NFL WEEK 5: On Thursday the NFL family lost a legend, as the great Dick Butkus passed away peacefully at his home. Butkus was the best defensive player of his generation, and his ferocity left a mark on all who played with and against him. Fittingly, Butkus’s team, the Chicago Bears, kicked off a game against Washington about an hour after the news of his death had spread and the team played some inspired football, racing out to a 27-3 first-half lead and going on to pick up their first win of the season. The good vibes in Chicago may not last long because the Bears are sorely lacking Butkus-tier players, but on a night that became all about the legendary linebacker, it was nice to see his team send him out in style.

With four teams on bye this week the schedule is a little lighter than it has been, but we get another early start in London, as the Jags meet the Bills at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in what should be one of the day’s better games. As a matter of fact, considering that there has never been a London game between two teams that went on to make the playoffs and both Jacksonville and Buffalo have serious playoff aspirations this season, this Sunday’s game might go down as the best matchup the NFL’s International Series has yet produced.

There are several other compelling games on the slate this week, headlined by Sunday’s night’s Cowboys/49ers showdown in San Francisco. We’re coming off a clean sweep, winning all four of our bets in Week 4, and I’ve got a great feeling that we can keep the good times rolling with these:

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts (TEN -2.5, 43.5)

Recommendation: Tennessee -2.5 at 1.91

The Colts have been better than expected so far this season but they’ve experienced sustained struggles both in their home stadium and in this matchup against Tennessee, losing 7 straight home games and 5 straight to the division rival Titans. They don’t have much of a passing attack with rookie Anthony Richardson under center and defensively they’ve really struggled in the secondary, surrendering 263.8 pass yards per game. That secondary will be down starting cornerback Dallis Flowers this week, which certainly won’t help in slowing down a Titans offense that is coming off its best performance of the season in a 27-3 beatdown of Cincinnati. Look for DeAndre Hopkins to do some damage downfield in this game and for the Titans to come away with yet another victory in Indy.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Arizona Cardinals (CIN -3, 44.5)

Recommendation: Arizona +3 at 2.01

Cincinnati has been the NFL’s biggest disappointment through the season’s first 4 weeks, but the consensus seems to be that a trip to Arizona is what’s needed to right the ship for the defending AFC North champions. The Cardinals haven’t been the pushover that most thought they’d be, though– 2 of their 3 losses have come by 4 points or fewer, and they picked up a win over a good Dallas team in Week 3. Josh Dobbs has proven to be a capable quarterback whose confidence and poise is growing with every game, and now, after facing two of the NFL’s best defenses in back-to-back weeks (Cowboys, 49ers), he gets a struggling Bengals D that ranks 24th in the league in yards allowed and was embarrassed by a mediocre Titans offense last week. I expect Dobbs and the Cardinals offense to have success in this game, and it’s clear that Joe Burrow isn’t back to himself yet as he deals with a lingering calf injury. It feels like the wrong team is favored here.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams (PHI -4, 50.5)

Recommendation: Los Angeles +4 at 1.91

The Eagles keep on winning, but cracks are beginning to emerge– they’ve struggled with also-rans New England, Minnesota, and Washington (combined record: 4-9), and only Denver and Chicago, the two worst defenses in the NFL, have allowed more touchdown passes than the Philly secondary. That’s good news for Matt Stafford, who gets top receiver Cooper Kupp back this week to join breakout rookie Puka Nacua and excellent second-year tailback Kyren Williams in what promises to be a dangerous Rams offense. The L.A. defense has been pretty solid as well, ranking 9th in the league in total yards allowed and 7th against the pass, so this will be a tremendous challenge all-around for the Eagles. Four points feels like too many.

Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers (SF -3.5, 45)

Recommendation: Dallas +3.5 at 1.93; Dallas moneyline (to win) at 2.71

This is a matchup of teams with Super Bowl aspirations, and given how good the 49ers have looked through 4 games, it’s no surprise that San Francisco is a popular public bet this week. Who have the Niners really beaten, though? None of their four wins have come against teams with winning records, and the impressive defensive stats they’ve put together have mostly come against putrid offenses (Steelers, Giants, Cardinals, etc.). The Cowboys did stumble against Arizona in Week 3, but their other three wins have come by a combined score of 108-13, including last week’s 38-3 shellacking of New England. Dallas has the better quarterback in this matchup and a ball-hawking secondary that will make things difficult for inexperienced Niners QB Brock Purdy. Cowboys moneyline is the play here.

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