Well, last week was a good lesson on just how difficult it can be to pick NFL games. It was disheartening to go 2-3 and drop to 12-13 on the season overall. But at least we can finally give up on giving the New York Jets the benefit of the doubt ever again.
But Week 6 of the NFL brings a whole new set of challenges when it comes to picking games. There are four intra-division games on the schedule and a few more intriguing matchups between old rivals who don’t play in the same division. With that in mind, we’ve done our best to give you the five best bets for the upcoming slate.
New York Giants -2.5 vs Washington Football Team
It’s not every day that an 0-5 team is favored to win a game. But these are obviously special circumstances. Not only do we agree that the Giants should be favored, but we believe that Joe Judge can win his first game as an NFL head coach by at least a field goal. Keep in mind that the five teams the Giants have lost to this year are a combined 16-8. At times, the G-Men have hung in there against good teams, so it’s almost a little unfair to put them in the same category as the winless Jets, who have earned their 0-5 record.
We wouldn’t be so confident in the Giants if they weren’t playing a Washington team that’s a mess. Ron Rivera’s team has lost four games in a row, all by at least 14 points. If he’s healthy, Kyle Allen will start, although Washington could be better off with Alex Smith, who’s barely played in two years since that devastating injury. Either way, the Washington offense isn’t likely to do much while the defense has conceded at least 30 points in four straight weeks.
After a decent showing last week and some help from Devonta Freeman on the ground, Daniel Jones should produce enough points to give the Giants a comfortable win.
Cleveland Browns +3.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers
For what it’s worth, we’re stepping out on a little bit of a limb with this pick. The Browns might not be quite as good as some other 4-1 teams, but they were impressive enough last week against the Colts to get the benefit of the doubt. Despite two interceptions by Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland offense did some serious damage against a solid Indy defense. If the Browns hadn’t allowed the Colts to return a kickoff for a touchdown, the 32-23 win would have been even more impressive.
Even with Nick Chubb sidelined, Kareem Hunt is giving the Browns a formidable rushing attack that has helped take some of the pressure off Mayfield. Plus, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry and doing their part to help Mayfield succeed. Meanwhile, the Steelers might be due for a loss. While they’re 4-0, they’ve played with fire a little bit.
In a bitter rivalry game, especially coming off last season’s fight, this feels like a game that will be decided by three points or less, which is why we like the Browns against the spread.
UPDATE: Beckham was sent home from practice Thursday with an illness. That could throw a wrench in the Browns' chances for an upset.
Green Bay Packers -1.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you want to sit back, relax and enjoy a rare Aaron Rodgers vs Tom Brady game, you might not want to place a bet. But if you do, lean toward Rodgers and the Packers to remain undefeated coming out of their bye week. With Rodgers looking like the early leader in the MVP race, Green Bay has scored at least 30 points in four straight games to open the season. At some point, somebody is bound to keep the Packers under wraps, but there’s little evidence for Tampa Bay being that defense. The Bucs couldn’t even handle rookie Justin Herbert two weeks ago, so it’s almost laughable that they’ll put up much resistance against Rodgers and Co.
On the other side, the Green Bay has had two weeks to prepare for Brady and the Tampa offense. Granted, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy for the Packers to slow down all of the Bucs' weapons. But Green Bay did a decent job against Matt Ryan and Atlanta two weeks ago. Plus, with the spread at 1.5 points, this game is virtually a PK, which has us leaning toward the better team in the Packers.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 at San Francisco 49ers
Admittedly, it can be dangerous to overreact to one game. However, the 49ers taking a 43-17 drubbing at the hands of Miami last week speaks volumes about the state of things in San Francisco. Keep in mind that the 49ers have also lost to the Eagles and Cardinals at home this year while their only wins have been against the winless Jets and Giants. If Jimmy Garoppolo plays this week after getting benched this week, his mobility is likely to be limited. That’s no way to play with Aaron Donald coming at you, so it’s either a hurt Garoppolo or C.J. Beathard for San Francisco.
Meanwhile, injuries have clearly depleted the San Francisco defense, turning them into a rather mediocre unit. The Rams look poised to expose a defense like that. L.A. has scored at least 30 points in three of five games this year with Jared Goff showing signs of regaining his form from 2018. In other words, we think the Rams are going to score some points in this game. With the Los Angeles defense giving up the third-fewest points in the NFL this season, the Rams look good to cover 3.5 points against a team that’s hurting in more ways than one.
Arizona Cardinals -2.5 at Dallas Cowboys
Despite the devastating injury to Dak Prescott, the season is far from over for the Cowboys, who lead the NFC East at 2-3. After all, Andy Dalton knows how to get teams to the playoffs, even if he can’t win games once he gets there. In a way, that makes him the perfect fit for Dallas. However, we’re not buying the Cowboys, even as home underdogs, against a capable Arizona team. For now, the Cowboys lead the NFL in passing yards and rank third in points, but that’s not going to remain the case with Dalton at quarterback.
At the same time, the Dallas defense has allowed the most points in the NFL this year, which is why the Cowboys are just 2-3. The Cowboys are going to have their hands full all night with Kyler Murray. The Cowboys were barely able to handle Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield during the last two weeks. How are they going to keep tabs on Murray running all over the place while also worrying about De’Andre Hopkins? Even if Dalton can keep the Cowboys in the game, he won’t be able to keep up with Murray for four quarters. The Cardinals should be able to take this game by at least a field goal, if not more.
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