It took five weeks and 78 games, but the NFL finally has culled the field to leave just two undefeated teams left standing. The New England Patriots (5-0) have cruised past a slate of cupcakes a la Alabama, Clemson, and the rest of college football’s crowned royals. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers have ridden a stout defensive line and a solid run game to a 4-0 record.
The defending Super Bowl champions – and preseason favorites to repeat in that regard – have feasted on a schedule which rated to be the NFL’s easiest this season. All told, New England’s opponents sport an abysmal combined record of 5-18 (.217 winning percentage) – including THREE winless teams in the Washington Redskins (0-5), Miami Dolphins (0-4), and New York Jets (0-4) – with the Pats reeling off gaudy averages of 31.0 points scored per game to 6.8 points allowed thus far.
The San Francisco 49ers weren’t even ranked as favorites to win their own division ahead of Week 1, and in fact, they sat at third place in a four-team race. Fast forward to today, however, and the Niners are the NFC’s lone undefeated team – albeit one in ownership of only a slim 0.5-game lead over the Seattle Seahawks in the West.
Heading into Week 6 action, the spotlight obviously deserves to shine on the NFL’s two remaining squads sporting spotless records. With that in mind, check out online sportsbook Bovada’s latest odds on the Patriots and the 49ers, along with a few other pivotal games on tap this Sunday.
Undefeateds = Underdog and Double-Digit Favorite
It’s not every day that undefeated teams find themselves as the underdog, but the 49ers are listed as (+3.5) in a “road” tilt against the Los Angeles Rams (3-2).
This line may be a product of recency bias on the part of “public” bettors, following two consecutive losses by L.A. coupled with the torrid start in San Francisco. The Rams haven’t looked the same since last February’s 13-3 loss to New England with the Lombardi Trophy on the line, seemingly sleepwalking through a Super Bowl hangover.
Meanwhile, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick may have provided the league with a defensive template with which to derail Rams head coach Sean McVay and his innovative 11-personnel heavy, outside zone rushing concepts.
Nonetheless, the 49ers blemish-free record comes with caveats of its own, as San Francisco’s opponents are cumulatively 5-15 (.250) on the year.
But like the Patriots, the 49ers have demolished the downtrodden teams put in their path, putting up an average scoreline of 31.8 points scored to 14.3 points allowed.
Given the fact that road dogs have covered the spread to the tune of 34-16-2 (.680) on the year, grabbing the Niners and the points will surely be a popular play.
As for the Patriots juggernaut, it’s another week and another double-digit point spread to fade.
New England has been favored by (-19) to the dreadful Dolphins, (-24) to the jokes that are the Jets, and (-16) to the ridiculously bad Redskins. Wash, rinse, and repeat for the NFL’s greatest dynasty, who host the New York Giants (2-3) as (-17) favorites on Thursday Night Football.
London Calling for Carolina; Intra-Conference Clashes Abound
Games played across the pond tend to be odd affairs, as evidenced by last Sunday’s 24-21 upset staged by the Oakland Raiders (3-2) over the Chicago Bears (3-2).
Last Sunday in London, the Bears fell victim to jet lag last courtesy of poor travel planning, suffering through a sluggish performance which was eerily similar to what the Raiders endured last year after another late arrival.
As for this week’s London tilt, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) “host” the Carolina Panthers (3-2) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as (+2) dogs to their division rival.
Panthers backup quarterback Kyle Allen has looked like a consummate pro while going 3-0 in relief of an injured Cam Newton, while Bucs QB Jameis Winston continued his see-saw season with a clunker in last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints (4-1).
The Bucs did beat the Panthers by a 20-14 margin in Week 2, but that win came against a hobbled Newton who wound up withdrawing one week later due to a lingering foot injury.
In other pivotal intra-conference clashes to watch for, the Minnesota Vikings (3-2) are slim (-3) home favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) in a rematch of the 2017 NFC Championship game.
Speaking of perennial playoff teams, the Houston Texans (3-2) visit the suddenly mortal Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) as (+4.5) road dogs.