Rebound week was in full swing this week, as we booked a 7-3 record for +6.44 Units that could have easily been 10-1. We hit on two moneyline underdogs and had several comfortable wins. As I promised last week, I shut out external voices early in the week and focused on what I saw on the field. This was the process that led to success last year and it was a good decision. I’ll be hoping to continue the wins in Week 6 by sticking with my method: watching every snap of every game and understanding how these teams truly operate on the field.
After going 68% against the spread in 2020, we are now 30-23 in the 2021 season for +2.88 Units with our bets. Let’s keep it rolling.
This article breaks down every bet I placed and discusses some key takeaways moving forward. If you want access to my picks as I make them moving forward, become a SharpClarke Member today and see my Week 6 Picks.
Week 5 Bets
|LAR -2||(-110)||2||10.4.21 (MGM)||Win||+1.82|
|ATL -3||(-110)||2||10.6.21 (MGM)||Cashed Out||-0.05|
|NO -1.5||(-110)||2||10.5.21 (FD)||Win||+1.82|
|HOU +9.5||(-110)||2.5||10.6.21 (MGM)||Win||+2.27|
|TB -10||(-105)||1.5||10.7.21 (DK)||Win||+1.43|
|MIN -9.5||(-110)||1.5||10.7.21 (DK)||Loss||-1.5|
|TB -2.5, MIN -1.5||(-140)||1.4||10.8.21 (DK)||Win||+1|
|PHI ML||(+150)||1||10.8.21 (MGM)||Win||+1.5|
|PIT ML||(+110)||1.5||10.9.21 (DK)||Win||+1.65|
|NYG TT O 22.5||(-110)||1.5||10.7.21 (DK)||Loss||-1.5|
|CLE +2.5||(-110)||2||10.7.21 (MGM)||Loss||-2|
LAR -2 (-110) @ SEA (2u) – LAR 26-17, Win 1.82 Units
It’s always fortunate when the team you bet against loses its starting quarterback. But the Rams were the better team all night. In 8 drives with Russell Wilson, Seattle scored a total of 7 points. Granted, there was some negative variance there but it was still not a great offensive performance. The Rams excel at stopping big pass plays and that has been the only way Seattle has found success this season. Geno Smith actually provided a much needed spark even if he was not able to complete a comeback. The Rams offense was less successful than I anticipated, but it mostly came down to missed throws by Stafford. The scheme was working, and it was only a matter of time before he started hitting those throws. I was lower than most on Seattle heading into the game, so this result does not alter my view on either team.
ATL -3 (-110) v. NYJ (2u) – ATL 27-20, Cashed Out for -0.05 Units
I felt really good about this bet when I made it, but the Ridley news spooked me. It probably shouldn’t have, because he has not been a difference-maker this season. But the result confirmed my process was sound. This Falcons offense has looked better each week as it is finding its identity, whereas the Jets still have not put together a single good offensive performance. Everything has been in catch-up mode or garbage time.
NO -1.5 (-110) @ WAS (2u) – NO 33-22, Win 1.82 Units
This was a comfortable win with the assist from a half-time hail mary from Winston to Callaway. Without two starting offensive linemen, the Saints did not keep Winston particularly clean, and after losing two offensive weapons (Hill and Harris), the offense did struggle somewhat outside of Alvin Kamara. But their defense gave them enough chances to win this game. Heinicke once again displayed his variance, making some incredible plays but also throwing some really bad interceptions. This gives Washington a chance against any defense, but likely means they are not the type of team that can methodically take advantage of a bad defense. We did see some signs of life from the Washington defensive front (finally), but they’ll need to improve in their back seven for it to make a meaningful difference.
HOU +9.5 (-110) v. NE (2.5u) – NE 25-22, Win 2.27 Units
Before the game I called this my favorite bet of the year so far. My first max bet since moving to the 1.5-2-2.5 scale was an absolute smash and was never really in doubt. The Texans got off to a hot start with a surprisingly strong performance from Davis Mills and were even winning this game 22-9 at one point before the Texans turned into a pumpkin.
There were so many angles I liked here. It illustrates the importance of understanding the nuances of teams, as opposed to simply assigning a “power rating” and seeing if there is perceived value in the spread. Everybody wrote off Davis Mills because he struggled against Carolina and in bad weather against the Bills. What I saw was an inexperienced rookie who handled pressure very poorly against two of the best edge rushing teams in the league. Looking past that, he actually saw the field well when he had time. The Patriots defense under Belichick implements complex coverage schemes but has not been able to get pressure on quarterbacks this year. I saw an opportunity to back Mills when everyone had written him off when he had at least a chance to succeed. On the other side, the underrated Texans defense faced off against a heavily injured offensive line for a run-heavy team that would have a hard time consistently winning in the trenches. Giving the Texans more than a touchdown at home against a team averaging around 17 points per game was simply not justified. I was happy to capitalize.
TB -10 (-105) v. MIA (1.5u) – TB 45-17, Win 1.43 Units
I do not often take double-digit favorites in the NFL. In fact, this was my only double-digit favorite of the season. But I was so confident in this matchup that I even played TB -10.5 in a contest. The Dolphins are really struggling and I’m not sure Tua can help them. They don’t do anything well right now. Their offensive line is bad so they can’t run. Their defensive line is not strong enough to stop other teams from running, and they rely on blitzes to get pressure. Smart quarterbacks (like Brady) can easily take advantage. And Brissett does not get the ball out quickly enough to mimic the teams that have had success against Tampa (like the Cowboys and Rams). There really was no angle for the Dolphins here.
Meanwhile, the Bucs were somehow underrated after an underwhelming performance against the Patriots. But they played better than the score indicated and I was not worried. They are still the most complete team in the NFL outside of arguably the Bills, and implement an up-tempo aggressive passing attack that is capable of burying inferior teams. They did exactly that against the Dolphins.
MIN -9.5 (-110) v. DET (1.5u) – MIN 19-17, Loss 1.5 Units
My other big favorite of the week did not come through, but they probably should have. The Lions did not run a single play in the red zone until Mattison fumbled the ball on his own 20 trying to run the clock. The Vikings implemented an overly conservative game plan and shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with holding calls, key drops, an interception off the receiver’s helmet in Detroit territory, and a missed field goal late to put the lead at 13. But to be fair to the Lions bettors, this is part of the handicap when you have Minnesota laying a ton of points. Things have to go right in the NFL for you to win by 10+, and they sure did not go right for the Vikings. They almost blew the game outright.
Two things changed on the injury report late in the week that made me less confident in this bet. Dalvin Cook was ruled out, and Penei Sewell was active. I switched off MIN -7.5 in my contest to TB -10.5 as a result, but still felt comfortable with the CLV I had here, given that the line closed at -10.
I did learn something here, though. I already viewed Detroit as a bet-on team when getting a ton of points because they are live for a backdoor cover. But I learned just how good their punter is. They run the ball well but struggle with consistency in the pass game, which leads to a lot of drives where they get a couple of first downs and then punt. With a decent punter, this creates long field after long field for their opponents. This will be an important angle that favors the Lions getting points and also favors the Under in Lions games. I should have avoided this bet for that reason.
Teaser: TB -2.5, MIN -1.5 (-140) – TB 45-17, MIN 19-17, Win 1 Unit
I had to laugh when this bet cashed. It should not have been close, but after Mattison fumbled this was suddenly in doubt. When the Lions scored to make it 16-17, they went for 2. I was suddenly in the position where I needed them to convert, to force MIN to kick a FG. This ending really shows the fragility of teasers even when they seem like a sure thing. I don’t often play teasers and this was a good reminder why. In-game variance in the NFL is a major factor.
PHI Money line (+150) @ CAR – PHI 21-18, Win 1.5 Units
This was an ugly, defensive game that I imagine very few people actually watched. Darnold has struggled twice now when the team needed him most, and the Panthers have struggled in the second half every game this season. I came in to the season questioning this coaching staff and I still do. In the end, when the Eagles started running the read option with Hurts it made all the difference. It negated the pressure from Carolina. On the other side, the Panthers were unable to make an adjustment and could not finish the game.
The Panthers will benefit from getting McCaffrey back. Hubbard was a good runner but struggled in the pass game. Darnold needs that outlet. If sentiment falls down too hard on Carolina, they could be bettable because they have an exciting, aggressive defense and an offense that plays well when it is in control. But this was the right bet in a classic overrated v. underrated spot.
PIT Money line (+110) v. DEN – PIT 27-19, Win 1.65 Units
Pittsburgh made us 2-0 on underdog money line bets with its best offensive performance of the season. They have been vastly underrated when healthy on defense and it made no sense that they were underdogs at home here. But their defensive performance was a little disappointing. Denver played hyper conservatively in the first half, seemingly going run-run-pass on every possession. This is simply not how you beat Pittsburgh, and this is why I made this bet after they announced Teddy would start. The Broncos actually looked live when they opened it up in the second half. I came away from this one impressed with Denver’s offense, but they will need to become more aggressive from the starting whistle. I’m not sure if that will happen.
NYG Team Total Over 22.5 (-110) @ DAL (1.5u) – DAL 44-20, Loss 1.5 Units
Sometimes you just have to laugh. I needed the Giants to score 23 points. Saquon suffered a random injury after 6 snaps. Daniel Jones suffered a concussion before halftime. Down two starting receivers already, Golladay managed to hobble through 24 snaps and then Toney, who absolutely exploded in this one, got himself ejected before he could help out in garbage time. They missed a field goal. And they got stopped on the Cowboys 2-yard line when Toney either slipped or got pushed in the end zone. And they still scored 20 points.
The Giants offense continues to be underrated, but all these injuries make it difficult to play that angle in the short term. As these pieces get healthy, they will be a feisty team down the stretch. Meanwhile, the Cowboys continue their incredible start. They look good in every facet of the game right now, and everything is clicking. They are making tough catches and creating negative plays on defense in big situations. But I am not anticipating immediate and sudden regression, because they are doing everything well. The more likely outcome is a true playoff run for this team if it stays healthy.
CLE +2.5 (-110) @ LAC (2u) – CLE 47-42, Loss 2 Units
If you have time to watch one game on replay this week, make it this one. What a treat. Two teams that understand their identity, playing hard, with smart coaching and talent. For a majority of the game, the Browns were simply better. I predicted they would be able to exert their will on offense, and they did. They took a 14-point lead in this one and looked to be in control. But then the injuries mounted up, particularly to the Browns’ secondary and offensive line. The game got tighter. The Chargers went for it on fourth down four times on two touchdown drives. They converted all of these attempts, including an arguably bogus 33-yard defensive pass interference call on 4th and 4 that led to a Chargers touchdown.
Still, with everything going wrong for the Browns, this should have been a winning bet as the Chargers had the ball on the Browns’ 2-yard line down 1 with time running out. The Chargers should have knelt the ball to kill the clock and won the game by 2 with a field goal. But instead, the Chargers ran it with no intention of scoring and the Browns defense carried Ekeler into the end zone against his will, giving them a chance to win the game but blowing my cover. Despite the loss, it was beautiful to watch smart football.
Two big takeaways from this game: (1) the Chargers are a clutch team. A lot is made about their aggressiveness on fourth down, but I believe that the amount of practice Herbert gets on high-leverage 3rd- and 4th-downs makes him calmer in those situations and a better player in clutch moments. The Browns were not clutch. They need to be in a good position to win. (2) Staley and the Chargers are changing the way this game is played. We will see more teams using all four downs and more 2-point conversions late in games where offenses clearly have an advantage. This means that underdogs of less than a field goal may have more value than historical models suggest, with more games falling in the 1-2 point margin range. This makes short underdogs more attractive in these matchups between smart coaches.