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Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
A wild Week 3 has set us up for an intriguing Week 4, and there are plenty of great games to sink our teeth into. Let’s begin!
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) JACKSONVILLE at CINCINNATI (-7.5) (Over/Under 46)
The script seemed to be turning in Jacksonville’s direction against the Cardinals. After a thrilling missed field goal return for a touchdown to end the half, the momentum was all with Urban Meyer’s team. Then, in the second half, the rug was pulled from under Trevor Lawrence after a poor decision let to a pick-six, breaking hearts and sending them to an 0-3 start. The No 1 overall pick has not had his way so far, making uncharacteristic errors and, frankly, looking like a rookie. He will face a stiff test against a Cincinnati defense that is quietly one of the most solid units in the league.
Having been a first-year starter last season, Joe Burrow will sympathize with Lawrence’s problems, but the Bengals quarterback will have little time to ponder his opponent’s mindset. A road victory in Pittsburgh will have the Bengals faithful on a high under the lights, but this is the type of game where complacency can set in. Zac Taylor’s men will need to remain focused, but the talent gap here should see them record a comfortable win. Thursday night games tend to produce one-sided affairs, historically speaking.
WASHINGTON (-1) at ATLANTA (Over/Under 48)
The Taylor Heinicke Show rolls on this week as he and the Football Team take their talents to Atlanta. Ron Rivera’s neutral expression gave away little against the Bills, but behind the stoic demeanor, he was probably fuming inside. In truth, the Football Team had only a glimmer of a chance against a superior outfit like Buffalo. Atlanta, however, represents an opponent more on their level. The major worry for Rivera will be the lackluster play of a defense that was supposed to be the foundation of this team’s success.
Vegas has essentially thrown their hands up by making Washington a one-point road favorite, an admission of their lack of conviction about both teams. A win over the hapless Giants will not do much to move the needle for the Falcons, after all. Matt Ryan and the offense sputtered frequently and even a mediocre showing from the Football Team might be enough to shut them down. Getting points at home is appealing, however, so a slight lean to Atlanta here is the play.
DETROIT at CHICAGO (-3) (Over/Under 42.5)
The doink heard around the world left Detroit players, fans and coaches open-mouthed and utterly shocked on Sunday. The effort from Dan Campbell’s team continues to be admirable; the results, however, have not followed suit. Jared Goff is giving the young Lions squad a fighting chance, along with a defense that is greater than the sum of its parts. A plucky team, they will need to shake off the cobwebs of Justin Tucker’s kick and reset for a road test against their old rivals.
Chicago managed to keep things close in the early exchanges against Cleveland but ultimately succumbed as Justin Fields struggled mightily in his first career start. It was a tough draw for Fields to face a Browns defense that has been upgraded, but Matt Nagy will not be encouraged. Could we see a conservative game plan to get Fields comfortable? Highly likely – and that opens an opportunity for Detroit to play spoiler. The Lions, it should be noted, are 4-9 ATS in their past 13 road games.
TENNESSEE (-7.5) at NY JETS (Over/Under 46)
Tennessee did what they had to do to take down division rival Indianapolis, something of a ho-hum performance in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, it appears as though Mike Vrabel’s team has found its mojo and they are parlaying that into a winning formula. Going to 3-1 seems a near-certainty given the ongoing struggles of this week’s opponents. Could Tennessee get an early start on printing the division champion t-shirts and hats?
The Jets are unlikely to provide much resistance to Derrick Henry, while Ryan Tannehill will continue to pick his spots off play-action in his typically efficient fashion. Zach Wilson’s confidence is unquestionably low; now, it is simply a matter of building it back up again. The Titans defense is not the most formidable unit, but the rookie is still not up to the speed of the NFL game. This could be an ugly one.
CLEVELAND (-1.5) at MINNESOTA (Over/Under 52.5)
Kirk Cousins is something of a machine this season, tossing touchdowns for fun and hardly putting a foot wrong despite the Vikings getting off to a 1-2 start. The absence of Dalvin Cook had zero effect on the offensive output, with Alexander Mattison stepping in to bring smiles to the Minnesota faithful’s faces. Another home game sees Cleveland come to town in a match-up that occurs only once every four years. Sometimes the unfamiliar opponent contests can throw up some crazy outcomes, so expect a shootout here.
Vegas seems to think so, too, setting the total at 52.5. The Browns won an arm wrestle last week; one suspects this game will require a bit more Baker Mayfield and a bit less of the star running back tandem. Who would have thought that a throwing contest between Mayfield and Cousins could potentially be this entertaining? Cleveland gets a slight nod as favorites, but don’t be surprised if this line moves in Minnesota’s favor.
INDIANAPOLIS at MIAMI (-2) (Over/Under 43)
The Colts have stumbled and fallen into an 0-3 start as key starters have gone down and Carson Wentz has offered little to get excited about. Another week of recovery from his ankle ailments will do him good, but will it be enough? Given the success the Raiders had running the ball against Miami, expect Frank Reich to keep it simple and hand the ball to Jonathan Taylor 20 times. The implied line here means it could be close, but it is hard to trust Wentz in those scenarios.
Then again, can we trust Jacoby Brissett either? With Tua Tagovailoa out, Brissett did a bang-up job in relief against the Raiders on Sunday, but couldn’t quite pull one out. Miami has been something of an enigma this season, so it is tough to put faith in them to recover here. The best angle on this game might be to avoid it completely, but in a pinch take the home team.
CAROLINA at DALLAS (-4) (Over/Under 50)
The Panthers are off to a 3-0 start and made an intriguing trade on Monday, sending tight end Dan Arnold and a third-round pick in 2022 to the Jaguars for talented cornerback C.J. Henderson and a fifth-round pick. The move is an admission by Carolina that rookie Jaycee Horn will not be back this season after a foot injury, hurting a defense that was flourishing. Henderson might be able to make up some of the quality lost, however. The loss of Christian McCaffrey will blunt the offense for Matt Rhule, so the load will fall to Royce Freeman and Chuba Hubbard.
The Cowboys utilized their talented duo of running backs to the fullest in their Monday Night Football walkover against the Eagles, with Ezekiel Elliott seeming to run a little tougher than usual and Tony Pollard dazzling with each touch. The test for Carolina is how effectively they can slow down the Dallas rushing attack; the problem with that is, of course, more passing attempts for Dak Prescott and the dangerous receiving corps. In what should be a fascinating clash, take the points.
NY GIANTS at NEW ORLEANS (-8) (Over/Under 43.5)
Another 0-3 start for the Giants and another nail in the coffin of the current regime, perhaps. Not much has gone right for the G-Men this season, with the loss to Atlanta just sort of happening, as if it snuck up on them in a game they largely controlled. Losing two starting receivers clearly affected the timing of the passing game, and Saquon Barkley, despite his effort, is not quite 100% yet. The defense will need to be special to put Jameis Winston under duress, though the Saints' offensive line is among the best units in the league.
It all points inevitably towards a tough spot for Daniel Jones and company, who are down as eight-point underdogs. The one saving grace looking ahead for the Giants is that they have the Bears’ 2022 1st round draft pick, so going back to the well for a quarterback could be in play. Meanwhile, the Joe Judge-Daniel Jones axis will continue – but one wonders how much more failure this organization can take. The Saints should be able to take care of business here handily.
Pick: New Orleans
KANSAS CITY (-6 to -7) at PHILADELPHIA (Over/Under 55)
If you take a look at the standings after three weeks, you will notice a curious phenomenon. The Chiefs are at the bottom of the AFC West, a shocking development for a team that has made winning look easy in recent times. Suddenly, the tables have turned. Patrick Mahomes II has to shoulder some of the blame for the loss to the Chargers last week, with his interceptions giving the opponent life. Despite losing the turnover battle 4-0, however, the Chiefs could still have pulled it out.
The line in this game has moved by a point, a reaction to the subpar display by the Eagles in primetime. Some of that is justified, but we should keep in mind how fragile the Kansas City defense has been. There is every possibility that Jalen Hurts and the offense can bounce back. It will likely start with a greater reliance on the ground game and Miles Sanders, who showed off his talents in spurts last week. The seven-point home underdog is always tempting, despite the Chiefs’ success at swiping seemingly every opponent aside.
HOUSTON at BUFFALO (-16.5) (Over/Under 48)
The Texans are 16.5-point underdogs this week, a line that is unlikely to be surpassed the rest of the season. Even with 10 days to prepare, Tyrod Taylor will not be returning, leaving Davis Mills as the starting quarterback once again. There was a bit of fight in the Houston players in that Thursday night affair, but the offensive woes doomed them. Against a Buffalo defense that has hardly allowed opponents a sniff this season, expect a hostile reception.
The fact that the total for this game is 48 surprises a little; it is entirely possible that Mills is locked down and the Texans score single-digit points. Would Sean McDermott consider taking Josh Allen out to protect him late in the game? Allen’s style lends itself to extra punishment, after all. Buffalo will storm to victory here – that much is almost certain – but 16.5 points is too many to lay.
ARIZONA at LA RAMS (-5) (Over/Under 54.5)
This battle of 3-0 teams should be a popcorn game for all of us watching, with Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury pitting their wits against Matthew Stafford and Sean McVay. The latter duo has developed a productive partnership and Stafford has settled quickly into the offense, with a big help from his top target Cooper Kupp. The victory over the Bucs was a statement of intent to the rest of the league. Is there a possibility of a letdown here at home?
Murray and Kingsbury will be banking on it, and they will like their chances of causing a little chaos with their versatile offense. The attitude for Arizona has to be one of devil-may-care, pulling things out of the playbook to surprise L.A. and then letting the chips fall where they may. Tactical nous and a stubborn defensive display will go a long way to keeping the Cardinals in it.
SEATTLE at SAN FRANCISCO (-3) (Over/Under 52)
Seattle has stumbled to a 1-2 start, with the second half of the Vikings game exposing them in many ways. While before the break, they were in full flow, afterward they were sluggish and couldn’t get any rhythm going. The arrival of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron has brought some promising returns, but it cannot all be on Russell Wilson’s shoulders. After an encouraging start to the season, the defense has failed to sustain momentum – a real concern as they visit San Francisco.
Typically, these NFC West clashes are highly entertaining affairs, and San Francisco will be keenly aware that a win would take them 2.5 games clear of Seattle (with the tiebreaker). A loss, of course, would throw everything up in the air again. Kyle Shanahan’s team fell just short against the Packers, but there were some red flags around their passing game that need addressing this week. Trey Lance will continue to be sprinkled in, but this is still Jimmy G’s show.
Pick: San Francisco
BALTIMORE at DENVER (-1) (Over/Under 44)
The kick heard around the world is still a topic of conversation in the Ravens’ locker room, but the glow is probably fading as they turn their focus to the Broncos. In a highly competitive AFC North, the Ravens will be keen to keep up the pace and show well in a tricky road clash. Lamar Jackson and Hollywood Brown failed to connect on multiple occasions last week, drawing groans from Ravens fans everywhere. What is encouraging is that Brown is getting that open, something he may find a little tougher against the Broncos secondary. Expect Jackson to be under fire and to be forced to win from the pocket.
Vic Fangio will have his sights set on a 4-0 start and the Broncos’ first signature win of the season. Teddy Bridgewater has been very solid so far, but he will have to keep plays alive and be precise with his passing against the Ravens defense. That the home team is laying just a point shows there are still skeptics out there – and perhaps a lot of Baltimore believers. Still, the defense should get it done for Denver.
PITTSBURGH at GREEN BAY (-7) (Over/Under 45.5)
The Steelers are in sleepwalking mode on offense, lacking explosiveness in their execution and generally looking sluggish. Despite the collection of weapons they have to throw to, they simply cannot get out of their own way. Turnovers cost them dearly last week against Cincinnati, so a cleaner game will be called for in Green Bay. The only way to keep this one close will be a strong defensive effort – and that will depend on the health of certain key starters.
Green Bay’s thrilling win against San Francisco reminded us of their ability to turn it on when they need to. There is a sense that the Saints' performance in Week 1 was simply an aberration and that now they have finally hit their stride. Aaron Rodgers was on point with his deep balls last week, a worrying sign for Pittsburgh’s undermanned secondary. The Packers should be able to have their way at home, so lay the points.
Pick: Green Bay
(Sunday Night) TAMPA BAY (-6.5) at NEW ENGLAND (Over/Under 49)
This game may be more talked about than any other on the slate this week, but once the Brady-Belichick legacy questions are discussed it ultimately comes down to football. The Bucs tasted defeat last week and will be eager to get back in the win column, regardless of the opponent. The fact that Brady will likely break Drew Brees’ passing yardage record in the process is just a bonus. The Bucs are heavy road favorites and have little to fear from the Patriots, in truth.
Mac Jones made a few mistakes last week against the Saints despite the conservative game plan that Josh McDaniels continues to roll out each week. The Patriots will have to let the rookie take some shots this week, with the Bucs secondary showing some signs of weakness. The intriguing thing here will be what kind of game plan Belichick cooks up for Brady – and could the old master fool him a couple of times?
Pick: Tampa Bay
(Monday Night) LAS VEGAS at LA CHARGERS (-3.5) (Over/Under 52.5)
A treat of a game caps off the fourth week of the season, as the Raiders head to L.A. for a primetime match-up with plenty of great subplots. Last week’s overtime victory for Las Vegas is their season in a nutshell: down to the wire, entertaining beyond belief, and ultimately ending on a positive note for them. The test of stopping Justin Herbert and a humming Chargers offense will be keeping Jon Gruden up late this week.
Meanwhile, the Chargers – even at 2-1 – should be feeling great about their season so far. The win in Arrowhead showed that new head coach Brandon Staley is not afraid to put Herm Edwards’ old adage into practice: play to win the game. Installed as 3.5-point home favorites, the Chargers should be fancied to get the job done. That half-point is tempting, however. The best advice here is to simply enjoy the mayhem.
Pick: Las Vegas
Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 MINNESOTA (+1.5) vs. CLEVELAND
- 2 ATLANTA (+1) vs. WASHINGTON
- 3 MIAMI (-2) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
- 4 LAS VEGAS (+3.5) at LA CHARGERS
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 4 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- LAS VEGAS (+3.5)
- MIAMI (-2)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- ATLANTA (+1)
- MINNESOTA (+1.5)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM MONEY LINE (5.34-1 ODDS)
- CINCINNATI - FOR THE WIN
- MINNESOTA – FOR THE WIN
- NEW ORLEANS – FOR THE WIN
- GREEN BAY – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Las Vegas, Atlanta, Minnesota, Miami
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 10-6
- SEASON OVERALL: 25-23 (52%)
- BEST BETS: 5-7 (41%)
- PICK OF THE WEEK: 5-12 (29%)
Good luck this weekend!
Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org