We are this close to a big return, friends. I published last week’s column the day before the news about internal dissatisfaction within Jacksonville’s organization broke. Once it did, I immediately cashed out my straight bet on the Jaguars, but I opted to let the full parlay ride, and Meyer’s incompetence unsurprisingly sunk us. Oh well. Onwards and upwards!
The underlying thesis of this article series is that it’s best to bet early. You should do so because sportsbooks will adjust their lines after sharp bettors place their initial wagers. Once they’ve done so, you’re not just playing against the house — you’re also playing against some of the smartest minds in the game. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s what professional gambler (and Jeopardy! champion) James Holzhauer has to say on the matter:
“When you bet right after the opening number is posted, you essentially gamble that you’re smarter than the handful of sportsbook employees who set the line. When you bet 10 minutes before the game starts, you hope in vain that you know something all the world’s sharp bettors don’t.” You can read the rest of his comments here in The Athletic.
Ultimately, I recommend that you read this article as a guide to two things: first, a smart parlay for the weekend’s action; second, a list of smart straight bets to target individually. Aside from the parlay, I’ll label my favorite picks each week and advise you on the proper unit size for each play.
Parlay YTD: 0-5-0 (-5u)
Straight Bets YTD: 6-4-0 (-0.12u)*
All NFL Bets YTD: 18-16-0 (-0.95u)*
*Pending BAL -3 (+0.45u)
Leg #1. Rams -9.5 | -135 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: 1u
The Los Angeles Rams are one of the NFL’s most efficient teams. Entering Week 5, they ranked fifth in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA). They successfully strung together a second-half comeback to beat the Seahawks on Thursday, so they’ll have plenty of extra rest heading into next Sunday’s contest against the New York Giants.
Speaking of the Giants, their Week 5 performance is why I’m targeting the Rams here — they lost Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury, Daniel Jones to a concussion, and Kenny Golladay to a knee injury. They were already playing without two other wide receivers, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, who both failed to practice last week.
New York doesn’t have the depth available to keep Sunday’s game against the Rams close. If Jones has to sit, Mike Glennon will start, and four of his last six appearances resulted in his team losing by double digits. Regardless of who starts, New York’s quarterback won’t have many tools to work with. Barkley will almost certainly miss Week 6 with his ankle injury. Shepard and Slayton are questionable at best after missing every practice last week, and while Golladay shouldn’t miss time with his knee issue, he could struggle with Glennon under center if he doesn’t practice.
The Rams have won two of their five games this season by at least 10 points. They sunk the Chicago Bears by 20 and the Buccaneers by 10. I expect a similar performance against the lowly, injury-riddled Giants on Sunday.
Leg #2. Cowboys ML | -220 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: 1u
I’ll follow my Rams pick with a series of relatively safe moneyline picks. Like the Rams, the Dallas Cowboys have been exceptionally efficient this year. They rank second in DVOA and have gone on a four-game tear since losing to the Buccaneers. They opened as 4.5-point favorites over the Patriots, a number that should stay around the same throughout the week (although a surplus of public money could move it upward).
It’s always tough to steal a win in Foxboro, but these aren’t Tom Brady’s Patriots. While Mac Jones has been reasonably efficient under center, he lacks the supporting cast necessary to keep up with a loaded Cowboys offense.
Leg #3. Bills ML | -255 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: 1u
The Bills just beat the Chiefs by 18 points on national television. Yet they’re just 5.5-point favorites over the Titans for Monday Night Football. The numbers make Buffalo look unstoppable. Heading into Week 5, they ranked first in DVOA by a 16.3 percentage-point margin. Surprisingly, they ranked around midpack in offensive DVOA but first in defensive DVOA by a massive margin. Their defense certainly showed up on Sunday night, as they picked off Patrick Mahomes twice while limiting him to just two touchdowns.
On the other side of this matchup, the Titans got a much-needed win over the Jaguars last week, but they have seriously underperformed thus far — they ranked sixth-worst in DVOA entering Week 5. After a blowout loss to Arizona in Week 1, Tennessee has gone 3-1 on the back of consecutive 100-plus yard games from Derrick Henry. The workhorse carried the ball 31.3 times per game in that span, which feels unsustainable. Henry has also struggled against Sean McDermott’s Bills recently. The pair have faced off three times since 2018, and Henry is yet to record a 100-plus yard performance. Since Buffalo’s defensive line ranked first in adjusted line yards through Week 5, I don’t expect Henry to buck the trend this season.
Leg #4. Chiefs ML | -310 at DK Sportsbook
Straight Bet Size: N/A
I’ll wrap things up with the Chiefs. Kansas City burned me when I took them on the moneyline against the Chargers, but I’m ready to get hurt again. This team is just too good on paper to lose to Ron Rivera’s injury-plagued Football Team. Washington had to play without starting right guard Brandon Scherff in Week 5 after he didn’t practice all week, so they may not get him back in time for Week 6. That’s especially problematic because they just lost starting right tackle Sam Cosmi to an ankle injury against the Saints. Look for Kansas City’s struggling, banged-up defense to get some of its swagger back en route to a solid win.
Total Odds: +366 at DraftKings Sportsbook
Parlay Bet Size: 1u
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our Sports Betting 101 Section — including 10 Sports Betting Tips for Beginners — or head to more advanced sports betting strategy — like Key Numbers When Betting Against the Spread — to learn more.