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NFL Betting: What We Learned from Week 5 (2021)

by October 11, 2021
Austin Ekeler

There’s a trend that I follow during each NFL season. We start in September and have great opportunities to buy into teams that were secretly misplaced in the preseason. Then we move into October and some contenders start to emerge. By November and December, we know where we stand with everyone, and that is more solidified with each passing week.

What this also means is that some weeks don’t produce an extreme amount of turmoil. Teams expected to win actually do win, water remains wet, and the world keeps spinning.

That’s not what happened in Week 5.

Indeed, the properties of water and Earth’s axis haven’t changed, but the perceptions around some teams certainly did. That’s exactly when we need to be on the top of our game. Now is the team to make our own moves.

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The Chargers are no Longer the Chargers

It had become so bad that it turned into a verb. The Chargers were going “to Charger.” Definition? Find some way to turn a near-win into a loss.

Not anymore.

Through the first few weeks of the season, we watched Los Angeles play one close game after another and emerge with a 3-1 record. Maybe the Chargers had turned a corner? Said corner was officially turned on Sunday, though, when Los Angeles erased a 14-point second-half deficit and scored a whopping 26 points in the fourth quarter against the Browns. It was the opposite of “to Charger.” It was the act of a team that is built to win in any situation and, most importantly, actually delivering the wins.

The only concern now is how the team is viewed in the coming weeks. Los Angeles gained some points in the spread after Week 4’s victory and was on the verge of failure multiple times. That is certainly going to push the Chargers to the point where they will carry a large premium, and it may be best to back off and not pay the elevated price.

The Panthers, Broncos, and Raiders Gave Back Their Gains

Through three weeks, Denver, Carolina, and Las Vegas were a combined 9-0. Most football circles understood and admitted that these were not perfect teams and that losses would eventually arrive. Still, the manner in which the regression has hit was severe. Those same teams are now 0-6 in the last two weeks and all share identical 3-2 records.

What happens now?

In terms of competition, the road doesn’t get any easier for them over the remaining 12 games. The Broncos and Raiders both share the same, tough AFC West, while the Panthers are now chasing the defending champion Buccaneers who just put up 45 points in Week 5. Still, even with the suddenly cold streak, we shouldn’t forget that each team is over .500 and has had some experience winning games. It’s wise not to bail on them altogether.

The Cowboys are Overextended

I try to not repeat topics in consecutive weeks — or even in any weeks if I can help it — but I have to go back to the well with the Dallas Cowboys. That’s because bettors will continue to lean on a team that is not only winning regularly but winning regularly in impressive fashion. What the Cowboys just did to a division rival is not going to fly under the radar, and it will serve as confirmation — read, confirmation bias — that Dallas is going to continue dominating games.

It won’t happen.

The Cowboys are hot, and they main remain that way for a while. All streaks come to an end, and I would exercise caution before assuming Dallas cruises on a weekly basis.

The Detroit Lions Can’t Win

I purposely put this blurb immediately after the Cowboys’ write-up because they are polar opposites in every way. Where Dallas is winning, Detroit is losing. Where people are buying the Cowboys, they’re selling the Lions. Where I’m suggesting to expect a reversal for Dallas, I am not looking for the same from Detroit.

That’s the twist.

The Lions aren’t just losing games because they are bad. They are losing games because they are bad at winning games. Semantics? Not exactly.

Think back to what the Chargers had done in prior years that led to the aforementioned phrase “to Charger.” That was a team with talent that didn’t know how to win. Detroit has been admirable in knowing how to compete, but when it needs a play, it can’t find one. And that will eventually cause an all-out collapse.

There’s only so long that a team can continue to lose games and keep fighting with the same passion. The Lions will falter and, when they do, that will be rock bottom.

Which means we aren’t there yet.

The Jaguars Hit Rock Bottom

This is rock bottom. This is what it looks like. This is the Jacksonville Jaguars and, at 0-5, this is a team with no future.

Let’s try to wrap our heads around how far the Jaguars have fallen in such a short time. They added the top quarterback in the draft, found a head coach they believed could turn their franchise around, are playing with no expectations, and still, somehow, have failed in every possible way. They even added a distraction in the form of a scandal that, for other teams, actually could have galvanized the roster. Not Jacksonville. Instead, the Jaguars went out and lost by 18. That pushes their season point differential to negative-59.

Jacksonville won’t go winless. Eventually, there will be enough strides taken by quarterback Trevor Lawrence while the rest of the team catches an opponent off-guard. I would stay alert and look for these opportunities because, right now, there is absolutely no one buying into the Jaguars.

Which probably means that we should.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros, as well as the creator and content-editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola. He has also been one of the industry leaders in NFL against-the-spread picks over the last 7 years.