Week 4 NFL picks against the spread
Week three in the NFL was full of surprises. Given the crazy week, a 6-9-1 record against the spread is not terrible. My season record of 14-30-3 is still quite the eyesore though.
The good news is it only takes one great week to change that. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. For better or worse, here it goes.
Bears at Packers (-7) – The Bears peskiness was finally rewarded last week against the Steelers. However, going on the road to face Aaron Rodgers on a short week is a tall order. Given Green Bay’s strong finish last week and Chicago’s subpar quarterback situation and secondary, this could get ugly. GB 34 Chi 20
Saints (-3) at Dolphins (London) – These London games are becoming impossible to predict. Anyone who says that they had Jacksonville winning by 37 last week is lying. With Drew Brees at the helm, the Saints are going to score anywhere against anyone. The trick is getting a few stops on defense, like they did last week.
The Jay Cutler experiment has not gone well for the Dolphins to this point. Miami was manhandled by the Jets last week. Thus, the Saints should be able to do what is needed on defense. NO 27 Mia 20
Bills at Falcons (-8) – This matchup is fairly simple. Atlanta is really good, especially at home. Buffalo is not very good on the road. Despite a 2-1 mark, Buffalo has yet to put up more than 26 points in a game this year. They will need a whole lot more than that if they want to keep this close. I don’t see that happening. Atl 41 Buf 21
Panthers at Patriots (-9) – The Patriots are the Patriots. They will be at the forefront of the conversation when winter rolls around. However, they are having more early-season issues then we are used to, particularly on defense.
Given that New England has not fully hit its stride yet, Carolina has enough talent to hang around here. Tom Brady won’t be going through the Carolina defense like a hot knife through butter. The linebackers in particular are too good to allow that.
After a lackluster start, Cam Newton’s offense should be able to get going against a Patriots defense that is just leaving too many people open right now. Ultimately though, the all-too-familiar turnovers and inconsistencies will doom the Panthers again. NE 30 Car 22
Bengals (-3) at Browns – As an Ohioan, I am grateful to have the NFL Sunday ticket package. Thus, this is not the only game I will have access to.
Despite another loss last week, the Bengals figured out how to get the ball to their playmakers thanks to new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. They certainly have more of those than Cleveland does. What Hue Jackson is doing in Cleveland to build from the ground up is admirable, but if it does not pay off in the form of wins soon, he will not be around the seemingly never-ending rebuilding process in Cleveland for much longer. Cin 30 Cle 23
Lions (-2) at *Vikings – Much like the line for Minnesota’s game last week, this line will fluctuate wildly until Sam Bradford’s playing status becomes clearer. Case Keenum showed that he can get the job done in this league from time to time.
Detroit’s habit of relying on late comebacks finally caught up with them last week, even though it was literally by an inch. Against this defense on the road, the Lions cannot afford another slow start. The problem is that it seems they are incapable of avoiding one. Min 28 Det 27
Jaguars (-3) at *Jets – The Jets at .500 at the end of September? The defense has not lost all of its edge from a few years ago when Rex Ryan really had it cooking. Josh McCown sure is not flashy, but there is a reason he has been around as long as he has. To play quarterback in the NFL in your late 30s, you must be doing something right. The Jets ground game has also been adequate to this point.
Jacksonville is not in London or playing a team that can’t decide who its quarterback is. Based on recent history, that means they will lose. Start saving for those playoff tickets Jets fans!
Okay that might be a bit of a stretch, but .500 when the calendar flips to October is not. NYJ 14 Jac 13
Rams at Cowboys (-6) – When the Rams made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in league history, it raised more than a few eyebrows. However, what he has done with this offense is remarkable.
Many of the same players that Jeff Fisher could not even get first downs with have helped contribute to 107 points through the first three games. Wade Phillips does not have the defense clicking yet, but the front seven is still one of the best in football. It is just a matter of time. The offense should also come back down to Earth before long, but this is a team that will cause problems for every opponent it faces.
The Cowboys had a nice bounce back win on the road last week and still have more firepower than their fast improving opposition. I think they get the win. However, if they are expecting anything less than a dogfight, they will get beat. Dal 30 LAR 27
Steelers (-3) at Ravens – This is one of my favorite matchups in the NFL. No matter the records, it is always hard hitting and close. Neither team is playing particularly well at the moment. However, the Steelers’ offense is littered with playmakers. Baltimore’s offense makes my head hurt. Pit 21 Bal 17
Titans (-1.5) at Texans – From an outsider’s perspective, Tennessee must be an incredibly difficult team to prepare for. No one else plays like they do. Their physical, mistake free, run-first approach makes them feel like a team that belongs in the 80s.
Teams do not get a handle on how to play them defensively until it is too late. Houston is riding the roller coaster that is having a rookie quarterback. Deshaun Watson was brilliant last week, but horrible in the week before.
Watson has to play well for his team to have a chance here. Tennessee will be too solid for the inconsistent youngster. Ten 20 Hou 14
*Giants at Buccaneers (-3) – I was very high on both of these teams before the season. It has not panned out particularly well for them to this point. The Giants may be winless, but they showed signs of life last week and did some good things. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston folded and Tampa Bay made Case Keenum look like a top-tier quarterback.
Even if you are on the road, you have to win against backup quarterbacks in this league. The Bucs loss last week shows that they are a young football team that may not be anywhere near true contender status this year. NYG 23 TB 17
Eagles at Chargers (-1) – The Chargers have to catch a break at some point. Philip Rivers continues to compete his guts out for a city that is now indifferent to how good he is. Rivers had a tough one last week, and I expect him to bounce back.
If this matchup were taking place next year, Carson Wentz and the Eagles would probably have the edge. However, Rivers still has a bit of good left in him, and his coach is more committed to the run game than their opponent. LAC 27 Phi 19
*49ers at Cardinals (-7) – The theme of last week was bad teams showing up, playing well and in some cases, coming out on top. The 49ers were on the wrong end of a shootout against the resurgent Rams, but there was a lot of positives from the offense. They did everything well after digging themselves an early hole. I expect that to carry over.
However, this pick has more to do with the Cardinals. In every game this year, their aging roster has come out strong only to fade or barely hang on down the stretch. The rebuild probably should have started already. Carson Palmer is on his last leg. The window is closed. A home upset by a winless division rival will establish that once and for all. SF 20 Ari 17
Raiders at Broncos (-2.5) – Both of these teams were given sobering reminders as to how hard it is to win on the road in the NFL last week. The Raiders’ offense has an endless wealth of talent. We have seen what Derek Carr and company are capable of, but something is missing early in the season.
Khalil Mack is great, but the Oakland defense as a whole is still well below average. The Broncos offense is still a work in progress, but has been more dynamic in the early part of 2017 than it was at any point last season. When it comes down to it, the Raiders could not move the ball at all against the Redskins. How in the world are they going to move the ball enough to beat the Broncos in Mile High? Den 24 Oak 17
Colts at Seahawks (-13) – Whatever ratings issues Sunday Night Football may or may not be facing, this matchup will not help. The Titans proved the Seahawks defense may not be what it once was last week, but Russell Wilson and the offense did get going and Seattle is back home this week. Despite recent improvement thanks to Jacoby Brissett, the Colts are still bringing a knife to a gunfight. Sea 27 Ind 12
Redskins at Chiefs (-7) – After watching the Redskins Sunday night, there is nothing they cannot do on offense. Kansas City might be the best team in football right now, and explosive offense is no longer a weakness.
However, defense is still where KC’s bread is buttered. That style does not lend itself to blowouts. The Redskins’ offense is easily the most balanced the Chiefs have faced this year. They will get theirs here. KC 31 Was 30
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