It's another eventful week in the NFL.
Four teams -- the Jets, Falcons, Saints, and 49ers -- are the first teams to get a bye week. After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly escaped Thursday Night Football with a 28-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning Super Bowl champs are the first team with five wins in the league. Who will join them on Sunday? We know that we'll get at least a second five-win team since the 4-1 Ravens are hosting the 4-1 Chargers. That is going to be an epic battle, so let's start with that clash of AFC contenders. Welcome to our Week 6 NFL Best Bets.
Playing on the road is a difficult task for any team, but if any team can escape with a victory, it's Justin Herbert and the Chargers. This isn't the Chargers of the last decade. This team is winning the close battles. Herbert is playing at an MVP level this season and already has led this team to big-time wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns -- two of the top teams in the AFC. This L.A. team is deep at the skill positions, can rush the passer, has an improved offensive line and a great young coach. What's not to like?
All that said, Lamar Jackson seems to be playing as he did during his 2019 MVP campaign. Not to mention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is actually catching passes. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and scored two touchdowns (including the game-winning catch in overtime). Simply put, this is a tough team to bet against. It did take last-second heroics for the Ravens to beat the winless Lions and a pretty pedestrian Colts team. Overall, Baltimore hasn't faced a test like this yet this season. Take the points and the better overall squad. Chargers may win this game, but if they don't, they are not going to lose by more than a field goal.
PICK: Chargers +3.5
It's been a tough start to the season for the Chiefs. They had great odds to return to the Super Bowl and are now last in the AFC West heading into Week 16 with a 2-3 record. They desperately need this game. This is a great opportunity for the Chiefs to prove they are still elite by defeating a team that made the postseason last year on the road. The Chiefs are going to turn it around against a Washington defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season. Patrick Mahomes is going to blow up. Tyreek Hill is going to dominate. Travis Kelce is going to continue to provide a steady source of receptions down the middle of the field. As long as the Chiefs' offensive line holds against Chase Young, it's going to be a long day for Washington's defense. Betting on Mahomes to right the ship isn't a really difficult choice.
PICK: Chiefs -6.5
Yes, the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league. Betting on them on the road against a divisional rival might seem crazy at first. However, the Texans are 7-3 against the spread as underdogs in their last 10 games. Plus, the Colts are emotional after completely giving away the game against the Ravens in which they blew a 22-3 lead late in the game. This is going to cause a bit of a hangover in that locker room. When New England suffered a terrible loss against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Texans managed to cover the spread the following week. Look for history to repeat itself. Texans coach David Culley has Houston playing hard in spite of its lack of talent and quarterback Davis Mills appeared to take a step forward last week against the Pats. Houston has played pretty good pass defense, too. The Texans have allowed only seven passing TDs this season.
PICK: Texans +9
Sunday night will be an interesting matchup to watch as Geno Smith will make his first start in four years as the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. I hate betting on Ben Roethlisberger, but it's hard to envision the Seahawks covering the spread without the services of Russell Wilson. And as much as I think Big Ben should hang up his cleats, you have to give him credit for the way he dominated a solid Broncos defense last week. Roethlisberger looked better than he did earlier in the season and was able to get the ball to his playmakers -- Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and running back Najee Harris. Seattle's defense is one of the worst in the league and their secondary is even worse than their front seven. Look for the Steelers to light up Seattle in the passing game.
PICK: Steelers -5
Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points, though they go about it very differently. The Browns are a run-heavy team, and even though they will be without the services of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt is more than capable of getting the job done. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense runs through electric quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is able to move the chains with his legs but he isn't afraid to toss the ball either. He loves getting his guys involved and his weapons are elite in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk.
The Browns are coming off an 89-point slugest with the Chargers and hit the OVER in their other game against a high-end offense in a 33-29 loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points in four of five games this year. Smash the OVER.
PICK: OVER 49.5
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Can the NFL season be over before Summer officially ends?
After Week 1, half the teams are 0-1. Each of those teams has a chance to right the ship and get to .500 with a win this week.
However, there are three teams who are guaranteed to start the season 0-2 (barring a tie). Three games have matchups of 0-1 teams facing off against each other this week. The loser of each game will be 0-2 heading into Week 3.
Historically, 92% of teams who begin the year 0-2 do not make the playoffs. That number may skew a bit this year because a 17th game has been added to the schedule. And an additional playoff team has been added in each conference, but overall, starting 0-2 is not ideal.
New York Giants @ Washington Football Team (-3.5 40.5 O/U)
The Daniel Jones experience may be coming to an end in New York. He coughed up another fumble (his 30th) last week against the Broncos in New York. His career record is only 8-19, but amazingly he's 4-0 against Washington.
Saquon Barkley only played 29 snaps last week and is complaining about the short work week, with this game against Washington just days after Big Blue's brutal loss to the Broncos. It's obvious the Giants are trying to ease Barkley back, but they may not have that luxury. They'll need him to be productive to keep Washington's defensive end, Chase Young, away from Jones. Ideally, the Giants will try to employ a quick passing attack, however, it doesn't help matters that tight end Evan Engram has officially been ruled out with a calf injury.
Washington doesn't come into this game any better, having lost Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip injury. They've turned the reigns over to Taylor Heinicke, who actually was productive in relief of Fitzpatrick last week. The reality is, there's not much to get excited about for either team, and frankly, neither one probably should be 1-1, but the reality is, one will be.
In last week's games, neither team sniffed 20 points. Washington scored 16 points and the Giants only could muster 13 points. In this era of the NFL, it's hard to imagine a team not scoring 20-plus points, but the over-under is only 40.5, so Vegas doesn't feel either team will put up a ton of points. Out of the two teams, the Giants feel like they need it more, and Jones definitely does.
As bad as it was last season, Washington did prevail to win the NFC East last season, so the fan base should be more forgiving, especially with the Fitzpatrick injury. But for coach Joe Judge, this year was supposed to be the start of the turnaround for the Giants. Hey just cannot go 0-2, especially after seeing what the Eagles and Jalen Hurts did in Week 1 to the Falcons. The Eagles are vastly improved, as is Dallas, even though the Cowboys lost to Tampa Bay. It's going to take much more than a 7-9 record to win the division this year.
The 3.5 points is a nice bonus, but I think the Giants win outright, in a low-scoring affair. If you wanted to get frisky, take the Giants to win outright for +150.
Prediction: Giants 19-14
New England Patriots (-5.5 43 O/U) vs. New York Jets
Normally, a win could be penciled in for the Patriots and everyone would just move on. These aren't normal times. Tom Brady is no longer at the helm, and nothing should be taken for granted in New England. The dynasty is most assuredly over.
There is a narrative that coach Belichick dominates rookie quarterbacks. That just isn't so. On the road, in the last 12 games against a rookie signal-caller, Belichick is 6-6. And in games played prior to Week 10, he's only 1-5.
This game, like the Giants-Washington game, features two teams who scored under 20 points last week, although the two teams feel like they have a better offensive grasp. And each team had opportunities to score more points.
The line is hovering between 5.5-6 points depending on where you look. If you're inclined to take the Jets, try to find +6. If you like the Pats, look for -5.5. The line opened at 3 points, which means a ton of money is coming in heavy on the Patriots. The Pats do have more to lose in this game since their Week 1 loss was to the Dolphins, and they can't afford to not only start 0-2, but 0-2 in the division too.
And although the Pats are facing rookie QB Zach Wilson in his home debut, they are sending out a rookie themselves, Mac Jones, in his road debut, against a very hostile New York crowd.
Although I do think the Pats will prevail, I can't see them covering the number. Even if it's from a back door cover, I envision the Jets covering the 6-point spread. I also think both offenses will be much better than they were in Week 1. If I had to choose, I'd take the OVER. But I'd rather stick with Patriots outright or Jets covering the spread.
Prediction: Patriots 24-20.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (-11 48 O/U)
A few years ago Aaron Rodgers famously said "R-E-L-A-X." With everything that went on in the offseason, it doesn't feel like he's compelled to give the same message, and it definitely doesn't seem like the fans are receptive to hearing it.
Rodgers typically doesn't put up back-to-back stinkers, but this is unchartered territory. He knows he's not coming back next season; he's on borrowed time in Green Bay. Not that he's deliberately trying to sink the team, he is a fierce competitor, but he's also a complex person and many things are surely weighing on his mind.
The good news for Green Bay fans is that Rodgers has owned the Lions in his career, going 17-5 against them with a 104.8 passer rating. They are playing in their home opener and if anything can motivate a solid performance, an opening night crowd on Monday Night Football should do the trick.
The Lions are an intriguing opponent. The ending of their game against the 49ers last week makes this matchup quite interesting. After finding themselves behind early, 31-10 at halftime, and 38-17 after the 3rd quarter, they showed life and offense in the final quarter. Yes, it can be argued that it was garbage time and the 49ers were playing soft to kill the clock, but it still shows that the Lions have heart.
I'll put it this way, the Lions put up 33 points last week. The Packers only managed a field goal.
Although I don't see the Lions' offense putting up 30-plus again, mainly because that would be back-to-back atrocious games by the Packers' defense, their offense is good enough to score more than 20 points. Jared Goff was successful in getting the ball to his tight end T.J. Hockenson, as well as his two RBs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. They combined for 24 catches, 218 yards and 2 TDs. Williams also rushed for a touchdown.
The Lions can't bank on a disinterested Rodgers. They will utilize a ball control and short-pass/running gameplan to control time of possession and keep the ball away from Rodgers. And based on what happened in Week 1, we know Green Bay has the potential to give up points.
I'm willing to speculate that the Lions get to at least 20 points. Assuming they do, the play would be Lions +11 and over 48. That way, you're guaranteed no worse than a split.
If the Lions score 20, the only way you lose is if Green Bay puts up 32 or more points, which would be a combined 52 points. You'd lose the Detroit bet but win the Over.
Prediction: Green Bay 31-21
If it pans out like I think it might, the Washington Football Team, New York Jets and Detroit Lions will be 0-2, last place in their divisions, and already looking ahead, with one eye on the 2022 season. Thankfully, there is that extra game this year, and an extra Wild Card team.
One thing is sure, three of these teams will be facing the daunting circumstance of being 0-2.
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