Underdogs, upsets, favorites and covers in the NFL
These are the NFL betting locks for Week 5. This week’s games include Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey and the bye-week-rested Panthers running over a Giants team struggling and in-fighting; Jon Gruden’s frustration continuing in his return to coaching; Chiefs wonderkind Patrick Mahomes trying to score at least 21 points on a dominant Jaguars defense; and one of the NFL’s most lopsided divisional rivalries continuing to be painfully uneven.
Panthers (–6) vs. Giants
Carolina comes off a bye week boasting the league’s top-ranked rushing attack (166 ypg) against New York’s 29th-ranked run defense (126 ypg). The Big Blue defense will have their hands full containing Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey on the ground. Offensively, the G-Men might have even worse issues. Despite having big names across the board, the Giants have the NFL’s 25th-ranked total offense and 21st-ranked passing offense — which has produced the third-fewest passing TDs (4). The lack of production may have started to spoil the mood in the locker room. “We just need to play with some heart,” Odell Beckham Jr. said. “How come we can’t throw the ball for more than 20 yards? How come we don’t attempt or try to throw the ball for more than 20 yards? Those are questions that we have to figure out, but for now I would say it’s our heart, it’s our energy.” To top it off, Carolina coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera is riding a three-game winning streak coming off of a bye week since 2015.
Chargers (–3) vs. Raiders
Last week, $100-million-man Jon Gruden won his first game in 10 years. But it was against the Browns… in overtime… in a game in which NFL referees have admitted to incorrectly taking away a fumble recovery by Cleveland with under seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. This week, the Silver-and-Black may have more fans in the stands than L.A.’s “hometown” Chargers. But the Raiders will be starting a pair of rookie offensive tackles in first-rounder Kolton Miller and third-rounder Brandon Parker. Defensively, Oakland’s 30th-ranked run defense (141.2 ypg) has allowed the second-most yards per carry (5.6) and league-worst 40-plus-yard runs (3). Bolts back Melvin Gordon is “so glad” he doesn’t have to worry about Khalil Mack, either.
Chiefs (–3) vs. Jaguars
K.C.’s first-quarter MVP QB Patrick Mahomes faces his toughest test against Jacksonville, a team with the top-ranked pass defense (164.2 ypg), total defense (259.2 ypg) and scoring defense (14 ppg). Through four games, Mahomes has thrown for 1,200 yards, 14 TDs and zero INTs for a 126.5 passer rating, while scrambling for another 53 yards and a score on the ground and taking only five sacks for 11 lost yards. Andy Reid’s Chiefs have the league’s top scoring offense (36.2 ppg) and a rowdy home crowd in their favor. The magic number is 21. The Jags went 1–5 last year when allowing 21 or more points. This year, they’ve allowed 20 points to the Patriots, 15 to the Giants, 12 to the Jets and nine points in a loss to the Titans, en route to a 3–1 start.
Ravens (–3) at Browns
The Old Jim Browns face the Zombie Courtney Browns in Cleveland. (Don’t forget: The Browns moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996, changed their name to the Ravens and have since won two Super Bowls, while the city of Cleveland was without football until being granted an expansion team in 1999 and are coming off an 0–16 season last year.) Baltimore coach John Harbaugh has an 18–2 record against the Browns and the Ravens haven’t lost in Cleveland since 2013. Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield has been hyped as “this generation’s Brett Favre or John Elway,” by Ravens DC Don Martindale. And he will need to pull off that kind of improvisational, rocket-armed magic against a Baltimore defense that allows just a 27.8 percent conversion rate on third downs this season, which ranks second league-wide.