Identifying Value and NFL Week 6 Underdogs
A 2-2 ATS results on these pages for Week 5 was highlighed by the biggest upset of the year when the Las Vegas Raiders (+12.5) upset the Kansas City Chiefs 40-32. The Raiders closed +10.5 at many leading online sportsbooks. We also had a solid winner on the Vikings (+7), who lost in miraculous fashion to the Seahawks 27-26 in the closing seconds. Minnesota was a 94% favorite to win the game with less than 2 minutes to go leading 26-21 with the ball inside the Seattle 7 yard line. The two losses were ugly and the season-to-date record selecting only underdogs is now 6-10 ATS, with a 3-plus year record of 83-64 ATS.
Rising totals and record scoring are one of the stories of the season as bookmakers adjust. Read about the scoring averages each week and now at 51.4 points per game this season in my recent article with sportsbook adjustments and comments from three online sportsbooks at Heritage, My Bookie and Jazz Sports. Teams are dealing with more players going down with injuries, others knocked to the sidelines with the coronavirus and the NFL rescheduling games. But scoring is what the league wants as the NFL tries to drive ratings and sports betting companies flood the airwaves looking for your loyalty.
On to Week 6 and a pair of underdog picks. Be sure to check the online sportsbooks special promotions each week.
261 Cleveland (+3.5) at Pittsburgh – Browns Moneyline +175
276 Dallas (+2) vs Arizona - Cowboys Moneyline +100
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
The key game on the Sunday slate is an AFC North division duel. The Steelers (4-0) lead the division but are just a half game in front of the Browns (4-1) and Ravens (4-1). Cleveland has won four straight games following their opening week loss at Baltimore, and the Browns offense is averaging 5.8 yards per play vs the Steelers 5.6 against a weaker schedule. New Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski's coaching handbook is, win the turnover battle (+6 this season), run the football (No. 1 rushing, No. 2 attempts), and stop the run (No. 4 rushing yards against). Stefanski has preached this message from day one to his players, and the Browns rushing attack now leads the league averaging 188 yards per game and No. 2 in rushing attempts at 34.5 per game. The Steelers are allowing a league-low 64 rushing yards per game and 3.3 yards per rush. Pittsburgh's wins have come against the Giants (0-5), Broncos (1-3), Texans (1-4) and Eagles (1-3-1), and three of those teams have the worst rushing attacks in pro football and all four are in the bottom quartile of scoring offenses at less than 23 points per game. This is also the Steelers fourth straight home game as their Week 4 game at Tennessee was postponed. Pittsburgh gets their strongest test thus far and we're back on the Browns as a team we projected to exceed their win total of 8.5 this season.
Arizona at Dallas
Both our underdog plays look like solid 6-point 'teaser' additions, and if you miss the best number on the Cowboys then consider the straight moneyline and teaser through the key number 7. The lookahead line on this game last week was Cowboys -3. Now with Dallas QB Dak Prescott (ankle) out for the season following last week's injury, the adjustment seemed to go too far. The market is split on this game according to sports betting data at Sportsinsights, but the line has dipped down. Andy Dalton takes over at quarterback for the Cowboys, and he's plenty capable and we're likely to see the Cowboys return to more rushing with Ezekiel Elliott as the running game has been below average (106/game) while averaging 25.4 attempts per game. The Cardinals run defense is below average, and Arizona plays its third straight road game having allowed the lowly Jets to rush for 123 yards last week in victory but 168 at Carolina in defeat when the Cardinals were out-gained 444 to 262 against a weaker Panthers defense. The Cowboys defense has been deficient, and that will need to be improved against a Cardinals offense that saw QB Kyler Murray pass for a career-high 380 yards last week and has the league's leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins (528 yards) on his side. But the real issue for the Cowboys has been turnovers with Dallas' -8 turnover margin the worst in the league. Dallas won each game the past two seasons as home underdog (2-0 SU/ATS) against better teams than the Cardinals. Bounce back effort for the Cowboys off a narrow escape last week against the winless Giants.
With injuries and uncertainty on the Bills, we'll wait on the Kansas City at Buffalo (+5) matchup but follow on Twitter for any updates. The line has moved up favoring the Chiefs on Monday Night Football, and we'll evaluate the personnel and any further moves.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and betting analyst, and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.