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Will NFL home teams begin to put it together this week? That certainly wasn’t the case in Week 5 as road teams again won the majority of the games and covered the majority of the spreads.
Home teams are only 34-43-1 straight up and 29-48-1 against the spread this season. Home favorites were 41-16 on the moneyline at this point last year, but they’re just 27-25 straight-up and a ridiculous 17-34-1 against the spread this year.
Recognizing that trend might have helped Bleacher Report NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski with their picks last week. Gagnon and Sobleski each nailed five of the eight road covers, and both went 9-6 overall as our gang’s consensus record crept closer to .500.
1. Brent Sobleski: 40-38 (9-6)
2. Brad Gagnon: 38-40 (9-6)
3. Gary Davenport: 34-44 (6-9)
Consensus picks: 38-40 (8-7)
Moneyline consensus: 52-25-1 (10-5)
Eventually, home teams will start to have more success. For now, Vegas could be adjusting. Only about half of this week’s home teams are favored.
Here’s how our experts have chosen to navigate those weird waters with their Week 6 selections.
Lines from Caesars as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 9.
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You might be instinctively tempted to take the New York Giants to at least cover a massive spread as an underdog against the New England Patriots. After all, dating back to 2004, the Patriots are just 2-3 straight up and 0-5 against the spread in their last five matchups with Big Blue, including losses in Super Bowls XLVI and XLII.
But the Giants are no longer guided by Eli Manning, which in most cases is a good thing but could backfire in this spot. Bill Belichick and the Patriots are 14-1 in their last 15 matchups with rookie quarterbacks, with nine of those victories coming by at least 12 points.
The last 11 rookie quarterbacks to face Belichick have six touchdown passes to 13 interceptions. Only three of those 11 completed 60 percent of their passes, and only one posted a passer rating above 95. Their combined completion percentage is 52.7, their combined passer rating is 58.7, and their average margin of defeat is 29-14.
Still, 17 points?
You also have to consider that the Giants are traveling to New England for a prime-time game on extremely short rest and that they’re in particularly bad shape with key offensive players Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard all out.
The Pats have won 18 consecutive regular-season and playoff home games dating back to October 2017, with nine of those victories coming by 16 points or more. They’re also 9-1 straight up and 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 prime-time affairs at Gillette Stadium, with seven of those victories coming by 14-plus points.
“Good luck, Daniel Jones,” Sobleski said. “You’re going to need it.”
Clearly, his colleagues agree.
Davenport: New England (-17)
Gagnon: New England (-17)
Sobleski: New England (-17)
Consensus: New England (-17)
Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Giants 10
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The Carolina Panthers are 4-0 straight up and against the spread in quarterback Kyle Allen’s four career starts, three of which have come in the last three weeks. But Allen’s numbers have dropped in back-to-back games, and the majority of our analysts are expecting more regression toward the mean Sunday at a neutral site against a division rival.
“The Bucs beat these Panthers just four weeks ago in Charlotte,” Gagnon said. “They’ve lacked consistency since, but the offense has turned the ball over just twice since Week 1, and that improved, opportunistic defense now has plenty of tape on Allen. I think the Allen-led Panthers are simply due to lose, and this is a logical spot.”
Of course, Panthers superstar running back Christian McCaffrey can easily take over any game right now.
That’s one reason to consider the Panthers, who do have a better record and are probably a slightly more reliable team altogether. But the Bucs appear to be equipped to limit McCaffrey’s damage. They did so when they held him to just 37 yards on 16 carries in Week 2, and their run defense ranks first in the NFL at Football Outsiders in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA).
You probably don’t want to invest heavily in this game, especially with such a tricky line. But it’s a good matchup for the Bucs, and they’ve had Carolina’s number of late. Play it safe and then hope Jameis Winston doesn’t mess everything up.
Davenport: Carolina (-2.5)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (+2.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (+2.5)
Consensus: Tampa Bay (+2.5)
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 23
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The Baltimore Ravens haven’t covered a spread since they destroyed the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. But during that stretch, they haven’t played anybody as bad as the 0-5 Cincinnati Bengals.
The majority of our analysts figure they’re ready to cover again while laying 11 points at home against an opponent that already has two 24-point losses under its belt.
“The Bengals are the perfect opponent for the Ravens right now,” Sobleski said. “After two disappointing performances against the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns, as well as an overtime victory over the depleted Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore can use Sunday’s meeting as an opportunity to beat up one of the league’s worst squads. Lamar Jackson and Co. shouldn’t have any problem slicing through the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense.”
Cincinnati’s defense is indeed terrible.
The Bengals have given up a total of 53 points the last two weeks to offenses led by Mason Rudolph and Kyler Murray, and they registered just one takeaway in those eight quarters. In terms of DVOA, only the Miami Dolphins are in worse shape. It’s easy to envision them becoming overwhelmed by the sometimes-unstoppable Jackson both through the air and on the ground.
But we don’t have a unanimous consensus because Gagnon feels the Ravens are still getting too much credit for that blowout in Miami. He points out that three of Cincinnati’s five losses have come by four or fewer points, including twice on the road against the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks (who are a combined 8-2). With the backdoor potentially on his side in a divisional matchup, he’s not willing to lay double digits.
Davenport: Baltimore (-11)
Gagnon: Cincinnati (+11)
Sobleski: Baltimore (-11)
Consensus: Baltimore (-11)
Score Prediction: Ravens 30, Bengals 17
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Before the Kansas City Chiefs were upset by the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans embarrassed the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, the Chiefs were laying eight-plus points for their Week 6 matchup with the Texans. Recent developments might scare some bettors off Kansas City, but they have also arguably given the Chiefs tremendous value as mere 4.5-point favorites.
That’s enough to get the majority of our panelists on board with the idea that Kansas City should bounce back against an opponent that hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency in recent years (or weeks).
“The Texans put up 53 points on the Falcons last week, and the Chiefs managed just 13 points while dropping their first of the year at home against the Colts,” Davenport said. “So of course I’m on Kansas City. The Chiefs have a good chance of getting Tyreek Hill back, they can’t be happy about what transpired Sunday night, and the Texans don’t have the ability to pound the rock as the Colts did. The Chiefs win a wildly entertaining game by a touchdown.”
Hill’s anticipated return could be huge considering the state of that offense, and it would make it much harder for Houston to copy Indianapolis and the Detroit Lions by challenging a depleted unit with a heavy dose of man coverage.
The Chiefs have also lost back-to-back games just once since December 2017, and it’s important to remember that Houston is only two weeks removed from a dud home loss to the Carolina Panthers. Don’t let the Week 5 results cloud all of that.
Still, Gagnon is again the lone wolf here. He notes that this line opened up above a touchdown, so you ideally already placed your bet if you’re on Houston’s side. But he’s still willing to go against his cohorts after seeing the injury-ravaged Chiefs lay an egg at home just hours after the Texans lit up the Falcons.
That’s worth keeping in mind, especially because those among this group picking against the majority are 89-85-2 since the start of last season.
Davenport: Kansas City (-4.5)
Gagnon: Houston (+4.5)
Sobleski: Kansas City (-4.5)
Consensus: Kansas City (-4.5)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 31, Ravens 21
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Practically the entire universe is betting on the Seattle Seahawks with a sub-field goal line in Cleveland, probably because practically the entire universe watched last week as Seattle beat the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football and the Browns were embarrassed by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football.
You’d think that would make Cleveland a high-value play as a 1.5-point home underdog, but our crew still isn’t willing to back the Browns against the red-hot Russell Wilson.
“The Browns’ up-and-down campaign portends a strong performance after another disaster, right? Wrong,” Sobleski said. “Cleveland isn’t facing the Sam Darnold-less New York Jets or a woeful Baltimore Ravens defense. Seattle is counted among the NFC’s elite with Russell Wilson playing tremendously. The same can’t be said of Baker Mayfield, who seems to be backsliding with each disappointing effort.”
And Mayfield and Co. haven’t had much time to recover and prepare, especially in comparison to Seattle’s prep time. Cleveland is coming off a short week and a cross-country flight, while the Seahawks are essentially hitting Ohio after a mini bye week following a Thursday night home game in Week 5.
It’s just not a good spot for the Browns, who will likely have their hands full trying to block Jadeveon Clowney and the underrated Quinton Jefferson up front and might not be good enough in run defense to handle Wilson, Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny.
Davenport: Seattle (-1.5)
Gagnon: Seattle (-1.5)
Sobleski: Seattle (-1.5)
Consensus: Seattle (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Browns 20
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While dissent-happy Gagnon continues to rob our gang of unanimous consensuses, the majority of our analysts are applying the “keep it simple, stupid” principle to Sunday’s matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Saints have a famous home-field advantage, but they’re quietly 8-2 straight up and 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 road games, while the Jaguars are a mere 2-5 with only two covers in their last seven home affairs.
Even without future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints are widely considered the better team, and they’re getting points (one, anyway) from Jacksonville here.
“No one expected a matchup between quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Gardner Minshew II when these two squads were originally scheduled to meet,” noted Sobleski. “But here they are, and both signal-callers are playing well.
“Bridgewater is playing a little better with the Saints winning all three of his starts. The record speaks to two things: Bridgewater’s efficiency and the roster’s depth of talent. The Jaguars don’t feature as complete a team, especially while Jalen Ramsey deals with an injured back.”
But again, no unanimity here.
Always be wary of where the heavy public money is going. In this case, the Saints are getting a lot of public love. It’s fair to wonder if Bridgewater and Co. are due for a loss after three straight wins sans Brees, and the Jags could be hungry to bounce back from a tough defeat at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.
We wouldn’t fault you for shying away from a bet against Minshew Magic right now.
Davenport: New Orleans (+1)
Gagnon: Jacksonville (-1)
Sobleski: New Orleans (+1)
Consensus: New Orleans (+1)
Score Prediction: Saints 24, Jaguars 21
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At this point, it’s hard to justify picking Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings in a big game against a winning opponent, especially when they’re laying points.
Cousins is 4-27 in his career against teams with a winning record. And after defeating the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets in Weeks 4 and 5, the Philadelphia Eagles have themselves a winning record.
With that in mind, our entire group of analysts expects Philadelphia to cover a three-point spread and win outright Sunday at the site in which they won Super Bowl LII.
“This pick is less an endorsement of Philadelphia than an indictment of Minnesota,” Davenport said. “I don’t buy that the Vikings passing game is suddenly all puppies and rainbows because it lit up a terrible New York Giants secondary. The Eagles are better at throwing the ball, and it’s going to take throwing the ball to win this game. The Eagles will do so outright, at which point we’ll have another week of infighting and drama to look forward to in Minnesota.”
The Vikings were indeed productive through the air in New Jersey, but they’ve been comically inconsistent in the passing game the last couple of years, and it’s clear they want to win by pounding the rock.
Unfortunately for them, the Fletcher Cox-led Eagles have a run defense that ranks fourth in DVOA. This’ll be Dalvin Cook’s biggest challenge yet, and he might not be well-supported by an unreliable quarterback and a shaky offensive line.
Take the points and run.
Davenport: Philadelphia (+3)
Gagnon: Philadelphia (+3)
Sobleski: Philadelphia (+3)
Consensus: Philadelphia (+3)
Score Prediction: Eagles 24, Vikings 21
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It’s safe to say nobody feels comfortable picking either the Washington Redskins or the Miami Dolphins right now, as the two winless teams are a combined 1-7 against the spread this season. But our guys don’t have a choice, so two of the three are rolling with a rested home team that is getting 3.5 points from a squad that just fired its head coach.
“Considering they’ve been outscored by at least 20 points in all four of their games, it feels ridiculous to take the Dolphins to cover as a mere 3.5-point underdog,” Gagnon admitted. “But it would feel even more ridiculous to back the Redskins as a road favorite tasked with overcoming a field goal and a hook six days after canning their head coach. The Dolphins have had two weeks to prepare, while the Redskins are trying to make a huge adjustment after their own dumpster-fire-like stretch.”
That stretch for Washington includes four consecutive double-digit losses, with three of those defeats coming at home. They’ve been outscored 57-10 in their last two outings, the first of which came when they managed a grand total of eight first downs (the second-lowest total in an NFL game this season) against the New York Giants’ 30th-ranked defense.
Yeah, Washington looks completely defeated, but Miami doesn’t even appear to be interested in winning. The Redskins are still the better team on paper, and it’s entirely possible they’ll get a bump from new interim head coach Bill Callahan.
It probably makes sense that we lack a unanimous consensus on this one. Stay away, folks.
Davenport: Washington (-3.5)
Gagnon: Miami (+3.5)
Sobleski: Miami (+3.5)
Consensus: Miami (+3.5)
Score Prediction: Dolphins 21, Redskins 20
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A lot of bettors have lost trust in the Atlanta Falcons, who are a league-worst 6-15 against the spread since the start of the 2018 season and have sunk to 1-4 straight up this year. Oddsmakers might be accounting for that with Atlanta laying less than a field goal against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, and the public has bit by betting heavily on the Falcons.
The majority of our analysts aren’t buying it.
“You wanna beat Kyler Murray and the Cardinals on the road?” Gagnon said. “Apply pressure on defense. Murray has been significantly more effective with a clean pocket, and Atlanta’s problem is it doesn’t have much of a pass rush. In fact, it doesn’t have much of a defense at all. Outside of a Week 2 home game against the Philadelphia Eagles in which they recorded three takeaways and three sacks, they have just one takeaway and two sacks this entire season.
“The Cards defense isn’t special but has avoided embarrassment most of the year, and Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs can get to Matt Ryan behind a mediocre Atlanta offensive line. This is quite simply a bad matchup for the Falcons, who remain immensely overrated.”
But Davenport is rolling with the Falcons. And while he’s struggled this season, the law of averages says he’s due. It’s also worth noting that he hammered his two colleagues with a 133-116-7 record ATS in 2018.
Nobody can rule out a bounce-back game from an Atlanta team that has a core with Super Bowl pedigree, especially against a novice Arizona squad.
Davenport: Atlanta (-2.5)
Gagnon: Arizona (+2.5)
Sobleski: Arizona (+2.5)
Consensus: Arizona (+2.5)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 27, Falcons 24
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There’s naturally a lot of hype surrounding the 4-0 San Francisco 49ers right now, but they’re banged up and potentially low on gas following an intense prime-time victory over the Cleveland Browns. On short rest against a familiar and experienced Los Angeles Rams team on extra rest, they’ll have to fight to avoid their first loss of 2019.
The majority of our experts don’t feel they’ll have enough to keep it particularly close and are willing to lay three points with the Rams.
“Given my record picking games this year, this probably means the 49ers will blow the Rams out of the Coliseum and open up a three-game lead in the division over the defending NFC champions,” Davenport confessed. “But the Rams were a missed Greg Zuerlein kick from winning in Seattle last week and have a few extra days to prepare for what’s shaping up as a must-win game.
“The 49ers, on the other hand, are on a short week and won’t have the services of fullback Kyle Juszczyk or offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey on Sunday. Add in that the Rams have won three of the last four in this series (including both meetings last year) and I’ll lay the points in the expectation they get back on track.”
Remember, the 49ers were already without left tackle Joe Staley. It’s a lot harder for an offensive coordinator to scheme for one lost offensive lineman than it is for two, and the loss of Juszczyk—a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons—could be huge, as well.
Still, Los Angeles hasn’t been itself this season and was vulnerable in run defense against Seattle. That could be a problem against San Francisco’s top-rated rushing offense, especially if a revamped and opportunistic defense can generate takeaways against turnover-prone Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
It’s easy to see why we don’t have a unanimous consensus, and the dissenting Sobleski is the only one of our pickers with a winning record this year.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-3)
Gagnon: Los Angeles (-3)
Sobleski: San Francisco (+3)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-3)
Score Prediction: Rams 27, 49ers 21
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The New York Jets will get young franchise quarterback Sam Darnold back from mononucleosis Sunday, but that isn’t enough for the majority of our experts to back Gang Green plus seven points against the Dallas Cowboys.
“Yes, the Jets get Darnold back this week—provided he doesn’t contract chickenpox or rubella before Sunday,” Davenport said. “And this is a lot of points to lay on the road with a team that’s lost two in a row. But Dallas lost to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, who may be the two best teams in the NFC. The Jets aren’t as bad as their record (gonna miss the Luke Falk era), but they aren’t especially good, either.
“Dallas takes out some frustrations here, the Cowboys roll, and Adam Gase’s eyes bug out just a little further. Maybe after this season, Gang Green can fire him and hire Jay Gruden.”
To boot, while superstar Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley is still dealing with a groin injury, it’s easier to see Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott taking over this game.
But alas, the Cowboys have injuries of their own along the offensive line, and we’re again without unanimity because Gagnon isn’t willing to lay a touchdown right now.
“The Cowboys offensive line remains in somewhat rough shape, and Dallas isn’t the same when that’s the case,” Gagnon said. “The Dallas defense was also carved up by Aaron Jones against Green Bay, and with Sam Darnold back, Le’Veon Bell could have a chance to do similar damage Sunday. The Jets can absolutely keep this close on two weeks of rest at home.”
You might want to sit this one out.
Davenport: Dallas (-7)
Gagnon: New York (+7)
Sobleski: Dallas (-7)
Consensus: Dallas (-7)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Jets 17
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The Denver Broncos might be 0-2 at home this season, but those two losses came by two points apiece. With the talented defense seemingly turning the corner after a slow start, the majority of our analysts are willing to lay less than a field goal with Denver hosting the wildly inconsistent Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
“The Titans have covered both games in which they’ve been an underdog this year, and I hate laying points with a Broncos team that’s been in so many close games,” Davenport noted. “Denver is better than its record and playing at home. So I’m on the Broncos with all the confidence that the Minnesota Twins had entering their playoff series with the New York Yankees.”
Gagnon is more confident in his decision.
“The Titans will surely keep this close because that defense is so steady,” he said. “They’ve yet to surrender more than 20 points this season. Still, Denver completely shut down a strong Los Angeles Chargers offense last week, and I have no confidence in Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee offense. His somewhat decent numbers are phony, and he’s due for some turnovers. This feels like the time and place.”
But the Titans frustrate bettors because they fluctuate so much from week to week.
They’ve scored 17 or fewer points three times this year, but they also put up a combined 67 in road matchups with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons. Nobody would be surprised if they suddenly had a big performance in Denver, including Sobleski, who’s the dissenter taking points with Tennessee.
Davenport: Denver (-2.5)
Gagnon: Denver (-2.5)
Sobleski: Tennessee (+2.5)
Consensus: Denver (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Broncos 20, Titans 17
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Down to their No. 3 quarterback, the Pittsburgh Steelers are traveling three time zones for a matchup with the talented and desperate Los Angeles Chargers. The majority of our experts believe that’s a bad recipe for a cover, especially considering the Bolts are now laying less than a touchdown at home.
“The Steelers are now down to their third quarterback, undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges,” Sobleski said. “The coaching staff will do exactly what it did with Mason Rudolph by trying to protect the undrafted rookie with a run-heavy, short-passing-heavy offensive approach. Pittsburgh’s defense could keep the Steelers in this game, but the Chargers hold a significant edge with Philip Rivers and a loaded backfield leading the way.”
Rivers certainly has a big advantage over Hodges at quarterback, and he’s got more backfield support with Melvin Gordon III back and Jaylen Samuels out with a knee injury for the Steelers. With Pittsburgh’s season seemingly headed down the drain, it’s easy to justify backing Los Angeles under those circumstances.
Again, though, there’s no unanimous consensus here, and Gagnon is once more the culprit.
Ideally, Pittsburgh bettors were able to lock in the Steelers when they were getting a touchdown or more earlier in the week, but Gagnon still can’t justify giving up 6.5 points with an injury-ravaged Bolts squad.
Indeed, Los Angeles could be without Russell Okung, Mike Pouncey, Melvin Ingram III, Derwin James, Adrian Phillips and Hunter Henry. They haven’t been right this year, with their only regulation win coming over the lowly Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, the Steelers haven’t lost by more than four points since Week 1, and Hodges performed pretty well in relief of Rudolph last week.
Throw in that the Steelers will probably have the de facto home-field advantage at Dignity Health Sports Park and Gagnon could be onto something.
This might not be worth your money.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-6.5)
Gagnon: Pittsburgh (+6.5)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-6.5)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-6.5)
Score Prediction: Chargers 27, Pittsburgh 17
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Rick Osentoski/Associated Press
The Detroit Lions arguably outplayed the Kansas City Chiefs in a Week 4 loss and have had extra time to study and rehab ahead of a Monday night matchup with the rival Green Bay Packers. That has the majority of our panelists supporting Detroit with several points in their back pocket.
“I believe in the Packers more than I believe in the Lions,” Gagnon admitted. “But this is destined to be a close game. The Packers are coming off a big win, while the Lions have had two weeks to prepare for a familiar foe. That should allow Detroit to hang around with a team it has played well of late.”
In fact, the Lions have won four straight games against the Packers, covering the spread on all four occasions.
This is a different Green Bay team, but Detroit beat Aaron Rodgers when he was pretty much at his best last October, and it appears to have enough defensive talent up front to limit Aaron Jones on the ground.
Davenport is the contrarian here. He’s behind a Packers team that has improved on paper on a weekly basis this season. That offense might be finding a groove, and these Lions couldn’t even beat the Arizona Cardinals on the road earlier this year. Detroit has hung with Green Bay in each of the last four matchups at Lambeau, but the Packers could be due for a blowout win.
Tread carefully here.
Davenport: Green Bay (-4)
Gagnon: Detroit (+4)
Sobleski: Detroit (+4)
Consensus: Detroit (+4)
Score Prediction: Packers 24, Lions 23