Does it feel to anyone else like this has been a particularly devastating start to the season with regard to quarterback injuries? A couple more possible ailments for NFL starters could impact this week’s lines, while several match-ups find themselves with impressively narrow margins on the betting lines in the early stages of the week.
Where should we anticipate movement? Let’s dive into it. All lines this week come to you courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
Thursday, October 7 — 8:20 p.m. EDT
Los Angeles Rams (-2.5) at Seattle Seahawks
The Rams are coming off of their first loss of the year, a stinker against the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals. They’re probably the better team in this match-up, but don’t sleep on Seattle, who always plays well on its home turf. The Seahawks have a 2-2 record after their road win over the 49ers last week, but it still feels like the offense has room to grow as they establish an identity under a first-year offensive coordinator. Shane Waldron came over from the Rams’ coaching staff, adding an extra layer of intrigue for this divisional showdown. Though they’re the road team, the line has already moved a bit in favor of the Rams since it opened. It would be surprising to see it advance beyond a field-goal margin in their favor.
Sunday, October 10 — 9:30 a.m. EDT
New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
That must be London calling. The NFL’s first England game of 2021 probably couldn’t be a less compelling match-up, but on the bright side, both the Jets and Falcons are coming off compelling games. The Jets won an overtime affair over the Titans to notch the first victory of their season. The Falcons took a loss but reached 30 points for the first time of the year. The London games are always difficult to project based on the travel demands and extra-curricular events involved in the experience for both sides. Matt Ryan is a veteran of the league who should fare better to these unusual circumstances than rookie Jets starter Zach Wilson. Look for the line to lean toward the Falcons by another half-point or so in advance of this Sunday morning kickoff.
Sunday, October 10 — 1:00 p.m. EDT
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers appear to have fully regained their mojo after their Week 1 disaster against the Saints. The offense is humming with success through the air and on the ground. Green Bay’s closest game was their only true road game of the year, a Week 3 win over the 49ers. Green Bay has rattled off three straight wins heading into a Midwestern showdown with a Cincinnati team that has exceeded expectations through the first four games. It’s important that the Packers don’t overlook the upstart Bengals in this one.
Cincinnati is riding two straight wins. Interestingly, both teams recently defeated the Steelers, with the Bengals doing so by a wider margin. Their recent efforts have them merely three-point underdogs at present. Though the game is in Cincy, that’s still a surprising line considering pre-season expectations for both teams. It may not stay that way, as Green Bay should win this game by 6 or 7 points. Look for the line to move toward the Packers throughout the week.
Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10)
The Miami Dolphins’ hopes for a prosperous season are on the brink. Their primary starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not expected to return to the lineup until Week 6. Not that it would matter for this game against the defending World Champions, but Jacoby Brissett just isn’t getting it done. Tampa has been far from perfect in their own right, but they escaped Tom Brady’s return to New England with a narrow victory despite a sluggish offensive effort in Week 4. Back in the confines of their home stadium, the Bucs should roll in this match-up with the undermanned Dolphins squad. The Bucs should remain double-digit favorites, with the line potentially pushing closer to two touchdowns. Their favoritism may be limited because there’s not much room for growth for the total. Miami is going to have trouble contributing to that number, currently set at 48.
Tennessee Titans (-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Urban Meyer’s not going to last the season, is he? Jaguars owner Shad Kahn issued a statement on Tuesday expressing disappointment in the very public missteps of his head coach over the previous weekend in Ohio. If it weren’t for the on-field turmoil of the Titans–I mean, they literally lost to the Jets–we would be predicting a blood bath in Jacksonville this weekend. As it stands, it wouldn’t be the craziest thing in the world for the Jaguars’ locker room to rally around one another to put up a fight this Sunday against Tennessee. In the end, it shouldn’t amount to a win.
The scrutiny of Meyer could impact the line as the game approaches, with Tennessee as the beneficiary of John Q. Public’s money on this one. The Titans may not reach touchdown favorite-territory on the road, but more room to breathe in their direction would make sense given the circumstances. Derrick Henry should have a field day in this one.
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-7)
Before suffering a knee injury, Bears RB David Montgomery ran all over the Lions in Week 4. Damien Williams picked up the mantle after his departure. Detroit is a bottom-feeding NFL team in 2021, and the Vikings will treat them as such in Week 5. Dalvin Cook has been hobbled by injuries the last couple of weeks, but this is a get-right opportunity for the stallion running back. Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense struggled in its last outing against the Browns. That result was courtesy of the game-wrecking ability of the Cleveland defense. The Lions have no such ability. Currently favored by a touchdown over Detroit, the line on Minnesota should continue to rise leading up to this game, with it eventually knocking on the door of double digits as a possibility.
New England Patriots (-9.5) at Houston Texans
Those poor Patriots. They were one Nick Folk field goal from doing the unthinkable and upending the golden boy Tom Brady in his return to Foxborough. It was surprising to see Bill Belichick choose to send Folk out for that 56-yard attempt in the rain, but it nearly paid off for New England. The good news for Mac Jones and the Pats: They get the Texans this week! Still, given what they’ve shown offensively this season, a massive line in their favor for this road contest is presumptuous.
The line has room to drop a bit until it hits a glass ceiling in the -7.5 range for the Patriots. Also, are game totals allowed to dip into negatives, or does Vegas just have to stick with positive integers for that? There won’t be many points scored in this game. It will rival Broncos/Steelers in a race to the bottom for the lowest total of the week across the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers (-3.5)
Is Sam Darnold actually good? He appeared to etch his name further into that possibility with another sturdy performance in Week 4. Though his Panthers suffered their first loss of the season, a high-scoring affair against the Cowboys, Darnold held his own to keep Carolina within striking distance against a superior opponent. This week, his team should have the edge against the Eagles. Their quarterback seems to only put together his best work in garbage time so far this season. Jalen Hurts has done a respectable job in the stat sheet for Philadelphia, but he’s the face of a roster on the verge of a 1-4 start if they don’t come up with the upset on the road in Week 5
In his second year, Matt Rhule has his roster in position to make a push in the NFC. That’s regardless of when star running back Christian McCaffrey makes his return to the field. That said, speculation on his availability for this tilt with Philly could push the line further in favor of the Panthers if CMC’s Wednesday practice session yields favorable results regarding his recovery from a hamstring injury. Even without him, the Panthers could end up more heavily favored than they currently are in this one.
Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers (-1)
Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin said this week that Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with hip issues. That might help to explain the unwatchable nature of his play early in the season. Then again, Roethlisberger’s decline has appeared evident for several seasons now, so it’s really hard to identify the impact of this particular ailment. At any rate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Big Ben grit through the injury to start this game. That’s not necessarily a bonus for the Pittsburgh offense, but it’s probably better than Dwayne Haskins or Mason Rudolph.
The Broncos have quarterback questions of their own, as Teddy Bridgewater is in the concussion protocol. If he can’t play, it’s Drew Lock’s turn. Denver clearly wasn’t keen on that idea for this season, which is why they added Bridgewater in the first place. The status of the quarterbacks on either side could make the line movement difficult to predict. Still, with stout defenses on either side, the already-low total could dip even lower for what could be a true defensive struggle.
New Orleans Saints (-2.5) at Washington Football Team
The Saints’ offense makes me sad. They have a weapon like Alvin Kamara, and they decided in Week 4 to give him zero targets out of the backfield. Taysom Hill got involved in the red zone last week, but the Saints still fell in OT to the Giants. The good news for New Orleans this week: the WFT defense might have taken a step back compared to last season where that unit led the Football Team to the NFC East title. Washington’s fill-in starter Taylor Heinicke had a great game last week against the Falcons; the Saints’ defense should prove to be a more daunting task. These are two teams with some identity questions that have yet to be resolved. I’m not convinced the Saints should even be favored in this game, which tells me their status in that regard probably won’t advance beyond the line where it presently stands.
Sunday, October 10 — 4:05 p.m. EDT
Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders (-5.5)
Justin Fields was cast by Matt Nagy into the game-manager role last week against the Lions. It worked out fine, considering, well, the Lions of it all. But the Bears are going to need more out of Fields this week against the Raiders. Of course, that’s assuming Andy Dalton remains sidelined due to injury. Regardless of which quarterback Chicago deploys, whoever it is will need to keep pace with a Derek Carr-led offense that had been impressively efficient prior to a stumble Monday night in Los Angeles. Vegas is a good bet to play well in front of their home fans. Still, I don’t think the total gets to a touchdown in their favor. Depending on what takes place at quarterback, it could even inch slightly in Chicago’s direction from where it presently stands.
Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5)
O/U 46.5 (O/U courtesy of FanDuel; unavailable on DK)
This is probably the most compelling game on the slate, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable for it to end up as a true pick ’em. So far, however, things are leaning toward the Chargers on the Vegas line. The Chargers were legitimately impressive in their MNF win over the Raiders in Week 4. Meanwhile, the Browns put on another defensive clinic against the Vikings, outlasting Minnesota with an old-school 14-7 result. As of this writing, DraftKings hasn’t yet settled on a total for this contest. The delay is understandable given the unique aspects of the units involved. The Chargers and Browns are both capable of greatness offensively, but to what extent will the two standout defenses turn this into another old-school game?
If Cleveland has its way, that’s going to be the outcome. The Chargers would prefer to air the ball out a little more as Justin Herbert develops into one of the game’s premier passing threats. If the spread continues to leak toward Los Angeles, I think the Browns could be of value. Watch this spread closely as money pours in on both sides throughout the week.
Sunday, October 10 — 4:20 p.m. EDT
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-7)
The Cowboys are for real. We knew their offense was impressive, but the emergence of a play-making defense led by Trevon Diggs has Dallas legitimately inside the conversation among the NFC’s best all-around teams. The Giants are, well, not in that conversation. Along with a solid defense, Daniel Jones will do what he can to keep this one close, but the Cowboys are too explosive for New York to have much success across four quarters of football. The spread shouldn’t waver too significantly from its perch in the low 50s. On the line, the Cowboys could end up as heavy favorites in the 9-point range before it’s all said and done.
Sunday, October 10 — 4:25 p.m. EDT
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
Will Trey Lance get his first NFL start this week? My inclination is yes. Jimmy Garopollo initially said of his calf injury that he expected it to keep him out of action for a couple of weeks. Kyle Shanahan, always needing to be the smartest guy in the room, is playing coy about Jimmy G’s status. The head coach said that the team will monitor Garopollo into Wednesday, noting he has a chance to suit up. Shanahan likely wants to keep the opposition guessing, given the contrasting styles Garopollo and Lance bring to the table.
With the 49ers on bye in Week 6, Jimmy G’s relatively mild injury could indicate this match-up in Arizona as Lance’s one chance to shine in a fill-in role. He’ll have his work cut out for him against a big-play Cardinals defense. Going toe-to-toe with Kyler Murray feels like a big ask for any QB. That rings especially true for one making his first career start on the road against an undefeated divisional foe. Watch for the line to push more heavily in favor of the Cardinals once Garopollo is officially ruled out for this game.
Sunday, October 10 — 8:20 p.m. EDT
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5)
This AFC Championship re-match should be a great one on Sunday Night Football in Kansas City. The Chiefs haven’t shown the most promising ability on the defensive side, but their offense has awoken to their typical standards over the last couple of weeks. That combination is a recipe for a massive total that creeps up toward 60 as SNF approaches, especially considering the level at which Josh Allen has the Bills operating of late. Given the similarities between these teams, this game feels like it would be a pick-’em at a neutral site. Kansas City has the requisite edge as the home team. The spread shouldn’t change drastically, but honestly, the sky is the limit for the total in what should be a high-flying affair on Sunday night.
Monday, October 11 — 8:15 p.m. EDT
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-7)
The Battle for Baltimore? The departed Colts return to their former city as heavy underdogs for Monday Night Football in Week 5, as the Ravens theoretically wield much more offensive firepower than the Colts. If Carson Wentz is healthy, Indianapolis can keep this thing close. And the Colts likely feel better about themselves after a win last week. But that triumph came over the Dolphins and a backup quarterback. It doesn’t necessarily mean a lot coming into this tough environment in Baltimore.
Injuries have hampered the running game for the Ravens to the extent that Latavius Murray is the lead back for a once-potent ground-and-pound offense. But who are we kidding? Lamar Jackson is really the X-factor of this offense. His connection with Marquise Brown is firing lately. That should continue in prime time this week. The Ravens should end up right around the present status as touchdown favorites over Indy.
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