We are now five weeks into the 2021 NFL season and things are really settling down.
Buffalo is the hottest team in the league right now and challenging for Super Bowl favouritism, while the Jacksonville Jaguars continue on their epic losing streak.
Whether you are picking parlays or betting against the spread, you now have plenty of evidence to work with.
The action continues apace as Week 6 gets under way tonight (Thursday) with Tampa Bay @ Philadelphia.
Before the big kickoff in the City of Brotherly Love, let’s look back at what we learned from Week 5, and ahead to some of the NFL betting pointers for this weekend’s schedule.
The phrase ‘next man up’ is one you’ll hear a lot from NFL coaches. It’s a brutal league and a brutal game, and here are some of the key injuries from Week 5:
Russell Wilson (QB, Seattle Seahawks): Wilson went down with a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger during the defeat by the Rams on Thursday Night Football. Seattle’s playoff hopes may well have disappeared with him. The initial prognosis had Wilson missing eight weeks, and even though there is now hope he’ll be back in four, the jig could be up by then for Seattle. They are struggling at 2-3 and it’s highly doubtful that Wilson’s replacement Geno Smith can keep pace with the 5-0 Cardinals and the 4-1 Rams in the all-powerful NFC West.
Joe Burrow (QB, Cincinnati Bengals): You could forgive Bengal fans for fearing the worst when Burrow was taken to a Cincinnati hospital on Sunday night with a throat contusion following the overtime defeat by Green Bay. The good news is that despite being on “voice rest” (presume there is plenty of silent count in practice this week) Burrow should be good to go against Detroit this weekend. Great news for a player who has been terrific coming back from that devastating knee injury he suffered as a rookie in 2020.
Daniel Jones (QB, New York Giants): It seems astonishing that Jones could apparently still start against the Rams this Sunday. Anybody who saw the woozy Giants QB staggering across the turf in Dallas last Sunday would not have given him a prayer. Jones remains in concussion protocol after the collision with Jabril Cox which saw him leave the field in Texas, but he still has some way to go to prove he is healthy enough to go this Sunday. Either way, it’s another bump in the road for a much-maligned quarterback who had been trending north in recent weeks.
Saquon Barkley (RB, New York Giants): It was a pretty bad day in Dallas for the Giants. Beaten 44-20 and losing their starting QB, their star running back and their lead wide receiver (more on that next). Barkley, who missed almost all of 2020 with a torn ACL, left the rout in Texas with an ankle in the first quarter. He has yet to practice this week and is also a doubt for that Sunday showdown with the Rams.
Kenny Golladay (WR, New York Giants): So as well as losing QB1 and RB1, down goes WR1 in New York. Golladay was another Giant star to leave the loss in Dallas early. The $72million offseason free-agent signing suffered a knee injury and he is expected to miss the game against the Rams. it’s just another disastrous blow for the Giants offense - they had started the game in Dallas without two more wide receivers in Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. They both have hamstring problems.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, Kansas City Chiefs): Sunday night was a bad one for the Kansas City Chiefs. First of all the pre-season Super Bowl favourites fell to 2-3 with a comprehensive 38-20 home loss at the hands of Buffalo. They also lost starting RB Edwards-Helaire with a sprained MCL. He is now on IR and will miss at least the next three weeks.
Joe Thuney (OG, Kansas City Chiefs): Thuney played most of Sunday’s loss to the Bills with a broken hand and so far this week he’s been unable to practice. Injuries like this are never good news for linemen and as yet there is no clear prognosis on whether Thuney will miss games. It’s another big blow for a Chiefs offense which needs to mitigate for a disastrous defense.
Tyreek Hill (WR, Kansas City Chiefs): To complete the misery for KC, Hill suffered a quad contusion in the capitulation to the Bills. He has missed practice so far this week but it’s hoped he will be able to play against Washington on Sunday.
Maxx Williams (TE, Arizona Cardinals): Williams was having a nice year for the undefeated Cards before he suffered a season-ending knee injury during Sunday’s win over the San Francisco 49ers. Bad news for MVP front runner Kyler Murray.
Rodney Hudson (C, Arizona Cardinals): More bad news for the Cardinals in that the anchor of their offensive line will miss this weekend’s tough encounter with Cleveland because of a rib injury.
Chandler Jones (LB, Arizona Cardinals): Arizona may be 5-0, but the problems are starting to mount up. Jones is the latest man to go down after being added to the COVID list, and he is up against it to be clear in time to face the Browns.
Oday Aboushi (OG, Los Angeles Chargers): While QB Justin Herbert was continuing to push his case for MVP honours on Sunday in an epic 47-42 defeat of the Browns, there was still some bad news for the Chargers. Starting right guard Aboushi was lost for the year in the first quarter with a torn ACL. Grim stuff for a rebuilt L.A. front which was performing well.
Lavonte David (LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers): David suffered an ankle sprain in Sunday’s 45-17 demolition of the woeful Miami Dolphins and he will miss Thursday’s visit to Philadelphia at the very least. Bad news for a Bucs defense which has struggled so far in 2021.
Josh Allen: We have a new MVP favourite in 2021, or at least joint favourite, after Buffalo QB Allen joined Kyler Murray at the head of the betting. Allen - who signed a six-year contract extension worth $258million in the summer - has been stellar as the Bills have romped to four straight wins. He threw for 315 yards and three scores in that huge Sunday night win in Kansas City, and right now the Bills look like the best team in the NFL.
Justin Herbert: We had the hipster’s choice Herbert in the opposite column after he left much to be desired in a Week 2 loss to Dallas. Since then though all he’s done is lead the Chargers to three straight wins and the calmer waters of 4-1. Herbert was brilliant on Sunday, throwing for 398 yards and four scores as L.A. snatched a 47-42 win from an offensive supershow vs Cleveland at SoFi Stadium. The second-year signal caller is now fulfilling all of the lofty expectations he had coming into 2021.
Kadarius Toney: The rookie Giants wide receiver had a breakout game in Dallas on Sunday after a very quiet start to his first season in the NFL. Toney had to step up with injuries to Golladay, Shepard and Slayton decimating the receiving corps. And he did so in style, catching 10 balls for 189 yards in a losing effort. Toney did blot his copybook late in the game when he was ejected for throwing a punch at a Cowboy, but he also flashed spectacular potential in a game which bodes well for the rest of his rookie year.
Shaq Barrett: We’ll caveat this one by saying it was vs the lacklustre Dolphins, but Barrett was brilliant in Tampa’s destruction of the Fish in Florida last Sunday. He spent most of the afternoon in the Miami backfield, sacking Jacoby Brissett twice, forcing a fumble and generating three hurries. The best cure for a struggling secondary is a strong pass rush. Job done.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah: This might seem strange for a defense which gave up 47 points in a loss to the Chargers last Sunday. But rookie linebackeer JOK was not the problem. The former Notre Dame standout took over as a starter in Los Angeles and again showed elite speed to excel both in coverage and in getting to ball carriers fast. He also forced a fumble. Taken in the second round, Owusu-Koramoah appears to be a steal and he is still only 21. What a future awaits.
Jon Gruden: We are not sure it’s possible right now to trend any further south than Gruden. ‘Chucky’ resigned as Raiders head coach on Monday after a tumultuous weekend in Las Vegas. Late last week Gruden apologised after an email was published from 2011 in which he used a racial trope to describe NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. Any thoughts that he would be able to carry on in his role disappeared on Monday when the New York Times revealed details of further emails spanning a seven-year period in which Gruden made homophobic and misogynistic remarks. Gruden was given a 10-year contract when he began his second stint with the team in 2018. That stint ended with a 22-31 record and zero playoff appearances.
Daniel Sorensen: The Chiefs safety capped a terrible start to 2021 by being burned for more big plays in KC’s Sunday night loss to Buffalo. Afterwards Chiefs fans responded by launching a GoFundMe campaign to buy out the remainder of his contract at Arrowhead. Welp.
Kickers, period: History was made in the National Football League last weekend - it was officially the worst ever for kickers. We had 13 missed field goals AND 13 missed extra points as some wild games were heavily influenced by some wild kicking. Nowhere was the drama higher than in Cincinnati, where Packers kicker Mason Crosby missed three crucial field goals and an extra point while Cincy’s Evan McPherson also fluffed two field goals. Crosby, who had made 27 field goals straight coming in, finally booted a game winner for the Pack in OT. The enduring moment of the day though may have been McPherson wrongly celebrating a potential game winner which he thought had gone through the posts. Not quite…
The Miami Dolphins: Hopes were high in south Florida during the offseason that Miami was ready to make a playoff run. After a 10-6 campaign in 2021 further progression was expected from Brian Flores and his men. But since an opening-day win in New England, the Dolphins have lost four straight. In two of those games they’ve been absolutely battered - 35-0 by Buffalo and 45-17 by the Bucs. That shows just how far away from being competitive they are right now. Miami was bad up front on both sides of the ball last Sunday - never a great starting point. And quite frankly, it’s difficult to see the imminent return of starting QB Tua Tagovailoa sparking a remarkable renaissance.
Trevor Lawrence: This wasn’t how it was meant to be. We knew there would be growing pains (see all rookie QBs) but Trevor, taken #1 overall in the NFL Draft by Jacksonville is supposed to be a generational talent. Yes he’s on an awful Jags team (20 straight losses now - the third worst streak in league history) and has a head coach who is causing plenty of distractions (see last week’s update) but we expect better. Through five weeks he leads the league with 11 turnover-worthy plays per PFF. Maybe a coaching change is needed here?
A terrific matchup of two 4-1 teams, both coming off sensational wins and both with red-hot MVP candidates at QB.
While the aforementioned Herbert was incredible against Cleveland last week, Lamar Jackson was just as good in leading the Ravens to a superb comeback win over the Colts on Monday Night Football.
Excited? You should be.