Each week, Monty Andrews breaks down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the National Football League slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup.
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+9.5, 47.5)
Patriots' putrid pass defense vs. Jets' shutdown secondary
If you had told the majority of NFL bettors that the Patriots and Jets would have identical records through five games, you would probably get some strange looks. But that's exactly what has happened as the AFC East rivals do battle this Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Even more surprisingly, the team's point differentials aren't that far off - thanks in part to New England's strangely weak pass defense, and in part to the Jets effectively limiting opposing pass attacks.
Nothing has come easily for the Patriots, who have seen each of their last three game decided by five points or fewer. They escaped Tampa with a 19-14 triumph over the Buccaneers, but still surrendered 319 passing yards in doing so and have allowed 1,615 yards through the air on the season, by far the most in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have recorded an average passer rating of 109.2 in five games against the Patriots; only the Cleveland Browns (112.4) have yielded a higher aggregate rating.
The Jets can't hope to exchange offensive firepower with New England even with the Patriots struggling on the defensive end - but they certainly boast a more formidable secondary. The Jets rank in the middle of the pack league-wide in passing yards against per game (212), but are allowing the eighth-lowest passer rating (81.9). That number drops all the way to 56.2 at home, tied for the lowest passer rating in the league among visiting quarterbacks. If this trend continues, the Jets should keep this one close.
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders (OFF)
Chargers' punishing pass pressure vs. Raiders' leaky O-line
Things have gone sideways in Oakland, with the Raiders - pegged by some as the potential Super Bowl representative from the AFC - having lost three consecutive games and dealing with an injury to their star quarterback. Even if Derek Carr returns this week - and head coach Jack Del Rio believes he will - he'll need to get better protection than the quarterback position has received in recent weeks. That could be a big ask this week, as the Chargers bring their league-best pass pressure to town.
Armed with two of the best young pass rushers in the game in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers have punished opposing quarterbacks all season long. Los Angeles enters the game with the best sack rate in the NFL, taking down the QB on 10.18 percent of opponent dropbacks through five games. The Chargers have been even more prolific on the road, registering a 12.33-percent sack rate in two games away from Los Angeles. They rank third overall in total sacks with 17; Bosa and Ingram have 12 of them.
The Raiders haven't been able to keep the quarterback safe during their three-game losing skid. Oakland has given up a sack on 9.8 percent of dropbacks over that stretch; only five other teams have been worse at protecting the QB in that span. That dropped the team's sack allowed rate to 7.32 percent on the season, 20th-best in the league. And if the Raiders can't contain one of the top pass rushes in the league this weekend, they might struggle to end their losing ways.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5, 46)
Steelers' second-half woes vs. Chiefs' late scoring barrage
It's officially panic time in Steel Town, with the Steelers looking for answers after last week's 30-17 beatdown at the hands of the visiting Baltimore Ravens. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is hinting at retirement after throwing five interceptions in the stunning loss, and things won't get any easier for him in hostile territory this Sunday. The Chiefs have been the class of the league so far, due in large part to an offense that has been much better than anyone expected it to be - particularly in the second half.
The Steelers came into the season with high hopes on the offensive end - and having Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on the roster doesn't hurt. But Pittsburgh is averaging fewer than 20 points per game with Roethlisberger looking like a quarterback on the downside of his career. The Steelers enter the weekend averaging a paltry 7.8 second-half points per game - sitting in the bottom quarter of the league in that category. It's a far cry from the 12 second-half points the Steelers averaged a season ago.
Perhaps Roethlisberger and the Steelers could learn a thing or two from Alex Smith and the surprising Chiefs, who have scored a league-best 164 points through five games. Kansas City was a below-average second-half scoring unit in 2016 but has exceeded expectations so far this season, leading the league with 19.4 second-half points per game. With Pittsburgh reeling and the Chiefs rolling, Big Ben will need to be a lot better than he was last week if the Steelers have any hope of keeping things close.
New York Giants at Denver Broncos (-11.5, 39.5)
Giants' third-down woes vs. Broncos' drive-killing prowess
You can find several reasons to fade the Giants this weekend at Sports Authority Field at Mile High - and it all starts with the state of the New York receiving corps. The Giants lost both Odell Beckham and Dwayne Harris for the season in last week's loss to the Chargers, while Brandon Marshall will miss multiple games and Sterling Shepard is also banged-up. The Giants were already having trouble converting on third down, and this won't make it any easier - especially against that vaunted Broncos defense.
New York's offense has struggled for most of the season, particularly at extending drives. The Giants have converted just 36.4 percent of third-down opportunities to date, tied with Cincinnati for 24th in the NFL. It's an extension of a trend that plagued New York last season, when it placed 31st out of 32 teams in third-down conversion rate. And what's even more baffling: quarterback Eli Manning has been decent on third down this season, completing 70 percent of passes with two TDs and zero interceptions.
He's going to need to be that accurate - or more so - this weekend as he faces a Broncos defense that has been positively brutal on opposing offenses facing third down. Denver has allowed foes to complete just 25.9 percent of third-down opportunities; only two other teams (Minnesota, Miami) have an opponent success rate below 30 percent. With most of his pass catchers on the sidelines and a fearsome Denver defense awaiting him, Manning will be in tough to improve his team's third-down numbers.