Last week saw the sportsbooks flourish, with public darlings like the New England Patriots (4-0) and Kansas City Chiefs (4-0) failing to cover as big favorites, and the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) losing outright on the primetime stage of Sunday Night Football.
All told, underdogs went 10-4 against the closing spread in Week 4 – bringing underdogs’ overall record to 37-24-1 (60.7 percent) on the year – while road teams put up a 9-6 mark to punish the betting public. The dogs didn’t just slide through the backdoor to secure late covers either, they often won outright and in convincing fashion to boot.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) were (+9.5) before pounding the Los Angeles Rams (3-1) in a 55-40 fireworks show, and the Cleveland Browns (2-2) bucked (+6.5) odds to run roughshod over the Baltimore Ravens (2-2) by a score of 40-25.
With that in mind, Week 5’s wagering preview – using the latest odds offered by online sportsbook Bovada – will focus on underdogs who have a legitimate chance to win their contests outright.
In a clear “Game of the Week” contender, the Cowboys play host to the Green Bay Packers (3-1) in one of the NFC’s most storied non-divisional rivalries.
The Cowboys dominated during the 1990s, winning eight straight over Green Bay. That script has been flipped of late, however, with the Packers taking seven of the last eight matchups, including two brutal finishes to end Dallas’ postseason dreams.
The uncanny comeback abilities of quarterback Aaron Rodgers have given Green Bay the edge during that run, and he’s outdueled Dallas QB Dak Prescott in two of their three meetings.
But while Rodgers continues to acclimate to the new offense installed by first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, it’s Prescott who is posting league-leading passing numbers. According to ESPN’s Total QBR stat, Prescott is the league leader at 86.6, surpassing even the supernaturally gifted Patrick Mahomes (85.6).
The Cowboys’ offense appeared to be unstoppable during the team’s 3-0 start, averaging 32.3 points per game behind first-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s modernized play-action attack. But Dallas took a step backward in last Sunday’s loss to the Saints, reverting to the run-heavy first-down scheme that defined head coach Jason Garrett’s conservative play-calling.
Rodgers and the Packers have posted 27 points in their last two games, giving a top-10 defense (330.3 yards allowed per game) under coordinator Mike Pettine plenty of cushion on the scoreboard. If Dallas doesn’t go back to the well with its pass-first attack this Sunday, they might not be able to keep up with Rodgers for a full four quarters.
If it wasn’t for a botched 34-yard field goal in the closing seconds to cement a 32-31 loss to the New York Giants (2-2), the Buccaneers would be tied with the New Orleans Saints (3-1) for the NFC South lead.
Nonetheless, the Bucs can wind up leading the division by week’s end – but they’ll need to beat the odds in more ways than one. Tampa Bay heads to the Superdome this Sunday for a pivotal game against the Saints, and the Buccaneers are (+3) underdogs down in the bayou.
The Saints are 2-0 on the year at home, continuing a consistent run of dominance at the Superdome which has seen New Orleans go 15-3 at home since 2017. Of course, the bulk of those victories came with quarterback Drew Brees at the helm, but the legend will be sidelined with a hand injury for this one.
That means backup turned undefeated starter Teddy Bridgewater will lead the Saints offense, thus presenting a mixed bag of sorts for bettors hoping to fade the favorite.
On the one hand, Bridgewater has gone 2-0 in Brees’ stead, adding to his 19-12 career record as a starting signal-caller. But on the other, Bridgewater’s aversion to deep passes has stunted the Saints’ signature high-octane offense, one which pro football’s highest paid backup QB has only guided to 16.0 points per game in two starts.
It’ll take more than the four field goals and zero touchdowns Bridgewater used to beat the Cowboys last Sunday to overcome the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is averaging 30.8 points per game, good for the sixth-most prolific offense in the league, while their 386.8 yards per game makes the Bucs a top-10 offense in that regard.
If quarterback Jameis Winston can eliminate turnovers and take advantage of wideout Mike Evans’ dominance, the Bucs could easily put the Saints in an early hole of which Bridgewater’s check-down artistry can’t climb out.
The Browns – fresh from an offensive revival in a must-have AFC North win over the Ravens – are (+3.5) at the bye week rested San Francisco 49ers (3-0).
The Giants look like a new team with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones leading the way, and they’ll be (+6) home dogs to the struggling Minnesota Vikings (2-2).
Given head coach Mike Zimmer’s woeful 0-12-1 record taking the Vikings outdoors to face a winning team – the new-look Giants haven’t lost since replacing the moribund Eli Manning – Minnesota will need a rare road win from QB Kirk Cousins (12-34-2).