Broadway Best Bets: NFL Week 5

Note: Sports gambling advice is intended for recreational purposes only. All odds and lines are from William Hill US Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.

Just when we thought we were understanding the landscape of the 2020 season, things shift. And I don’t just mean the schedule…

After another positive test in New England Sunday morning, the Patriots-Broncos game has been postponed to next week. The status of Titans-Bills is now up in the air after a Titans staff member also tested positive Sunday morning. Tennessee was set to host Buffalo in the first Tuesday Night Football game since December of 2010, when the NFL moved a Vikings-Eagles game from Sunday night due to a potential blizzard in Philadelphia. We’ll see if that changes.

Quick note about score totals: the over is now 37-26 this season, with Week 4’s closing totals coming in as the highest average for a single week in the last 35 years (according to ESPN’s Stats and Info). Despite the totals continuing to rise, the overs are still hitting at a majority rate.

However, the unders are catching up. The over has not hit in any of the last seven NFL games to go final. Last week’s Rams-Giants finished 17-9 (26) with a closing total of 50; Colts-Bears 19-11 (30) fell short of 43; Bills-Raiders pushed the 53 line at 30-23 (53); Eagles-Niners 25-20 (45) fell short of 45.5; Chiefs-Patriots 26-10 (36) fell short of 49.5; Packers-Falcons 30-16 (46) fell short of 56.5, and finally, Thursday night’s Tampa Bay-Chicago game was below the total of 44.5 with it’s 20-19 (39) final.

These totals aren’t correcting the way a coin-flip would with a 50-50 chance. The overs are failing to hit because oddsmakers are continuing to adjust lines upward. The public enjoys betting overs more in general (us humans like points, it’s why we like fantasy football, and we’d rather root for the points than the boring low-scoring game).

Right now, the public knows overs are hitting, so they’re betting overs even more frequently than normal, despite the fact that lines are again rising to historic totals in Week 5.

I have an inkling we could see a massive “correction” in the point total wagers this weekend, so I will be leaning towards the under in most matchups. That’s my overall betting nugget for the week.

Anyway, we have five more “best bet” picks this week, so let’s get into it…

Broadway Season Record: 8-9-3

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (-8)

After a Sunday night Nick Mullens meltdown, the 49ers were upset by the Philadelphia Eagles. But Jimmy Garappolo returns this weekend, and Miami has a long road trip to San Francisco for this game. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been up and down this year and struggled last week against the league’s worst passing defense in Seattle.

Meanwhile, no one has allowed fewer passing touchdowns this year than San Francisco. They are still missing some key players with injury, but I’m not betting against Kyle Shanahan coming off a loss (that very easily could’ve been a win). The Niners are a much better team than the Dolphins. The potential return of Byron Jones likely won’t help in slowing George Kittle. The line has already come down a bit from SF -9 so I like the value, and I also like the under in what should be a fairly slow-paced game.

The Pick: San Francisco -8

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns (Pick Em)

This line opened with Cleveland as a 2.5-point underdog and has since moved to a pick’em, meaning the money is coming in heavy on Cleveland. While Indianapolis’ defense has played at an exceptional level thus far in a season with not much defense, one cause for concern is the absence of former NFL-leading tackler Darius Leonard. The Colts’ defensive strength is their pass defense, but Cleveland prefers to run the ball and take the pressure off the quarterback. We haven’t seen much out of the Colts’ opponents this season, so it’s hard to gauge how good they really are.

While I’m leaning towards the Browns to win the game, my best bet is going to be on the point total. Bucking the league-wide trend, the Colts’ last three games have gone under the total. We saw the Browns get in a shoot-out against the Cowboys and Bengals, but the Colts are not a shoot-out kind of team, and the Browns would prefer to control the clock as well. Indy is 30th in pace of play and Cleveland is 21st (according to Football Outsiders). Let’s make it four straight games for Indy on the under!

The Pick: Under 48.0

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)

I think America is too low on Carolina. I wrote about it in this week’s Power Rankings, but the team is improving week by week under Matt Rhule’s leadership. I think coaching is an underrated element when betting on the NFL, and while Rhule has far less experience than Dan Quinn, I’m actually baffled that Quinn is still being allowed to accumulate more experience as he should probably have been fired a while ago.

I’m taking the value both on the Panthers and against the Falcons while it still exists. I actually think the Panthers win the game outright.

The Pick: Carolina +2.5

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-9)

Jason Garrett returns to face a desperate Dallas team in a classic NFC East showdown. The Cowboys have found themselves in an early hole in every game this season. Why should this week be any different? The defense is not very good, and division rivals — especially very familiar opponents — usually play closer games than expected.

I just don’t expect Dallas to dominate this game, and I’m wondering what they’ve done to earn being such a heavy favorite. I lean towards New York covering, but again my best bet will be on the point total.

The Pick: Under 53

Lock of the Week

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-7)

This game has a total of 57 points! Primetime, Sunday Night Football, you know the public is going to want to get in on this action. And like I said in the opening, the public loves to bet the over.

I think this is a prime opportunity to exploit the market. Both teams are bottom half of the league in pace of play; Seattle is 29th while Minnesota is 17th. Seattle has been a sieve against the pass this season, but they’re actually sixth in DVOA against the run. Minnesota is the most run-heavy team in the NFL in terms of expected pass rate. You’re counting on Kirk Cousins to put up 25 points in primetime (assuming the Seahawks hit their implied total of 32) with a running game that could struggle to stay ahead of the chains.

We’re all in on the unders this week.

The Pick: Under 57

A quick reminder for anyone unfamiliar with betting lines. “Favorites” are listed next to a negative number, which represents how many points they must win by to “cover the spread.” Titans -2.5, for example, means that Tennessee must beat the Broncos by 3 points or more for bettors to win. Gamblers can also bet on the game’s “total,” betting on whether or not the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a pre-selected number of points.

“ML” or “moneyline” is not against the spread, just picking the winner of the game. Many people refer to the moneyline as “straight up,” but this can be confusing, because if you’re ever at a betting window in Vegas, a “straight bet” means you are betting on the point spread. Instead of saying “straight up,” you’d want to say “moneyline” when you mean to pick the winner of the game regardless of the point spread to avoid any possible confusion.

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