Week 4 Picks

Posted: 10/02/2016 by levcohen in Football

This week’s slate of afternoon games is decidedly light, both on number of games and on intrigue. The Eagles and Packers, who are a combined 5-1, kick off BYE week season, while the London game removes another contest from the normal afternoon schedule. As for quality of games, the best two 1:00 matchups are Carolina-Atlanta and Oakland-Baltimore. Those are shaping up to be fine contests. But there are also some stinkers, with Cleveland playing Washington and Detroit traveling to Chicago. As for the later games, Denver-Tampa probably takes the cake. The good news is both primetime games are intriguing ones. The Steelers host the Chiefs tonight, while the Vikings host the Giants tomorrow night. Those are probably the two games of the week, so, at least this time, the NFL looks to have gotten its primetime schedule right (ignore the Bengals-Dolphins game on Thursday). That’s what happens when the Bears finally don’t play in primetime after putting up consecutive stinkers. Anyway, let’s just hope for a few diamonds in the rough this afternoon before the real action starts later.

*- Upset pick

Tennessee Titans (1-2, 1-2 ATS) at Houston Texans (2-1, 2-1):
Spread: Texans favored by 4.5
Over/under: 40.5
My prediction: Welcome to the first week post Watt. This spread opened around Texans -6 and dropped pretty substantially when Watt was put on injured reserve, making J.J. the only defensive player who can affect a line so drastically. That makes sense, as a healthy Watt is obviously a huge difference-maker, but it must be said that Watt was far from healthy all season, and the Texans have remained fine defensively. If Oakland’s defense was good enough to stop Tennessee’s offense, then so is Houston’s. While it is true that the Texans struggled to stop a run-heavy New England attack last week that could be compared to Tennessee’s ground-and-pound, there’s a difference between playing the Patriots in Foxborough and playing the Titans at home. On the other side of the ball, this could be the week that Lamar Miller breaks out. I expect a bounce-back performance from Brock Oswiler, who was atrocious in New England. And receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller could be the difference in a low scoring game. Texans win 20-14.
Texans cover

Cleveland Browns (0-3, 2-1) at Washington Redskins (1-2, 1-2):
Spread: Redskins favored by 7.5
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: This reminds me of last week, when the Dolphins were somehow near double-digit favorites against the Browns. That has been corrected a little bit, as the spread is narrower this week even though Washington’s pretty clearly a better team than Miami, but I don’t trust the Redskins to cover a spread this large. I actually think that Cleveland will be able to move the ball, as the Redskins have hemorrhaged yards and points so far this year, albeit against better offenses. Washington will win the game, but the Browns will keep it close. Redskins win 28-24.
Browns cover

Seattle Seahawks (2-1, 1-2) at New York Jets (1-2, 2-1):*
Spread: Seahawks favored by 1.5
Over/under: 40
My prediction: This game really worries me from Seattle’s standpoint. The Seahawks are coming off a blowout home win over the 49ers but had to travel across the country before this game. They also have a banged up quarterback and poor offensive line going against a fierce Jets defensive line (Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams both rate as very good players so far this year, and it’s only a matter of time before Muhammad Wilkerson makes a huge impact). Meanwhile, the Jets just got destroyed in Kansas City after turning the ball over eight times. The loss of Eric Decker hurts, but I still believe that the Jets are good enough on offense to win this game at home. If they’re a playoff competitor, which I think they are, this is a game they can and should win. Jets win 20-17.
Jets cover

Buffalo Bills (1-2, 1-2) at New England Patriots (3-0, 3-0):
Spread: Patriots favored by 3.5
Over/under: 41
My prediction: Jacoby Brissett will be starting this game for the Patriots, which makes me a bit nervous about picking New England to win and cover… but after the first three weeks, I’m going to do it anyway. I’ve whiffed on the Pats three times, and if I’m going to miss again, it’s going to be because they slip up at home against a bad Bills team. Patriots win 24-14.
Patriots cover

Carolina Panthers (1-2, 1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-1, 2-1):
Spread: Panthers favored by 3
Over/under: 49
My prediction: Yeah, I’m not buying Atlanta’s 2-1 start. They’ve played three of the four or five worst defenses in the league, and they’ve shown no ability to stop an offense of Carolina’s caliber. I know they’re home here, but I’m taking the Panthers with confidence. Panthers win 30-17.
Panthers cover

Oakland Raiders (2-1, 2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-0, 1-2):
Spread: Ravens favored by 3.5
Over/under: 44
My prediction: I think the Raiders have a more talented team than the Ravens, but I’m worried about picking them for a number of reasons. The Raiders are not a good road team, but they’re still 2-0 on the road. That makes me nervous. The Ravens are a good home team. The Raiders also haven’t played a team with the defensive chops of Baltimore, which makes me kind of doubt that their #1 ranking in DVOA is legit. If the Raiders are Super Bowl contenders, which I thought they could be at the beginning of the season, they’ll play up to their talent and handle Baltimore. But I don’t think they’re on that level, at least not yet. Ravens win 26-20.
Ravens cover

Detroit Lions (1-2, 1-1-1) at Chicago Bears (0-3, 0-3):*
Spread: Lions favored by 3.5
Over/under: 48
My prediction: The Bears stink. Heck, I eliminated them from playoff contention after two weeks. But the Lions shouldn’t be favored on the road, let alone by more than a field goal. Matthew Stafford will get his yards and the Lions will score their points. Look out for a big game from Golden Tate, who’s been quiet so far this year but who has a dream matchup against Chicago’s secondary. The Lions also happen to have a really bad defense, and Brian Hoyer has the ability to exploit a bad defense. He has weapons (namely Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White), and I think he can lead the Bears to a home victory here. Bears win 31-24.
Bears cover

Denver Broncos (3-0, 3-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2, 1-2):
Spread: Broncos favored by 3.5
Over/under: 43
My prediction: This feels like a classic trap game for the Broncos, who have started the season with wins against the Panthers, Colts, and Bengals and host the 2-1 Falcons in Week 5. In between is a seemingly harmless trip to Tampa and a matchup against a team that lost by 33 to the 1-2 Cardinals and gave up 37 points against the Rams. If the Broncos execute, the Bucs have no chance at stifling the trio of RB C.J. Anderson and WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Likewise, if Denver’s defense remains solid, Tampa’s pass-first offense will look more like it did against the Cards than it did against Falcons or Rams. I expect a sloppy performance from Denver, though, which means they’ll need a late stand or drive to win the game. Broncos win 23-21.
Buccaneers cover

Los Angeles Rams (2-1, 2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2, 1-2):- Lock of the week
Spread: Cardinals favored by 9.5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: This game is just what the doctor ordered for the Cardinals. The Rams somehow scored 37 points in Tampa Bay, but there’s no doubt that they’re more like the team that scored a combined nine points in their first two games than the one that roasted the Buccaneers. The Cardinals have struggled against the run this season, but this is the first time they’ll be selling out to stop the run. I’d be surprised if the Rams end up getting into the end zone more than once. On the other side, Arizona’s high-powered offense hasn’t really clicked yet. But it won’t take much from them to win this game. Cardinals win 27-10.
Cardinals cover

New Orleans Saints (0-3, 1-2) at San Diego Chargers (1-2, 2-1):
Spread: Chargers favored by 4
Over/under: 54
My prediction: The over/under here says it all. Expect points and more points in a game between two teams who have struggled to stop opponents when it’s mattered. The Chargers have the better defense, although that isn’t saying much given that the Saints have a defense comparable to the one that was among the worst in football history last year. But the Chargers actually have talented cornerbacks, led by shutdown Jason Verrett and supported by a rebound year from Brandon Flowers. That won’t stop Drew Brees from scoring some points, but it may prove the difference in a game without many stops. Chargers win 35-28.
Chargers cover

Dallas Cowboys (2-1, 2-1) at San Francisco 49ers (1-2, 1-2):*
Spread: Cowboys favored by 2
Over/under: 44.5
My prediction: I haven’t found many upsets to pick this week, so I’m mainly going against road teams that I don’t think are really good enough to be favored. The Cowboys are clearly one of those teams. They can’t stop anyone on defense, and they struggle to score touchdowns on offense. That’s not a great recipe for success, even against a San Fran team that’s lost each of its last two games by 19 points. Those games came against Carolina and Seattle on the road, though, and the Niners should find playing at home against a Dez Bryant-less Cowboys team much more comfortable. Niners win 23-20.
Niners cover

Kansas City Chiefs (2-1, 1-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1, 2-1):
Spread: Steelers favored by 3.5
Over/under: 48
My prediction: The Steelers really struggled to stop Philadelphia’s short passing game, which is a bad sign given that the Chiefs operate in a similar way. But Pittsburgh is also getting Le’Veon Bell back this week, and Bell is obviously a huge difference-maker. I don’t think the Steelers are going to be held to three points again anytime soon, but I also don’t think the Chiefs are going to go away easily tonight. Steelers win 27-20.
Steelers cover

New York Giants (2-1, 1-2) at Minnesota Vikings (3-0, 3-0):
Spread: Vikings favored by 4.5
Over/under: 43
My prediction: The Giants are the type of team that is tough to bet either for or against. When they’re favored, they can easily put up stinkers, as they did last week against Washington. But when they’re road dogs, they can cause problems. I put the Vikings in my top tier yesterday, and I really believe that they’re going to win at least 11 games, but this is going to be a tough game for them because the Giants are the rare team with the receiving weapons to trouble them. Minnesota’s defense is still going to be the best unit on the field, and it should carry them to victory, but it won’t be easy. Vikings win 21-17.
Giants cover

Upset picks:
Jets over Seahawks
Bears over Lions
Niners over Cowboys

Lock of the week:
Cardinals over Rams


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