Ben Margot/Associated Press
Buckle up for what looks like a wild Week 5 in the NFL. 13 of the 14 remaining games on the schedule feature a spread under seven points, which hopefully leads to some exciting finishes.
The downside to all the close spreads, however, is the difficulty in picking winners.
When faced with so many close games, it’s generally advantageous to favor home underdogs. This week, that list includes the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks. Obviously you probably won’t want to pick all of those teams, but it’s a place to start. Chances are at least one from that group pulls off an upset.
To help you through the rest of the schedule, here’s a look at the spreads for every game and a few of the most ingriguing matchups on the slate. Predicted winners against the spread are in bold.
Jaguars at Chiefs (-3)
Titans (-5.5) at Bills
Falcons at Steelers (-3)
Broncos at Jets (-1)
Packers (-1.5) at Lions
Ravens (-3) at Browns
Giants at Panthers (-6.5)
Dolphins at Bengals (-6)
Raiders at Chargers (-5.5)
Cardinals at 49ers (-3)
Rams (-7.5) at Seahawks
Vikings at Eagles (-3)
Cowboys at Texans (-3)
Redskins at Saints (-6)
Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Cleveland Browns
David Richard/Associated Press
The Browns may only have one win through the first month, but it is clear this team will not be pushed around any longer.
Cleveland has taken the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders to overtime, and lost to the New Orleans Saints in the final seconds on a missed field goal. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture a scenario where the Browns could be 4-0.
The biggest improvement in Cleveland has been the defense, which the team has heavily invested in over the past few drafts. Six of the Browns starters on defense were drafted by the team within the first four rounds of the last three drafts.
Although the Browns and Raiders ended up in a shootout in Week 4, the Browns defense held its first three opponents—including the high-scoring Saints—to 21 or fewer points.
Another advantage the Browns have right now is Baker Mayfield, who allows them to show some new looks on offense. With so many fresh faces on both sides of the ball, the Browns could catch the Ravens off guard—meanwhile the Browns coaching staff has become extremely familiar with Joe Flacco over the years.
The Browns are going to pull off more upsets this season, and this matchup with Baltimore looks like an ideal scenario for them to get another victory.
Prediction: Browns 20, Ravens 17
Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
In recent years, the Seahawks front office has frustrated fans—and likely Russell Wilson as well—by neglecting the offensive line. It’s led to a unit that has allowed the second worst sack rate in the league, behind only the Buffalo Bills.
With Seattle’s line struggling, the last thing they need right now is to square off against Rams linemen Aaron Donald, who has made a habit of terrorizing Wilson over the years:
Mike Cahill @PFF_Cahill
Aaron Donald in eight career games against the Seahawks: Overall Grade: 95.4 QB Pressures: 59 (7 Sacks, 18 Hits, 34 Hurries) Win %: 25.9 on 270 pass-rush snaps
Seattle is one of just three teams, along with the Cardinals and Bills, who have yet to rack up 350 yards of offense in a game this season. And they’re going up against a Rams team that is averaging 468.5 yards per game.
Unless the Seahawks defense can become the first team to solve Sean McVay’s offensive juggernaut, it just isn’t realistic to expect Seattle’s offense to keep pace.
Prediction: Rams 31, Seahawks 13
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints (-6)
Todd Olszewski/Getty Images
As expected, the Saints offense has been explosive this season. Drew Brees has led the unit to 137 points through four games, the third highest total in the league. However, the Saints will face a vastly improved Redskins defense on Monday night which could cause just enough problems to keep this game closer than expected.
The Redskins defense has allowed a score on just 20.6 percent of opponents’ drives, the lowest rate in the NFL. A season-opening win over the struggling Arizona Cardinals definitely padded that stat, but after holding Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to just 17 points in Week 3, this unit deserves be taken seriously.
Ginn and Michael Thomas have been the Saints only wide receivers with more than five targets this season. Rookie Tre’Quan Smith, a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft, could see an increased role in Ginn’s absence.
It would be hard to pick against the Saints straight-up, but it’s equally difficult to justify giving six points against the spread considering Ginn’s injury and the Redskins defensive success. Assuming Washington is able to slow down Brees, this could be a game that is both closer and lower scoring than expected.
Prediction: Saints 24, Redskins, 20