Week 4 NFL Picks

There’s one thing on just about everyone’s minds right now when it comes to the NFL. While I have a very strong opinion about the protests, this is not the right place to share it. I write this column for fun, and I want you to have fun reading it. As I’m still writing here, I suppose that you can correctly assume that I am not boycotting the NFL, and that’s the extent of what you need to know.

 

Week 3 was a wonky week: good teams looked bad, bad teams looked good, and there was a decent game on Thursday night. The Rams vs. 49ers contest a week ago was one of the most supremely entertaining football games I have watched in years. I had no rooting interests in either team, only mild fantasy implications, and I was watching with several people who were very invested in a team or certain player. I enjoy watching football that way – people around me are going crazy and I’m just enjoying the show. It’s much less stressful than watching my team, especially the way my team has played so far this season.

 

Going into Week 4, as we are now, it’s still a bit of a fuzzy picture. We started Sunday, September 24, 2017 with 10 undefeated teams. We ended it with just two: the Chiefs and the Falcons. Regardless of record, the Chiefs have looked like the best team in football. The Falcons have looked good overall, but have had some spotty moments. There’s a great jumble of 2-1 teams, from the Jaguars to the Patriots. Perhaps Week 4 will give us viewers some clarity. We can only hope.

 

I had a mediocre week that felt way worse than the record indicates, but such is football. Let’s see if I can’t turn it around this week. ATS picks in bold.

 

Chicago Bears (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1)

Line: GB -7

 

The Bears, in three weeks, have gone good-bad-good. If the trend holds, Green Bay is going to have a lot of fun tonight in this game. However, I expect the Bears to show up for this game. As I said a couple of weeks ago, the league is much more fun when the Bears are at least frisky. I think this is a frisky Bears team. The running game is very good. Their receiving corps is in tatters, but they’ve been making due with it so far. Green Bay looks like a classic Packers team of the past five years. They’re good, but still shy of great. The defense goes through periods of malaise, but the offense runs at a high level 95% of the time. When you’ve got a top-10-all-time QB, it tends to help. Can the Packers D show up and can slow down Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen? Packers 33 – Bears 21

 

New Orleans Saints (1-2) at Miami Dolphins (1-1) in London, UK

Line: MIA +3

 

Drew Brees with weapons is among the scariest sights in the NFL for opposing teams. The weapons showed up last week, and the Saints laughed all the way to the end zone against the Panthers. The Dolphins are still a question mark. They haven’t played well yet, or at least I’m assuming that their near-loss to the Chargers wasn’t their best effort. With Miami’s defensive firepower and New Orleans’s offensive weaponry, this could be a good one. The Dolphins could also lay another egg. The point is, it’s hard to predict how the Dolphins will play any given week. The Saints will undoubtedly put points on the board and if their opponents’ offense shows up, you’re likely to see plenty of scoring. The Dolphins keep up for a while, but ultimately fall short. Saints 34 – Miami 24

 

Carolina Panthers (2-1) at New England Patriots (2-1)

Line: NE -9

 

As a fan of the Carolina Panthers, I would like to lodge a formal complaint against offensive coordinator Mike Shula. What the hell are you doing? The offensive line still sucks. When you aren’t trying to force the ball into rookie running back Christian McCaffrey’s hands, you’re still calling plays that take way too long to develop. Yes, Greg Olsen is hurt, but that doesn’t excuse what was going on in the first game and a half while he was in there. Nothing has changed. Every play doesn’t have to gain 35 yards. In fact, the four to six yard gains keep the chains moving even better. The Panthers have to solve their offensive line problems if they want any chance to compete. The good news for myself and other Panthers fans is that the Patriots haven’t shown anything resembling a pass rush so far this season. Maybe, just maybe, the Panthers can get into this novel thing called an offensive rhythm on Sunday. Since it’s the Patriots, I’m sure ol’ Tom Terrific will have a few ideas on how to prevent that from happening, even if he has to be on the field for 75% of the game. Patriots 27 – Panthers 23

 

Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

Line: DAL -7.5

 

The Rams have an offense? In two of their three games so far, they’ve hung at least 41 points on the board. Todd Gurley is playing like the all-world prospect he was coming out of University of Georgia, and the sophomore slump seems to have worn off. Jared Goff also likes throwing to late-camp trade acquisition Sammy Watkins, who caught two touchdown passes and had a phenomenal game last Thursday. The Cowboys got off to a sluggish start on Monday Night Football, but came roaring back in the second half to dispatch the Cardinals with relative ease. Running back Ezekiel Elliott bounced back from a horrific Week 2 for a productive, if unspectacular, Week 3. Expect more of the same from Dallas. Cowboys 30 – Rams 24

 

Detroit Lions (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

Line: MIN -2

 

Sam Bradford has officially been ruled out of this game, the earliest we’ve known the Minnesota QB wouldn’t be playing in the last three weeks. His backup, Case Keenum, played a great game last week, after his first start for the Purple People Eaters was less than good. Vikings rookie running back Dalvin Cook has been outstanding so far this season. This running back class could be an all timer. Detroit nearly beat the Falcons on Sunday in a game that came down to the final play. Even though the right call was made, it was a heartbreaking, inches shy call for the Lions. Regardless, they are looking like a strong NFC team, and the NFC North is looking like I thought the NFC South would. The Lions run game, while improved, is still their weakest position group. This ought to be a close game no matter how you slice it. Vikings 24 – Lions 21

 

Tennessee Titans (2-1) at Houston Texans (1-2)

Line: HOU +1.5

 

Tennessee is a winning team through three game without having played to their potential yet. There are some much higher heights they could reach. The Texans have been competitive, covering easily last week in New England, which is usually a tough task. Deshaun Watson, even as a rookie, took everything in, went out, and played some great football, keeping Houston in the game until the very end. Houston is playing better than their record indicates, they’ve just had a tough schedule, and the added stress of the hurricane just before the start of the season. The two games between Houston and Tennessee, this week and on December 3, may be the deciding games for this division. I really want to say that Tennessee is the more complete team right now, but they just haven’t showed it yet. Both teams are right on the cusp of breaking through and joining the serious contender conversation, but a Texans loss could mean it won’t happen for them until next year. Titans 31 – Texans 27

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2)

Line: NYJ +3.5

 

Which Jags team can we expect to see in the Meadowlands? The overwhelming, dominant one from their games against Baltimore and Houston? Or the mistake-prone bumblers from their game against Tennessee? Every time Jags QB Blake Bortles has a game like he did last week in London, I’m forced to consider the possibility that he’s turned the corner. And he hasn’t. At least not fully. Put together three more games of production, then we can talk. The annual random 5 touchdown, no pick anomaly doesn’t do it for me. And how about the Jets? They have looked much better than expected so far this year. Even at 1-2, they’ve played tight games and, for the most part, not looked incredibly embarrassing to their fans. Keep it up, Jets. Jaguars 19 – Jets 16

 

Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-3)

Line: CLE +3

 

Is it just me or should the Browns be favored in this game? Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton may have saved his job last week, at least for now (#StartMcCarron), but the Browns have shown more fight and more talent than the Bengals so far in 2017. Another rookie quarterback, Notre Dame product Deshone Kizer, has the Browns moving the ball on offense. They’re committing a lot of turnovers, but they’re at least making their games fun to watch. The same cannot be said for Cincinnati. Their games have been snoozefests, as their offense sputters for six yards a drive. Last week, again, was an improvement, but still not that great. Browns 27 – Bengals 21

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

Line: BAL +3

 

As bad as these two bitter rivals looked last week in their respective losses, the intrigue for this game has gone down substantially. The Ravens, whose defense looked otherworldly the first two weeks, gave up 44 points to Jacksonville. The offense was characteristically mediocre, and against a good defensive team like the Jags, that often will only turn into seven points. Pittsburgh’s offense has yet to get of the start line. The wheels are spinning, but they haven’t grabbed hold and gotten the rubber to the road quite yet. Future Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger has been showing his age, and Le’Veon Bell has been far from his fantasy point-machine self through the first few weeks. So what gives? Is Pittsburgh’s half-decade run of offensive dominance coming to a close? Or will Baltimore’s defense fold for a second consecutive week? Steelers 26 – Ravens 24

 

Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0)

Line: ATL – 8

 

Tyrod Taylor has quietly now, for two plus seasons, been an above average, efficient, high intangibles quarterback. He’s a strong leader of his team, he doesn’t make game-ruining errors, and he runs the offense well. It’s a run-heavy offense, so he’s never been asked to be Aaron Rodgers, but his role suits him, and he’s quite good at it. The Bills pounded the run last week against a good Denver team, capitalized on their opponents’ mistakes, and didn’t make any mistakes of their own. That is the precise recipe for winning a football game (see: Alabama Crimson Tide 2010-present). The Falcons can throw the ball almost as efficiently as they can run it though, and when you have one of the best backfield duos in the league, that’s saying something. I’m still very confused by the “experts” who thought that Atlanta’s offense was going to take a step back this season. Barring getting hit with the always-looming injury bug, the Falcons are going to be a top three scoring offense this season. Falcons 34 – Bills 20

 

New York Giants (0-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)

Line: TB -3

 

The Giants are playing for their season in this one. That’s not a good place to be on the first day of October. Tampa is still looking to prove their might. But do they really have any? The Bucs look above average on both sides of the ball, but there isn’t anything they do spectacularly well. QB Jameis Winston is up and down, and has never shown great consistency. The linebacking corps is good, but Lavonte David is getting older and is hurt for this game. He has been their defensive sparkplug for the last half decade. The Giants, playing for their season, have to have more at stake, and that’s why they will win. Giants 30 – Bucs 27

 

Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-3)

Line: LAC -1

Ahhh, the old “Chargers are better than their record” line. Sure, they have played better than their winless record, but are they really a better team than 0-3? It doesn’t really matter, because they’re about to be 0-4. The Eagles are better than the Chargers in just about every facet of the game, except maybe running game now that Eagles RB Darren Sproles is injured. Carson Wentz and Phillip Rivers are very similar quarterbacks, but Wentz is a dozen years younger than his counterpart. He can move around the pock better, and his arm strength is still primo. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon does even the scales a bit, but it’s still hard to pick the Chargers in this one. Eagles 31 – Chargers 17

 

San Francisco 49ers (0-3) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)

Line: ARI -7

 

This is my best bet of the week. I’m not sure they’ll win on the money line, but I will be shocked if San Francisco doesn’t cover. Arizona just doesn’t look good. The Niners don’t either, to be fair, but this is a more evenly matched game than it looks. The Niners have played gutsy, hard-fought games the past two weeks – one a shootout and the other a defensive slugfest. They’ve lost those two games by a combined 5 points. The Cardinals, meanwhile, had trouble with the Colts, then got dismantled in the second half by the Cowboys. I like the team that has fought tooth and nail over the one that only seems to be able to put together one half of football in a given week. 49ers 27 – Cardinals 20

 

Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Denver Broncos (2-1)

Line: DEN -2.5

 

A lot of intriguing early-season division matchups this weekend. This may be the best of the bunch. With the Chiefs at 3-0, this is a pivotal game for the two teams just behind them. The game’s location gives the edge to the Broncos, but Oakland looked bad against Washington last Sunday. There is no doubt that they will come out firing, attempting to get some momentum back. Denver didn’t look much better, getting thoroughly beaten by the Bills. They, too, will be looking to rebound. The first quarter will be of utmost importance in this game. Broncos 34 – Raiders 31

 

Indianapolis Colts (1-2) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2)

Line: SEA -13

 

Seattle can’t possibly score 13 more points than any team right now. The Jacoby Brissett-led Colts offense doesn’t look miserable either. Seattle can’t possibly fall to 1-3, can they? Seahawks 23 – Colts 16

 

Washington (2-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)

Line: KC -7

 

Washington finally had their return to form last week against the Raiders. Backup running back Chris Thompson has been a revelation as pass-catching back. In the past two weeks, he’s amassed over 220 receiving yards, including 150 against Oakland. And yet, he’s already been told he’s moving back to the bench when Rob Kelley is healthy, which could be as early as this game on Monday Night. The Chiefs, the AFC’s lone unbeaten, have done the exact same thing they’ve been doing for the past few years – winning football games by playing great defense, mistake free offense, and getting a couple explosive plays a game. You never know where that play is going to come from with KC. The defense will provide it one week, then the offense will for a few games, and then, they’ll return two kicks in the same game. They’re always getting big plays. Building a team capable of this version of football is supposed to be a high school thing, not NFL. But man does it work for KC. Washington is capable of explosive plays of its own, though, and they’ll have to match the Chiefs in this game to come out victorious. Chiefs 31 – Washington 27

 

Last Week ML: 8-8

Season: 31-16

Last Week ATS:6-10

Season: 23-24

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