Written By Billy Attridge
This week Covid-19 made its largest impact to date in the NFL, as the Steelers and Titans game was postponed. The Minnesota Vikings suffered the consequence of two missed practice days because of contact tracing, and we’ll go into greater detail on that in just a bit. The Colts and Bears are off to hot starts, and I’ll explain why the total in that game garnered attention mid-week. Our final game features two of the better defenses set for battle in Florida, so I will once again explore why the UNDER in Tampa Bay is the way to go. The goal is to find out what, but more importantly, WHY prices have moved. Before exiting, we always fast forward and look at FanDuel sportsbooks NFL Week 5 look-ahead lines.
Indianapolis Colts @ Chicago Bears 1H Under 21.5 (-110):
Indianapolis travels to Chicago in this non-conference matchup with the Bears installed 2.5-point underdogs at FanDuel with the total sitting at 43.5. Though the side would be an interesting break down (hello teaser leg!), we’re going to focus on the total. Books both offshore and local opened this total as high as 45 early in the week, and we’ve seen under money hit the screen after an initial over wave at 44 on Monday. Let’s start with the injury news. Both teams lost key offensive contributors this week with Colts rookie wideout Michael Pittman Jr. (compartment leg syndrome), and Bears running back Tarik Cohen tore his ACL. The Colts also get back one of their best defenders in corner Rock Ya-Sin, which should boost a defense that currently is #1 in overall efficiency. The Bears aren’t too far behind, ranked #6 overall in defensive efficiency, and that side of the ball for Chicago is relatively healthy. Switching to the offensive side, there are questions here for both teams. Despite both the Bears and the Colts playing two of the top 10 easiest schedules of defenses, each ranks outside the Top 15 in overall offensive efficiency, with Indianapolis 18th and Chicago 26th. Being fully cognizant that Nick Foles is starting this week and the Bears offense may have a little spark and expand in nature, no one knows Foles better than Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich, who no doubt will pass along tidbits to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. With some potential rain and wind in the forecast for Sunday, this number should tick down. The full game under at 45 was a true position, but the first half still offers some opportunity.
Minnesota Vikings @ Houston Texans -3.5 (-105):
So much to unpack here, but let’s begin with the biggest news coming out of the NFL this week. The Titans-Steelers game is postponed after 10+ positive tests came out of Tennessee’s organization. Obviously, Minnesota has been affected, as they have not been allowed to practice out of precaution. While it’s difficult to gauge the exact percentage this helps Houston, we must agree it absolutely does. Looking back at Week 4 look-ahead lines before games were played Sunday, the Texans were 4.5-point favorites? And somehow the adjustment is downward? Hmmm. Let’s look at schedule difficulty and see who’s played the more daunting schedule. Houston has faced Kansas City, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs and Ravens likely reside at the top of every pro bettors power ratings, and Pittsburgh is certainly in the Top 10. Meanwhile the Vikings faced Green Bay (28th in defensive efficiency), the Colts (easiest schedule in the league thus far), and Tennessee (outscored opponents by 6 total points). Adding to this, Minnesota’s secondary is riddled with injuries and now face the 10th most explosive pass offense in the league; this will spell trouble for the Vikings. Teams have been able to march up and down the field on Mike Zimmer’s defense, and that should continue this week. Another matchup to watch for is Houston’s defensive line against the Vikings offensive line in passing situations. Houston is 9th in adjusted sack rate, while the Vikings have struggled to protect Cousins, allowing 7 sacks and an 8.6% adjusted sack rate, good for just 25th in the league. I don’t have the Vikings power rated close enough to the Texans that this line would be fair, especially factoring in the practice schedule situation. For full disclosure, there is a battle going on in this game, as one group took Minnesota +5 Thursday afternoon. But at the current price of -3.5 (-105), I expect this line to close higher.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1H-Under 22 (-115):
We discussed the first half under in Tampa Bay/Denver last week, and while the number got crushed and moved in our direction, a blocked punt early and key 3rd down conversions for the Buccaneers sent it over (full game stayed under). Again this week, Tampa Bay’s full game total has been bet down from 45 to 43, but the first half remains above the key of 21. Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette are out, and slot receiver Scotty Miller practiced for the first time this morning in a limited fashion.
The Chargers will be down cornerback Chris Harris, who we’re big fans of here at Bet The Board, but hasn’t played to a level we’re accustomed to. Harris has struggled defending the deep ball, allowing 19.4 yards per reception over a small sample size. Additionally, numerous offensive starters are out for the Chargers as well. Starting lineman Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner won’t play, and receiver Mike Williams will also miss. Breaking down these two teams, the core strength of both is on defense, especially for Tampa Bay. They rank #2 in defensive efficiency, and Todd Bowles has these guys excelling in year two of his system. The Chargers haven’t been the elite unit we expected (#11 in defensive efficiency), but considering the loss of Derwin James, Melvin Ingram, and a less than 100% Joey Bosa, combined with the strength of schedule, I’m not going to knock Los Angeles too hard. One key factor that lends itself to a lower scoring game is the explosive pass defenses. Methodical drives don’t kill unders at the rate explosive plays do. Both Tampa Bay and Los Angeles are TOP 5 defending explosive passes, and with no Godwin for the Bucs and the Chargers in the bottom third in pass rate offense, the first half under looks appealing. The UNDER is very real here.
Week 5 Look-Ahead Lines:
Tampa Bay -3 at Chicago
Atlanta -3.5 vs. Carolina
Kansas City -11.5 vs. Las Vegas
New England -11 vs. Denver
Los Angeles Rams -9.5 at Washington
Houston -6.5 at Jacksonville
Buffalo at Tennessee (N/A – COVID-19)
Arizona -8.5 at New York Jets
Pittsburgh -7 vs. Philadelphia
Baltimore -13 vs. Cincinnati
San Francisco -8.5 vs. Miami
Dallas -11.5 vs. New York Giants
Indianapolis -2.5 at Cleveland
Seattle -9.5 vs. Minnesota
New Orleans -7.5 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
BYE: Detroit, Green Bay