Our NFL expert, James, finds the early value in the lines for Week 5
The Vikings managed to dink and doink their way past the Saints in London on Sunday, with Justin Jefferson getting back on track in a big way. Dalvin Cook’s shoulder is currently being held together by paper mache, likely playing at least some factor in his YPC average dropping for a third straight season. However, if there’s ever a time for him to bust out his first 100 yard rushing game of the season, it’s against this porous Bears defense giving up a league high 183.3 rushing yards per game. I remember watching the first Vikings / Bears game of the season last year and getting frustrated by how much Akiem Hicks was disrupting the line of scrimmage. First reason is I had Dalvin Cook on my fantasy team (he was still only 26 back then; I refuse to draft running backs in the first 4 rounds after the age of 27) and the second being I bet on the Vikings. Well after parting ways with Hicks in the offseason, I have zero concerns about the Vikings offensive line opening up plenty of room for their running backs.
The Bears offense is a mess, although Darnell Mooney finally discovered proof of life on Mars this past week against the Giants. If the Vikings get out to an early lead, it’s going to be difficult for Justin Fields, ranking dead last out of 32 starting quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage to keep up.
Minnesota Vikings -7 (-110)
After getting off to a slow start through the first two games of the season, Joe Burrow appears to be fully back in the swing of things after his preseason appendectomy. The Bengals come into this game on extra rest, while the Ravens just played a very physical game in a monsoon against the Bills on Sunday. There’s no love loss between these divisional rivals, and I expect this to be a slugfest. The Bengals defense has been stout against the run thus far in 2022, only giving up 85.8 rushing yards per game, and despite scoring a couple of touchdowns against the Bills, J.K. Dobbins still doesn’t look comfortable in his return from a preseason knee injury in 2021.
The Ravens secondary is a mess, giving up a league high 315.3 passing yards per game, and barring another hurricane, will likely have a difficult time slowing down the Bengals receiving core. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baltimore win this game because John Harbaugh is a much better coach than Zac Taylor, but I think this line should be +2.5.
Cincinnati Bengals +3 (-105)
Despite Austin Ekeler finally breaking out with 3 touchdowns against the Texans on Sunday, the Chargers still only rushed for 81 yards against a Texans defense giving up 172 rushing yards per game, and clearly miss Rashawn Slater. The Browns have the best ground game in the NFL, and after watching James Robinson and Dameon Pierce gash the Chargers defense in back to back weeks, I have a hard time not seeing Nick Chubb rush for a million yards in this one (maybe he’ll get full at some point and Kareem Hunt will eat).
I love Justin Herbert (serious man crush), and he’ll do all he can to keep LA in this game, hopefully benefiting from the return of Keenan Allen for the sake of my fantasy team (please Keenan, play), but the Browns have a big coaching edge here and I’m trying to wrap my head around why the Chargers are even favored in this game. I guess Myles Garrett’s car accident is worth 4+ points…
Cleveland Browns +3 (-110)