I feel lucky to escape Week 5 of the NFL season with a 0-2-1 ATS record for my underdog picks.
After completely missing the mark with the Cardinals +6.5 at Philadelphia and then sweating out the 49ers +2 in a 26-23 overtime loss in Indianapolis, I welcomed a push with Chicago +3 on Monday Night Football – a spread which moved to Bears +4 by kickoff, throwing some salt in the wound.
It wasn’t a very good result, considering I was 4-2 ATS the previous two weeks. But, hey… at least I had a better Week 5 than Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers veteran quarterback threw five interceptions – two for return touchdowns – in an embarrassing 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars Sunday. Pittsburgh was a 7.5-point favorite for that game, and now heads to dreaded Arrowhead Stadium for a run-in with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs – a team that is a perfect 5-0 against the spread. Oddsmakers are giving Big Ben & Co. five points on the road.
Any other QB in this situation would be crapping in their Under Armour, but not Roethlisberger. Not after what he’s done to the Chiefs throughout his career.
Roethlisberger is a perfect 6-0 SU versus KC in games in which he’s gone wire-to-wire (he was injured midway their Week 11 2009 meeting at Arrowhead), posting a 4-2 ATS mark in those contests. According to ESPN stats and info, Ben owns a career regular season passer rating of 118.7 against the Chiefs with a total of 13 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
Kansas City limps into Week 6 with injuries to starters following a brutal 42-34 win over Houston Sunday night, most notably WR Chris Conley (Achilles) and TE Travis Kelce (concussion) – two of Alex Smith’s favorite targets.
The Chiefs’ explosive offense – ranked tops in the NFL with 32.8 ppg – has been able to pick up the slack for a crumby defense, which is allowing 366 yards per outing (27th) including an average of 248 passing yards. Kansas City is giving up a NFL-high 13.6 yards per completion and now faces a big-play Steelers offense anxious to find pay dirt after generating only nine points in Week 5.
Roethlisberger and the offense have underachieved compared to past standards, but have faced some formidable stop units through the first five weeks: Cleveland (5th total yards/19th vs pass), Minnesota (7th in total yards/20th vs. pass), Chicago (6th total yards/8th vs. pass), Baltimore (16th total yards/9th vs. pass), Jacksonville (14th total yards/3rd vs. pass).
With Big Ben bound to bounce back against his favorite foe, I’m taking the points on Pittsburgh in Week 6.
Pick: Steelers +5
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans (-10, 46.5)
There are a number of hefty spreads on the Week 6 board. The Dolphins are getting +11.5 in Atlanta, the Jets are 9.5-point pups hosting New England, the Niners are 10-point pups at Washington, and the Giants are at +11.5 and climbing in Denver. And then we have the Cleveland Browns getting 10 points in Houston for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.
The Texans come into this game receiving a lot more credit from oddsmakers than they deserve. Yes, Houston has played some good teams tough, taking the Patriots to the brink and making the Chiefs sweat in the fourth quarter on Sunday night. But in the end, they’re a 2-3 club with wins over Cincinnati and Tennessee (two other 2-3 teams).
Houston is primed for a massive letdown game after facing the undefeated Chiefs in primetime, and with a much-needed bye week on the horizon. The Texans had their hearts ripped out on defense with a season-ending injury to J.J. Watt as well as losing top pass-rushing linebacker Whitney Mercilus for the remainder of the year.
Cleveland is going with its 28th different starter at quarterback since 1999 when Kevin “Hollywood” Hogan gets the football in Week 6. Hogan came in at half in the loss to the Jets in Week 5 and instantly injected life into the Browns offense nearly erasing another craptacular performance from rookie DeShone Kizer.
Hogan went 16 for 19 for 130 yards, a touchdown and an interception while scrambling for another 30 yards on four carries. He’s done well in his limited action in 2017: 377 passing yards, three TDs, two INTS, and a QB rating of 104.8 – which is actually a tick better than Aaron Rodgers (wink wink).
I'm betting on a letdown from the Texans and a steady performance from “Hollywood” Hogan.
HIT THE MUSIC!
Pick: Browns +10
Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars (-2.5, 42.5)
We already touched on the 3-2 Jaguars’ one-sided Week 5 win over the Steelers above. But what we haven’t talked about is how Jacksonville has responded to those wins.
The Jags followed a Week 1 victory over Houston with a loss to Tennessee, then went on to soundly beat Baltimore in London before losing to the Jets in Week 4 – failing to cover the spread in both of those defeats. Jacksonville faces the mother of all letdown spots at home in Week 6.
The Rams literally gave away a win at home to Seattle Sunday. Los Angeles coughed the ball up five times – two INTs and three lost fumbles – losing 16-10 as 2-point home chalk despite outgaining the Seahawks 325-241 in offensive yardage. On top of that, Los Angeles whiffed on all four trips inside the red zone including a dropped touchdown pass on what would have been a game-tying score in the dying seconds.
But while the offense stalled (an offense still averaging 30.4 ppg), the defense seemed to find its familiar form. The Rams were solid against the run and pestered Russell Wilson for three sacks, countless hurries, and held him to just 65 percent completions. They also had two interceptions – one off Wilson and the other off WR Tanner McEvory on a trick play.
The Rams have thrived on the road so far, with a win at San Francisco but most notably a come-from-behind victory at Dallas in Week 4. The Jaguars haven’t been sharp in front of the North Florida faithful, boasting a 2-5 ATS count in their last seven home games.
Pick: Rams +3
Last week: 0-2-1 ATS
Season: 6-8-1 ATS
Jason Logan is the senior managing editor for Covers.com. You can tell him how much his NFL underdog picks suck on Twitter @CoversJlo.