The Godzilla is once again late on the submission of his NFL column, so Nate and I are relegated to an even deeper corner of the internet where Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson practice throwing the ball four yards downfield. If you ask him why he’s late on the column, he says he’s having “infrastructure” problems. I assume that has something to do with his bladder. Alas. We’re here to give you the hottest picks from two different time zones in a spectacular NFL Week 6 headlined by Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles in a Sunday Night doozy.
What We’re Reading
#NoPickNate and I (aka Mississippi Marxist, the Hulk of Handouts) follow a simple strategy for determining our picks: stare at the lines for hours, try to find advanced metrics that give us some sort of confirmation bias, and read. We read a lot of newsletters, articles, and film breakdowns of both college and NFL. This is important. A good handicapper must do three things well: watch the games; read about the games; and complain about the games.
Here’s what we’ve been reading this week.
Ted Nguyen’s piece “How Brian Daboll’s Giants are Maximizing Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and others” is a comprehensive look at how Daboll has turned around the Giants by relying on his personnel to dictate schemes.
Oliver Connolly’s newsletter, The Read Optional, is a great resource for all things NFL. Defenses are seeing a renaissance right now as many offenses struggle to find the explosiveness of years past. Connolly’s feature piece, “How NFL defenses are evolving to stop the boot-action explosion” is a terrific discussion of NFL defenses, which is terrific for anyone who likes to play the under.
JP Acosta’s blog, Establish the Fun, is one of my favorite reads. This week, he takes a look at our man Geno Smith and breaks down all the advanced metrics that have turned Nate and I into Geno believers.
Let’s get to the games.
All odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of 10/14/22.
|Thru Week 5 Records
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons (+5) (o/u 45)
Kickoff: 1:00 pm EST
Jack: The Falcons are still dealing with some major injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Cordarrelle Patterson is on IR for a few more weeks and Kyle Pitts is questionable for Sunday’s game at home against the 49ers.
The 49ers have one of the most elite defenses in the league. They play physical, dominate the run, and contain the pass. San Francisco owned the Panthers in Week 5 and lean heavily on their defense to open up the game for Jimmy Garappolo. Kyle Shanahan hopes his quarterback plays mistake-free football as they continue to maintain a stranglehold on the NFC West.
The Falcons are coming off a demoralizing loss to the Bucs in a physical game that had important ramifications for the NFC South race. They get the Niners at home, but I’m guessing they’re going to be a little too banged up to win this game. This line started at -6 and moved to -5, so the public likes the Falcons. And why not? They’re 5-0 against the spread.
I’m sticking with the under here. Atlanta’s defense has enough weapons to contain any big play potential, but the Falcons are going to struggle to score, especially if they can’t run the ball. I’m happy to get 45 here. This feels like easy picking. Pick: Under Total Points +/- 45.
Nate: I have an unusual hatred for the 49ers due to my proximity to so many fans. I usually find myself watching every game they play because that’s just what people want to watch. And I hate it. The Niners live on their elite defense, but the injuries are piling up in a big way all over the field for them. And the defense will be shakier with some key defensive players going down in the secondary and along the line.
I’m really hoping this lines will creep up to six by kickoff and I’m holding off playing it until then, but we’re making plays right now so here we go.
It looks like Kyle Pitts will be back for the Falcons which is absolutely massive for them. He opens up the entire passing game just by being present on the field, which is huge given the absence of their star RB Cordarrelle Patterson. I think he’s back and it opens up some options for Mariota and also helps to draw some attention away from rookie WR Drake London. I’m not quitting on this team.
I think they can be sneaky competitive in the NFC South, but to do so, they need to start pulling out some games against decent opponents if for no other reason than to prove to themselves they are winners. The Niners might be looking ahead on the schedule to a battle with the Chiefs next week, and the Falcons absolutely need to win this to keep any Cinderella hopes alive to crash the playoffs. I’ll take those birds here. Pick: Falcons +5
Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants (+5.5) (o/u 45.5)
Kickoff: 1:00 pm EST
Jack: The Giants are 4-1 and are coming into a home game as five point dogs to a Ravens team that has blown two big, fat leads to explosive offenses. Everyone respects what Brian Daboll has done with the Giants, but they rank first among wins above expectation (a favorite metric of many of the analytics guys). When does the bubble burst?
I think it’s this week. The Ravens should be 5-0. They blew two games to explosive offenses in the final seconds. The Giants are going to try and control the game with Barkley, especially since, per Football Outsiders, the Ravens are near the bottom in DVOA against the rush. However, Baltimore’s pass defense ranks in the top ten of DVOA against the pass.
Daniel Jones absolutely cooked against a very bad Packers defense. Even if the Giants can use Barkley to control the time of possession, Daniel Jones is going to have to make some big plays to keep up with Lamar. In a tale of two QBs, I’m taking the one who can throw. Pick: Ravens -5.5.
Smoke and Mirrors
Nate: This is a pretty standard spot for me to bet. Fade the team coming back from a long trip across the pond after an emotional win. The Giants absolutely can do no wrong right now, but this is, at it’s core, a very mediocre football team. They’ve thrived purely because they’ve managed to put an unusual amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Here’s the issue for the Giants: Lamar Jackson has been spectacular against the blitz this season. The Dolphins tried to blitz him early when they played and he responded by absolutely tearing them apart and throwing three TDs in the first half. The Ravens have been a little snake-but this season and have played unusually close games. A bounce here or there and they could be 5-0 right now.
Baltimore is better than their record and the Giants must be wondering if this is all a dream given their talent level. I’ll be pounding the Ravens here. Pick: Ravens -5.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) (o/u 42)
Kickoff: 1:00 pm EST
Jack: This spread stems from the narrative that Trevor Lawrence is back to his rookie season woes and the Jaguars crumbled under pressure. Yes, they lost to the Texans. But how many of you actually watched that game? Divisional rivalries can be weird. The Texans will get a couple of their rivals throughout the season. That’s football.
I thought I was a genius for grabbing this line at -1.5, convinced the public would see the stupidity in rating the Colts higher than the Jags. Every single metric still likes the Jaguars. If we can put any stock in these advanced metrics, then the team has a top 10 defense and a top 10 offense (both rated 7th by Football Outsiders).
The Colts metrics aren’t so bad either. They are lurking in the top ten in both offense and defense as well. However, sometimes the metrics fail us and the Colts are in that category. They don’t pass the eye test. Matt Ryan looks old. The line can’t give him any protection. Jonathan Taylor hasn’t been nearly as effective as last year. The defense is full of pro bowlers who can’t seem to step up when the moment matters most.
I love getting the points here. If Trevor Lawrence plays mistake-free football (big ask, I know) then the Jags can win this game. Pick: Jags +2.5.
I Can’t Quit You
Nate: I’ll say this every week, but my love for the Jaguars is unconditional at this point. When they lose, I’m disappointed in them, but I still love them.
The Jags owned the Colts once already this year, and this line feels like an enormous trap, but sometimes you just trust what you’re seeing and dive into the trap. This is a situation where wading through stats can makes things murky, but if you put any stock in Football Outsiders, which you should (we love Geno Smith!), then you’ll see that the Colts are the worst team in football overall. They also have the worst offense in football, and their stud running back, Jonathan Taylor, leads the worst rushing attack in football.
Matt Ryan, their missing veteran piece, leads the worst passing attack in football in what is a statistical dogfight with the hapless Panthers and Baker Mayfield in a race to the bottom. The Jags haven’t played well in recent trips to Indy, but these were two vastly different teams then. Jags have a solid defense and the Colts offense should look like they are still learning football fundamentals like they have all season. Call me a sucker, but I’m not gonna quit these Jags. Pick: Jags +2.5
Arizona Cardinals art Seattle Seahawks (+2) (o/u 50.5)
Kickoff: 4:05 pm EST
Jack: The wrong team is favored here. Please, please go read JP Acosta’s piece on Geno Smith. The Seahawks quarterback ranks in the top in advanced metrics (DVOA, CPOE) and traditional metrics (touchdowns). This is a quarterback league, so ride with the man who is putting up the numbers.
The Seahawks defense does worry me, though. Ted Nguyen notes that they are among the worst in the league in points per game (28.8), defensive EPA per play (-0.18), and third-down conversion rate (46.8). They also don’t pass the eye test. They made Taysom Hill look like Deebo Samuel had a baby with Patrick Nahomes.
I still like the Seahawks here, because I think Pete Carroll can scheme his way out of a bad defense. Kyler Murray is going to hit for an explosive play in this game, but I have to hope that the Cardinals will find a way to screw this one up. I feel good about taking the points. I like the over here too, because neither of these teams can stop anyone. Pick: Seahawks +2. Over Total Points +/- 50.5.
Geno, Geno, Geno
Nate: I love what the Seahawks are doing right now. They are a wildly entertaining combination of hilariously good offense and hilariously bad defense.
It’s an unusual combination for a Pete Carroll team, but here we are. Carroll has had slow defensive starts with teams in the past and they typically improve. And I’m thinking these numbers from Geno Smith are more than a fluke. He has a massive chip on his shoulder and almost any reliable metric indicates he is playing at an elite level.
The wrong team is favored here. Kingsbury typically performs poorly against good coaches, and this is one of those spots. Carroll has a bad rap, but the man has a Super Bowl ring. Arizona has the 23rd ranked offense in the league and even when the win it feels sort of fluky. Seattle sucks defensively, but are the Cards the team that exploits them? I wouldn’t count on it.
I like Seattle a ton here to win outright on the moneyline, but I’ll take them plus the points for this column. This is my favorite play of the week and it’s not even that close. Pick: Seahawks +2
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Rams (-10) (o/u 41.5)
Kickoff: 4:05 pm EST
Jack: I went all in on these teams in Week 5 and lost in a bad way. I should never have picked the Rams. Their offensive line is a serious mess and the Cowboys made me, McVay, Stafford, and Manhattan Beach look very silly.
The Panthers fired Matt Rhule, so either one of two things is going to happen: they’re going to overperform because they don’t hate their lives anymore or they’re going to implode immediately and the Rams will assert their dominance.
I don’t like either game. The Panthers can’t score and the Rams can’t block. Ten points feels tempting, but I’m not taking the bait. I’ll go with the under here. Nate can have the points. Pick: Under Total Points +/- 41.5.
Nate: I agree with Jack here on the under for exactly the reasons he points out.
This figures to be an ugly low-scoring game given how these two teams have performed so far. The Panthers absolutely cannot be worse without Rhule roaming the sidelines, and if anything they may get a boost.
The eye-test tell me the Panthers are the worst team in football even though their efficiency puts them at second to worst. That being said, maybe this team finds a little spark here. In a low scoring game, I’m always looking real hard at big underdogs.
It’s cliché, but it’s tough to cover if you don’t score. Rams are still living in the public mind as the defending Super Bowl champs, but their play has been lackluster. This one is a double-header for me. Pick: Under 41.5, Cats +10
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (+2.5) (o/u 54)
Kickoff: 4:25 pm EST
Jack: I’m not going to lay into the statistics for this game. This one is all based on feel. The Bills and the Chiefs are two of the NFL’s most electric, explosive offenses. They feature the two best quarterbacks in the league. The coaching is elite. The teams are rivals. This game is going to be good.
I love the Bills here, even though they are a little banged up on defense. The Chiefs play a lot of close games. They could have easily lost that Raiders game. I still can’t get the Colts loss out of my head. The Chiefs have some big questions on defense. They win, but can they beat the best team in football?
The Bills have a better chance of exploiting the Chiefs defense and containing Mahomes than the Chiefs have at stopping Josh Allen. I’m surprised I don’t have to lay four. Give me the points in a Sunday Funday dizzying game. Pick: Bills -2.5.
Nate: This is the game that everyone wants to watch and bet, and that’s why I think betting it is the least interesting possibility. In Week 1, I talked about how Josh Allen gets turned loose to run the ball more in meaningful games. That’s probably true here and it’s worth looking around for some rushing props on him.
This is pretty simple for me. The Bills just look like a more complete team at this point in the season and anything under a field goal is essentially just betting them to win. This game is all about numbers. If this line slides to 3 or 3.5, you have to think hard about the Chiefs, but right now, I think the obvious play is the right play. Take the Bills. Pick: Bills -2.5
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) (o/u 42)
Kickoff: 8:20 pm EST
Jack: When you run a gambling website with your best friend, you tend to gravitate towards the same game and the same picks. We think alike, read the same articles, analyze the same stats. That’s why we like to have the Godzilla in these columns, because he comes out of left field with horrible picks and somehow wins 40% of them.
We’re including this game, because we disagree on the outcome. The Cowboys defensive line will have trouble getting to Jalen Hurts, who typically gets the ball out quickly and can extend plays with his legs. The Eagles have one of the fastest-paced offenses in the league and, while the Cowboys sould be able to slow them down some, they may be gassed by the second half.
The Cowboys have to rely on Cooper Rush to keep them in a close game with the best team in the NFC. The Cowboys will look a lot like the Jags did in Philly: tons of mistakes that lead to a two score loss. The NFC East won’t look so sexy after Sunday Night. Pick: Eagles -6.5.
Nate: I do disagree here. The line movement indicates that Rush will start again this week, but I’m totally fine with that.
He’s done exactly what we’ve needed him to to win games. Here’s my big thing. It’s not a stretch to say the Eagles might have the most potent offensive line in the NFL, and they’re certainly top-3, but they also have four injury designations heading into the weekend for that unit. Even if they play, they won’t be at full strength.
This spells trouble against an absolutely nasty defensive line led by Micah Parson who rank first in pressures this year and second in sacks. I suspect this game will be decided in the trenches and I love the edge the Cowboys may have against a banged up offensive line.
Zeke had a bit of a down year last year, but two of his better games came against the Eagles. He gets up for these games and the two-headed monster coming out of the backfield might be tough to contain with Zeke and Pollard both performing at a high level. Cowboys find another way to win, at the very least, they stay close.
Take the points. Once Dak comes back we may not see this team as an underdog very often. Pick: ‘Boys +6.5