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The Las Vegas Raiders fell 28-14 to the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night, failing to cover the 3-point spread. The win evened the score between underdogs and favorites at 8-8 for the week. It was the first week this season in which underdogs were not the profitable side. Short underdogs (+3.5 or less) were even at 4-4, but the betting angle I discussed last week continued to be successful.
Each of the four teams that covered as short underdogs won their games outright. On the season, 21 of 23 have been moneyline winners, including the three that I featured last week. The Week 5 NFL board brings new opportunities as half the games feature spreads that qualify as short dogs. It's important to be selective and target teams with a strong enough edge that they are live to win the game. Let the books keep the points. I am betting on these three teams to win on the moneyline.
Cleveland -105 at L.A. Chargers
The Chargers are the public's new hot team after moving to 3-1 by taking down the previously unbeaten Raiders on national TV. L.A. has one of the best young quarterbacks in football, but the Browns have the better overall team. Cleveland ranks higher on both sides of the ball in DVOA, yards per play, and success rate. The Browns also rank in the top five in all three metrics. L.A. has faced the tougher schedule, but the Browns have shown the ability to shut down strong offenses on the road. Playing in L.A. will be welcomed compared to the loud environment in Minnesota they overcame in a win last weekend.
The Browns' offense is at its best when it can run the ball effectively and should see little resistance in this matchup. Cleveland rips off explosive run plays at a 16% clip, which is the NFL's second-best mark while the Chargers' defense ranks 31st against the run.
Justin Herbert checks all the boxes as a franchise quarterback, but his offense is scoring at a league-average rate against the fourth-easiest schedule of opposing defenses. Herbert's sole loss came against the only team he faced in the top half of the league in defensive DVOA. He threw two interceptions and L.A. scored only 17 points against Dallas. I'm betting the Browns can make enough stops to bring us home the money.
N.Y. Jets +135 vs Atlanta
Who would have thought two weeks ago that I would be betting the Jets to win their second consecutive game? London games can be unpredictable, which is an appealing factor for betting the underdog. However, the reason I am in on N.Y. in this situation is that I couldn't convince myself Atlanta was the better football team. Both quarterbacks need to be kept clean to succeed, and the Jets have done a better job at getting after the quarterback. These two teams are equally bad, but the Falcons are likely only laying points because the market is still factoring in Atlanta's preseason expectations.
Atlanta is dead last in DVOA and ranks seven spots below NY in net yards per play. The Falcons are coming off a deflating last-second loss while the Jets built some confidence with an upset over the Titans. Preparing your team for the unique experience of traveling across the pond is extremely important. I'm more confident coach Robert Saleh will have the Jets ready as the former 49ers assistant traveled to London four times in his career.
These teams are closer to even than the betting market projects, so I am happy to take the money line with Gang Green.
Buffalo +120 at Kansas City
We never expected the Chiefs to be 2-2, so why not bet on 2-3? It might be that kind of year for Kansas City. The Chiefs' defense has been the NFL's worst through four weeks, especially in the red zone. K.C. allowed 12 of 13 drives to result in touchdowns before showing some life against Jalen Hurts. Now it's Josh Allen's turn.
As we saw last week in Philadelphia, you have to score touchdowns in the red zone to keep pace with Patrick Mahomes. Buffalo has averaged over 39 points per game in the last three weeks against some pretty bad defenses. The Bills play another Sunday night. This game will come down to which quarterback has the ball last. At +120 odds, I will take my chances with Buffalo.
Stats provided by Football Outsiders, rbsdm.com, Sharp Football stats.