Beating the Book: Bills Roll in London, Bengals in Trouble + Full NFL Week 5 ATS Picks

Beating the Book: Bills Roll in London, Bengals in Trouble + Full NFL Week 5 ATS Picks

This article is part of our Beating the Book series.

Welcome to the Week 5 edition of Beating the Book!

To say we emerged from Week 4 unscathed would be an overstatement, but we battled our way to a 7-8-1 ATS mark on a slate loaded with tricky matchups. We also went 3-2 in the Circa Million contest, despite being personally victimized by what will henceforth be known simply as The Slide by Patrick Mahomes.

It truly felt like Mahomes crossed the first-down line and stared directly into my soul as he slid to the ground two yards short of the endzone (and the cover). We did finish strong with the Seahawks on Monday Night, but it's going to take a while to mentally recover from The Slide.

Anyway. We're always looking forward. Spirits are damaged but remain high.

Week 5 marks the start of bye weeks, so we're down to 14 games this week with the Seahawks, Browns, Chargers and Buccaneers idle. Looking at the board, only one game (Giants-Dolphins) features a double-digit spread, though the Lions (-9.5 vs. CAR) are knocking on the door. That Giants-Dolphins game carries a high total (48.5), but two more games sit north of 50.0: Eagles-Rams (50.5) and our highest total of the week, Chiefs-Vikings (53.0).

As will be the case every week throughout the regular season, we'll start with Thursday Night Football and go game-by-game,

Welcome to the Week 5 edition of Beating the Book!

To say we emerged from Week 4 unscathed would be an overstatement, but we battled our way to a 7-8-1 ATS mark on a slate loaded with tricky matchups. We also went 3-2 in the Circa Million contest, despite being personally victimized by what will henceforth be known simply as The Slide by Patrick Mahomes.

It truly felt like Mahomes crossed the first-down line and stared directly into my soul as he slid to the ground two yards short of the endzone (and the cover). We did finish strong with the Seahawks on Monday Night, but it's going to take a while to mentally recover from The Slide.

Anyway. We're always looking forward. Spirits are damaged but remain high.

Week 5 marks the start of bye weeks, so we're down to 14 games this week with the Seahawks, Browns, Chargers and Buccaneers idle. Looking at the board, only one game (Giants-Dolphins) features a double-digit spread, though the Lions (-9.5 vs. CAR) are knocking on the door. That Giants-Dolphins game carries a high total (48.5), but two more games sit north of 50.0: Eagles-Rams (50.5) and our highest total of the week, Chiefs-Vikings (53.0).

As will be the case every week throughout the regular season, we'll start with Thursday Night Football and go game-by-game, picking each contest against the spread. Our best bet will always be highlighted in gold.

Last week: 7-8-1 ATS, 10-6 SU; won best bet

On the season: 29-33-2 ATS, 38-26 SU; 3-1 best bet

Best calls of Week 4

  • It feels borderline-insane to pick against the Dolphins in this spot, especially with Jaylen Waddle emerging from concussion protocol, but the gap between the Broncos' defense and the Bills' is immense. I'll trust Buffalo's defense to put pressure on Tua and win a shootout at home.
  • We'll roll with Minnesota to eek out an extremely 2022 Vikings win. I can assure you it will be anything but comfortable.

Worst calls of Week 4

  • Houston can't run the ball on anyone, and I don't like the Texans' chances to keep C.J. Stroud clean against T.J. Watt. Steelers go on the road and win an ugly game to somehow move to 3-1.
  • If that defense shows up again, the Lions should win, but this one feels like it's destined to be a nail-biter. Green Bay has played back-to-back one-point games and is getting 1.5 points at Lambeau, so I'll default to the home team here.

Odds this week via the DraftKings Sportsbook.

Use the DraftKings Sportsbook Bonus Code for a risk-free bet up to $1,000.

Thursday Night Football

Chicago Bears at Washington Commanders (-6.0)

The NFL schedule-makers have done it again. They're deep in their bag this week, gifting us a Commanders-Bears TNF showdown for the second straight season. Chicago has been down extremely bad since Week 1 but somehow managed to sink lower in last week's 31-28 loss to the Broncos. As you may recall, the Bears led that game 28-7 at one point.

Meanwhile, the Commanders fell in overtime to Philly but should feel pretty good about sticking with an Eagles team that felt like it was heating up after dismantling the Bucs' defense in Week 3. Sam Howell carved up the Eagles' secondary and should be able to do the same to Chicago's 31st-ranked defense. According to PFF, the Bears grade out dead-last in pass rush, 28th in tackling, and 28th in coverage.

Washington is an anemic team capable of no-showing any week, but I can't stay away from the Commanders to win by a score at home.

The pick: Commanders 30 – Bears 23

Sunday London Game

Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills (-5.5)

The Jags are back for more in London, this time staying across the pond for two consecutive games. On paper, that should give Jacksonville a slight advantage, but they will not have the massive advantage of facing Desmond Ridder this week. Credit to the Jags for forcing a pair of Ridder picks (including a pick-six), but those turnovers made up for another underwhelming offensive showing. Jacksonville converted just 5-of-14 third downs, ran for 3.3 yards per carry and lost the yards-per-play battle 5.0 to 4.7.

Nick Whalen (right) takes in the Jaguars-Falcons game in London.

The Bills come in red-hot after dispatching the Dolphins last week 48-20. Since that Week 1 disaster in New York, the Bills have righted the ship and are back to looking like one of the three best teams in football. The defense, in particular, has been fantastic, racking up turnovers and sacks at the highest rate in the NFL. While losing Tre'Davious White is a big blow, I'm not convinced Buffalo will fully feel the effect of his absence against what's been a limited Jags' offense.

If Jacksonville can commit to running the ball instead of asking Trevor Lawrence to throw 500 2-yard passes, this should be interesting. But I'm counting on the Buffalo defense to overwhelm the Jags' offensive line and produce a comfortable victory.

The pick: Bills 30 – Jaguars 20

Sunday Early Games

Houston Texans at Atlanta Falcons (-2.0)

We begin the Sunday early slate with the Is Desmond Ridder Playing For His Job? Bowl down in Atlanta. Through the first two weeks of the season, Ridder did just enough to pilot the Falcons to a pair of wins, but the wheels have come off, and he hit rock-bottom last week in London. I'll set the odds at 3/1 that Taylor Heinicke plays at least six snaps this week.

Ridder aside, the path for the Falcons winning this game is clear: run the ball on one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. It's the Falcons, so that was probably going to be the plan either way, but this a plus-matchup for Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier.

With that said, the Texans' passing game has emerged as a real threat. C.J. Stroud is yet to throw a pick and is gaining confidence with each passing week. We're at the point where Houston has to be considered more than a plucky young team. Even so, I can't shake the belief that at some point Stroud is going to go through the typical rookie ups-and-downs, while the Texans' ultra-makeshift offensive line will eventually crack after back-to-back sack-less games.

I don't like this pick one bit, but I'm taking Atlanta to hang on and win by a field goal at the Jerious Norwood Dome.

The pick: Falcons 23 – Texans 20

Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions (-9.5)

This line opened at 5.0 before Week 1 and has climbed all the way up to LIons -9.5. It's tough to argue with the movement – especially after Detroit's dismantling of Green Bay at Lambeau Field last Thursday. Now, the Lions get three days of extra rest before welcoming the winless Panthers to Detroit.

For the most part, the Panthers' defense has kept them in games each week. That was true again in Week 4, when Carolina picked up Kirk Cousins twice – once for a 99-yard pick-six and again to stifle what likely would've been another Minnesota scoring drive. Still, the Panthers' offense remains stuck in the mud after finishing with just 232 total yards on 68 plays last week.

I don't love this number, but we're forced to make a pick without knowing Amon-Ra St. Brown's status. If he's out, I lean toward Carolina keeping this game around a touchdown. 

The pick: Lions 24 – Panthers 17

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-1.0)

There are a few worthy candidates, but I think this has to be our Nick Whalen Stay-Away Game of the Week. The Colts were left for dead against the Rams in Week 4 before rallying back from a 23-point deficit to force overtime. Tennessee's offense has struggled at times so far, but the Titans did (finally) get Derrick Henry on track last week. He went through a similar early-season slog last season before ripping off five consecutive 100-yard games.

On the Colts' side, the big story is the (possible) return of Jonathan Taylor, who's back with the team and went through practice Wednesday. The prevailing belief seems to be that Taylor will play Sunday, though it's unclear what kind of shape he's in or how much he'll be utilized.

Again, this is firmly in stay-away territory for me, but that's not an option here: We'll count on Good Ryan Tannehill showing up and take the Titans to grind out a low-scoring win on the road.

The pick: Titans 20 – Colts 17

New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (-11.0)

Thanks to Monday Night's implosion against Seattle, the Giants now hold the belt as the NFL's worst offense. The absence of Saquon Barkley hasn't helped matters, but the Giants' issues extend well-beyond their All-Pro running back. Coming off of the Seattle beatdown, traveling to Miami is a near-worst-case scenario.

Miami will be looking to get back on track after floundering in Buffalo last week and should be able to move the ball at will on a defense that ranks 27th in EPA, 29th against the pass and 24th in yards per play. Through four weeks, New York is yet to force a turnover and has been out-scored 77-9 in first halves.

The public is all over Miami this week, and for good reason. Dolphins win big.

The pick: Dolphins 37 – Giants 21

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (-1.0)

This is another game in contention for the Stay-Away of the Week designation. Both offenses have struggled to an extreme degree, and Pats fans may be one game away from fully turning on Mac Jones. New England also lost two key pieces on defense last week in Matthew Judon and star rookie Christian Gonzalez.

The Saints slogged through an ugly home loss to Tampa Bay last week, putting up just 197 yards of total offense while committing three costly turnovers. Even without Judon and Gonzalez, it'll likely be another week of tough sledding against the Pats' defense.

This game feels like a complete toss-up between two struggling teams. The Saints have more talent, but the Pats have home field and a better coach. We'll lean ever so slightly toward New England, though the U40.0 is the better play. The Pats have scored 20, 17, 15 and 3 points in their first four matchups, while the Saints have gone under in 13 of their last 14 games.

The pick: Patriots 17 – Saints 14

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (+4.0)

It's almost never a good thing when a starting quarterback gets hurt and the conversation shifts to well, that might not be such a bad thing. But that's exactly where we stand with the Steelers. As of Wednesday, Kenny Pickett seems to be trending toward playing, but is a banged-up Pickett any better than Mitch Trubisky? Is Pickett at full strength even better than Trubisky? It's a fair question after the Steelers' offense no-showed last week against Houston. Even more concerning was Pittsburgh's lack of a pass rush against the Texans' banged-up OLine.

Baltimore's offense is yet to take off under Todd Monken, but the Ravens found success against a strong Cleveland defense last week and should get several key pieces back, including Marlon Humphrey, Rashod Bateman and Odell Beckham.

The Ravens are the side here, but history suggests these AFC North games tend to be close. We should expect Pittsburgh to put up a fight and arrive better-prepared on defense. As a home dog, Mike Tomlin is 17-5-3 (77%) ATS for his career. That's a daunting trend, but I'm not backing away from Baltimore, which has covered two-thirds of its games on the road over the last five seasons.

The pick: Ravens 23 – Steelers 17

Sunday Afternoon Games

Cincinnati Bengals at Arizona Cardinals (+3.0)

This is a fascinating matchup and a very difficult game to pick – mostly because we have no idea how to gauge just how healthy Joe Burrow's calf may or may not be. The hope is that Burrow makes marginal improvements without missing time, but the Bengals' offense desperately needs him to return to form. Entering Week 5, Cincy ranks dead-last in the NFL in yards per play (4.0) and 28th in passing EPA. Meanwhile, Burrow is dead-last in passer rating and ranks ahead of only Daniel Jones in adjusted yards per attempt. 

All of that would lead you to believe that the Bengals should be road dogs here, but there seems to be a lingering belief that the Cardinals' early-season bubble will burst at some point. This could certainly be the spot, but the Cardinals continue to play confident football, including rushing for well over 5.0 yards per carry on the year.

With Tee Higgins (ribs) looking questionable, at best, we're doing it: Arizona covers and wins outright to send the Bengals into the panic realm.

The pick: Cardinals 24 – Bengals 20

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams (+4.0)

After scoring on five of their first six drives to open the game last week in Indy, the Rams finished: interception, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt on their final five drives while allowing the Colts to climb back into the game. Ultimately, LA escaped with an overtime victory, but this team continues to be among the most difficult in the league to evaluate. If nothing else, the Rams have proven they'll be tough out on a weekly basis.

Whether LA can hang with the Eagles will come down to line play. Can the Rams' offensive line – PFF's 30th-ranked unit – hold up against one of the better pash rushes in the NFL? And can the Eagles' offensive line return to creating monster holes for D'Andre Swift after struggling last week against Washington?

My money is on the Eagles to win the line of scrimmage and put up points against a talent-deprived defense. Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford will make it uncomfortable, but we're taking Philly to win and cover.

The pick: Eagles 33 – Rams 27

New York Jets at Denver Broncos (-1.5)

Oh boy. The Broncos opened as 3.0-point home favorites and the number has gradually slipped to just 1.5. While the Broncos get some credit for rallying back in Chicago, they also looked like the definitive Worst Team in Football for most of three quarters.

Last year, it was the defense keeping Denver in games. This time around, the defense looks completely clueless. Allowing Justin Fields to toss four touchdowns and start 16-of-16 passing should be a felony. This week, the Broncos face their second straight very bad quarterback, but Zach Wilson comes into this game with something unforeseen: positive momentum.

While Wilson's costly fumble may have sunk the Jets last week, he played about as well as he's ever played for two quarters. On one hand, that's an encouraging sign for a Jets team in search of literally anything positive; on the other, it's telling that Wilson simply not being a disaster for a few possessions in a row counts as positive momentum.

I'm not ready to buy in on Zach Wilson positivity, but I do think the Jets' defense is the best unit in this game. So long as Wilson doesn't go out of his way to lost the game for New York, the Jets can ride Breece Hall and the ground game to an outright win. We're even predicting a weird final score. This has all the makings of a weird score game.

The pick: Jets 18 – Broncos 15

Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings (+4.5)

This game carries the highest total of the week (53.0) by a good margin, and rightfully so. While the Chiefs' offense is still warming up, KC is more than capable of taking advantage of a mistake-prone defense like Minnesota's. The Vikings have allowed the second-most big plays through the air this season while forcing only three turnovers. Conversely, the Vikings' offense leads the NFL in turnovers (11), coughing up the ball on roughly 24% of its possessions thus far.

With Patrick Mahomes still feeling out his pass-catchers, I expect Minnesota to get some stops and keep this game fairly close. But the Chiefs should be able to take full advantage of a defense that generates pressure on only 17.1% of dropbacks (29th in NFL).

The pick: Chiefs 28 – Vikings 21

Sunday Night Football

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)

I will hear arguments for Jets-Broncos, but for most this is the clear game of the week. Through four weeks, the 49ers have been the class of the NFL, dismantling the Steelers, Rams, Giants and Cardinals by an average of 17 points per game. No team makes things look more effortless than San Francisco.

In terms of pure talent, Dallas is on the Niners' level. This will be easily the toughest test of the season for both teams – but especially the Cowboys, who've thus far faced the Giants, Jets, Cardinals and Patriots. For those scoring at home, that's three of the seven worst offenses in the NFL. 

I do think Dallas shows up here and makes this a really interesting, back-and-forth game. But this is a significant level-up in terms of competition, so I'm not picking against the machine that is the San Francisco 49ers.

Dating back to last season, San Francisco has scored at least 30 points in nine of its last 10 regular-season games. For context, the Commanders/Football Team/Redskins have eight 30-point games since the start of the 2018 season (86 games).

The pick: 49ers 27 – Cowboys 21

Monday Night Football

Green Bay Packers at Las Vegas Raiders (+1.0)

We're in a holding pattern with this game as we await the status of Jimmy Garoppolo. As of Monday, he remained in concussion protocol, but there's optimism with an extra day that Jimmy G can return for Week 5. This line dropped from Packers -2.5 – perhaps an indication that Garoppolo is progressing.

Whether it's Garopollo or Aidan O'Connell under center, the Raiders get their shot against a Green Bay defense that showed very little interest in slowing down the Lions last week. The Packers' offense wasn't much better, but by the time Jordan Love and Co. woke up, the game was basically over.

I still have no idea if the Packers are closer to being a good team or a bad team, but last week felt like a major step back. The Raiders should be a much friendlier opponent, however, and the Packers have a significant rest advantage.

This feels like a three-point game either way, but I'll roll with the Packers to control the ball and avoid major mistakes against a Raiders' defense that doesn't create turnovers.

The pick: Packers 20 – Raiders 17

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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