NFL Odds: Games Too Risky To Bet Either Way In Week 5

Carolina Panthers players in action

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, October 6, 2016 3:02 PM UTC

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016 3:02 PM UTC

In Week 4, I felt it was risky to bet on favored Houston (vs. Tennessee), Dallas (vs. San Francisco) and Chicago (vs. Detroit). All three won but in really close calls. Here are three spreads I deem too risky to wager in Week 5.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Denver Broncos 

This is the marquee matchup of the day. What will Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Julio Jones do for an encore against arguably the NFL's best defense? Ryan and Jones last week made NFL history by becoming the first teammates to have a 500-yard passing and 300-yard receiving effort in the same game. Ryan is in the early conversation for NFL MVP as he leads the league in passing yards, touchdowns and QB rating for the NFL's top offense. How did the Falcons lose at home Week 1 to a Buccaneers team that is winless since? If there is one defense that can slow this group, it's Denver. 

The Broncos have the NFL sack leader in Von Miller --- in the last 15 seasons, just two teams have more sacks after four games than the Broncos with 17 -- and one of the league's best cornerbacks in Aqib Talib, who has three picks and should be on Jones nearly all day. Normally I would favor Denver here at home. But the Broncos might have to turn to rookie first-round QB Paxton Lynch for his first NFL start. Trevor Siemian might play after hurting his non-throwing shoulder last week at Tampa Bay but is likely to be a game-time decision. Not sure I would trust Lynch to score enough points to outduel Ryan to have them for my NFL week 4 picks.

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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Dallas Cowboys 

I usually jump all over pick'em games because they are basically free. If you can't pick an NFL game correct without involving the spread at least 75 percent of the time, then you shouldn't be handicapping. But this one gives me pause. On the one side, I like the Bengals because they are on extra rest following last Thursday's 22-7 win over Miami. Cincinnati's defense looked much better with the return of linebacker Vontaze Burfict from a three-game suspension for that one. Then again, it could have just been that the Miami offense is terrible. In addition, without Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert, who led all NFL tight ends in TD catches last year, the Bengals have scored just four touchdowns on 13 red-zone trips this season. 

Eifert is not expected to make his season debut this week off ankle surgery. Meanwhile, led by rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys have won three straight games. But isn't Prescott overdue to throw his first NFL interception? This will be easily the best defense he has seen thus far. It's also likely that No. 1 Dallas receiver Dez Bryant will miss a second straight week with a knee problem. The left side of the Dallas offensive line is also a question. Guard La'Ell Collins has been placed on injured reserve with a toe injury, while tackle Tyron Smith has missed the past two weeks with a back problem and is questionable.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers 

Just walk away from this Monday night game. The spread could move significantly depending on whether Panthers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton plays. He suffered a concussion on a play that was really his fault in last week's blowout loss in Atlanta. Newton was almost playfully running in for a 2-point conversion and took a shot from a  Falcons linebacker. I don't want to say Newton deserved it, but he deserved it for being nonchalant. We might not learn if Newton is playing until game time. If Newton is out, it will be veteran journeyman Derek Anderson. Also a possible game-time decision is top Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. 

Meanwhile, the Bucs will be without their top running back in Doug Martin for a third straight week with a hamstring injury. The team's best defensive player, tackle Gerald McCoy, also is likely to sit out due to injury. And what is wrong with Bucs QB Jameis Winston? Last year's No. 1 overall pick started with a bang Week 1 in Atlanta with four TD passes. But Winston has been very inaccurate since as Tampa Bay has dropped three straight and is the 31st-ranked QB in the NFL and second in the league with eight interceptions. He had 15 all last season in nearly winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Sometimes a game simply has too many injuries on both sides to warrant an educated prediction. This is one of them. 

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