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Week 5 NFL picks: Bears and Browns among best bets

(AP Photo/David Richard)
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Each week, Neil Greenberg makes NFL game predictions based on a multitude of factors that will have an impact on game day. These include efficiency stats such as success rates, yards per play and yards allowed per play, plus points scored based on strength of opponent. Point spreads are the consensus odds from multiple sports books in Vegas.

A team’s win probability is based on applying the model from Wayne Winston’s book Mathletics to my own point spread, which is derived in part from the Simple Rating System.

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Season record against the spread: 35-26 (57.4 win percentage)

Minnesota Vikings (+9) @ Green Bay Packers

Teddy Bridgewater can help keep this game close, but a dangerous Green Bay team — who are averaging the seventh highest points per drive (2.4) — at home could be too much for the Vikings’ defense to handle. 

Pick: Minnesota Vikings +9

Win Probability: Green Bay Packers 76.2%

Chicago Bears (+2.5) @ Carolina Panthers

Carolina looked so good the first couple of weeks but then fizzled in spectacular fashion. Its defense is yielding the most rushing yards per attempt (5.7) which should play right into the Bears’ game plan: Running back Matt Forte ran for 122 yards against Green Bay and could be on track for another big game.

Pick: Chicago Bears +2.5
Win Probability: Chicago Bears 60.5%

Baltimore Ravens (+3.5) @ Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck has thrown eight touchdown passes and averaged 381.5 yards passing per game over the past two weeks. It could continue against Baltimore’s pass coverage, which is ranked by 25th by Pro Football Focus.

Pick: Indianapolis Colt -3.5
Win Probability: Indianapolis Colts 60.5%

Houston Texans (+5.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is the NFL’s leading rusher (534 yards) is going against a defense that has trouble stopping the run (five yards against per carry). The one player that could keep things close for Houston is J.J. Watt, who has made seven stops against the run and leads all 3-4 defensive ends in the amount of times the opposing quarterback was pressured. In fact, he has two more than the next two best players combined.

Pick: Houston Texans +5.5
Win Probability: Dallas Cowboys 63.0%

Buffalo Bills (+7) @ Detroit Lions

I got an email this week stating I wasn’t giving the Detroit Lions enough respect. Their defense has been playing great: allowing just 1.4 points per drive by their opponents, but their offense leaves a lot to be desired. They rank 30th in rushing yards per attempt (3.1) and 28th in percentage of drives that end in a score (30.2 percent). They probably beat a weak Buffalo team, but it should be close.

Pick: Buffalo Bills +7
Win Probability: Detroit Lions 69.1%

Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars

At some point it is going to make sense to pick Jacksonville to win a game, but this won’t be it. My projections have Pittsburgh winning by almost two touchdowns and the Jags don’t have an answer for either Le’Veon Bell or LeGarrette Blount, who are averaging 2.9 and 5.7 yards per carry after contact, respectively.

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -6.5
Win Probability: Pittsburgh Steelers 65.7%

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+10) @ New Orleans Saints

This is a good bounce-back game for New Orleans, which really does have an elite offense. Here are the offensive categories the Saints rank in the top five:

  • Total yards
  • First downs
  • Passing yards
  • Rushing yards per attempt
  • Plays per drive
  • Yards per drive
  • Points per drive

Pick: New Orleans Saints -10
Win Probability: New Orleans Saints 71.1%

Atlanta Falcons (+4) @ New York Giants

Eli Manning has this offense running on all cylinders. He has back-to-back weeks where he completed more than 70 percent of his passes and the running game has gone from 2.7 yards per attempt during the first two weeks to 4.3 in the past two weeks.

Pick: New York Giants -4
Win Probability: New York Giants 55.7%

Cleveland Browns (+1.5) @ Tennessee Titans

The Browns are much better than their record, and this could be the game where some start to take notice. The Titans struggle on offense (1.3 points per drive, 30th out of 32 teams) and will have to rely heavily on defensive end Jurrell Casey and outside linebacker Derrick Morgan to generate the pass rush.

Morgan, however, has struggled and hasn’t put pressure on the opposing quarterback in two weeks despite spending limited time in coverage.

Pick: Cleveland Browns +1.5
Win Probability: Cleveland Browns 56.9%

St. Louis Rams (+7) @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ offense didn’t put a score on the board last week and the key for a repeat will be for the Rams to keep the pressure on Nick Foles. That’s where Rams defensive end Robert Quinn comes in. He doesn’t have a sack this season, but has put pressure on the opposing quarterback (four hits and four hurries in 55 passing snaps).

Unfortunately for St. Louis, they don’t have much firepower beyond that.

Pick: Philadelphia Eagles -7
Win Probability: Philadelphia Eagles 67.5%

Arizona Cardinals (+7) @ Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning can carve up any defense, especially one that allows 6.6 plays per drive to its opponents. And while Denver isn’t as prolific as it was a year ago, with Manning under center the Broncos are still moving the chains for a first down almost 40 percent of the time (league average is 30 percent). If the Broncos have extra plays to work with, this could be a blowout.

Pick: Denver Broncos -7
Win Probability: Denver Broncos 74.2%

New York Jets (+6.5) @ San Diego Chargers

Chargers quarterback is playing at an MVP-caliber level and the Jets have no answer for that right now. Their two main cornerbacks, Darren Walls and Antonio Allen, have allowed a 119.4 and 94.8 passer rating against, respectively.

Pick: San Diego Chargers -6.5
Win Probability: San Diego Chargers 64.6%

Kansas City Chiefs (+6) @ San Francisco 49ers

The Chiefs bring a dominant rushing attack to Levi’s Stadium in form of Jamaal Charles, the AFC offensive player of the week, but the 49ers have done well against the run (just 3.5 rushing yards allowed per carry).

Expect Patrick Willis and Michael Wilhoite, San Francisco’s inside linebackers, to get a lot of work this week as each has six run stops this season.

Pick: Kansas City Chiefs +6
Win Probability: San Francisco 49ers 53.2%

Cincinnati Bengals (-1) @ New England Patriots

The game charters at Pro Football Focus have the Patriots rated as the worst pass defense, so bet on Bengals’ defensive ends Wallace Gilberry and Carlos Dunlap (five sacks, four hits and 14 hurries combined) harassing Tom Brady — and maybe Jimmy Garoppolo — all game.

Pick: Cincinnati Bengals -1
Win Probability: Cincinnati Bengals 64.3%

Seattle Seahawks (-7) @ Washington Redskins

So far this season Kirk Cousins is averaging 7.3 adjusted yards per passing attempt, which rewards passers for scoring with a multiplier on touchdowns and punishes a passer on throwing interceptions. In the past two years, Seattle has allowed at least that many only twice when they have been on the road: Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck.

Cousins is neither of those, so expect the losing skid to continue in Washington.

Pick: Seattle Seahawks -7
Win Probability: Seattle Seahawks 63.0%