NFL Betting Predictions: Week 5 Opening Line Report and Picks
When the NFL schedule is announced every April, you always see the Top 10 Games of the Year stories. And, regardless of site, they are essentially the same 10 games give or take one or two. Boring!
Me? When the 2017 schedule was released April 20, I circled one game immediately: Jets at Browns, Oct. 8, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland. Expected to be "Toilet Bowl 2017". Unfortunately, the Jets ruined this showdown a bit by upsetting the Dolphins in Week 3 and then winning again Week 4 in overtime against Jacksonville (must be a Florida thing). I assumed both these clubs would be winless entering this one. At least the Browns did their part.
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The loser of this still could easily earn the No. 1 overall pick in the quarterback-loaded/Saquon Barkley 2018 draft; the loser would have the tiebreaker over the winner if they finish with the same record. I honestly don't see the Jets winning again (barring major injury for the opponent) except maybe Week 16 against the Chargers, who will be well eliminated from the playoffs by then and going through the motions in a cold-weather climate - just like they did Week 16 last year in Cleveland. The Browns might be favored in one remaining game: Nov. 19 vs. the Jaguars, although Jacksonville looks much improved, so maybe not.
For what it's worth, the Jets won in Cleveland in Week 8 last year, 31-28. Matt Forte ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Current Jets starting quarterback Josh McCown threw for 341 yards, two scores and two picks for Cleveland, which led 20-7 at halftime. The Browns are 2.5-point favorites this time .
The third-most-likely team to be in the fight for the No. 1 pick next April is San Francisco, and the 49ers don't play either the Jets or Browns. The NBA passed draft lottery reform last week. Roger Goodell says there's no tanking in the NFL, which is flat-out wrong. But while most No. 1 picks in the NBA become stars, there are no sure things in football. I give you Eric Fisher, chosen No. 1 in 2013 by the Chiefs; Sam Bradford, 2010 by the Rams (solid player but far from a star); the immortal JaMarcus Russell, 2007, Oakland. Or Cleveland's last No. 1 overall pick, Tim Couch, 1999, Kentucky. Long story short: there's no need for an NFL lottery. Front offices might give up early on a season, but players don't. Seasons and careers are too short.
Here are some Week 5 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Patriots-Bucs), my in-depth Sunday matchup (I was tempted to do Jets-Browns before using it here; I'll likely go with Packers-Cowboys) or the Monday night game (Vikings-Bears) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Panthers at Lions (-3, 43.5): Carolina had one of the shocking results of Week 4, a 33-30 upset at New England. Graham Gano hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired. Cam Newton looked like a different guy than the first three weeks as he was 22-for-29 for 316 yards with three touchdowns and rushed for 44 yards and a score. It gave Newton 50 rushing TDs for his career, more than any quarterback in NFL history. Jonathan Stewart rushed 14 times for 68 yards to pass DeAngelo Williams and become the franchise's all-time leading rusher. Devin Funchess caught seven passes for 70 yards and two scores. Detroit bounced back from a crushing last-second loss in Week 3 vs. Atlanta to win in Minnesota, 14-7. The Lions had only 251 yards of offense but held the Vikings to 284 and had three takeaways; they turned two fumbles lost by the Vikings in the third quarter into 11 points. The only negative was that Matt Prater missed a 60-yard field goal attempt, ending his record-tying streak of 12 straight makes from at least 50 yards. His average distance on made 50-plus-yarders during the streak was 54.7 yards. It's the first meeting between Carolina and Detroit since 2014. The Pick: Detroit.
Titans at Dolphins (+2.5, TBA): It's Miami's home opener - its latest home opener since 1987. Perhaps Miami should have signed Colin Kaepernick instead of luring Jay Cutler out of retirement? A week after only avoiding a shutout at the Jets on the game's final play, the Fins were inept offensively in a 20-0 loss to the Saints in London. Cutler threw for only 164 yards and a pick. He also fumbled, but the Dolphins recovered it. It was the first time Miami was blanked since Dec. 22, 2013. Coach Adam Gase says Cutler remains his starter. The Dolphins are averaging 8.3 points per game this season and have succeeded on only 2 of 20 third downs the past two weeks. Tennessee was destroyed 57-14 in Houston. Marcus Mariota threw for 96 yards and was picked off twice. He became the first Titans quarterback with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Steve McNair in 2003 but injured his hamstring and didn't play after halftime. Needless to say, if he's out that would affect this line and it's why no early total. Journeyman Matt Cassel is his backup and simply not good. The Titans visited Miami in Week 5 last year and won 30-17. Mariota threw for three TDs and ran for another. The Pick: Miami if no Mariota; Tennessee if he plays.
Seahawks at Rams (-2.5, TBA): How about the Rams?! Sean McVay has to be the early leader for NFL Coach of the Year as he has transformed that offense into a juggernaut. They are 3-1 and lead the NFL in scoring following a 35-30 upset win in Dallas. Jared Goff threw for 255 yards and two scores (no picks), Todd Gurley had 121 yards rushing and caught seven balls for 94 yards and a score, and Greg Zuerlein kicked a career-high seven field goals. The Rams also started 3-1 last year before collapsing. I'm not ready to say this is a playoff team yet, but it's way better than the 2016 club. The Rams have topped 30 points three times after doing so once in 2016. Seattle was in a tight game for a while with the visiting Colts on Sunday but blew it open late. However, starting Seahawks running back and rookie Chris Carson suffered an apparent serious ankle injury that might end his season. These teams split last year, with the Rams winning incredibly ugly 9-3 at home. Case Keenum was their starting QB back then. The Pick: Seattle.
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