Four teams – Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver and Green Bay – have reached the 5-0 mark so far in 2015. Carolina (4-0) and New England (4-0) aim to join that list in Week 6, as the Panthers travel to Seattle and the Patriots visit Indianapolis.
MyClubBetting handicapper and Lindy’s Sports UK Editor Simon Milham takes a look at the betting trends and some of the best bets ahead of Week 6 of the 2015/16 NFL season. The odds are correct at the time of writing and are industry average.
(Handicap is denoted by +/- for the home team)
ATLANTA at NEW ORLEANS
(+3.5, Total Points 51.5)
There are some notable firsts for the Falcons this season. Atlanta are the first team in NFL history to start the season 5-0 with four wins after trailing in the fourth quarter. Running back Devonta Freeman is the first player in the Super Bowl era with seven rushing touchdowns in his first three career starts and he leads the NFL with eight touchdowns.
The question is: Will they win their first Vince Lombardi Trophy in head coach Dan Quinn’s first season? They are 5-0 for only the second time in their history and their next four opponents – the Saints, Titans, Buccaneers and 49ers – are a combined 5-16.
New Orleans already sit at 1-4 and have the league’s worst-ranked defensive unit. Worse still, they have not faced a top-10 rated quarterback yet. Another loss to a division rival and their playoff hopes will be hanging by a thread. Sean Payton already looks like he will end his tenue in New Orleans at the end of the season, with Miami a likely destination if Dolphins’ interim head coach Dan Campbell does not win fast.
Atlanta has won the last two meetings and you have to go back to 1999 to see three consecutive series defeats for the Saints. The Falcons won three of their last 12 trips to the Superdome and have not won on back-to-back visits since 2001/02. Saints’ passer Drew Brees has won seven of the last nine meetings at home against the Falcons.
Five of the last seven meetings in the Superdome saw over 50 points scored, although the last two clashes have gone Under.
The fact that the Falcons are favoured by a field goal, coupled with the fact that the home team is usually at an advantage on a short week, would indicate that these two teams may not be as far apart as the line would indicate. With Freeman a versatile threat out of the backfield and Jacob Tamme a safety blanket with good hands for QB Matt Ryan, we think receiver Julio Jones could be the difference.
The line looks bogus to us. Even with history on their side and the Saints at home in prime time, once you get on a losing roll, it is hard to get off. We take the Falcons to win comfortably.
VERDICT: ATLANTA 37 NEW ORLEANS 24
BEST BET: ATLANTA -3.5 @ 1.91
MIAMI at TENNESSEE
(-2.5, Total Points 43.5)
Miami’s lack of desire and heart was shocking to witness as they lost to the New York Jets at Wembley two weeks ago. That abject performance cost head coach Joe Philbin his job.
Interim head coach Dan Campbell has talked a great game in his pressers since and he is a players’ coach who can motivate. Practices have been a lot crisper this week and there is simply too much talent on this roster to think that they won’t come out of their 1-3 funk to start the campaign.
Tennessee are also 1-3 after losing a 14-13 squeaker to the Buffalo Bills at home last week but rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has been playing well, tossing two or more touchdowns in three of his first four starts.
Likewise, Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill is aiming for a fourth consecutive game with two touchdown passes.
Both Tennessee and Miami cannot run the ball effectively, so there should be some aerial fireworks. Tannehill has the better set of receivers but holds onto the ball too long to be effective (partly down to an ineffective gameplan and slow starts), and while the better quarterback in our opinion, Mariota is still a rookie and he locks on to receiver Kendall Wright too much. If the Dolphins’ defensive front gets a fire lit under them – which we suspect it might – Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon could have a productive afternoon.
The Dolphins have never lost three consecutive meetings in Houston/Tennessee and we reckon Campbell can start turning around the culture quickly.
VERDICT: MIAMI 24 TENNESSEE 17
BEST BET: MIAMI +2.5 @ 1.91
HOUSTON at JACKSONVILLE
(-1.5, Total Points 42.5)
Both teams enter this game with just one win under their belts. Houston’s quarterback situation is a mess, but Brian Hoyer appears to have cemented the position for the time being after completing 24 of 31 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort to Indianapolis.
Still, between them, Nate Washington, Cecil Shorts and DeAndre Hopkins have helped the Texans to 300 yards per game through the air,
Jacksonville, who will head to London to take on the Bills next week, appear to be heading in the right direction, despite their 1-4 record. Second-year passer Blake Bortles had the best game of his career in a 38-31 defeat at Tampa last week, passing for 303 yards with four touchdowns and a passer rating of 125.4. Bortles is on pace to shatter the Jaguars’ single-season passing touchdown record of 23, set by David Garrard in 2010.
Houston’s J.J. Watt has feasted upon the Jaguars and Blake Bortles before. In fact, the linebacker has more sacks against the Jaguars in his career than all but one team he has faced, and has sacked Bortles six times in two meetings.
Watt has lined up on the left side of the line this season and he will go against rookie right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jeremy Parnell may be slowed by a sore knee. Watt has 11.5 sacks in eight games against the Jaguars, whose right guard Brandon Linder, who has had most success against Watt, is ruled out for the season.
Watt is the difference-maker and we see the Texans winning this with a bit to spare.
VERDICT: HOUSTON 27 JACKSONVILLE 13
BEST BET: HOUSTON +1.5 @ 1.91
CHICAGO at DETROIT
(-3, Total Points 43.5)
You have to go back to 1973 to find the last time that the Chicago Bears lost five consecutive meetings with the Detroit Lions. They have lost the last four to their NFC North rivals, but the Lions are favoured by a field goal, despite having lost their opening five games. The last time they started 0-5, they lost their next 11.
While they may not be as bad as their 2008 vintage, the defence is poor and the offense is not much better. They even benched quarterback Matt Stafford last week.
Chicago came back to beat Kansas City 18-17 at Arrowhead last week, with Jay Cutler tossing two touchdowns in the last 3:05 to propel the Bears to 2-3 for the season.
Bears’ running back Matt Forte has 10 touchdowns against the Lions in 14 previous meetings and may be worth a punt at 1.90 to score a TD at any time. Likewise, receiver Alshon Jeffery could be a difference-maker – he has four TDs in five games against the Lions and is 2.10 to score on Sunday.
This looks a tough game to weigh up. We do not believe the Bears should be underdogs but instead of looking for a handicap winner, we reckon Detroit’s rookie running back Ameer Abdullah might have a nice afternoon. We take him to score a touchdown at any time.
VERDICT: CHICAGO 23 DETROIT 17 OT
BEST BET: AMEER ABDULLA ANYTIME TD SCORER @ 2.00
NEW ENGLAND at INDIANAPOLIS
(+10.5, Total Points 54.5)
A rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game, which the Patriots won 45-7. And the Super Bowl champions enter this game with a perfect 4-0 record, boasting the No.1 offense in the NFL. They go up against the 31st-ranked defense. They also lead the league in yards per drive, yards per play, and first downs per drive.
Each of the last three games have seen the Patriots run all over the Colts, racking up 234, 246 and 177 yards respectively.
But with Nate Solder tearing triceps this week, the Patriots are thin at the tackle position and they may well have more success through the air.
The Patriots have won six in a row over the Colts and have managed no fewer than 31 points or more in each of those wins – and wile Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck may return from injury, if he doesn’t, we don’t hold out much hope that 40-year-old veteran Matt Hasselbeck will be able to keep this close. Luck has also thrown an interception in his last five games and the Patriots are ford=sing over two turnovers per game.
Of course, there is added spice to this one. From the AFC title game grew ‘Deflategate’, the controversy surrounding suspicions that the Patriots manipulated football air pressure in order to assist quarterback Tom Brady.
After a lengthy and costly investigation, the NFL punished the franchise and the quarterback. The Patriots accepted theirs; Brady did not, and he won in court (despite his phone being smashed, no doubt frustrating him no end, as he would have been able to… ahem… clear his name).
Anyway, it has kept hacks happy throughout the summer and given some other folk nightmares…
The Patriots say this is all behind them. The score will reflect otherwise. Their foot will be kept firmly on the throat of the Colts for grassing them up.
This should be one-way traffic and we are happy to lay the double-digit spread.
VERDICT: NEW ENGLAND 51 INDIANAPOLIS 24
BEST BET: NEW ENGLAND -10.5 @ 2.10
DENVER at CLEVELAND
(+4.5, Total Points 42.5)
Denver holds a 21-2 record over the Browns in the last 23 meetings and has won the last 10 clashes.
Furthermore, the Broncos won 10 of the last 12 meetings at Cleveland, their last loss coming in 1989. In fact, those tow road defeats came by a combined five points.
While Browns tough QB Josh McCown is coming off a franchise-record 457 yards passing in an overtime victory in Baltimore, he is dealing with a left ankle injury. And this Broncos’ defense is nasty, gritty and fast.
We take Peyton Manning to lead the Broncos to a 6-0 start in a game that will be in the balance until the fourth quarter.
VERDICT: DENVER 28 CLEVELAND 17
BEST BET: DENVER -4.5 @ 1.91
Other Week 6 handicap predictions
PITTSBURGH +3.5 over Arizona: Sometimes you just have to murmur ‘Any Given Sunday’ and wonder if Cameron Diaz wold make a better NFL owner than Kevin Costner would make a GM. This is one of those games. The Cardinals should take advantage of Michael Vick’s mistakes, but somehow the Steelers will find a way to win. Pittsburgh 23 Arizona 17
CINCINNATI -3.5 over Buffalo: Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor is not healthy, the Bills led a charmed life at Tennessee and their defense is keeping them in games. Cincy have momentum after a comeback win against Seattle and the chance to move to 6-0. You just know these Bengals are going to mess it up. But we’ll ride with them in hope. Buffalo 20 Cincinnati 24
KANSAS CITY +3.5 at Minnesota: Kansas City are not as bad as their record would indicate. Minnesota are an ordinary team riding their luck. That has to change soon but they should still win. Kansas City 20 Minnesota 21
WASHINGTON +6.5 at New York Jets: Who do they think they are, the New York Jets? Can they prove that their Wembley walloping of the Dolphins was no fluke? They appear to have found an identity. They know who they are. But so do we: they are the team that has never beaten Washington at home. Washington 27 NY Jets 23
SEATTLE -7 over Carolina: Carolina will fall to 4-1 as they get the backlash from Seattle’s defeat in Cincinnati. The Seahawks’ defense cranks it up a notch and we can get some sleep in before watching the points-fest in Indy. Carolina 13 Seattle 31
BALTIMORE -2.5 at San Francisco: San Francisco can stick a fork in the Ravens’ season but are so poor that they’d probably pick up a spoon instead. Baltimore 28 San Francisco 24
SAN DIEGO +10.5 over Green Bay: The Chargers have only beaten the Packers once in 10 attempts. Will Green Bay ever fail to cover a double-digit spread? Perhaps. San Diego 21 Green Bay 27
NEW YORK GIANTS +4 at Philadelphia: Giants suffered alternate wins and losses at Philly on the last five visits. They are due to win. Easy, really. NY Giants 28 Philadelphia 16
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