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Public Fades – Week 5
By Kevin Rogers
The first quarter of the NFL season is in the books with five teams undefeated and four of those owning 4-0 records (Patriots come in at 3-0). Favorites put together a 6-8-1 ATS record in Week 4, including outright underdog victories by the Giants, Rams, Bears, and Redskins. In last week’s edition of “Public Fades,” we focused on the Texans and Browns. Houston was pummeled from the start at Atlanta, even though the late money came in on the Texans. Cleveland responded with a cover in a 30-27 setback at San Diego to cash as five-point underdogs, improving to 2-1 ATS in the ‘dog role.
In this week’s version, we’ll focus on two late kickoffs and go against a pair of undefeated teams the public will surely chase with. Both New England and Denver hit the highway as road favorites, looking to keep their record perfect, as the Patriots are off the bye headed to Dallas, while the Broncos travel to the Black Hole to face the Raiders. Several of our NFL experts checked in with their thoughts on why to back these home underdogs in Week 5.
Patriots (-8 ½, 49 ½) at Cowboys – 4:25 PM EST
New England has dominated its way to a 3-0 mark so far as Tom Brady has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions. In the past two games, the Patriots have scored 91 points in wins over the Bills and Jaguars, while slicing up Buffalo for 466 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2. New England is coming off the bye week, as the Pats are 4-2 SU but own a 2-3-1 ATS record since 2009 when off the previous week (regular season only).
The wheels are slowly going off the track for the Cowboys, who are 0-2 since Tony Romo suffered a collarbone injury in Week 2 at Philadelphia. Dallas blew a 14-point lead in a Week 3 setback against Atlanta and followed that defeat up with an overtime loss at New Orleans last Sunday night. The Cowboys have covered only once in four games, which includes an 0-2 ATS mark at home, dropping their mark at AT&T Stadium to 3-8 ATS since the start of 2014.
So why back the Cowboys?
VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson says even though Brandon Weeden isn’t the caliber of Romo, the former Oklahoma State quarterback hasn’t put up bad numbers, “Weeden is not the big play threat that Romo is but he has just one turnover in two-plus games while completing over 76 percent of his passes. The offensive line and running game should be the key for the Cowboys to stay in this game as the Patriots rank 31st in the league allowing 4.9 yards per rush this season and Dallas has the potential to grind out some drives to limit the possessions for Brady and the excellent New England offense.”
The Cowboys may have struggled from an ATS standpoint as a home favorite, but Nelson points out that this team has profited in the role of a home ‘dog, “Dallas is on a 30-14 ATS run as a home underdog going back to 1990 including going 3-1 ATS the past two seasons in that role, while also going 5-0 ATS in the last five instances as an underdog of 7 or more points.”
From a league-wide standpoint, Nelson has dug up an interesting angle that can benefit the Cowboys, “Since 2006, NFL home underdogs of more than seven points are 72-44 ATS including going just 26-12 ATS since 2011 and with Green Bay’s line in San Francisco last week closing at just -7. this game has the potential to feature the biggest home underdog spread of the season, a distinction a competitive Cowboys team likely does not deserve.”
NFL expert Antony Dinero says the defense will be the key for Dallas to hang around with New England, “Dallas will have new blood on defense with Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain ready to go. Since their absences were suspension-related, both are expected to be 100 percent, which few players are even at this early stage of the season. The Cowboys are optimistic that Sean Lee, a difference-maker at linebacker, will get through protocol and be on board as well, so they’ll be far better-stocked than they were in the closing stages of Sunday’s OT loss at New Orleans. The Cowboys are a heavy underdog for good reason, but would seem to have a fighting chance.”
Broncos (-5, 43 ½) at Raiders – 4:25 PM EST
Denver hasn’t been sharp in two home games, sneaking past Baltimore and Minnesota at Sports Authority Field. However, the Broncos have won and covered on the road at Kansas City and Detroit as Denver seeks its second 5-0 start in the last three seasons with a victory at Oakland in Week 5. Denver’s defense has been spectacular so far, allowing 20 points or less in three of four games, while giving up the second-least amount of points in the league.
The Raiders have lost each of the last six meetings with the Broncos since Peyton Manning joined Denver in 2012, including a pair of blowout losses as double-digit underdogs last season. Oakland dropped a 22-20 road decision at Chicago last Sunday in its first favorite opportunity of the season. The Raiders have covered four of their last five games at the Black Hole dating back to last December, including the Week 2 victory against Baltimore, all as an underdog.
So why back the Raiders?
Nelson says in spite of the Broncos’ unblemished mark, they haven’t played a complete game yet, “Denver has trailed or been tied in the second half of three of the four games in the team’s 4-0 start, sitting at just +28 in point differential with four narrow wins. The Broncos have three defensive touchdowns this season as their offense has outscored their opponents offenses by an even smaller margin.”
When comparing the two quarterbacks in this game, Oakland’s signal-caller has put together an impressive start to the season according to Nelson, “Derek Carr currently rates 9th in the NFL in QBR, compared to Manning, who is 19th through four weeks. Manning has thrown five interceptions this season compared to just two for Carr. Denver leads the NFL with 18 sacks but Carr has taken just three sacks in four games as he is getting the ball out quickly in the new offense and the Raiders have a very talented receiving corps with great size.”
Nelson says Oakland can use some of its Intel for its division opener, “For a Raiders team looking to gain credibility, there is no better opportunity than this division home game, the first AFC West game of the season for Oakland. Head Coach Jack Del Rio was the defensive coordinator in Denver the past three seasons as he knows the personnel well and there will be significant motivational factors for the Raiders this week, especially coming off a crushing loss last Sunday.”
NFL handicapper Vince Akins says Oakland is in a favorable position with the line flip from last week, “This week represents a great swing in the line away from the Raiders relative to where is has been the past two weeks. Last week, Oakland was road favorite for the second-straight week as they laid three points in Chicago. Going from a road favorite for two straight games to a home dog is an occurrence so rare it happens less than once per season on average. Even going from a legitimate road favorite one week to being a legit home dog the next doesn’t happen that often. When it does, it has been a value spot as teams have covered 62.5% of the time as a home dog of more than a point after a loss as an away favorite of more than a point.”