Week 5

Remember in Week 1, when we highlighted how most NFL teams were projected to hit the 7 to 9-win range? Recent patterns indicate bad-start teams rebounding and going back to the pack.

Now the question is which direction they’ll head next?

This week provides a matchup of two of them, who traveled identical routes to 2-2. Both Jacksonville and Carolina began the season 0-2. Both lost their quarterbacks, as Jacksonville is without offseason acquisition Nick Foles and Carolina lost Cam Newton.

And both teams are better for it.

Jacksonville held Tennessee to 7 points in Week Three and secured a last-play field goal to beat Denver last week. All square, .500 baby.

Carolina, beaten by the Rams and Tampa Bay at home, performed the unlikely follow-up of road wins in Arizona and Houston. They return home to host Jacksonville as a 3.5-point favorite.

Their matchup should feature good running games, with Christian McCaffrey for Carolina and Leonard Fournette for Jacksonville both performing well.

Otherwise, the Eagles and Tampa Bay look to parlay the bounce-back wins that brought them to 2-2. If the Eagles are going to be taken seriously in the NFC East, they will hurt somebody real soon. Maybe this week, as 13.5-point picks against the Jets at home. What a time to break the Linc Jinx, as they are 2-8 against the spread at Lincoln Financial Field since winning the Super Bowl.

Had Oakland and Chicago decided to play a REAL neutral site game, they would have picked the halfway point, Elk Mountain, Wyo. Instead, they go all the way to London. Eleven hours on a plane for Chicago … 15 for Oakland. This is more like a neutral-continent game.

Winless Wonders Cincinnati and Arizona reveal, yet again, how dependent the NFL is on gambling. Try hyping this game outside of those markets, or even in them. No wagering, no interest.

Minshew Mania

Jacksonville’s rebound caught the attention of bettors according to Matt Stetz, the COO of Rush Street Interactive, which operates PlaySugarHouse in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You can get in on the action at PlaySugarHOuse.com

Stetz says the Jags received 60 percent of the early money despite being an underdog against Carolina. Quarterback Gardner Minshew helped the team rally from a 17-3 deficit in Denver to win, engineering the drive that lead to a field goal on the last play.

Around the sportsbook industry, Eagles fans have flocked back to them this week, and although New England and the Los Angeles Chargers are getting support from the public, it’s more in the 70-75 percent range rather than the plus 90 they put on New England and Kansas City last weekend. Neither team covered. The “wise guys” or “sharpies” are jumping on Arizona and Green Bay.

The biggest line movement occurred with Tampa Bay becoming a 3.5-point dog after opening at 5.5 in New Orleans. Jameis Winston had a terrific day as the Bucs shocked the Rams straight up as a 10.5-point underdog last week. Tampa, snakebit the previous week on a game-ending missed field goal against the Giants, passed the gut check we referred to last week. The Bucs showed character in shocking the Rams.

Now they go into an arena where they have had success. Tampa beat New Orleans here last year.

This week’s games

Lines by Sugar House, Over-Unders in parentheses.

EAGLES -13.5 NY Jets (44.5)

Cincinnati -3 Arizona (47)

Houston -5 Atlanta (49)

Chicago -5 Oakland (40) in London

Carolina -3.5 Jacksonville (41)

Minnesota -5.5 AT New York Giants (44.5)

New England -15.5 AT Washington (42.5)

New Orleans -3.5 Tampa Bay (47)

LA Chargers -6.5 Denver (44.5)

Dallas -3.5 Green Bay (47)

San Francisco -3.5 Cleveland (46.5)

Kansas City -10.5 Indianapolis (56.5)

This week’s picks

Against the spread, excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I co-host with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for The Press of Atlantic City. It also features Brian Cahill. The show is Wednesdays on Newstalk 1400-AM, WONDRadio.com and 92.5-FM from 5 to 6 p.m. We are going to take a week off but will make our picks here and some day on the radio this week. Catch the next full Degenerates show 5 p.m. Oct 16.

Bontempo: Chicago

Cronick: New York Giants

Dave Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City Eagles writer: New York Giants

Brian Cahill: Baltimore

Ky Carlin, WOND sports correspondent: Eagles

Warren Prosser, producer: Minnesota

Dan Skeldon, meteorologist: Eagles

Da Kipster, AKA Pickett Russell, general manager of Tennessee Ave Beer Hall: Minnesota

Rich from Linwood, listener: Eagles

Week 4 Takeaways

We learned what a punishing defense Chicago has. The Bears beat Minnesota 16-6 despite a first-drive injury to Mitchell Trubisky, sidelining him for the game. With Chase Daniel, the offense didn’t blow it and the defense gave them a short field for three field goals. Oddsmakers, by the way, don’t view Daniel as a big drop-off in talent.

An extra point is no longer the classic point-after. Vegas books are now posting over-unders for missed point-afters. That’s because the rule moving the extra point back makes it a moderately-difficult 33-yard try. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski missed one early against the Bills last week and it cost Patriots a cover against Buffalo. Tom Brady’s interception at the goal line also factored into it.

New England is not an exceptional 4-0 team, but the quick start will get the Patriots into the playoffs. Where they have been magical.

It’s gut check time for Denver, which has lost two games on the final play via field goal. The Broncos have played like a 2-2 team, but are 0-4.

Picks Last Week

Winners

Bontempo, Cronick, listener Mark from EHT, all with Chicago

Sullivan with New Orleans

Da Kipster with Seattle

Losers

Cahill with Washington, Carlin with Dallas, Prosser with Cincinnati, Weinberg with Green Bay

And now it’s on to the games. Good luck with your picks. Trust your gut.

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