Back to the Futures: Best NFL futures bets, odds & predictions following the Week 4 NFL action from betting expert Jared Smith

San Francisco 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga (center) is congratulated by linebacker Dre Greenlaw (57) and defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr. (92) after running back an interception for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter at Levi's Stadium.

Welcome to Week 5!

Now that we’re in-season, the goal of this column each week is to sift through the risers and fallers and identify value opportunities in the market by implementing a “dollar cost averaging” strategy. That might sound complicated, but it’s basically just making small investments throughout the season which should reduce the impact of volatility on our portfolio over the long haul. 

Just like prior columns, we will be graced with the analysis and insight of Zachary Lucas, the head oddsmaker at TwinSpires. Any official wagers I make will be clearly stated and added to the official portfolio at the bottom, and as always, you can track all futures bets in real time on my spreadsheet

Stock up: San Francisco 49ers

A team that won and their odds are still in a reasonable range to buy

Slingshot engaged! Last week we recommended buying the Niners to win in the NFC West, and their win over the Rams on Monday night did exactly what we hoped for in the market. San Francisco has pulled even with Los Angeles as the favorite to win the division with an early leg up on the tiebreaker. 

“Jimmy G is slowly getting the rust off and looking more comfortable out there,” said Lucas. “They have a ton of speed on offense and can show so many different looks it really keeps their opponents on their toes. Their defense is elite and will always keep them in the game.”

San Fran’s defense leads the NFL in EPA/play and gets the honor of facing the league’s most inaccurate QB this week in Baker Mayfield and a sputtering Panthers offense. From there, the road gets tougher with a second game in the eastern time zone at Atlanta, followed by the Chiefs at home and then the return game against the Rams. I expect their defense to be tested thoroughly during this stretch, and I think we’ll develop a much better sense of their chances of playing deep into January. 

I’m happy to be on the right side of the market for now, but I also believe this is a short-term peak, especially with the Rams trending down. Considering we already have exposure, I think it’s best to sit tight this week, but I will be looking to add more Niners shares down the road. 

Sell high: Minnesota Vikings

A team that won but we’re not convinced they’re for real just yet

When you look up “sell high” in the dictionary, you see a picture of Kirk Cousins. After four weeks, Kirk is 23rd out of 32 qualifying QBs in EPA/CPOE (expected points added/completion percentage over expectation) despite having a healthy complement of weapons around him and a new offensive-minded head coach pulling the strings. 

“Barely beating an Andy Dalton led Saints team and Swiss cheese D Lions team tells me it’s all smoke and mirrors,” added Lucas. 

Minnesota is favored this week against the Bears but will be a road underdog the following week in Miami if Tua returns for the Dolphins. If you don’t trust Chicago to cover on Sunday, maybe target the lookahead spot against Miami and hope for some favorable injury news. 

Another way to play it would be going under 10.5 wins, which is a widely available number. Considering their preseason win total was 8.5, it’s a decent spot to sell high, especially with the return game at Lambeau Field looming in Week 17. Officially it’s a pass for me this week, but the Vikes inevitable collapse is very much on my radar. 

Buy low: Baltimore Ravens

A team that lost but we are still high on overall, thus creating more value in the market long-term

Baltimore is perhaps the most polarizing team in the NFL right now. You can make a case they have the league’s best player, and if it wasn’t for 2 mind-melting collapses, they would be 4-0 and likely near the top of everyone’s power rankings with wins over the Bills and Dolphins in their back pocket. 

“They’ve been competitive in every game,” added Lucas. “It’s not ideal to blow 17+ point leads twice already but they have the right pieces in play to make a deep run if they stay healthy.”

We will learn a lot more about the Ravens on Sunday night in a huge divisional showdown against the Bengals, who have come on strong after a slow start. Prior to Week 2, I recommended buying low on Cincinnati at +330, and while that investment has gained some value, not enough for me to feel good about coming back on the other side just yet. 

If you have no exposure in the AFC North market, you could make worse bets than the Ravens this week, as I believe it makes more sense than laying points with their shaky defense. 

Free fall: Indianapolis Colts

A team that lost in such a catastrophic way that it’s hard to see them recovering in the short-term

Matt Ryan is the 6th Colts starting QB in the last six years and based on how he’s looked in the first four weeks, it’s safe to say there will be a 7th next season. Indy’s offense is 31st in EPA/play, and Ryan is 26th in EPA+CPOE, plus Jonathan Taylor is nursing an ankle injury that will likely keep him sidelined this Thursday night. 

“Matt Ryan shouldn’t see another snap if they’re serious about winning,” added Lucas. 

All jokes aside, the Colts season could be done and dusted if they don’t turn things around in the short term. They’re 3.5-point underdogs in Denver on Thursday, then they play the Jags and Titans the following two weeks. If they go 0-3 during that stretch, perhaps Frank Reich would turn to Nick Foles for a spark.

The injuries on defense haven’t helped the Colts cause, as Shaq Leonard is down again this week with a concussion and broken nose. I might still get to the window with Denver on Thursday night even though the line hopped over the key number of 3. 

This Week’s Portfolio:


Season Portfolio:






May 3rd

Jets o5.5 wins


2.5 units


May 18th

Eagles o8.5 wins


3.0 units


Aug 18th

Trevor Lawrence u14.5 INTs


3.0 units


Aug 28th

Jets u5.5 wins


1.88 units


Sept 13th

Bengals to win AFC North


0.5 unit


Sept 13th

Vikings to win NFC North


0.5 unit


Sept 27th

Eagles to win NFC


0.5 unit


Sept 27th

49ers to win NFC West


0.5 unit


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