Chaos in survivor pools often comes when it is least expected. Depending on the strategies contests employed in their survivor pools last week, they either coasted into Week 5 or were victims of the small amount of chaos that ensued last week. The Buffalo Bills were the biggest point spread and moneyline favorites of the season last week, but many participants were likely to eschew their massive odds and save them for later weeks when there were not as many elite teams to choose from. However, that strategy may have bit you last week, as the Giants and Jets both pulled off upsets of the Saints and Titans, respectively.
As a whole, two of the four biggest moneyline favorites lost outright, and it is the first time that has happened all season. Of course, there is no one correct way to navigate a survivor pool, but let Buffalo’s 40-0 thrashing of Houston and New Orleans’ and Tennessee’s subsequent losses be a reminder that sometimes the “best” strategy is simply to survive and advance.
Like last week, my selections for this week will be broken down into the following categories: safest picks, riskier plays that will be popular, and contrarian plays to beat a large pool. Even though survivor pool rules say you cannot pick the same team twice, I will outline multiple scenarios if bettors wish to navigate their own path.
Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in Week 5 (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-480), New England Patriots (-405), Minnesota Vikings (-390), Baltimore Ravens (-320)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off an one of the most emotional games a team can play, with all of the focus surrounding Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough. There is always the possibility of a letdown following a game of that magnitude, but Brady is the GOAT for a reason, and will likely be able to get his guys to quickly turn the page. It also helps that the Dolphins offense looks lost under Jacoby Brissett, and with how well the Buccaneers have been able to stop the run all season, Brissett is not a talented enough quarterback to beat Tampa Bay by chucking the ball all over the field. Tampa Bay has averaged 39.5 PPG in their two home contests, and will get back on track a week after Bill Belichick had a great game plan to slow them down.
The New England Patriots almost made our “risky plays” section, as there is the chance of a bit of a hangover effect from their emotionally tough loss to the Buccaneers. However, another look at Houston’s loss to Buffalo last week shows a team in complete disarray and one that cannot be counted upon to move the ball consistently with Davis Mills under center. The Texans have scored just nine points in their last eight quarters, and Mills threw four interceptions against the Bills en route to five turnovers as a team. The Patriots are not a juggernaut offensively either, but as long as Mills is still under center and not Tyrod Taylor, New England should be able to dominate defensively and slog their way to a comfortable road victory.
In a bit of a scheduling quirk, the Minnesota Vikings are playing their third consecutive home game this week, which is a significant advantage when facing a Lions team traveling for their second straight road game. It seems like ages ago that Detroit came close to a home upset of the Baltimore Ravens, as the Lions lost to Bears quarterback Justin Fields in his second career start. Detroit has now lost eight consecutive games and could be without key players on both sides of the ball, as linebacker Romeo Okwara and center Frank Ragnow were injured in the first half of last week’s game. Minnesota did not score another point after their opening-drive touchdown against Cleveland. Still, the positive sign is that a leaky defense that allowed 61 points through the first two weeks has held Seattle and Cleveland to an average of 15.5 points. If they get a similar defensive effort this week, they should win comfortably against their division rival.
The Ravens find themselves once again in primetime, as their Monday Night Football matchup against the Colts is their third nationally televised night game of the young season. Lamar Jackson had some injury concerns heading into last week’s matchup with the Broncos, but he looked just fine after throwing for 316 yards and running for 28 more. The Ravens will look to break an NFL record (currently shared with the Steelers from 1974-77) and rush for 100+ yards as a team for the 44th straight game. Head coach John Harbaugh is great at home in primetime, and his defense will have Colts quarterback Carson Wentz under pressure all night. Indianapolis will be without All-Pro guard Quentin Nelson and possibly a second offensive lineman in tackle Braden Smith. That is not a good recipe for success in a hostile environment like Baltimore.
Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular
Dallas Cowboys (-370), Tennessee Titans (-205), Atlanta Falcons (-196)
The Cowboys are an impressive 3-1 this season and could be 4-0 if not for a Tom Brady-led comeback in Week 1. However, the Giants will not be intimidated against the Cowboys and have the momentum of their big road upset of the Saints entering this matchup. In addition, the Giants have covered the spread in their last five games against division rivals and can pull another upset this week.
Though the Jacksonville Jaguars have lost 19 consecutive games dating back to last season, this Urban Meyer-led team has the feeling that they are getting close to their first victory of the season. They had a nine-point second half lead against the undefeated Cardinals two weeks ago, and the only time they trailed in their Thursday night loss to the Bengals was when Cincinnati kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. The Jaguars have three extra days to prepare for this game, and there is no telling if Titans wide receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones will be able to suit up this week. Even if they do, avoid this spot between two division rivals where the favorite is on the road.
The Falcons were outscored by 12 points in the last four minutes of last week’s game against Washington, depriving them of winning back-to-back games. They face a Jets team that will be riding high after their home upset of the Titans. However, the biggest reason to stay away from this game is that it is the first game played in London this season, and a game overseas is too unpredictable when factoring in travel.
Contrarian Play To Beat a Large Pool
Pittsburgh Steelers (-110)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in disarray at 1-3, and head coach Mike Tomlin comically has the longest odds of any head coach to win the Coach of the Year Award. However, they are in a position to bounce back with a big home win against a 3-1 Broncos team, as Denver’s three wins came against teams that were 0-9 entering last week. Of course, this is only a play if quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is ruled out for this week after he suffered a concussion that forced him from last week’s loss against the Ravens. If it is Drew Lock under center for Denver, then Pittsburgh is an enticing contrarian play in larger pools, considering one is not likely to pick them in any of their five remaining AFC North games this year.
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