We finally had some semblance of normalcy in the NFL during Week 4, as favorites went 9-7 against the spread, marking their first winning week of the 2021 NFL season. However, there were still many surprising results, including outright wins by the Giants and Jets and a victory by the Cardinals that left them as the NFL’s lone unbeaten team.
That said, things are starting to level out after a crazy start to the season. The NFL is still full of parity and underdogs will continue to pull off upsets on a week-to-week basis. But the better teams will continue to emerge the further we get into each season.
MORE: Full list of odds for NFL Week 5
We’re now a month into the NFL season and bettors should be excited at using the collection of data that they now have to influence their decisions. That entails keeping an eye on line movements, shifting odds, trends and injuries. The gamblers that do that will come out on top more often than not.
At (roughly) the quarter-pole of the season, it’s also OK to start taking the records of teams into accounts. There are still some pretenders disguised as contenders out there, but generally speaking, the teams that are 0-4 can be considered bad. The ones that are 3-1 or 4-0 can generally be considered good.
Of course, that’s just one factor in the analysis. There are still ways to spot overrated teams by looking at past results, personnel advantages and more. So, don’t just blindly trust the teams with the best record. It doesn’t always work.
Here’s a look at Sporting News’ best bets for Week 5 of the 2021 NFL season, including picks against the spread, moneyline bets, over/under wagers and some player props.
(All odds are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.)
Bills (+3) at Chiefs
The Bills have shaken off the rust after a slow start to the year on offense. Now, they will have a chance to continue their dominance against a weak defense.
The Chiefs stopped their two-game losing skid against the Eagles last week, but they still surrendered 30 points in that game. They are allowing an average of 31.3 points per game on the season.
Meanwhile, the Bills have been excellent on offense in recent weeks and are scoring an average of 39.3 points per game during that span. That includes two shutout wins over the Dolphins (35-0) and Texans (40-0).
Buffalo isn’t likely to keep that up against Patrick Mahomes, but they at least have the personnel needed to make stops on defense. They are forcing an average of 2.5 punts per every offensive score that they allow. That ranks first in the NFL. The Chiefs rank last in that category with 0.3 punts forced per offensive score.
If the Chiefs and their 22nd-ranked third-down defense can’t get the Bills off the field, then Buffalo will have a good chance to keep this one close and possibly win. As such, getting them as a field-goal underdog is a good value. They have the talent needed to stay level with the Chiefs even in front of a hostile Arrowhead Stadium crowd.
Patriots (-8.5) at Texans
The Texans played well in two games to begin the 2021 NFL season. However, without Tyrod Taylor, they have been completely lost.
Houston has failed to cover the spread in either of the games that Taylor hasn’t started after covering in each of the first two. Davis Mills has proven to be an ineffective replacement for Taylor and the Texans’ offense has sputtered badly as a result of his performance.
Texans per-game averages with Davis Mills starting
The Texans are facing a Patriots defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game (185) and the sixth-fewest points per game (17.5) this season. They just held Tom Brady to zero touchdown passes and the high-flying Buccaneers’ offense scored just 19 points.
Mac Jones has proven to be a solid starting quarterback so far and the Patriots are better than their 1-3 record would indicate. They would have beaten the Dolphins Week 1 if not for a late Damien Harris fumble and they very nearly beat the Bucs last week in a game where few gave them a chance to compete. Thus, they’re far superior to this reeling Texans team.
The Patriots should be able to win and cover against Houston. They have a 10-3 record against Houston all-time, but they have lost the last two meetings. It’s safe to say that Bill Belichick will want revenge for those defeats and will want his team to bounce back after a tough loss against Brady’s Bucs.
MORE: Joey Bosa rips “blind” referees for penalty call
Broncos (+1.5) at Steelers
This game figures to be a hardcore defensive struggle. The Broncos are coming off a 16-point loss to the Ravens during which they lost their starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. He may not be able to play in Week 5, but Denver may still be a solid bet.
The Steelers have struggled immensely so far this year on offense. They haven’t been able to score much at all and are averaging just 16.8 points per game this year. That’s tied for the fourth-worst in the NFL.
The Broncos have a strong defense. They are allowing just 12.3 points per game the second-fewest in the NFL, and they should be able to give Ben Roethlisberger some trouble this week.
Roethlisberger is dealing with an injured pec and now also has an injured hip. He’s 39, so those injuries could hamper his downfield throwing ability. His offensive line hasn’t played well this season either, so that will limit his time to make decisions and plays within the pocket.
Pittsburgh’s offense should struggle against Denver. Even if Drew Lock starts at quarterback and has issues of his own, the Broncos should be positioned to win this one, especially if they get back one or two of the offensive linemen that missed their last game (Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner). Feel free to trust them and to continue fading the Steelers.
Browns moneyline (+102) at Chargers
The Chargers are favored by 1.5 points in this game as of this writing. They are coming off back-to-back wins against the Chiefs and the Raiders, s it’s natural that they would be considered slightly better than the Browns.
That said, the Chargers have yet to face a defense like that of the Browns. Cleveland has allowed the second-fewest yards in the league and has limited each of its last two opponents to single-digit point totals. They have recorded 25 QB hits and 11 sacks during that span and may be able to take advantage of a weak link on the Chargers’ offensive line.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is on IR due to groin and back injuries, and that has thrust Storm Norton into action. Norton has allowed 18 pressures and six QB hits in 248 snaps for the Chargers. He ranks 69th out of 73 qualified offensive tackles, per Pro Football Focus. Cleveland will surely look to attack him with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.
Herbert may be able to negate that pressure by throwing quickly, as he has done this season, but he could also make some mistakes. And it’s worth noting that when he faced the defenses of Dallas and Washington earlier in the year, he threw an interception in each game and the Chargers averaged just 18.5 points per game. The Browns possess a tougher defense, as their secondary is getting healthy and they have one of the league’s best pass rushes.
Norton’s presence tilts this matchup slightly in the Browns’ favor. Getting them at slightly better than even odds is a worthwhile investment.
Bears moneyline (+205) at Raiders
This is a risky play, as the Bears a 5.5-point underdogs in this matchup. They’re also playing on the road in Las Vegas, which is proving to be a tough place to play.
That said, the Raiders are bordering on overrated. They have a record of 3-1, but they have some issues. They won two games in overtime and Derek Carr helped carry them to victory each time. It will be tougher to do that against the Bears.
The Bears have one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. They are averaging a league-high 3.8 sacks per game, and as Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa explained after Los Angeles’ “Monday Night Football” win, Carr doesn’t exactly do well under pressure.
“We knew once we hit him a few times, he really gets shook,” Bosa said. “And you saw on [Christian Covington’s] sack, he was pretty much curling into a ball before we even got back there. Great dude, great player…but we know once you get pressure on him, he kind of shuts down.”
Bosa is right. In fact, Carr has a career record of 2-13 in games where he is sacked four or more times. The Bears have recorded at least four sacks in three consecutive games and have posted a 2-1 record in that span.
Add in the fact that the Raiders have the worst run-blocking offensive line in the NFL and the Josh Jacobs and Peyton Barber are banged up, and the Bears look like a nice value here. If the moneyline is a bit too risky for your liking, betting Bears (+5.5) is a great alternative.
Patriots at Texans: UNDER 39.5 (-110)
This is a low point total, but there are a lot of issues with both teams that could make this a low-scoring affair.
As mentioned earlier, the Texans are averaging just 4.5 points per game with Davis Mills at quarterback. It seems unlikely that they will score much on a Patriots defense that just limited Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to 19 points, and that’s especially true when looking at Bill Belichick’s numbers against rookie quarterbacks.
Belichick owns a record of 22-6 against rookie quarterbacks and over his last six games against rookies, his defenses have allowed only 9.5 points per game. That includes a game against the Jets where they limited Zach Wilson to six points.
The Texans are in danger of another single-digit scoring day, so it will be hard for the teams to go over this total here without a massive performance from the Patriots. Mac Jones and Co. are averaging just 17.8 points per game so far this year, so even if they exceed that, they may only climb into the mid-20s.
Betting the under might not be fun, but if ever there was a game to do it for, this would be the one.
Dolphins at Buccaneers: OVER 47.5 (-115)
The Buccaneers have one of the worst secondaries in the NFL right now. It’s through no fault of their own. Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis have all been injured in recent weeks and the team’s depth just can’t keep up with the better receiving weapons in the NFL.
The Dolphins don’t have an explosive offense, but they do have DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki. Those three should give the Tampa Bay defense some trouble provided that Jacoby Brissett can distribute the ball to them.
Either way, the Bucs are allowing an average of 26.3 points per game this year and they’ve only held a team to under 24 points once. That came last week against the Patriots in a rain-drenched game during which Bill Belichick’s offense operated conservatively. The Dolphins and their strong pass-catching weapons could cause more trouble in this one than many expect.
The Bucs are going to have to win in high-scoring games as long as their secondary is banged up. Feel free to trust the over here, as the Dolphins are likely to score at least a bit in this one. And even against a tough Miami secondary, Brady will find a way to move the ball and get some points.
Player props will be added throughout the week leading up to games.
Zach Wilson passing yards: OVER 242.5 (-114)
The Falcons’ defense isn’t very good. They’ve struggled this year through the air and have allowed 11 passing touchdowns and 1,096 passing yards on just 139 passing attempts. Every quarterback that they’ve gone up against has posted at least 264 passing yards against them. This includes 290 from Taylor Heinicke last week.
Can Zach Wilson have a similar performance? It’s certainly possible. The Jets’ rookie hasn’t looked great during his rookie season, but he played three tough defenses out of the gate. He played against the Titans in Week 4 and threw for 297 yards against them. He is averaging nearly 35 pass attempts per game, and he figures to come close to that number again in this contest.
The game script here will likely favor Wilson throwing. The Falcons tend to get into shootouts because of their poor defense and competent offense. This could be a back-and-forth game in which Wilson will throw a lot.
If this is anything like Washington’s 34-30 win over Atlanta last week, Wilson will have a chance to eclipse 300 passing yards for the first time in his career. Betting on him to get at least 250 seems like an easy decision; so long as he avoids crushing mistakes, he should break this number.