If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know I love road underdogs. So far this year, I’ve found success in weekly player props as well. Because of my belief in road underdogs and my effort to practice more discipline, I have yet to bet on a road favorite. That ends with my Week 5 bets. Below, I’ll break down a handful of my favorite bets for this NFL weekend. Lines for all bets were found at either Draftkings or Fanduel Sportsbook.
Packers -2.5 @ Bengals
The Bengals are perhaps the NFL’s biggest surprise through four weeks at 3-1. Cincinnati outlasted a now-1-win Vikings team in OT, handled a broken Steelers team, and narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of the winless Jaguars at home. Regardless, they have found a way to win and sit at 3-1 as they welcome one of the NFL’s best bets to town. The Packers are 3-0 ATS since getting pounded by New Orleans in Week 1.
The Packers will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander, but the Bengals will likely be missing or have an extremely limited Joe Mixon. Despite the adoration for Joe Burrow, the offense runs through Mixon.
Rodgers should be able to exploit a Bengals secondary that has ranked in the bottom half of the league despite facing off against mostly mediocre quarterbacks thus far. Randall Cobb came alive last week and could be emerging as a legitimate number two option behind Davante Adams. The Packers are a real Super Bowl contender and I believe the Bengals are early-season pretenders.
49ers +5.5 @ Cardinals
It’s official. Trey Lance will make his first start as an NFL quarterback on Sunday. At this point in their respective careers, Jimmy G is probably a more polished passer from the pocket than Trey Lance; however, Lance will bring a new dynamic to the niners offense. Kyle Shanahan, an already-creative offensive mind, will have a new toy to play with in the run game. That should help San Fran keep Kyler Murray and the explosive Arizona offense off the field.
The betting market may never be higher on the Cardinals than it is right now. After a big win over the Rams, I’m selling Arizona high. They’ve looked great but not unbeatable. They needed a late field goal to pull ahead of the Vikings at home and trailed at half against the winless Jaguars.
Kyle Shanahan is 15-9 ATS as a road underdog with the 49ers and Cliff Kingsbury is 2-6 ATS as a home favorite with the Cardinals. Road underdogs have also been lucrative bets to make up to this point (63%).
Malcolm Brown UNDER 8.5 Carries
For starters, Brown has not eclipsed eight carries in any game this season. In a perfect world, the Dolphins would find a way to run the ball and chew clock as much as possible while the game was close. Unfortunately for Brown, that just doesn’t work against Tampa. The Bucs have allowed the second fewest rushing attempts to opposing running backs thus far.
If Brown were the featured back in Miami, I’d feel differently, but he’s dealing with a timeshare. His counterparts, Gaskin and Ahmed, might be better suited to find wiggle room against the Bucs’ front because of their speed. Thumpers like Brown have struggled mightily. See Damien Harris’ negative four yards on four carries.
A negative game script will not help Brown either. The Bucs are favored by 9.5 points, so we could see more of Gaskin and Ahmed working in the passing game.
Robby Anderson OVER 3.5 Receptions
Without McCaffrey, Anderson’s role changes in the Carolina offense. With McCaffrey, Anderson serves as a field-stretcher. Without him, Anderson eats up some of those short-yardage targets that CMC typically receives coming out of the backfield. Last year, CMC only played three games and Anderson led the team in targets and averaged six receptions per game. Now, Sam Darnold clearly favors D.J. Moore, but in one game this year without CMC, Anderson turned 11 targets into 5 receptions.
Anderson’s catch rate has taken a massive hit this year. It’s down from 70% last year to just 45% through four games this year. The biggest factor in that drop off is aDOT. Last year, without CMC, Anderson’s aDOT was just below 11 yards. So far this year, it’s almost 16 yards. Last week, on 11 targets, his ADOT fell below 13 yards.
The point is that Anderson sees more short-yardage targets without CMC on the field, and his catch rate should see positive regression because of the depth of target coming down. With CMC out again this week, Anderson will need to be involved.
Damien Harris OVER 70.5 Rushing Yards
The Patriots’ lead back burst onto the scene the first two weeks of this year. In the two games since, he and the team have struggled to get anything going on the ground. Through Week 2, Harris had 39 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown. Since, he has 10 carries for 10 yards. Game script and opposing defenses played the biggest part in putting out Harris’ fire the last couple weeks. Fortunately for Harris and the Pats, neither should be a factor this week.
As 8-point favorites, New England should be able to control game flow and run the ball like they want to. Houston is yielding five yards per carry through four weeks, 4th-worst in the NFL. There isn’t much competition for Harris on early downs, and his uninspiring performance the last few weeks shouldn’t cause concern as none of his backfield mates have fared any better.
I expect the Patriots to ground and pound their way to a victory, led by Harris.
BONUS: Trey Lance OVER 7.5 Rush Attempts
I’ll echo my reasoning for taking the 49ers with the points. Lance is Shanahan’s fun new toy in the run game and should be heavily used to keep Kyler Murray off the field. Last week, in half the game, Lance had 7 carries. That could be partially due to him being thrust into playing mid-game, but I expect plenty of designed runs for Lance with a week to prepare. The Cardinals have a strong edge rush which sets up well for read option plays and should make for some scrambles as well.
Without George Kittle, the 49ers receiving options are thinner than usual, meaning Lance may not have that security blanket to dump the ball off to. Instead, his security blanket will be his legs.