NFL Week 5 Betting Preview: Bears-Bucs, Colts-Browns, And Bengals-Ravens

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It’s only been one full season and a handful of 2020 games since franchise quarterback Andrew Luck informed the Indianapolis Colts of his decision to retire, but for some reason it feels as if eons have passed since NFL teams in the Indiana tri-state region last occupied the center of the national football conversation.

Whatever the reason, the Colts and the Chicago Bears won’t toil in regional obscurity during Week 5, with the Bears hosting all-time great quarterback Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a nationally televised Thursday Night Football game and the Colts on the road against the Cleveland Browns Sunday in what is rather unexpectedly being forecast as the NFL’s game of the week.

Slightly lower on the mainstream attention totem pole is the Bengals headed into a projected slaughter vs. the Baltimore Ravens, but hey, two out of three ain’t bad.

Sports gamblers in Indiana, Illinois, southwestern Ohio, and eastern Kentucky who place mobile wagers in the Hoosier State to take advantage of its robust market of nine competing online sportsbooks are already benefiting from the spotlight, with PointsBet lavishing promotions on Thursday’s Bears-Buccaneers game. Here are the sports betting basics on the region’s trio of Week 5 NFL games.

Chicago Bears (3-1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1)

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The aforementioned PointsBet promotion involves the Australian-headquartered sportsbook moving its line for the underdog Bears from the opening +6 to +86 to +100 (no, that’s not an even-odds moneyline bet), with no vig and a maximum wager of $25.

The actual, competitive spread has the Bucs as -3.5 favorites. BetRivers is offering the most favorable moneyline odds on Tampa Bay to win at -180, with most other sportsbooks posting lines between -190 and -200, and moneyline odds on Chicago range from +155 to +170, with BetMGM offering the best price on the upset. The total points over/under is 43.5 across the board.

Thursday’s game might be Chi-town skeptics’ last chance to find value on fading the Bears, who jumped out to a 3-0 record against poor competition and are now being force-fed reality by teams like the Colts last week and — in the eyes of oddsmakers, at least — the Buccaneers this week.

Tampa Bay’s defense has been holding opposing offenses to an average of 2 yards per carry on running plays and appears capable of chewing up Chicago’s offense in much the same way as Indianapolis did in Week 3. Bettors who see it that way may feel comfortable giving up 3.5 points to bet the Bucs against the spread.

For a season-long fade, DraftKings currently offers +104 odds on prop bets against the Bears to make the playoffs. That line is down from last week’s +154, when Chicago was 3-0, and if the Bears season turns sour from here, +104 may be the best value we see on that bet for the rest of the season.

Indianapolis Colts (3-1) at Cleveland Browns (3-1)

With both the Colts and Browns on three-game win streaks, Indianapolis at Cleveland may project as the most competitive matchup in Week 5, but don’t expect the potential game of the week to be a shootout.

Indianapolis’s strength has been its defense, which has given up 77 running yards per game on the ground and less than 160 yards per game in the air, good for fourth and first in the league, respectively. Four games into the season, many experts believe that the Colts could have the best defense in the NFL. Philip Rivers, at 38 years old, has settled into more of an expert game-manager role as the Colts QB, while the Browns’ offense has featured its run game more than QB Baker Mayfield.

It’s little surprise, then, that sportsbooks have set a total points over/under of 47 for this game, among the lowest lines of the week. The point spread has the Colts as 1.5- or 2-point favorites, depending on which sportsbook you bet with. FanDuel offers Colts bettors the best current value at -1.5 with a discounted vig of -105. The moneyline swings from -114 to -125 for the Colts to win and from +100 to +105 for the Browns.

Sportsbooks haven’t released lines on prop bets yet, but when they do, gamblers who believe in this Colts defense may want to keep an eye on the Browns’ offensive over/unders. For those who think Indianapolis has a strong chance to contain Cleveland’s league-leading 204.5 average rushing yards per game or to hold the Browns to less than their average total yardage of 387, perhaps there will be some value on the board.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

The Bengals’ two-game non-losing streak appears likely to end Sunday, although some online sportsbooks have removed odds on this game and others have adjusted the spread from Ravens -13 to -12 after Baltimore quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson didn’t practice Thursday, for the second straight day.

The Ravens say Jackson will play Sunday and that he skipped this week’s practices as a precautionary measure due to a mild knee injury. BetMGM and FanDuel have removed odds until further notice, while BetRivers, DraftKings, and PointsBet have adjusted their lines to -12 or -12.5. PointsBet and BetRivers are still offering a total points over/under line of 51, while the other books have removed that bet for the time being. The moneyline — at the books that are currently offering one — pegs the Ravens as -590 to -740 favorites and the Bengals as +480 to +520 underdogs.

Assuming Jackson plays and resembles his normal, explosive self on the field Sunday, taking the Ravens to beat such a large spread might not be the most difficult sweat. All of Baltimore’s wins this season have come by more than 12 points, and all of the teams the Ravens have beaten would likely be favorites against the Bengals.

That said, The Action Network’s Matthew Freedman notes that historically, road underdogs playing teams in their own division are 354-280-23 against the spread in the months of September, October, and November. That trend suggests serious value on the Bengals, but even with rookie QB Joe Burrow providing reason for optimism in Cincinnati, that historical edge might not be enough to give Bengals bettors much calm against a buzzsaw like the Ravens.

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Rafe Bartholomew

Rafe has worked as an editor and writer at Harper's Magazine, Grantland, Eater, and The Athletic. He is a co-author of the New York Times Bestselling book Basketball: A Love Story and the author of two other books, Pacific Rims and Two and Two.

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