Every week, I’ll dissect various narratives affecting NFL betting lines. This is vital, considering most bettors digest these same narratives weekly. The betting public is more grandiose than ever. While that’s exciting, it also means sportsbooks can lure and fool action junkies into taking a lousy wager based on repeated narratives purported by the media. My job is to ensure these narratives do not trick you.
Let’s get into some Week 6 betting narratives.
Jacksonville Will Dominate Indianapolis Again
Whoa, whoa, whoa, not so fast, my friends. The Indianapolis Colts were shutout 24-0 by a hyped-up Jacksonville Jaguars team four weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean the result will be the same this Sunday. The Jaguars’ defense was elite in Week 2. They allowed only 218 total yards, forced three turnovers and sacked Matt Ryan five times.
Their defense was above average in Week 3, too. They dominated the Chargers 38-10 in a road win, but Justin Herbert’s ribs probably weren’t 100%, and something seemed off about that game. Maybe that’s what we should get used to from the Chargers: perplexing and disappointing results despite their talent, but I digress.
The Jaguars’ defense has somewhat regressed the last two weeks. Against the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans, they allowed a combined 649 yards, permitted a 65% completion percentage from Jalen Hurts and Davis Mills and were grossly outplayed in time of possession. They also allowed well more than 300 rushing yards the last two weeks– not a good sign when optimism is building Colts RBs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines will both be ready to play Sunday.
Astonishingly, Ryan has fumbled 11 times, thrown seven interceptions and been sacked 21 times this season. Needless to say, things haven’t been easy for the veteran quarterback. But there are reasons for optimism. Despite their best efforts to look like the worst offense ever last week, somehow, the Indianapolis Colts pulled off an overtime victory against the clunky Denver Broncos.
At 2-2-1, the Colts need a division win to catapult them forward in the AFC South standings. Fortunately, the Jaguars haven’t beaten the Colts in Indianapolis since 2017. Off 10 days of rest and in prime position at home, this is a much better spot for the Colts to win and cover.
Something Is Up With 5 and 5.5-Point Underdogs…
DO NOT FADE
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I know a strange trend when I see one. This season, teams that have closed as either 5 or 5.5-point underdogs are 6-1 against the spread (ATS). On four different occasions, they won straight up.
From a sports bettor’s perspective, this makes some sense. A line of “five” is inherently an odd number. Think about it. Essentially the oddsmakers are saying they’re not sure where the number should lie. When a team is a two-to-four-point underdog, it’s telling bettors it’ll be a close game.
In that sense, it grants some respect to the underdog – whether it’s the spot, or maybe they’re at home, or perhaps they’re just talented enough to keep the game within the margin. Underdogs of six points or more tell a different story. Favorites of that magnitude should win by at least a touchdown. In the NFL, that’s a signal oddsmakers think the favorite is clearly a superior team, at least at that juncture of the season.
The “five” lands smack dab in the middle of the aforementioned perceptions. It also lies between several key numbers: three, six and seven. If you’re wondering what key numbers are, check out my “Keys to NFL Betting” piece I wrote before the season began. Again, this is a signal from sportsbooks they’re a bit undecided on how the game will go. Typically, oddsmakers are happy to land on a key number since games lined at three, six or seven could at least end in a “push,” meaning the sportsbook would earn a small profit.
Trends are bound to die, and trends are never a good singular reason to wager on an NFL contest. Still, I would pay attention to games where the mysterious “five” pops up. This week, the Falcons (+5.5 at home vs. the 49ers) and the Giants (+5.5 at home vs. the Ravens) qualify.
The Vikings’ Defense Is a Liability.
DO NOT FADE
A Twitter troll (gotta love ‘em) replied to one of my tweets this week claiming the Minnesota Vikings have a legitimately good defense because they only allow 20.4 points per game (ppg), good for 14th in the NFL. I suggested he take a closer look.
I think the Vikings have a bad defense, and I believe they are pushovers. Rewatching their home game against the Chicago Bears last Sunday, yet another cushy spot for Kirk Cousins only reminded me of this truth.
Bears QB Justin Fields and a determined Chicago offense out-muscled the Vikings for more than two quarters. Minnesota took an early 21-3 lead in the first quarter behind a sensational performance by Cousins and his talented wide-receiver group. I was on the Vikings -7 as one of my Week 5 Circa picks, so I was elated by what I saw early.
But the Minnesota defense allowed the Bears to score 19 unanswered points heading into the fourth quarter. Obviously, their offense didn’t help, earning only 104 yards during this span (30+ minutes of game time). Fields had his best passing performance of the season, completing 15/21 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Minnesota’s porous defense heads to Miami on Sunday to face a desperate Dolphins team that’s lost two straight games after a 3-0 start. Miami is looking to reinvigorate its passing attack. The first three weeks of the NFL season were good for the Dolphins, as they accumulated 1,066 yards and 83 points. Much of that production was anchored by a seemingly elite pass attack led by Tua Tagovailoa.
Teddy Bridgewater is working through concussion protocol this week, and Tagovailoa isn’t ready to suit up. Skylar Thompson, the Dolphins’ third-string rookie quarterback who looked sensational in the preseason, will lead their attack. Tyreek Hill and other leaders on Miami’s offense are poised to refocus their struggling offense. Luckily for them, they’re playing the Vikings.
I wouldn’t be shocked if Thompson and an angry wide receiver corps sliced and diced the Vikings’ secondary, leading to a Dolphins win. After all, the Vikings’ defense permits a staggering 70% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. Only the Green Bay Packers are worse (72.93%).
I just can’t trust Minnesota’s defense, and they have other glaring concerns. Until that changes, they’ll be tough to back as an ATS favorite.
The Eagles are Better Than and Will Beat the Cowboys
We can’t make this claim yet. The Eagles are pound-for-pound one of the most talented (if not the most talented) rosters in the NFL. That much is unquestionable. Loaded at every positional group, Philadelphia is an automatic matchup problem for most teams. That’s true when they face the Dallas Cowboys, too.
But, what the Eagles lack are intangibles that might give the Cowboys a competitive advantage. First among those intangibles is experience. Dak Prescott won’t play in Week 6, but the Cowboys’ roster is full of experienced leaders on both sides of the ball. Many of them– Ezekiel Elliot, Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander-Esch and Anthony Brown– have played together in big-game situations.
Dallas coach Mike McCarthy, who’s been in the NFL for 30 years, is one of the winningest coaches against the spread in league history. His career ATS record in more than 261 games stands at 63%. Like it or not, McCarthy covers, and his Cowboys are heading into Sunday night on a four-game ATS win streak.
While the Eagles are a top-10 team in virtually every critical category, the Cowboys’ defense might still be the best unit on the field. Check out these eye-popping statistics through the first five weeks of the season. The Cowboys’ defense:
- Averages four sacks per game
- Only allows one touchdown per game
- Allows opponents to score touchdowns on only 33.3% of their red zone opportunities
- Only allows 5.2 yards per pass play
- They are allowing 14.4 points per game
They’ve been stingy, to say the least. Micah Parsons leads an aggressive and confident group of pass rushers into Philadelphia, and we think it’ll be Jalen Hurts’ first big test. Hurts hasn’t done much of anything wrong through the first five weeks. He’s thrown for 1,359 passing yards at a 68% completion rate, and he’s rushed for 266 yards. He has 10 total touchdowns, and his team is 5-0.
Regardless, besides a 14-0 deficit at home to the maturing Jaguars, Hurts hasn’t faced much adversity yet. The Eagles easily could have lost last week at Arizona. They were legitimately outplayed for much of the second half, but a late missed field goal granted Philly another win. Hurts did enough against a bad Cardinals defense, but it won’t be as easy this weekend.
The Eagles are up to 6-point favorites at home Sunday night. In my professional opinion, I wouldn’t bet them to cover that line.
WATCH MORE: Betting the NFL: Week 6 Betting Advice