By Joel Wirth
This week, ELO and Vegas are mostly in tune. There are only six games with more than a point difference, and only one varies by more than a point-and-a-half. So, threading some needles, Week 5 will be a challenge.
Before we dive into this week, we, of course, recap last week. In Week 4, ELO and I both went .500 vs. Vegas. A step down for the ELO from Week 3, an “It’s about time…” step up to mediocrity for me. What divergent paths took us to the same Week 4 meeting place? Let’s review.
Washington at Atlanta
ELO had the Falcons as solid favorites; I didn’t see it. I thought Washington’s defense would finally show up. They didn’t, but Atlanta’s defense was as bad as expected, and Washington got the cover.
Houston at Buffalo
In my defense, I did say I didn’t see a scenario where Houston kept it even reasonably close but would go with the history of very heavy favorites not covering. I should have gone with my gut.
Indianapolis at Miami
ELO liked the Fish to cover, but with a failure of imagination at backup QB, a disappointing defense, and dissent amongst the ranks with the coaching staff, the season is going south in South Beach.
Cleveland at Minnesota
So, trusting Kirk Cousins to be good for more than two straight games is a bad idea? ELO and I both should have known better.
Tennessee at New York Jets
A “real-world circumstances trump analytics” result. The numbers couldn’t factor in Tennessee being down both their starting WR’s for this game. With injuries starting to pile up, I anticipate more of these in the coming weeks.
Kansas City at Philadelphia
The better team won. The better team covered.
Tampa Bay at New England
New England is clearly this year’s team that I cannot call correctly (checks this week’s lines… damn).
Detroit at Chicago:
And, finally, my Upset of the Week…that wasn’t. I “recency biased” my way into thinking Chicago was as bad and Detroit was as good as they had looked the previous week. Reminder to self: NFL stands for Not For Long. Recency bias is the worst kind of bias to have in this game.
Last week: My picks, 4-4; Analytics, 4-4
Season: My picks, 7-14; Analytics, 11-10
Standard disclaimer – All opinions are my own and may or may not reflect those of this website. “Analytic Lines” are ELO point spreads from fivethirtyeight.com, and “Vegas Lines” are courtesy of thelines.com, current as of the writing of this article. Guess the Line (“GTL”) is my early week estimate of where the Vegas line would be set. Chosen games are those with a multiple point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines.
Game of the Week
- Los Angeles Rams at Seattle – Analytic Line: SEA (-1), Vegas Line: SEA (+2.5), GTL: SEA (-1.5)
Another differing favorite for this week’s GotW, this one in the Thursday Night game. Vegas has the Rams as road favorites, ELO and I both think the home squad should be favored.
Verdict: I can see why the Vegas line is with the Rams, given the vast difference in the quality of the two defenses, but, in a division game and playoff rematch, give me the home team on a short week.
Make It A Parlay
- New Orleans at Washington – Analytic Line: WAS (+3), Vegas Line: WAS (+1.5), GTL: WAS (-3)
I’m on an island here, thinking the Football Team should be favored. But I thought the Saints’ perception would take a hit after losing at home to the Giants.
Verdict: New Orleans has been an every-other-week team so far this year, meaning this should be their week to be good, but I can’t shake the feeling the WFT defense starts coming around. If Jameis lights them up, I’m done, but let’s ride it for one more week.
- Philadelphia at Carolina – Analytic Line: CAR (-5), Vegas Line: CAR (-3.5), GTL: CAR (-4.5)
Splitting hairs on the number in this one. ELO and I both like the Panthers relative to the Vegas number.
Verdict: Carolina may get CMC back this week, but even without, they’re the objectively better team to this point. There’s no shame in losing at Dallas, and they were certainly more competitive there than Philly had been six days earlier.
- Tennessee at Jacksonville – Analytic Line: JAX (+5.5), Vegas Line: JAX (+4), GTL: JAX (+8)
Another “I’m on an island” game with the number, but ELO and I both like the visitors here. Tennessee seems to be getting punished for being a New York team’s first win more than New Orleans is.
Verdict: Tennessee had an excuse for not showing up last week and may get at least one of their starting WR’s back this week. Even still, given the Urban Meyer-caused chaos with the Jags this week, I can’t imagine backing them with any confidence.
- New England at Houston – Analytic Line: HOU (+8), Vegas Line: HOU (+9.5), GTL: HOU (+10)
Every challenge is an opportunity. Finally, this is my chance to call one Pats game right this year! ELO leans slightly toward the Texans; I’m full on Pats.
Verdict: I got burned in Week 2 by not taking Belichick’s history against rookie QB’s into consideration. I won’t make that mistake twice.
Upset of the Week
- Green Bay at Cincinnati – Analytic Line: CIN (+1.5), Vegas Line: CIN (+3), GTL (+3)
As a Packer fan, this game terrifies me. No Jaire Alexander against a team with three good WR’s equals not good times in the Land of Cheese. The corpse of Ben Roethlisberger should have shredded the Packers last week. Imagine what a rested Joe Burrow will do.
Verdict: This has the makings of an all-day shoot-out and a “last team with the ball wins” outcome, so the field goal line is more than I would be comfortable laying.