con. Dallas is tied with San Francisco for the second-most sacks in the league and can put Stafford on the ground as many times as the Niners did (7). Los Angeles ranks 26th in offensive DVOA and I’m not sure they’ll ever put it together this season.
Anyone want to jump on the Geno Smith bandwagon with me? He’s not in the upper echelon of quarterbacks, but he’s been really good in Seattle’s system and he isn’t going to kill you with poor decision-making. The Seahawks offense ranks third in DVOA and EPA per play. THIRD, Pete! New Orleans is one of a handful of NFL teams who are playing considerably worse than the sum of their parts and I think Seattle has a real shot to upset them on Sunday. I’m more confident in a Cowboys cover and win, though, so I’ll take the Saints.
Pete: I can't help but agree with basically everything Greg said. In their current form, there are very few teams that Los Angeles could play where I would feel comfortable laying 5.5-points with them. The line makes very little sense to me and kind of makes me feel like I'm missing something. Either way, I have no interest in laying the points with the Rams.
I also have very little interest in laying points with the Saints, but they are the lesser of two evils here. Geno and the Seahawks' offense have been surprisingly good, but as someone who watched a lot of Jets games a few years ago, I will probably be one of the last people to jump on that bandwagon with you. Maybe he turns back into a pumpkin soon. That'll be my reason for going with the Saints, though I don't like either of these favorites at all.
Patriots or Ravens?
The league's highest scoring team is the Detroit Lions. However, they're just 1-3. This week, they head to New England where they'll face Bailey Zappe and the Patriots. The Patriots are 3-point home favorites. Elsewhere, the Baltimore Ravens will look to exact some revenge against the Cincinnati Bengals, who beat them twice pretty handily last season, scoring 82 points in the process. The Ravens are 3-point home favorites. Which home favorite would you rather lay the points with?
Greg: I don’t know if we’ll see a weirder game this season than Lions-Patriots. The potential is off the charts. One coach rolls up his sleeves, the other cuts them off. Both teams are feeling pressure after disappointing 1-3 starts. No one can stop the Lions offense and the Lions defense can’t stop anyone. The Patriots will start Bailey Zappe, these are two of the best running teams in the NFL, and it feels like whoever loses this game can write off the rest of the season. Oh, and it’s a revenge game for Matt Patricia!
Rashod Bateman is an underrated piece of the Ravens offense, and lost in the concern over Cincinnati’s offense is that the Bengals defense has been playing really well. Bateman has been ruled out for the game, so Baltimore will face an uphill battle. Their biggest test in this matchup will be the Bengals’ receivers versus a Ravens secondary giving up the most receiving yards per contest (315.3). I’ll take the Patriots in a classic #EstablishTheRun game.
Pete: Anyone who watches and/or bets on Group of 5 college football knows about Bailey Zappe. He broke Joe Burrow's college single-season records last year and was pure money for bettors. While I don't think he will get the opportunity to throw the ball all over the yard, I think he's capable of making some plays. The Lions' defense is a serious issue and I think the Patriots' defense will get enough stops.
I think Baltimore will be motivated to send a message after last season's drubbings at the hands of the Bengals, but it is also hard to ignore how bad of a matchup that was for the Ravens last season. It's not like Baltimore's secondary has gotten any better either. I'll go with the Patriots as well.
Jaguars or Chiefs?
The Jacksonville Jaguars stormed out to a 14-0 lead against the Philadelphia Eagles, but ended up losing the game. There have been many encouraging signs from Jacksonville this season, and they are 7-point home favorites against the lowly Houston Texans this week. Elsewhere, the Kansas City Chiefs flexed their muscle in an impressive win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend. This week, they are 7-point favorites at Arrowhead on Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders. Which home team would you rather lay the touchdown with?
Greg: I love both of these favorites. Jacksonville-Houston is the biggest disparity in overall DVOA this week, with the Jags ranking fourth and the Texans all the way down at 31st. I’ve watched every snap of every NFL game this season and let me assure you that Jacksonville’s defense is for real. They’re young, they have a perfect mix of strength and speed, they’re constantly winning on the line and stuffing the run, and they have the third-most takeaways through four weeks. Davis Mills has regressed from his late 2021 form, ranking second-worst in EPA per play. C.J. Stroud is going to look good in a Texans uniform.
Patrick Mahomes is 7-1 at home versus the Raiders, who rank 28th in EPA per opponent dropback. Kansas City has an offensive line that can nullify Maxx Crosby, which is the main key to success against the Las Vegas defense. I can see an absolute blowout, but I can also see a backdoor cover (or tie) by the Raiders in garbage time. Give me the Jaguars.
Pete: Agreed with Greg that I'd rather lay the points in both of these games. Just to switch things up, I'll take the Chiefs here. Kansas City absolutely obliterated this team twice last year, winning 41-14 and 48-9. In fact, the Raiders were the team that fixed Patrick Mahomes last season. The Raiders got off the schneid last weekend, but a win over the Broncos looks less and less impressive by the minute.
I do expect the Jaguars to handle the Texans comfortably, and I'd rather lay the points rather than take them with Houston. However, I still need to see a little more from Jacksonville before I feel entirely comfortably laying this big of a number with them.