Week 4 Picks

Posted: 10/04/2015 by levcohen in Football

Week four is the beginning of the period during which we can really start to tell who is good and who isn’t. Sure, we already know that a few teams are good (Broncos, Patriots, Cardinals, Packers) and that a few teams are bad (Browns, Bears). But for the vast majority of teams, things could still go either way. Now, that can be the case for some teams 10 weeks from now, but we’re going to learn a lot about the middle of the pack over the next few weeks. The biggest question: who, if anyone, is going to make the jump to join the four teams I mentioned above? Two of the best teams in football (Dallas and Pittsburgh) are without their star quarterbacks, which opens up a rather large void. Will the Seahawks revert to 2013-14 form? Can the Bengals keep another good start up for the whole season? Are the Falcons, winner of three close games, for real? Can Tyrod Taylor lead the Bills to the playoffs? We’ll hopefully learn the answers to these questions in a relatively short amount of time, starting this week. Now, if you asked me to pick a “Game of the Week” this week, I wouldn’t be able to; there’s no game between two really good teams that sticks out to me. But I have a feeling that this is going to be a really exciting week with a bunch of close games.
BYE teams= Tennessee, New England

*= upset pick

New York Jets (2-1, 2-1) in London vs. Miami Dolphins (1-2, 1-2):*
Spread: Jets favored by 1.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: The Dolphins are playing terribly, but I still think they’re a better team than the Jets. Remember, guys, Ryan Fitzpatrick is New York’s quarterback. He’s still Ryan Fitzpatrick (see: last week against the Eagles)! This is a must-win game for Joe Philibin and the Dolphins, and Miami has generally responded pretty well to back-to-back losses in the Philibin era. They also are used to playing in London, as they’ve competed in (and won) consecutive London games. Now, I’m worried about the blitzes Todd Bowles is going to cook up against a shaky Ryan Tannehill, which is going to make this a very tight game. But give me the Dolphins 20-17.
Dolphins cover
Under

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2, 1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-2, 0-3):
Spread: Colts favored by 9.5
Over/under: 48
My prediction: Uh, why are the Colts giving this many points right now? Have you watched them play? They look horrific, and that was with a healthy Andrew Luck. If Luck (questionable with a sore shoulder) sits this week, the spread will obviously shift dramatically (I’d guess it would be in the 2-3 point range), but I’m taking the Jaguars even if the Colts have their stud quarterback. Jacksonville isn’t great, but they have the luxury of going against a horrific Colts defense and terrible offensive line. If Gus Bradley can’t keep this game, against a struggling team with an ailing quarterback, close, maybe he doesn’t deserve to have a job as a head coach. I still have to pick Indianapolis to win, but that’s simply because I can’t bring myself to pick a really bad team with a bad quarterback to win on the road. Colts win 27-23.
Jaguars cover
Over

New York Giants (1-2, 2-1) at Buffalo Bills (2-1, 2-1):*
Spread: Bills favored by 5.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: Yeah, I like the underdog in this one too. The Giants have looked pretty good this season, and while they might not be as good as the Bills, I think they have the kind of team that can cause Buffalo trouble. Their quarterback isn’t too freaked out by blitzes, and they are very solid overall. I’m also expected another big Odell Beckham game, while Tyrod Taylor will make a couple of costly mistakes in a close loss. Giants win 23-20.
Giants cover
Under

Carolina Panthers (3-0, 2-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2, 1-2):
Spread: Panthers favored by 3
Over/under: 39.5
My prediction: Well, the Panthers are certainly lucking out. This season, the quarterbacks they’ve played against have been Blake Bortles, Ryan Mallett, and Luke McCown. They’ve won all three games, but haven’t looked that impressive in those wins. I’m itching to pick against them, but this week they get Jameis Winston, another less-than-established quarterback. The Buccaneers aren’t good, but at least they don’t look terrible, with a solid win in New Orleans followed by a close loss to Houston. But I’m going to need more points if you want me to take them against a solid defense, even one without Luke Kuechly. Panthers win 24-17.
Panthers cover
Over

Philadelphia Eagles (1-2, 1-2) at Washington Redskins (1-2, 1-2):*
Spread: Eagles favored by 3
Over/under: 44
My prediction: Let’s just say that the Eagles’ win over the Jets didn’t exactly give me more confidence in their chances this season. Their offense looked abysmal again, with Sam Bradford struggling to throw the ball accurately and refusing to throw it deep. How long until Mark Sanchez is starting again? Meanwhile, Washington’s defense is improved, and they’ve had some offensive success recently against the Eagles, although Philadelphia’s defense looks to be among the best in football. In a toss-up, I’ll take the home dog in the rain. Redskins win 21-16.
Redskins cover
Under

Oakland Raiders (2-1, 2-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3, 0-3):
Spread: Raiders favored by 3.5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: Is it weird that the Raiders are road favorites? Yes, it’s weird. How weird? Well, they’ve been favored on the road only once since 2005, and that was in Miami in Ryan Tannehill’s second career start. They were blown out in that game. Going up against Jimmy Clausen, I don’t think the same thing’s going to happen here. Oakland’s offense, led by an improved Derek Carr, productive running back Latavius Murray, and fantastic receiver Amari Cooper, is actually good. The Bears won’t get shut out again, but I think they will blow one of their easiest chances to win their first game. Picking the Raiders to go to 3-1 worries me, but I liked them before the season, so why not keep liking them now? Raiders win 28-21.
Raiders cover
Over

Houston Texans (1-2, 1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0, 3-0):
Spread: Falcons favored by 5.5
Over/under: 46.5
My prediction: This game might hinge on whether Arian Foster returns to the lineup for the Texans. Foster’s one of the best running backs in football, and he can really help jump-start DVOA’s 25th ranked offense. Either way, though, I think they’ll be able to keep up against a Falcons team that is nowhere near as good as their 3-0 record indicates. If I were given a guarantee that Foster will be at full strength, I’d pick the Texans; unfortunately, I won’t be given that guarantee, which means Atlanta it is. Falcons win 24-21.
Texans cover
Under

Kansas City Chiefs (1-2, 1-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-0, 3-0):
Spread: Bengals favored by 3.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: I think the Chiefs are pretty good, but I think the Bengals are better and this spread feels a little too low. Remember, Cincinnati always has a pretty sizable home-field advantage, and their thriving passing game gets a juicy matchup against a team that had no answer to Aaron Rodgers. Andy Dalton isn’t Aaron Rodgers, but another big game from A.J. Green is likely. Can Alex Smith keep up? That’s the real question, and I think the answer is “no.” Bengals win 24-16.
Bengals cover
Under

Cleveland Browns (1-2, 1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2, 1-2): – Lock of the Week
Spread: Chargers favored by 7
Over/under: 44.5
My prediction: We know the Browns are bad, and I still have some confidence in San Diego. This spread is probably too high, but I’m confident enough that Philip Rivers isn’t going to throw this game away to lock up the Chargers. Also, the Browns are terrible. Chargers win 30-13.
Chargers cover
Under

Green Bay Packers (3-0, 3-0) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2, 1-2):
Spread: Packers favored by 7.5
Over/under: 48
My prediction: This is too easy, right? The Packers are amazing, the Niners stink, so Green Bay is going to win by 30. Unfortunately, we all know it isn’t that easy, and you always have to think twice when you see that 81% of public betters are betting on the favored team. The Niners are coming off back-to-back really tough road games, so I could see them surprising here. Plus, the game isn’t at Lambeau, so you have to shave at least a touchdown from Green Bay’s total. San Francisco has had one of the worst offenses in football this year, but I think they have more talent than they’be shown, so some points should start coming this week. Packers win 31-27.
Niners cover
Over

St. Louis Rams (1-2, 1-2) at Arizona Cardinals (3-0, 3-0):*
Spread: Cardinals favored by 7
Over/under: 43
My prediction: I think this game might serve as a bit of a return to earth for the Cardinals, who are riding high after blowing out… three of the very worst teams in football? Sure, they’ve already scored 126 points, but that was against awful defenses. Now, they face a Rams defense that I maintain is among the best in football. St. Louis’s offense is another story, but with the return of Todd Gurley, it, too, has some promise. I was going to predict a close win for Carson Palmer’s Cardinals, but why not be bold? Give me Nick Foles and the Rams on the road! By the way, this is clearly the pick I’m most likely to whiff on, because the likely scenario is probably the Cardinals romping to another 40-13-type win. Oh well. Rams win 17-16.
Rams cover
Under

Minnesota Vikings (2-1, 2-1) at Denver Broncos (3-0, 3-0):
Spread: Broncos favored by 7
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: Don’t people realize that the Broncos are really good? Sure, the Vikings are a solid team, but I think the Broncos are clearly one of the four best teams in football. They are coming off three straight close but convincing wins in which they showed that they have what is likely the best defense in football. The talent comes from everywhere, from the line to the pass-rush to the secondary. And while Adrian Peterson can do a lot by himself, he won’t be able to do enough to keep up with Denver. Broncos win 27-17.
Broncos cover
Over

Dallas Cowboys (2-1, 1-2) at New Orleans Saints (0-3, 1-2):
Spread: Saints favored by 3.5
Over/under: 48
My prediction: Yeah, still not picking Brandon Weeden. I know the loss last week wasn’t his fault, but I’m still not picking him. And Drew Brees at home still has to be worth something, right? I expect a breakout from the Brees-to-Brandin Cooks combination in a high-scoring win. Saints win 34-27.
Saints cover
Over

Detroit Lions (0-3, 0-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2, 1-2):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 10
Over/under: 43
My prediction: Uh, yeah. Give me the Seahawks at home, even if they don’t have Marshawn Lynch. Seahawks win 27-14.
Seahawks cover
Under

Upset picks:
Dolphins over Jets
Giants over Bills
Redskins over Eagles
Rams over Cardinals

Lock of the week:
Chargers over Browns

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