Week 5 of the 2022 NFL season kicked off Thursday night with the Indianapolis Colts pulling out a 12-9 victory over the Denver Broncos. Hopefully Sunday we'll get a little more excitement. We have several division matchups, culminating Sunday night with the Cincinnati Bengals visiting the Baltimore Ravens.
But what does all this mean from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and André Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz offer insight into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
What is your biggest betting storyline entering Week 4?
Schatz: There's a lot of parity in the league this year. Fourteen teams are now 2-2 (plus Denver, which was 2-2 before Thursday night). Don't let that confuse you into thinking all 2-2 teams have played the same. There's a big difference between Baltimore's 2-2 and Arizona's 2-2. It's reflected in the line, and you need to be smart about it in the way you place bets.
Walder: Just something to keep an eye on, but there has been a very slight shift in the balance of power between run and pass thus far this year. Designed rushing efficiency is at an all-time high in our data set -- which goes back to 2006 -- at 4.24 yards per designed carry. Yards per designed pass are down just slightly from last year (6.30 to 6.24). It's just worth keeping in mind as we try to forecast how often -- and how well -- teams will decide to run.
Marks: This season -- there have been 50 games within a single score heading into the 4th quarter , the most ever through the first four weeks of a season. Twenty-three of those games have been decided by three points or less and 31 have been decided by six points or less. The parity around the league has never been better, and if you have been teasing dogs each week -- you should be playing with house money. I'd say keep it rolling in Week 5.
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Rookie Kenny Pickett gets his first NFL start Sunday, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are 14-point underdogs at the Buffalo Bills, the largest they have been since the AFL/NFL merger (1970). The Bills (-14, 47) have struggled as well the past two weeks. Are you laying the big number or taking the 14 with a rookie QB?
Schatz: This is a close one, but if I have to choose, I'll take the rookie quarterback and 14 points. There's this feeling out there that the Bills' offense is unstoppable, and it really isn't that good. It's pretty good! But not unstoppable. Buffalo is 10th in our offensive DVOA ratings -- and Pittsburgh, even without T.J. Watt -- is 10th in defensive DVOA. The other side of the ball is a huge mismatch; the rookie quarterback against our No. 2 defense. But if the Steelers can keep the Bills to a reasonable number of points, there's a good chance the rookie quarterback can score some garbage-time points and bring us a nice backdoor cover.
Moody: The Bills' offense averages 412.5 yards per game, which is third in the NFL. It will be difficult for a Steelers defense without T.J. Watt to slow Buffalo down. The Steelers are giving up a staggering 383 yards per game. With Josh Allen under center, Stefon Diggs, Devin Singletary and other offensive playmakers, this Bills offense should have no problem moving the ball up and down the field and scoring a ton of points. The Steelers' defense ranks 26th in pass rush win rate. Pittsburgh will have difficulty pressuring Allen. The Steelers are averaging only 278.8 yards per game on offense, so head coach Mike Tomlin will be looking for a spark, but Kenny Pickett on the road will have a tough time going blow for blow with Allen. I'm backing the Bills despite the large spread.
Marks: I will be taking over 20.5 completions for Kenny Pickett. The Bills have the best defense in the NFL, but play zone coverage without blitzing on over 85% plays against the pass. They allow completions, but are great at limiting yards after the catch. The Steelers will likely be playing from behind in this game, meaning Pickett will have to sling the rock a lot on Sunday.
A key battle for the AFC North takes place Sunday night as the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens clash in Baltimore. Cincy has rebounded after an 0-2 start, while the Ravens have lost big leads in both of their losses. The Ravens are 3-point favorites in the game and +100 to win the division, while the Bengals are +190. Who do you like in the game, and who do you like to win the North?
Fulghum: I have always liked and continue to like the Ravens to win this division. Lamar Jackson is playing out of his mind, and despite the 2-2 record, this team has played like a 4-0 team for all but two quarters so far this season. The Bengals offense is struggling mightily to produce the explosive plays that propelled Cincinnati to the Super Bowl last season, and although the Ravens' secondary has struggled at times this season, I trust Baltimore to get back on track in this matchup as a team and take a lead in the AFC North.
Schatz: Give me Baltimore to win this division. We have the Ravens winning it more than half the time in our playoff odds simulation, making +100 still good value. They have clearly been the class of the division so far, despite those two close losses. They are third in the league in total DVOA, including No. 1 in offense and in special teams. We had the Ravens as the best team in the division coming into the season as well. Plus, they have the easiest remaining schedule in the division. Based on average DVOA of opponents, the Bengals have the hardest remaining schedule in the league and the Baltimore schedule is roughly average.
Snellings: I've been on record since well before the season began that I believe the Bengals will repeat as AFC North champions this season, and the first month has solidified it. The Bengals don't win in a way that is easily quantified by models. They don't overwhelm on either side of the ball, and they have a tendency to play to the level of their competition in either direction. But the Bengals' strength on both sides of the ball is exactly that ability to adjust to their opponents. Their defense in the second half of games is much stingier than in the first ... this was epitomized by their two wins over the Chiefs last season, where they held Patrick Mahomes & Co. to very few second-half points in a big comeback -- twice. And on offense, they rely on Joe Burrow's accuracy and moxie to make the big plays when needed. In the first two games of this season, the inexperience of the new-look offensive line plus Burrow's post-appendix-surgery rust were evident with 13 sacks, 3 passing touchdowns and 4 interceptions. In the past two games, as the rust has come off, it's been only 3 sacks, 5 passing touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bengals are trending up, and they will win the close games the Ravens have been losing to take the division.
This Sunday, I like the over (over 48.5, -110). The Ravens' offense has been nigh unstoppable this season, averaging 29.8 PPG against a slate of strong AFC East defenses. The Bengals' offense, as I just detailed, has come together with experience, and Cincinnati has scored 27 points in each of its past two games. The Bengals' defense is solid, but the Ravens' defense has been a weakness. Both teams should put points on the board.
What are the three most important things that our analytics say?
Walder: Let's look at three games FPI likes relative to the spread:
FPI still has some faith in the Panthers, which is actually quite a shock to me, particularly given that Baker Mayfield literally ranks last in QBR. But this is also about a lack of faith in the 49ers. Yes, they beat the Rams last week. And yes, they have Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback now, which is an upgrade in the model's mind over the uncertainty of Trey Lance. But Garoppolo hasn't exactly lit the world on fire either -- he's 27th in QBR -- and so FPI just isn't convinced San Francisco ought to lay this many points on the road.
Does anyone believe in the Giants? FPI absolutely does not. It considers Big Blue the 29th-best team in the NFL, even working under the belief that Jones will play this weekend. Similarly, it hasn't lost faith in the Packers despite too-close-for-comfort victories over the past couple of weekends. In general, this is about FPI placing a fairly heavy amount of weight on its priors and not seeing enough to dramatically move either team yet.
As disappointing as the Buccaneers' offense has been, their defense has been totally solid, ranking third in defensive efficiency (efficiency is expected points added per play, with garbage time downweighted). If we're betting on one of those units to change its level of play, the model is going to bank on it being Tom Brady's offense being pretty good going forward.
What is your best bet for Week 5?
Dolan: Eagles first half -3. The Birds are 4-0 straight up but haven't covered every game. The one area they excel at is the first half. Philadelphia leads the league with an average of 23 points scored in the first half. Oh, and get this ... Arizona is dead last in points scored in the first half with an average of four points. Eagles cover the first half.
Fulghum: Teddy Bridgewater -- aka the ATS Gawd -- is getting the start for the Dolphins in Week 5. Bridgewater is 42-21 ATS as a starter in his NFL career. That is the best mark by any QB with at least 40 starts in the Super Bowl era. He is 5-2 ATS as a road favorite, which is equally impressive, if not more so. The Dolphins, having played on Thursday in Week 4, have the rest advantage, as well. I know Zach Wilson led a fourth-quarter comeback against the Steelers, which is impressive, but I'm by no means convinced that he has made massive strides yet. Dolphins -3 at Jets.
Schatz: Eagles -3 in the first half. I was going to write here about how I've been driving the Eagles' bandwagon since the preseason and everybody else is finally climbing aboard. The Eagles are second in DVOA so far this season, while Arizona is 29th. That's not a surprise, as we had the Eagles far ahead of the Cardinals in our preseason projections, namely because we expected a decline for the Arizona defense -- which has happened. I was going to recommend Eagles -5 for the full game here. But Erin is right, the Cardinals are particularly weak when it comes to early scripted plays. So why worry about a backdoor cover in the fourth quarter?
Snellings: Giants +8 over Packers. The Packers have shown me nothing this season that indicates they should be giving eight points against any reasonable team. After losing convincingly to a solid but unspectacular Vikings squad and defeating the Bears, they've won their past two games by a combined five points over a Buccaneers squad missing all of its wide receivers and a Patriots team missing its top two quarterbacks. The Giants have been solid this season, if against limited competition.
If Daniel Jones (ankle) sits, then I withdraw this pick and my best bet reverts to the Bengals-Ravens over 48.5 that I wrote about above. But assuming Jones plays -- he was able to finish last game and log limited practice time this week -- then I like the Giants to cover.
Moody: The Bengals +3 over the Ravens. After a disappointing 0-2 start, Cincinnati has gained some momentum. An underperforming Baltimore defense should provide plenty of scoring opportunities for the Bengals. Last time these two teams met, Joe Burrow threw for 525 yards and four touchdowns. Additionally, the Bengals' defense is doing a good job stopping the run and limiting the passing game. Cincinnati has done well containing Lamar Jackson in previous games. Joe Mixon and the Bengals' running game should be in good shape as the offensive line is finally jelling. Furthermore, Cincinnati is the second-best team in the league at wearing down defenses through time of possession. It would also keep Jackson off the field. In my opinion, the Bengals will play well enough to cover the spread. Cincinnati is 7-1 against the spread in its past eight games following a straight-up win.
What is your favorite player prop?
Dolan: Joe Burrow over 273.5 passing yards. This bet almost feels too easy, as the Ravens rank dead last in passing yards allowed. The Ravens aren't terrible against the run, which makes me believe Burrow will be slinging the ball all game. He has hit over this number in three of four games, including two straight where it feels like the Bengals have found their groove again. I can't trust the Ravens' defense against the pass.
Fulghum: Matthew Stafford under 258.5 passing yards. The Rams have had significant struggles protecting Stafford this season against elite pass-rushing teams (Buffalo and San Francisco both sacked him seven times). Well, I'm not sure if you've heard, but this Micah Parsons kid is pretty good. The Rams continue to be limited offensively due to a lack of field-stretching speed to threaten the back end of the defense and an offensive line that is both injured and ineffective. Stafford might complete 15 passes to Cooper Kupp again, but don't expect them to net explosive plays.
Schatz: Let's go with Michael Carter under 31.5 rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins. Last week, the Jets finally moved to where we all knew they were going -- Breece Hall as the No. 1 back in the committee. Now they play the Dolphins, who have been a bit of a pass funnel this year. The Dolphins rank fourth in run defense DVOA but 31st in pass defense DVOA. I see this as a competitive game throughout, but the pass plays are going to be there for Zach Wilson, which means fewer runs, especially for Carter, now that he's RB2.
Walder: Elijah Moore under 45.5 receiving yards. I actually like Moore and think he and Garrett Wilson offer a bright future for the Jets. But there are only so many yards to go around, especially with Wilson at the helm of this offense (it's going to take more than one nice comeback to make me a believer). Between Wilson, Moore, Corey Davis, Tyler Conklin, Breece Hall, Michael Carter ... I don't think Moore can get the target share to justify this line. My projections expect 35.5 receiving yards from Carter, making him a solid fade.
Snellings: Derrick Henry over 103.5 total rushing/receiving yards. Henry has ramped up in the past two weeks, generating 143 total yards against the Raiders and 147 total yards against a strong Colts run defense. The Commanders are allowing opposing running backs to average 112.3 total yards against them this season, and none of those opposing backs has been of Henry's caliber.
Moody: Deebo Samuel over 55.5 receiving yards. With Garoppolo back under center, Samuel has once again become the focal point of the 49ers' passing game. He has had 15 targets over the past two games and produced 11 receptions for 188 yards. His advantage over all Panthers cornerbacks is significant. Due to Samuel's ability to create yards after the catch, he should easily surpass 55.5 receiving yards. In the past month, Carolina's secondary has allowed some impressive performances from wide receivers.
Marks: Christian McCaffrey under 53.5 rushing yards. The Panthers offensive line has not created open lanes for McCaffrey this season. He is gaining 10 or more yards on less than 10% of his rushing attempts. The 49ers allow a league low 2.86 yards per carry to running backs.