We’ve reached the quarter pole of the NFL season, and with four games of on-field performance to study, bettors and bookies alike are starting to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Teams like the Buffalo Bills (3-1) and New York Jets (2-2) have been surprisingly frisky thus far, while the Los Angeles Chargers (0-4) and New York Giants (0-4) have essentially ended their seasons already.
And with the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) left standing as the only unbeaten team in the league, the standings are defined by widespread parity.
An early look at the Week 5 betting board – courtesy of online sportsbook Bovada – reveals several competitive contests between teams on the rise.
The Detroit Lions (3-1) host the Carolina Panthers (3-1) in a potential NFC playoff preview, and both teams are riding high after notching signature wins as underdogs last week.
Detroit used hard-nosed defense to take a divisional rivalry game on the road, vanquishing the Minnesota Vikings (2-2) in a 14-7 slog. Carolina visited the New England Patriots (2-2), and despite the usual late-game heroics from Tom Brady, it was the Panthers who scored the game’s final points in a 33-30 thriller.
Each team has been stingy on defense, surrendering an identical 17.5 points per game between them. Conversely, the Lions offense is scoring nearly 25 points per, while the Panthers have mustered only 19.5 points per as Cam Newton regained his form.
For that reason, the Lions hold the edge here as 3-point home favorites.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) have experienced a seesaw season so far. In between a pair of impressive victories, during which the Jags allowed just 14 points total, Jacksonville has put up two duds. The latest loss was a squeaker, however, as Jacksonville lost 23-20 in overtime to the Jets.
If they hope to continue that pattern with a win this week, the Jaguars will need to bring everything they have to Heinz Field, where the feared Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) await.
With running back Le’Veon Bell still feeling the impact of a preseason holdout, the Steelers have yet to put a complete game together – but they’ve won three of four thanks to a typically stout defense. At 14.8 points allowed per game, Pittsburgh’s D is currently second in the NFL in that regard.
Blake Bortles looked like himself again last week in losing to the Jets, and he’ll face a higher degree of difficulty here – which is why Bovada ranks Jacksonville as big 8.5-point road underdogs.
Giving new meaning to the “America’s Game of the Week” tagline, the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) host the Green Bay Packers (3-1) in a legitimate grudge match.
Last year, Dallas saw its dream season cut short in excruciating fashion, storming back from a 21-3 hole to take a late lead, only to lose 34-31 on a last-second field goal when Aaron Rodgers worked his comeback magic. And in 2015, Tony Romo’s last chance to chase a Super Bowl title was dashed by the Packers when Dez Bryant’s would-be game-winning catch was ruled incomplete.
Overall, these NFL mainstays have played 35 times, with the Pack holding a slim 18-17 edge over the ‘Boys.
Sufficed to say, Dallas will have a chip on its shoulder when Green Bay comes to town. And that emotion may be amplified by last week’s tough loss to the Los Angeles Rams (3-1), in which Dallas blew a 24-13 lead.
Green Bay is playing impressively on both sides of the ball, but they haven’t tasted victory on the road as of yet. With 90,000+ fans in the house, “JerryWorld” should be rocking this Sunday, so the books have given Dallas the lean as 2-point home favorites.