NFL Week 6 Best Bets: Back a well-rested, underdog Seahawks team to cover

2RWT51K Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) runs the ball against the Detroit Lions during an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

• Take the Seattle Seahawks as small underdogs against the Cincinnati Bengals: Buy the Seahawks, who have quietly been one of the more impressive teams in the NFL, to cover in Cincinnati.

• Trust the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to produce offensively: In a game with two of the best play callers in football, expect there to be a lot more scoring than the low total suggests.

• Back Jahan Dotson to clear a low receiving yards total: All signs point to a big game from Dotson, who is due for a breakout game.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

The NFL season rolls along as we enter Week 6. We’ll be using our late-down luck angle to identify a good team that should get even better in the coming weeks. We’ll also be finding value in a matchup between two of the brightest offensive minds in football.

Seattle Seahawks @ Cincinnati Bengals (-3, 45)

The Seahawks ripped off three straight wins after dropping their first game to the Rams. Seattle should be well-rested after their Week 5 bye and quietly have one of the most impressive statistical profiles of any team in the NFL. On early downs, the Seahawks have been absolutely dominant and rank second in NET EPA+. Seattle has really struggled on those high-leverage late downs, though, ranking second worst in NET EPA+.

Although Seattle still has above-average overall NET EPA+ numbers, they are being heavily weighed down by their poor play on third and fourth downs, which we expect to even out over the course of the season due to the small sample size and high variability of late-down plays. If that positive regression hits and the Seahawks continue their success on early downs, which tends to be more sustainable, we could be talking about them as a real contender in the NFC.

Geno Smith has played very well, grading out as PFF’s ninth-ranked quarterback. Smith and this passing offense powered by the wide receiver tandem of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett should be able to capitalize on a Bengals secondary that has a dismal 57.4 coverage grade, which ranks 26th in the NFL. There isn’t really anyone on this Cincinnati team capable of covering either of those guys, so Smith and company could be in for a big game through the air.

For the Bengals, the question of Joe Burrow’s health remains the most important thing to analyze for betting purposes. Burrow had by far the best game of his season last week against a Cardinals defense that couldn’t generate any pressure or match up with stud wideout Ja’Marr Chase. Arizona let Burrow throw to his first read efficiently and often, which is the area where Burrow has found the most success while nursing his injury. Burrow has been getting the ball out quickly this season, targeting his first read at one of the highest rates in the league.

The Seahawks' defense presents a different problem for Burrow, however, as they have been able to hold opposing passers to a negative EPA per throw when targeting their first read. Seattle has a very talented secondary with three players among PFF’s 35 highest-graded cornerbacks so far this season. The best of that group is rookie Devon WitherspoonPFF’s ninth-highest-graded cornerback through his first four NFL games. Witherspoon should be able to take away Burrow and Chase’s vaunted deep-ball threat when the Seahawks play their signature Cover 3 or match up man to man.

Another key schematic factor is Seattle’s ability to match the Bengals' three-receiver sets with their three great cornerbacks. Most teams don’t have the secondary depth to hang with Cincinnati’s trio of Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. This Bengals passing offense might not be able to find the same success they did last week in a much tougher matchup here.

Best Bet: Seattle Seahawks +3 (to PK)

I think this Seahawks team, coming off a bye and with very impressive underlying metrics, should be rated higher than the Bengals in the market. Give me an undervalued Seattle squad at +3 in a favorable matchup both analytically and schematically.

Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3, 42.5)

This game has the potential for some serious fireworks, given the two coordinators calling the offensive plays. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is finally starting to gather some serious national attention for his brilliant offensive design that has Jared Goff playing like an elite quarterback. Johnson’s creativity was on full display last week with a wild trick play that resulted in a Sam LaPorta touchdown and a direct snap between Goff’s legs to David Montgomery that resulted in a first down.

On the other side, we have first-year offensive coordinator Dave Canales. He has seemingly revived Baker Mayfield’s career and has guided him to some of the best performances we’ve ever seen from the former No. 1 overall pick. This Tampa Bay offense was rated very low coming into the season but should be upgraded because of their early success.

Johnson and Canales thrive at creating open windows for their quarterbacks to throw into. Neither Goff nor Mayfield have world-beating arm strength or playmaking ability but are able to make accurate throws to open receivers. Due to the play calling of their offensive coordinators and receiving talent around them, they have both thrown into open windows at a top-five rate in the NFL this season.

That trend is likely to continue in this game as these coordinators continue to show off their deep play-calling toolboxes.

The Lions' secondary is also incredibly banged up and will be without key cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and Brian Branch. Losing Branch is especially notable, as he has been a top-10 cornerback by PFF grading. Without them, Detroit doesn’t have the personnel to cover Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, which should help create those open windows for Mayfield to target.

On the defensive side, Tampa Bay has struggled to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks and has a bottom-10 pass-rush win rate. Not being able to pressure Goff is a recipe for disaster for defenses, as he is incredibly effective when he has ample time to work through his reads and find open receivers.

Best Bet: Lions/Buccaneers over 42.5 (to 44.5)

This game will be played at around a league-average pace and features two offenses that are more than capable of scoring behind their talented offensive coordinators. There is sneaky shootout potential here, which makes the below-league-average total too valuable to pass up.

Player Prop Best Bet: WR Jahan Dotson over 33.5 receiving yards

Using PFF’s expected yards metric, we can identify players whose actual production doesn't match their expected production based on the usage and targets they are garnering.

Jahan Dotson, a 2022 first-round pick, has generated 44.5 expected receiving yards per game but has just 28 actual receiving yards per game to show for it. That deviation is the fifth-most extreme underperformance in the NFL.

Dotson is in a great spot to achieve his expected production against a below-average Falcons secondary that will have its hands full covering fellow receiver Terry McLaurin. This game will also be played in a domed stadium, which is an optimal location for passing offenses to succeed.

Back the talented young receiver to clear this low receiving yards total as he positively regresses to his expected production.

This article is 6-9 on the season, for a NET of -3.9 units.

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