Week 6 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. Last week was the rebound week that I had been looking for. I went 4-1 against the spread on The Nickel Package and split my other two plays on the blog to finish the week 5-2 overall with my recommended wagers. I like a lot of games on this week’s board, so hopefully the run can continue.
The Nickel Package Record: 14-9-2 ATS (60%)
As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast, which includes my top five plays in order of confidence for the week. Each week, Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me to analyze those picks and provide additional insight to the games I’ve selected. You can listen or download the MP3 file here.
Recommended Wagers Record: 18-14-2 ATS (56%)
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Friday Line: Chiefs -8.5, total of 40.5
Public Consensus: 67% on the Raiders, 89% on the over
The Pick: In my opinion, this is one of the tougher games to handicap on this week’s board. The Raiders look like a much improved squad. Offensively, Terrell Pryor has shown that he’s completely capable of moving the ball consistently and more importantly, he hasn’t thrown an interception in the past two weeks. Defensively, the Raiders’ stop unit just may be one of the most underrated in the league. If you remove Oakland’s game against Denver from the equation, the Raiders’ defense has given up just 287 yards per game. With that being said, Kansas City presents a really tough matchup for Oakland. The Chiefs have played the weakest schedule in the league to date, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re due for a decline in play. Kansas City boasts one of the best pass rushing tandems in the league with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the outside, and they shouldn’t face mush resistance in getting after Pryor, as the Raiders have surrendered 18 sacks through five games. If there’s one leak in the Chiefs’ defense it would be their run stopping, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue against an Oakland squad without the services of Darren McFadden.
I’m not sure anyone can be comfortable laying more than a touchdown with Alex Smith and his dink-and-dunk offense but the Chiefs’ defense should be able to keep Oakland’s offense in check all day. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a second straight upset from the Raiders. Chiefs 21, Raiders 13
The Wager: Oakland has somehow managed to cover the spread in seven straight games at Arrowhead, but I don’t think they’re getting enough points to warrant a wager this week. If the Raiders find themselves as double-digit dogs at some point I’d reconsider, but for now, I’ll look to other games this week. Pass
The Trend: The Raiders are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 meetings in Kansas City.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Friday Line: Eagles -2, total of 45.5
Public Consensus: 90% on the Eagles, 69% on the over
The Pick: Philadelphia will be one of the most heavily bet sides in this week`s action but I don`t see much of a difference between these two squads. In fact, I think the Bucs may actual be the better team despite entering this week without a win. Nick Foles gets the call for the Eagles as Michael Vick continues to suffer from karma. Foles is decent signal caller and looked impressive against the Giants last week, but it’s hard not to look impressive against the Giants nowadays. The Buccaneers’ defense is one of the league’s elite stop units as they’re ranked in the top 10 in the league against both the run and the pass. Darrelle Revis will completely erase DeSean Jackson down the field which will leave Foles with Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, and Brent Celek as his primary targets; not exactly the most accomplished group of receivers. The Eagles will undoubtedly try to give LeSean McCoy as many touches as possible, but the Bucs have a stout run defense that gives up just 3.7 yards per carry. On the other side of things, Mike Glennon, who looked awful against the Cardinals two weeks ago, should be able to move the chains against the Eagles’ porous defense. The Bucs will have had two weeks to prepare for an Eagles’ defense that is a complete atrocity so I don’t foresee any issues for Tampa Bay offensively, especially now that Vincent Jackson has had some extra time to recover from a rib injury.
The Bucs may be 0-4 for but those four losses have come against teams with a combined record of 15-5. They almost knocked off the Saints at home with an anaemic Josh Freeman under centre. Philadelphia won’t be able to move the ball and they can’t stop anything—not a good recipe for success on the road in the NFL. Buccaneers 26, Eagles 17
The Wager: This one’s simple. The wrong team is favored. The Eagles continue to get public love because people love watching their offense, but this is a horrible football team. With Josh Freeman out of the picture, the Bucs can finally start to focus on playing football, and they’ll be ready to go after their bye week. Buccaneers +2
The Trend: The Eagles are 5-15-1 ATS in their last 21 games overall.
Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens
Friday Line: Packers -3, total of 48.5
Public Consensus: 60% on the Packers, 85% on the over
The Pick: There are very few teams in the league that possess the type of home field advantage that the Ravens do. Baltimore is 25-3 in their last 28 home games, with two of those three losses coming against their divisional rival Pittsburgh, and the other coming against Peyton Manning and the Broncos last season. Sure, Joe Flacco has been complete garbage the last two weeks, but those games have come on the road where Flacco has always been a piece of trash. In the last three years at M&T Bank Stadium, Flacco has thrown for 26 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. The Packers will be without their stud pass rusher Clay Matthews so Flacco should have plenty of time in the pocket to torch an abysmal secondary that surrenders 8.4 yards per pass attempt. That number could be much worse if the Lions had the services of Calvin Johnson last week. If the Ravens can force a few stops, they should be able to pull off the “upset” here. Baltimore is second in the league with 19 sacks and should be able to harass Aaron Rodgers behind a weak offensive line all afternoon. The Ravens also limit opponents to a paltry 3.4 yards per carry so Rodgers won’t be able to rely on his running game to help move the chains; an issue that will likely lead to a bunch of third-and-longs in this contest.
Green Bay was in an amazing spot last week—coming off their bye, going up against a team they never lose to at home that just so happened to be without their best player. Even in a double-digit win the Packers failed to impress me and I think they’ll get a dose of reality in Baltimore this week. Ravens 27, Packers 20
The Wager: Dating back to last season, the Packers have lost their last four road games. And now they’re somehow installed as a road favorite against a team that’s won 89% of their home games in the last three seasons. Huh? This is Baltimore’s only home game with a period of seven weeks, which makes this game all the more important to the Ravens. Ravens +3
The Trend: The Packers are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 road games against a team with a winning home record.
Detroit Lions @ Cleveland Browns
Friday Line: Lions -2.5, total of 44
Public Consensus: 66% on the Lions, 76% on the under
The Pick: The Lions were obviously at a severe disadvantage when they faced the Packers without Calvin Johnson last weekend, but I wouldn’t attribute Johnson’s absence as the sole reason for the loss. The fact of the matter remains that Detroit is just a horrible road team and that’s just not something that changes overnight. The Lions hit the road once again this week to take on a solid defense that’s coming off of extra rest. I don’t like their chances. For starters, the Packers were able to sack Matt Stafford five times last week, so a far superior Browns’ pass rush should be able to tee off on Stafford as well this week. Cleveland can afford to blitz the Lions in this contest because Joe Haden can match up one-on-one with Megatron on the outside. Detroit won’t be able to take any pressure off the shoulders of Stafford with their running game as Cleveland is tied for the second best run defense in the league. On the other side of things, the Browns should enjoy moderate success against a fairly weak Lions’ defense. Brandon Weeden gets the start in place of the injured Brian Hoyer, and while Weeden looked horrible in the first couple of games of the season, he’ll benefit from finally having Josh Gordon in the lineup. Gordon missed Weeden’s first two starts due to suspension and should have no issues finding space in a leaky Lions’ secondary. Detroit also gives up an insane 5.3 yards per carry, so Cleveland should be able to run the ball effectively to put Weeden in manageable situations.
In the end, the Lions always seem to find a way to shoot themselves in the foot on the road. Detroit has already racked 37 penalties for 335 yards this season, and that’s likely to hurt them again this week because Jim Schwartz is too useless to correct that issue. With extra time to prepare, I think the Browns have the edge here. Browns 24, Lions 20
The Wager: Here’s another instance where I believe the wrong team is favored. This line implies that the Lions would be 8.5-point favorites at home against the Browns, but they were only 4-point favorites at home to the Vikings in Week 1. This line makes no sense whatsoever. Browns +2.5 if I have to settle, but holding out for Browns +3
The Trend: The Lions are 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games following an ATS loss.
Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings
Friday Line: Vikings -2.5, total of 44
Public Consensus: 87% on the Vikings, 78% on the over
The Pick: I’m really not sure how to read this game—neither of these teams really inspires much confidence. The Vikings are coming off of a bye week but they really don’t match up all that well with Carolina. Minnesota is successful offensively when they can get Adrian Peterson established in the running game, but Carolina has a really strong rush defense. The Panthers limit opponents to a measly 3.6 yards per carry and they’ll undoubtedly key in on Peterson this week. Matt Cassel with have to make some plays down the field to keep the chains moving. Cassel looked good against Pittsburgh prior to the bye week, but the Steelers aren’t capable of generating any pressure whatsoever, so he’ll have a much tougher time against the Panthers’ strong front seven. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they can’t just get by on playing good defense. At some point Cam Newton has to revert back to the quarterback that showed such promise at the end of last season. Newton is struggling mightily with his accuracy right now, and he’s become more of a pocket passer than the mobile quarterback that we’ve seen in years past. Carolina has been able to run the ball well this season which makes it increasingly more difficult to figure out why Newton is struggling so much. The good news for the Panthers’ offense is that the Vikings’ defense doesn’t really do anything well. Minnesota is in the lower half of the league in almost every measurable defensive category.
The Vikings are 0-3 after the bye under Leslie Frazier. They’ve been outscored 102-37 in those contests. To make matters worse, Minnesota has given up 27 or more points in all four games this season. If there was ever a game where the Panthers get back on track, this would be it. Panthers 27, Vikings 17
The Wager: Although I lean to the Panthers, there’s no chance in hell I’d be willing to bet them this week. Ron Rivera is proving to be one of the more inept coaches in the league and Newton just doesn’t look like himself. Pass
The Trend: The Panthers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games following a loss.
St. Louis Rams @ Houston Texans
Friday Line: Texans -7.5, total of 42
Public Consensus: 87% on the Texans, 64% on the over
The Pick: This game has blowout potential. The national media would have you believe that the Texans are awful right now, but the fact of the matter is that they’re coming off three straight losses to the Ravens (Super Bowl Champions), Seahawks, and 49ers. Those are three pretty solid teams. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Rams are not a solid team. A blowout win over the Jaguars only proves that Jacksonville is one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL; not that St. Louis is back on track. Matt Schaub has thrown pick sixes in four straight contests but that’s likely to end this week against a pedestrian Rams’ secondary. The Rams boasted a very solid pass rush a year ago, but they’ve managed just 11 sacks through five games this season so Schaub should have time to locate his targets down the field. More importantly though, the Texans should have no problems carving up the Rams’ rush defense. St. Louis gives up a whopping 4.6 yards per carry which means they don’t have much of a chance of slowing down Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Meanwhile, Sam Bradford just doesn’t have what it takes to win on the road in the NFL. The Rams have been slaughtered by the Falcons and Cowboys while Bradford continues to try to dink and dunk his way downfield. Bradford has taken 13 sacks in the last three weeks and things aren’t going to improve against a relentless Texans’ pass rush.
St. Louis may picked up the win last weekend but they were outgained 363-351 in yardage by the lowly Jaguars. That’s not a good sign heading into a matchup against a team that has something to prove. Texans 28, Rams 10
The Wager: Sam Bradford has a very dubious record against good pass rushing teams. Over the last three years, Bradford has taken three or more sacks on the road nine times, and the Rams have averaged only nine points per game in that sample. I really think the Texans should be double-digit favorites here. Texans -7 (available at BetUS and BetOnline), I’m comfortable with Texans -7.5 as well
The Trend: The Texans are 8-4 ATS as favorites after two or more consecutive losses.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Jets
Friday Line: Jets -1.5, total of 41
Public Consensus: 70% on the Jets, 80% on the over
The Pick: The Steelers aren’t a very good football team but this figures to be a good opportunity for them to pull out their first win of the season. For starters, they’re going up against a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith. Pittsburgh’s legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 17-2 in his coaching career against rookie quarterbacks, and this time around he’s had a full two weeks to prepare. Smith looked awesome against the Falcons on Monday night, but let’s not forget that he has an insane 11 turnovers in five games this season. Pittsburgh has actually played a lot better in their last couple of games but they’ve dropped both contests thanks to being -7 in the turnover department. If they can get into the green in turnover differential this week, they’ll have a good shot of pulling the upset. The Steelers will have also had a couple of weeks to fine tune their offense. Statistically, the Jets have one of the best defenses in the league but it’s important to note that they’ve played the Bills, Titans, and Bucs, all of whom have pretty awful offenses. The Steelers averaged 447 yards per game in their last two contests before the bye, so they’re definitely capable of moving the ball in this matchup.
The Steelers season is essentially on the line here. It’s already looking grim but a loss this week would realistically end any postseason hopes that they may have had. Pittsburgh has won their last five games coming off of a bye week, holding their opponents to under 11 points per game in that span. With the extra rest and the Jets coming off of a short week, I’ll take the road team. Steelers 23, Jets 16
The Wager: This will probably be the best spot that you’ll get with the Steelers all season but I still can’t pull the trigger with them. This Pittsburgh team is nowhere close to that of years past, and subsequently, a lot of past trends are irrelevant here. Pass
The Trend: The Jets are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games against a team with a losing record.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills
Friday Line: Bengals -7, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 51% on the Bengals, 54% on the over
The Pick: Jeff Tuel showed that his last name can be used as an adjective to describe him in last week’s loss to the Browns, so it’s Thad Lewis time in Buffalo. Lewis made one start last season in Week 17 against the Steelers and actually performed fairly well, but he’ll be thrust into the fire against one of the league’s better defenses this week. The good news for the Bills is that the Bengals have a mediocre run defense, which should allow Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to pick up yardage on the ground and put Lewis in manageable situations all afternoon. Buffalo needs to minimize the number of pass attempts from Lewis because Cincinnati has a solid pass rush, as evidenced in their harassment of Tom Brady last week. Lewis isn’t the only question mark at quarterback in this game though; Andy Dalton has regressed enormously since last season. Dalton’s decision making has been extremely questionable in recent weeks and the former second round pick has managed only five touchdowns in five games this season. The Bills’ secondary has been abomination this year but Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore are both expected back this week which should help shore up that unit. Buffalo is also pretty strong at defending the run which is extremely important when playing against a Bengals’ offense that loves pounding the rock.
The Bengals already suffered a massive letdown this season when they lost at Cleveland after beating Green Bay at home. History might repeat itself this week. The Bengals disposed of the Patriots at home last week and now hit the road to battle an inferior opponent that actually matches up pretty well against them. Upset alert. Bills 16, Bengals 13
The Wager: I have the Bills winning outright here and they’re getting seven points at home, so I’m obviously going to take them this week. Until Andy Dalton proves that he’s capable of moving the ball consistently, I’ll continue to fade the Bengals when they’re laying points. Bills +7, pass on Bills +6.5
The Trend: The Bengals are 6-15 ATS in their last 21 games as a favorite of 3.5+ points.
Tennessee Titans @ Seattle Seahawks
Friday Line: Seahawks -13, total of 40.5
Public Consensus: 75% on the Seahawks, 68% on the over
The Pick: I won’t spend too much time here. Ryan Fitzpatrick was pretty awful last week against the Chiefs, so I can’t imagine things will improve against a stout Seahawks’ defense this week. Seattle was burned by Andrew Luck last week, but that game was on the road and Luck is a premier NFL signal caller where as Fitzpatrick wouldn’t even be a premier Arena Football signal caller. Even the best quarterbacks in the league have faltered at CenturyLink Field so there’s no telling how many times Fitzpatrick will turn the ball over in this one. It’s not like Fitzy can hand off to Chris Johnson regularly either. Not only does Johnson suck, the Seahawks boast one of the best run stopping units in the league. Tennessee’s only realistic chance of winning this game is playing some legendary defense. The Titans have a good stop unit but they’re weak at defending the run which doesn’t bode well for them going up against Marshawn Lynch and one of the league’s best scrambling quarterbacks, Russell Wilson.
This spread is bordering on two touchdowns for a reason. Seattle is nearly unbeatable at home and they should have their way with Tennessee in this one. Seahawks 24, Titans 6
The Wager: If there was ever a double-digit favorite that I was going to take it would be the Seahawks in this matchup. Unfortunately that’s just not my style. I know how successful double-digit dogs are in the NFL and I’m not too interested in betting against that trend. Pass
The Trend: The Seahawks are 21-6 ATS in their last 27 games as home favorites.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Denver Broncos
Friday Line: Broncos -26.5, total of 53
Public Consensus: 52% on the Broncos, 77% on the over
The Pick: This game isn’t worth my time. This would be a bigger upset than when Happy Gilmore took down Shooter McGavin in the Tour Championship after getting pasted by a Volkswagen in the final round. Broncos 49, Jaguars 14
The Wager: Are there people actually betting on this game? Pass
The Trend: The Jaguars are 6-20-1 ATS in their last 27 games after allowing more than 350 total yards in their previous game.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
Friday Line: 49ers -10.5, total of 41
Public Consensus: 69% on the Cardinals, 75% on the over
The Pick: I can’t remember ever seeing a team win by 31 points when their quarterback only completed six passes. That’s exactly what the 49ers did last week when they slaughtered the Texans on Sunday night. San Francisco was able to establish their running game and run all over Houston, but that success likely won’t be duplicated this week. The Cardinals give up a stingy 3.3 yards per carry, and those numbers were produced without nose tackle Dan Williams and linebacker Daryl Washington for several weeks. With the return of Williams and Washington, Arizona now possesses one of the most complete defenses in football. The Cardinals will shut down the run and force Colin Kaepernick to beat them with his arm, which may pose a problem for the 49ers. As is the case with many NFL quarterbacks, Kaepernick has regressed in his second year. Some of the young signal caller’s problems can be attributed to the lack of downfield options (Crabtree and Manningham on the shelf), but Kaepernick has also been much more hesitant in the pocket than we’re accustomed. Fortunately for the 49ers, they have the far superior quarterback in this contest. As I’ve continued to preach for the past few years, Carson Palmer is a heaping pile of garbage. Palmer has committed 10 turnovers in five games this season, and that turnover total is bound to grow against San Francisco this week. Andre Ellington has proven to be a huge upgrade at running back over Rashard Mendenhall but I still doubt the Cardinals can establish a running game against the 49ers.
This figures to be a pretty sloppy game. The combination of homefield advantage and not having Carson Palmer as their quarterback gives the 49ers an edge here though. 49ers 20, Cardinals 12
The Wager: I really want to take Arizona here. This line is way too big considering the Cardinals have a very respectable defense but I just can’t handle the heart palpitations that I’ll undoubtedly incur every time Palmer drops back to pass. Pass
The Trend: The 49ers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games against NFC West opponents.
New Orleans Saints @ New England Patriots
Friday Line: Patriots -2.5, total of 50.5
Public Consensus: 63% on the Saints, 87% on the over
The Pick: I always find it comical when the media starts writing off the Patriots. New England has managed to start the season 4-1 despite enduring some big injuries on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots were clearly in a tough spot last week against the Bengals, but I strongly believe they’ll return to form this week. With both Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski in the lineup (presumably), Tom Brady will finally have some semblance of weapons down the field. Brady always rebounds after poor performances and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. New England will also have the luxury of a running game this week; something they didn’t have against Cincinnati in ugly conditions last week. The Saints are dead last in the league in rush defense, surrendering an unbelievable 5.4 yards per carry. The Patriots are deadly when they can run to set up the pass, and I imagine they’ll be torching the Saints’ defense all afternoon. The Saints’ offense is one of the most dynamic units in the league but they really don’t match up all that well with the Patriots’ defense. New England is susceptible to opposing running games with Vince Wilfork on the sidelines, but the Saints just can’t run the ball. New Orleans prefers to move the ball through the air, but New England has a superb pass defense that surrenders just 6.3 yards per attempt.
This is a huge game for the Patriots. Everyone is writing them off after their loss to the Bengals and they’ll be out for blood in front of a national audience. It’s only Week 6 but the Saints have basically wrapped up the NFC South, so there’ll be less urgency on their end. Patriots 28, Saints 20
The Wager: Tom Brady after throwing for less than 175 yards: 26-5 ATS. That’s all you need to know. Patriots -2.5
The Trend: Tom Brady is 7-1 ATS as a favorite of 3 points or less.
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys
Friday Line: Cowboys -5.5, total of 52
Public Consensus: 76% on the Cowboys, 81% on the over
The Pick: I just don’t know how the Cowboys are going to rebound after that emotional loss to the Broncos last week. Dallas hung with Denver all game long but succumbed to the Broncos after Tony Romo threw a late interception that set up a game-winning field goal. Now the Cowboys catch the Redskins, a team that they’ve always fared poorly against, coming off their bye week. Washington’s defense is an absolute disgrace, but it’s important to recognize that they’ve had a full two weeks to try to shore up their problems. Romo will likely be a lot more cautious this week after throwing the late pick last week, and that plays right into the hands of the Redskins. On the other side of things, look for Robert Griffin III to get back into form. The Cowboys’ defense is awful as they’ve yet to adjust to Monte Kiffin’s new Tampa 2 scheme. RG3 has had an extra week to rest his surgically repaired knee and shouldn’t face much resistance from a Cowboys’ pass defense that gives up 285 yards per game through the air. Dallas is also pretty clueless when it comes to defending the read-option as the Redskins put up at least 28 points in both matchups with the Cowboys last season.
Dallas isn’t a very good team. Their only two wins this season have come against the Rams and Giants, and New York put up 31 points against them. The Redskins swept the Cowboys last season and I think they have great upset potential coming off of their bye week. Redskins 27, Cowboys 24
The Wager: What better spot is there in football? One team is coming off of a draining loss and one team coming off of a bye week, looking to get back on track. I can’t find a single angle to support Dallas in this matchup. Redskins +5.5
The Trend: The Cowboys are 3-10 ATS in their last 13 games against NFC East opponents.