In an NFL landscape littered with mediocrity, predicting the future is arguably more difficult than ever. According to professional bettor Steve Fezzik's power ratings, only the Patriots and Vikings would be favored by more than four points on a neutral field against a league-average team; on the flip side, only the 49ers, Browns and Jets would be underdogs of more than four points in the same setting. That leaves a whole lot of "meh" in the middle, making for a whole lot of randomness.
As frustrating as it can be, the good news is that the sea of uncertainty affects everyone betting on football. That means to succeed you don't have to predict the future, but rather outperform the market. On the heels of back-to-back winning Sundays, here's this week's attempt to keep it rolling.
Dolphins +3 vs. Bills
This is closer to what the line should be on a neutral field. The Bills are the better team, but they're not that much better, especially with LeSean McCoy limited if not inactive.
While any four-game winning streak in the NFL is meaningful, Buffalo's is about as underwhelming as one can be. After routing the Cardinals in a bit of an eye opener, they've beaten the Patriots' third-string QB, a depleted Rams defensive front, and a 49ers team that may be the league's worst.
It's a tougher matchup on the road and possibly without their best player this week, and in blowing out the Steelers last Sunday, the Dolphins have shown what they can do now that their offensive line is finally healthy.
Steelers +7.5 vs. Patriots
Despite the loss in Miami, the Steelers are arguably the second-best team in the NFL with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. With Landry Jones starting at QB they've been downgraded substantially, and rightfully so. But even against the juggernaut that is the Patriots, giving Pittsburgh more than a touchdown at home is too much.
While he struggled in Roethlisberger's absence last season, Jones gained valuable experience and built on it with a heavy preseason workload. With the NFL's best running back in Le'Veon Bell and best wide receiver in Antonio Brown at his disposal, Jones should be able to keep the Steelers in the hunt.
Pick of the Week: Chargers +6.5 vs. Falcons
The high-flying Falcons may be the surprise story of the season, but after five straight weeks of going undervalued the market appears to have overcorrected. Their opposition this week isn't a pushover like the line would suggest.
In a nutshell, the Chargers are a good team that's bad at winning games. Regardless of how many injuries pile up, they do enough things right with the players on hand to compete week in and week out. And regardless of how well they play for extended stretches, they consistently do enough things wrong in crunch time to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This explains how a team that could easily be 5-1, if not 6-0, instead sits at 2-4.
But for those backing Philip Rivers & Co., getting almost a touchdown means they can lose by as big of a margin as they have all season and still cover.
Bills/Dolphins: In Week 5, the Dolphins started two players on the left side of their offensive line who are no longer on an NFL roster and were blown out by the Titans. Last week, Miami's front five started together for the first time and manhandled the Steelers. Even in 2016, the battle in the trenches plays a pivotal role.
Patriots/Steelers: While Tom Brady has been the same great QB in two games since his return, at 39 years old there's growing concern about his ability to withstand the physical demands of his position. He was sacked three times by the Bengals last week, and hit and pressured many more, not looking comfortable when moved off his mark. The Patriots could choose to protect him instead of aggressively add to a lead in the later stages, meaning handoff after handoff to LeGarrette Blount to milk the clock and keep the scoreboard in check.
Chargers/Falcons: The spot for both teams helps tip the scales in favor of the Chargers. After knocking out their division rival and the reigning NFC champion Panthers, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos at Mile High, and taking the Seahawks down to the wire in Seattle over the past three weeks, the Falcons have been put through the wringer. A looming showdown with the Packers in Week 8 also makes this a sandwich spot for Atlanta, with San Diego potentially getting overlooked in the middle of a grueling part of the schedule. For the Chargers, on the other hand, a couple of positive situational factors may loom large: 1) They're on extra rest after defeating Denver last Thursday night, and 2) Despite traveling to the east coast they'll be kicking off at 1:05 Pacific Time, meaning their body clocks will be right on schedule.
Last week: 2-1
Picks of the Week: 3-3