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Week 5 of the NFL season kicks off Thursday night.

Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan; fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings; and ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth WalderESPN analyst Jason Fitz and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz provide their top plays for Thursday’s tilt.

Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.


indden Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (-3, 42)
Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Empower Field at Mile High

Both the Colts and Broncos have underperformed compared to preseason expectations so far this season. Which team do you see stepping up and covering this week?

Schatz: Give me Denver -3 for this one. I’m shocked that ESPN’s FPI has the teams close together, because Denver has been the clearly superior team by our numbers. Denver is currently 15th in DVOA through four games while Indianapolis ranks dead last. We also had Denver higher than Indianapolis in our preseason projections. Add all that to home-field advantage at altitude on a short week and I feel pretty strongly about Denver being favored here.

Kezirian: I only see valid reasons to back Denver. I can almost excuse the Broncos offense struggling as badly as it did against San Francisco, especially because it woke up against Las Vegas. It’s actually ranked 21st in efficiency and I think that continues to improve as Russell Wilson gets more acclimated. Meanwhile, what gives us any optimism for Indy? The win over KC was fluky and every other performance has been abysmal. Indy’s offense is second-worst in efficiency and seventh-worst in defensive efficiency.

Fitz: I guess I’ll be the counterpoint on this one, because the NFL is a week-to-week league this year like never before. With that in mind, on a short week (which usually favors the under and less offensive productivity), I’m looking at a Broncos team that just got gashed on the ground, specifically, by a Raiders offense that hadn’t done that to anyone else this year. If Josh Jacobs and a patchwork offensive line just did that to the Broncos, what can the Colts do? Even without Taylor and with struggles rushing the ball so far this year by the Colts, this is a get right game to me. I’m not sure the Colts defense will have any other games this year as effective as they did against the Chiefs, but if the offense does its job running the ball, they control this game. I like the under and Indy here.

Marks: Give me Denver -3 and Denver the -2.5 in the first half. The loss of Jonathan Taylor is huge for a Colts team that has already been struggling offensively. They rank 30th in passing and 32nd in rushing this season and have been outscored by 42 points in the first half of games. Traveling to Mile High will not help the situation, let alone they will be without both Shaq Leonard and Ty Lewis on defense.

Moody: It will be the Colts who step up. Indy’s run defense has allowed the sixth fewest rushing yards per game (89). The Colts rank 12th in run stop win rate. Without Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon’s fumbling woes, this is not ideal for a Broncos offense. I believe the Colts play well enough to cover the spread. The Broncos are 5-12-1 against the spread in its last 18 games as a home favorite. While the Colts are 6-1 against the spread in its last seven games an underdog.


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Russell Wilson has struggled to cook over the past two seasons. His props entering Thursday night are 225.5 passing yards and 1.5 passing TDs. What is your outlook for Russ vs. the Colts?

Schatz: I lean toward Wilson going over these passing props, in particular the yardage. The Colts rank No. 2 in run defense DVOA but No. 29 in pass defense. The Titans didn’t throw much against them last week, but before that they had allowed over 225.5 passing yards in each of their first three games.

Kezirian: I agree with Aaron. Wilson seems to be getting more comfortable. Yes, that Sunday night game was brutal, but let’s give San Francisco’s defense some credit. The recipe for success is passing on this Indy defense and Wilson should cook enough. The 225.5 passing yards is a fairly low total when you consider his weapons.

Snellings: I also like Wilson over 225.5 passing yards. Not only is the Colts’ defense geared more toward stopping the run than the pass, the Broncos just lost their top running back in Javonte Williams and incumbent Melvin Gordon III is dealing with both a neck injury and a case of fumblitis (four fumbles in the first four games). It just feels like the Broncos will need to pass to move the ball, and Wilson has the receivers to get them up and down the field.

Fitz: No counter here, as the guys have all nailed it. The Broncos without Williams will have to lean more on their passing game — and they have the necessary talent to do that. The only way Denver wins this game at all is to lean on Russ, so I like the over.

Despite their struggles, the Colts (+190 to win AFC South) find themselves a half game out in the division and the Broncos (+500 to win AFC West) are one game behind the Chiefs. Is there value on either four weeks in?

Fortenbaugh: I swung and missed on both of these teams pre-flop and don’t have any interest in doubling down on those mistakes. Both teams have coaching issues, which, from what I understand, is somewhat important to winning football games.

Schatz: No value on either team. That Broncos number is in line with what we have in our playoff odds simulation at Football Outsiders, but that Colts number is a terrible value compared to our calculations. Right now, based on how they’ve played early plus their 2-2 record, we have the Jaguars winning the AFC South over half the time. That’s where the value is.

Kezirian: No desire to back either team to win the division. I concede that each team still can, and if I had to pick one, I would actually side with Denver. I think Indy is a mess and Frank Reich might be the first coach fired.

Fulghum: Denver is the only one I’d play. The price is attractive and this team is likely to be better in November and December than they are right now (barring injury). In no way am I saying that they will win the AFC West… but if I had to pick between the two, the Broncos are a far more attractive wager. I have planted my flag firmly in the ground that the 2022 AFC South champions reside in Duval County, Florida.

Snellings: Despite how poor the Colts have looked this season, I am starting to have some interest in them now to win their division. Unlike Joe, I actually put my preseason interest into the Titans because they were the underdogs at the time and I thought they had a similar likelihood to win the division. Now, the Colts’ odds are actually more relatively in line with my expectations. The AFC South is kind of a dumpster fire, and the Colts still have enough talent to pull it out. With the second- or third-longest odds in the division, they’re worth at least a bit of my attention.

Fitz: So, there are two different conversations here in terms of a smart bet or a fun bet that’s worth it. Are either of these a smart bet to me? No. But I think the Colts are still in the “why not” category at these odds. The Titans certainly don’t look as good as many expected, and none of us feel comfortable calling Jacksonville legit yet, right? So, why not have a little fun and see if you can get Lady Luck to dance with you here?

Walder: I’m fading both teams, as they’ve each been thoroughly unimpressive. The Broncos and Colts rank 26th and 31st in EPA per play on offense — 26th and 31st! Honestly, I’d be looking for futures odds on Denver to finish fourth in the AFC West because I think the Raiders and Chargers are both better. As for the Colts, they were lucky to beat the Chiefs and I think lag far behind the Jaguars in team quality. These are both stayaways.

Moody: Wilson could repeat the performance he had against the Raiders last week by building on the positive momentum he gained. He will throw for around 250 yards and two passing touchdowns. Wilson’s right shoulder injury shouldn’t be a problem. Wilson was limited in practice this week as a precaution by the Broncos. There is a good chance that he will exceed both of the player props mentioned above.

Do you like anything else in this game to bet?

Fulghum: This is an under environment if I’ve ever seen one. We know the trend we’ve seen with unders in prime-time games and on Thursday night. Denver’s defense is legit — and the Colts offense is, well, not. First team to 17 points may win this game. In that same vein, I would play Colts offensive props under as well. Specifically, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has a very difficult matchup with Pat Surtain II on the road in Denver. I think Matt Ryan will be facing some significant pressure as well, struggling to get the ball out.

Fortenbaugh: Matt Ryan over 0.5 interceptions (-125) makes plenty of sense when you consider the crowd noise, short week and consistent pressure he’ll face against this Denver defense. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s also thrown picks in three of four games this season and currently ranks second in the league in interceptions with five.

Snellings: Courtland Sutton over 4.5 receptions (-151) and over 64.5 yards (-115). As I mentioned above, I’m expecting Wilson and the Broncos to move the ball through the air, and Sutton is his main target. Sutton is averaging 6.0 receptions and 85.8 receiving yards per game through the air this season and has gone over 4.5 receptions and 64.5 yards in three of the four games, respectively.

Dolan: First half total under 20.5. Question marks and injuries on both sides of the ball, but there is one area that both teams excel: not scoring points. The Colts are one of three teams to hit the under in all four games this season, while the Broncos are 1-3 to the under. On top of that, both offenses rank in the bottom of the league in terms of points scored per game. The Colts are averaging 14 points per game (ranked last in league) and the Broncos are averaging 17 points (ranked 31st). In terms of the first half, Indy is averaging 5.8 points and the Broncos are averaging 9.5 points, but that number drops to 5.4 first-half points scored at home for Denver. I expect a slow start to the game.

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