Between the Lines: Early Bets for NFL Week 6

NFL Betting Week 6

Every Monday during the NFL season, I’ll be comparing game spreads to my own power ratings and giving my perspective on whether I think the betting lines are accurate or not. Paying attention to the NFL market is one of the single most important aspects of successful wagering. With all the variance and volatility of pro football, placing a bet on the most advantageous side of a number is often the only difference between a winning or losing ticket. 

All lines are consensus numbers across the U.S. Sportsbooks as of Monday morning. Some may not be out yet. Early lines that stick out as great early bets are highlighted in red

Washington Commanders at Chicago Bears (pick-em), Total: 39.5

The Commanders just can’t get over themselves, can they? My impulse is to like Washington, despite how flawed they are because they have more difference-making skill players on offense. The Bears’ comeback effort was impressive against Minnesota, but I think it had more to do with the Vikings falling asleep on a lead, and the Vikings’ defense making mistakes. Commanders’ QB Carson Wentz had an opportunity to win at home on Sunday and threw a goal-line interception in the final seconds sealing yet another loss. Chicago can get to the quarterback and confuse Wentz –  that’s a concern – but I have the Commanders as 2-point favorites. Lean, Washington.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers (+8), Total: 42.5

This might be the unofficial “fishy line of the week” that produces more confusing results (like the Eagles and Cardinals +5 on Sunday, which the Cardinals covered), and that makes me want to lean toward Pittsburgh. The Steelers got predictably annihilated on the road against the Buffalo Bills in a game where rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett threw 52 times. They played from behind throughout, but the Steelers only had 17 rushes on Sunday. We finally saw precise passing to receivers like George Pickens and Diontae Johnson, so this could be a spot where Pittsburgh hangs around against a Buccaneers’ team struggling to score.

Tampa Bay somehow let the Atlanta Falcons creep back into their Week 5 battle despite a dominant effort from the Buccaneers’ defense for the first 45 minutes of game time. Tom Brady threw for 351 yards, and they accumulated more than 400 yards of offense, but there’s something off about their run game (69 total team rush yards on Sunday). It’s hard to hang onto a big lead if you can’t run the ball. I have this as Buccaneers -7, so I show some value on the Steelers.

Cincinnati Bengals at New Orleans Saints (pick-em), Total: 44

This is another game listed as a straight pick-em, which means there is no official favorite, but I think the Bengals should be favored by 2.5 points. Saints QB/TE Taysom Hill looked like Jim Thorpe against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, running for 112 yards and three touchdowns in a home win. It was an adaptive response for New Orleans after a disappointing loss in London, but this game sets up better for the Bengals.

Cincinnati just lost a tight game with Baltimore on the road, and their defense certainly wasn’t the issue. I think they match up well against the Saints. The Bengals are physical and aggressive at the point of attack, which you need to be against an enigmatic player like Saints’ RB Alvin Kamara and a bowling ball like Hill. Both teams might struggle to score, and I have the Bengals edging out the Saints. It’s not a “strong play” of mine yet, but it could be by week’s end.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5), Total: 41

This is a circled game for the Colts after their terrible Week 2 loss at Jacksonville, so this is one of those lines where it’s best to forget about Xs and Os. The Colts do not look good even though they came away with a win at Denver last Thursday night, and the Jaguars will want to end their losing streak after a bad home loss to the Houston Texans.

Still, this game will matter more to the Colts. Indianapolis hasn’t lost to the Jaguars at home since 2017, and the revenge spot sets up perfectly coming off 10 days of rest. This is purely about situational advantages. I’d take the Colts now and consider playing back on the Jaguars if the line rises to +3 or more.

New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns (-3), Total: 42.5

This game is lined very sharply. I have the Browns as 3-point favorites too, and they probably should have beaten the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday. The Patriots will travel to Cleveland, and it could be rainy and sloppy weather, so the under is the first thing that jumps off the page.

If New England continues to play quality defense and run the ball (176 rush yards on Sunday), they might quickly turn into a consistent under team. The Browns continue to be a run-first team, which they should be with their dynamic RB duo. New England doesn’t have a dynamic passing game to expose the Browns’ secondary. That’s good because Cleveland has one of the worst defenses in the NFL, especially against the pass. No lean here, but I like the under early.

New York Jets at Green Bay Packers (-7.5), Total: 45

The Packers got shocked on Sunday when the surging New York Giants flipped the script in the second half and shut out Green Bay’s offense in London. The Giants went on to win 27-22. Usually, after disappointing losses like that, Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers buttons up, and the Green Bay offense explodes at Lambeau Field the following week.

But how can we not take the New York Jets seriously after their big win against Miami? Sure, Dolphins’ QB Teddy Bridgewater went down early in that contest, which gave the Jets an immediate advantage. Still, their defense is playing well behind a formidable defensive line and a rising star in cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. This game might be closer than people think, but I have it exactly where it sits at -7.5, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets cover.


Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants (+5.5), Total: 43.5

Call it a homer pick, but I have to call out this line. The Giants are becoming one of those teams everyone should put an asterisk on, especially when they’re an ATS underdog. The Giants return home after a big win in London against the Packers, tying them for second place in a loaded NFC East. The Ravens are an above-average team for many obvious reasons. But, their in-game decision-making is flawed, and Lamar Jackson’s accuracy was off on Sunday night.

It won’t always show in the data, but the Giants’ defense is over-performing every single week. Furthermore, this is a great revenge spot for Don “Wink” Martindale, the former Ravens’ defensive coordinator. He knows Jackson’s tendencies and their offense well. The Giants should be competitive at home; I have the line as Ravens -3. That’s a significant value disparity, and I’d bet on New York now.

Minnesota Vikings at Miami Dolphins (+3), Total: 45.5

I have this as Miami -2, which I understand is probably a head-scratcher for some of you, but that’s me assuming either Tua Tagovailoa or Bridgewater will return in Week 6.

The Vikings just remain a flawed team. They dominated the Bears in every statistic that matters on Sunday – yards per play, total yards, time of possession, etc. – but the Bears still covered because of how unreliable Minnesota is at finishing games. We’ve already seen Minnesota crack a few times in the second half this season, and although its offense is capable, its defense has serious concerns nobody is talking about. They allow opposing quarterbacks to throw at a 70% completion rate against them, good for 30th in the NFL, so at least some of the data is starting to tell the story.

The Dolphins are at home and coming off two straight losses. Even if Bridgewater doesn’t play, Dolphins’ coach Mike McDaniel is crafty enough, and their defense is formidable enough to keep this game close and/or win outright. I’d strong lean toward Miami.

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (+5.5), Total: 43

In case you haven’t heard, the 49ers’ defense is pretty good. But in case you also haven’t heard, the Falcons are 5-0 ATS this season. This is a tough one. San Francisco will be playing its second straight road game while the Falcons are coming off a loss. Atlanta is back home, so they certainly have a situational advantage.

Then again, 49ers’ QB Jimmy Garapppolo is coming into his own and comfortably guiding their offense. Additionally, San Francisco’s defense is starting to look like one of the more elite units in the NFL. They rank No. 1 in opponent points per game, yards per game and yards and points per play.

This is a challenging game to handicap, but the line suggests Atlanta can keep it close– a 5.5 usually means precisely that (case in point: Arizona and Dallas cover those spreads in Week 5). No play for me, but a slight lean toward Atlanta in a better spot. 

Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams (-11), Total: 41

Well, this certainly appears like a smash spot for the Los Angeles Rams, but one thing makes me pause– the Panthers just fired coach Matt Rhule. Teams coming off a head coach firing frequently play the following week differently. We’ll look more into that data as the week goes on, but something needed to change in Carolina, and Rhule’s exit was fairly predictable.

Panthers’ QB Baker Mayfield and their clumsy offense can’t get anything going. This is a terrible spot for Mayfield against the Rams’ elite defensive front. I lean toward the Rams, who absolutely need to get right and fast, but I probably won’t have a play on this. I made it Rams -10.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (+3), Total: 51.5

This is yet another tough game. The Seahawks are capable of scoring points – that’s not fake news – but the Cardinals are starting to play better football, and Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray should have plenty of time to work down the field. I like the over. I’ll start with that, but I don’t have a lean on any side.

The Seahawks are more dangerous at home, but both teams are coming off a loss, and divisional games are typically tighter than non-divisional games. With a lot of potential scoring, I’m not itching to pull the trigger on either team. The variance will be sky-high in this matchup.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (+2), Total: 53.5

This is bolded in red for one apparent reason: the total. This is a classic “don’t overthink it” spot. The total is this high for a reason, and it’s best not to question it. At the end of the day, two of the most talented quarterbacks and most capable offenses are set to duel, meaning there will be plenty of points and big plays. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are both at the height of their powers, and, in reality, we should all just be grateful we get to watch these two studs every week.

Both defenses are capable, and the Bills’ defense is playing particularly well, but I don’t see a scenario where both offenses don’t get to 27 points. It’s a revenge spot for the Bills after last year’s devastating playoff loss, so I would be more inclined to bet on Buffalo, but it’s the inflated total that’s just too tempting for me not to play on.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-5), Total: 42

Give some respect to those Cowboys from Dallas! “America’s Team” is proving week-to-week that it has highly skilled players on offense, and its defense is one of the better groups in the league. It may not always show in the stats, but the Cowboys are playing optimal football in many ways that matter: they don’t allow opponents to score touchdowns in the red zone (33.3% TD rate), they’re second in the NFL in sack percentage (they get a sack on nearly 10% of their opponent’s snaps), they’re snagging turnovers every game and they’re not giving the ball away.

The Eagles have yet to face a defense as ferocious as Dallas’, and I’m not sure if Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts, whose arm is not elite, can come from behind if they go down early. I have a ton of respect for the Eagles, and they’ve played a lot of good football through five weeks. However, even though they’re at home, they’re bound to regress somewhat. I have this as Eagles -3, so there is big-time value on the Cowboys for me. Dallas could even win this game straight up. 

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5), Total: 46.5

There’s too much up in the air about this game to know how to bet on it right now. Will Russell Wilson be ready to go, and if so, will he be 100%? Will Keenan Allen and other starters finally return for the Chargers? The Broncos will have 11 days to prepare for this matchup, while the Chargers are traveling back from a hard-fought battle in Cleveland. I may not find an angle I like in this one– watch the line movement all week. This is another one of those curious, 5.5-point lines, too. Yikes. Red flags are everywhere!

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