Time for the NFL Week Four picks. We looked back at Week Three's amazing Sunday and previewed the best matchups this week on the podcast. Sam and KAM typically give their picks away on the podcast so if you want them in advance (and who doesn’t?), then check it out! On to this week's games:
***These are Wednesday lines for Week Four. If you pick later in the week and need help with adjusted lines just find me on twitter, @samuelpearce, and I'll help you out. That's what friends are for!***
Chicago (+8.5) @ Green Bay:
***Editor's note: Kimberly Ann Maley had her usual Green Bay glow going after the comeback win over Cincinnati on Sunday. But now, on a short week, how does she feel about the Packers chances against the Bears on Thursday Night Football?***
The NFL's oldest rivalry is renewed this Thursday night at Lambeau when the Chicago Bears come to Green Bay. For the first time since 1932, the Packers have an opportunity to take the lead in this rivalry, currently tied at 94-94-6. With both teams coming off overtime wins, and now having to play on the short week, with a slew of injuries, this could get interesting to say the least.
Chicago got a nice win over Pittsburgh, but Bears fans shouldn't be feeling too confident just yet. Quarterback Mike Glennon's performance thus far hasn't been good enough to prevent many Bears fans from calling for the number two overall pick in last spring's draft, Mitchell Trubisky. Glennon has struggled to get big plays in the passing game. And with an injury depleted group of receivers around him, it may be difficult for him to get anything going any time soon.
That's not to say that Green Bay isn't struggling with their own injuries. The Packers will most likely be playing their fourth straight game without their five preferred starters on the offensive line. But Packers fans, don't fret. Number 12 will find a way to elude the rush when necessary, and convert downfield, as we saw him do so well in the second half and overtime against Cincinnati. Let's get silly and say that outside of the quarterback position, the Chicago and Green Bay rosters are comparable on offense and defense. (That's silly because Chicago doesn't have a Jordy Nelson, but let's just say...) Then it comes to down to which staff, and especially which quarterback, that you trust more on a short week. We've got Aaron Rodgers and they don't. Unless you can talk yourself into the Bears defense and run game pulling off the upset, you'd be foolish not to take the Packers to win and to cover:
New Orleans (-2.5) vs Miami, from London:
We'll preview and pick this game solely because it's the only game being played in its time slot. But no one's excited for it. Miami fans would be in better spirits if the Dolphins hadn't been worked over by the lowly Jets last week. New Orleans fans are feeling okay since they finally won a game, but no one else expects the Saints to go anywhere this year. And London fans who have to watch this game may abandon it by halftime to go back to watching soccer. As for actually picking this game, it's hard to be optimistic about Miami. The Dolphins escaped Los Angeles with a win, but recall that it was a missed Chargers field goal that decided that game. Then the awful loss to the Jets. In those two games, the Dolphins have really struggled to move the ball and score points. They average less than 300 total yards per game (YPG) and a mere 12.5 points. Perhaps the New Orleans defense is just who they need to see to get going? Despite their big win in Carolina, the Saints are still giving up more points per game (PPG) than they score, about a two point deficit. But can you trust Jay Cutler to take advantage of the New Orleans defense like Tom Brady did a couple weeks ago? Seems like a tall task for Cutler. Meanwhile Drew Brees is putting up his usual superstar fantasy football numbers. The Miami defense is legit, maybe the best that Brees has seen yet. But unless they force a couple turnovers early and give Cutler and the Dolphins short fields, then Miami probably won't fix all of their offensive woes in one week. London may get a semi-decent game to watch this week, and the Saints will do just enough to cover this number:
Buffalo (+9.5) @ Atlanta:
My apologies to Bills fans. Last week I said that covering the spread was like an actual win for the Bills. So they naturally went out and beat the Broncos, outright. The Buffalo defense is playing excellent football. They've allowed only two touchdowns in three games. And in the Denver win, they forced four turnovers on Denver's last four possessions (two drives ended on downs). But now they face the best offense they've seen all season. And despite their struggles in Detroit last week, Atlanta escaped with a win, got to 3-0, and now they get Buffalo at home. Atlanta is a decidedly better team at home where they've won their last five straight, and eight of their last ten. Over the five game home win streak, they've beaten Green Bay twice and Seattle once, two of those games in the Playoffs last year. Their average win margin over the five game win streak? 17 points! The reason I point out the wins over both Green Bay and Seattle is that Atlanta seems to find ways to dominate good offensive teams and good defensive teams, both, during this streak. Atlanta hasn't had to host a team that plays both well during this stretch. And that won't change this weekend. Buffalo defends well, but it's way too early to predict that they'll hang with Atlanta when it comes to putting up points. Defense travels so the Bills will keep it close early, maybe think about the first half line, but take the Falcons to cover for the game:
Los Angeles (+7) @ Dallas:
***Editor's note: Rick York is feeling much better now that Dallas is back on track. Read on to find out how he feels about a tough home game with LA this weekend.***
Dallas is back home Sunday afternoon to host the 2-1 LA Rams (and former Dallas head coach Wade Phillips). LA has started strong and could soon be a favorite in the NFC West. The defense is solid, but the offense seems to have really taken a leap. Jarred Goff gets better every week and Todd Gurley is back to being a true lead back. This is not likely to be a low-scoring game. Both defenses are capable of making plays but neither is really preventing opponents from scoring.
Dallas is coming off a big road win at Arizona on Monday night. After a slow start, they finished strong, and actually looked like the 2016 Cowboys. Dak Prescott made smart plays, and Ezekiel Elliott was able to run behind the Dallas offensive late to eat up the clock late. The Cowboys finally got some big plays from their receivers, specifically Brice Butler and Terrance Williams. Both made game-changing catches on Monday night. And the defense did just enough to keep their comfortable lead in the second half.
If LA and Dallas both play like they showed us they're capable of last week, then this could be quite a show, especially offensively. This game would be closer on a neutral field but Cowboys to cover at home:
Jacksonville (-3) @ New York:
***Editor's note: Greg Armstrong is flying high after his prediction that the Jets would not only cover last week, but beat the Dolphins outright. Now the contributor from TurnOnTheJets.com is back to tell us why New York is another solid play this week.***
The three points spread is tricky. New York is coming off a dominant win over Miami, and Jacksonville just beat down Baltimore across the pond. But I think the Jets will get their second straight win on Sunday. Blake Bortles is back on American soil, meaning he's not very good anymore. The New York defense was flying around last week, and gang tackling in a way that they didn't do the first two weeks. They have to contain running back Leonard Fournette, but they showed us last week they can do that when they shut down a similar back, Jay Ajayi, of Miami.
Points will be at a premium. New York's defense was great in its breakout performance last week, but Jacksonville's defense is lights out. I have more confidence in the Jets' Josh McCown that I do Blake Bortles. That's not saying much, but if the Jets shut down Fournette and Bortles is forced to throw the ball, this could be another three interception performance from him. A couple fantasy and/or prop predictions: I like Leonard Williams to get his first sack and Bilal Powell to get over 120 yards from scrimmage.
Take the Jets to cover and win outright in a bad football game:
Pittsburgh (-2.5) @ Baltimore:
These familiar rivals are playing to break a first place tie in the AFC Central, as they both enter this game 2-1. It would be a little more exciting if both teams hadn't looked so bad last week. On the podcast this week, we stressed that Pittsburgh has become a bad road team in recent years. So struggling in Chicago wasn't a surprise, but losing straight-up was disappointing. Not to be "outdone" though, Baltimore got drubbed by Jacksonville in the London game. Their embarrassing 44-7 loss to the Jaguars was baffling. Perhaps the Ravens felt bad about winning the Battle of Baltimore a couple hundred years ago and wanted to give the British an apology by no-showing a football game? Regardless, they'll be happy to get back home where the Ravens are 6-0 in their last six home games, and they've covered in five. Against Pittsburgh, specifically, Baltimore has won four of the last six, and covered in their last three straight. That's probably why Covers.com has 73% of experts taking the points with Baltimore. I'll probably regret this but here's why I'll go with Pittsburgh: Marshal Yanda, the Ravens best offensive lineman, and probably their best player, is out for the year. He missed his first game last week and Baltimore got nothing going offensively. They crossed midfield only three times on the day, and not until the third quarter when the game was really over. And for the season, Baltimore wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard when they did have Yanda. They put up 44 total points on the Browns and the Bengals, who have a combined 0-6 record this year. It's a rivalry game and that counts for a lot, especially since Baltimore has the defense to keep it close, and Pittsburgh's offense hasn't exploded yet the way I envisioned in preseason. But the Steelers should be able to score enough to win by a field goal:
New York (+3) @ Tampa Bay:
Earlier this week, on the podcast I said the Giants played their best possible game on Sunday and lost. You may be thinking "that was their best possible game?!" Well, yes. The Giants were generally awful for three quarters, which is better than when they were awful for a full four quarters in their season opening loss at Dallas. But on Sunday in Philly, at least they came alive for a quarter. They did a few things right, including Eli Manning finally getting into a rhythm. It required good play-calling, offensive line protection (at least for 2-3 seconds at a time), accurate passing from Manning, and play-making from Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard. For a quarter, the Giants had all of that. This is only possible if Manning gets the ball out of his hands fast. Really fast. New York's offensive line is so limited. They have no run game, so defenses can dedicate to defending the pass and really get after the quarterback. Hence, the need to get the ball out quickly. And that only works if you have receivers that are constant YAC (yards after catch) threats. For the fourth quarter on Sunday, all of it came together for New York. Then just as quickly, it all fell part for the Giants. Losing is never okay, but normally if you lose on a 61 yard field goal, you deal with it and move on. Focus on what you did right rather than what went wrong, because the truth is, your opponent had to convert something that's terribly rare to win. But in this case, the Giants can't just move on. It didn't just cost them a game, but by dropping them to 0-3, it really sank their season.
This would be more disheartening if I hadn't been writing about what a mess the offensive line has been the last couple years. No smart football person could have watched the Giants line these last couple seasons and thought it would get better this year. But Jerry Reese tried to make that case in the offseason. It's baffling. But now they have zero ground game and an increasingly immobile and erratic quarterback. Both would benefit greatly from a better line. Neither will.
As for the game in Tampa this week, I predict what we'll see more of throughout the year: New York will get a solid defensive effort for most of the day. And just enough big YAC plays from Beckham and Shepard. Maybe Brandon Marshall will even show up. Well, let's not get carried away. This will keep it close, the Giants will cover, but still lose. And break our hearts:
Oakland (+2.5) @ Denver:
This isn't a shocking revelation by any means, but I think early in the 2017 season we're seeing that some of the league's younger quarterbacks experience drastic drop-offs when they hit the road. Two weeks ago Denver's Trevor Siemian was great when the Broncos thrashed the Cowboys at home. Then Siemian struggled mightily in Buffalo last week. Even Derek Carr struggled in Washington last week. Granted, he was under constant pressure, but the Raiders offense looked a lot worse than I thought they were capable of. Now Siemian gets to play at home again, and Carr has to take the Raiders into a tough environment at the new Mile High. There, the Raiders normally excellent receivers will be stifled by the Mile High No-Fly Zone. If the Raiders can't explode early, and it's not likely against this Broncos defense, then Oakland will have a difficult time keeping pace. They just don't have the defense to compete in an ugly, low-scoring game. The Broncos will get up early, force the Raiders into some of the same errors we saw from them last week, and eventually cruise. Broncos easy:
Indianapolis (+14) @ Seattle:
A couple things: First, this game looked much better on paper when the schedule came out months ago. Andrew Luck versus Russell Wilson in a battle for 2012 quarterback draft class supremacy was a nice tagline for NBC's Sunday Night Football, especially since both have led their teams to deep Playoff runs in their relatively young careers. But with Luck out indefinitely and Wilson running for his life after every snap, it's just hard to get excited for this game. Second, how bad are the Colts if they're a two touchdown underdog to another 1-2 team?!
It's not just that Indianapolis sucks. They do, but Seattle generally bounces back after a loss. The Seahawks are 9-1 in their last 10 games after a loss. They're 7-3 ATS in those ten games. So recent history suggests a bounce back win for Seattle, especially at home with the help of the 12th Man, and playing a bad Indy team. Be warned, though, Seattle is NOT the same defensive juggernaut that they've been in recent years. Three games in, the Seahawks are ranked 25th in total defense. Teams are moving the ball on them, including on the ground. Tennessee gashed them for almost 200 yards rushing last week! To Seattle's credit, they're still a top ten scoring defense. They only gave up 17 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau, and they should be able to feast on the Colts and Jacoby Brissett. With the LA Rams suddenly in the driver's seat in the NFC West, this is a critical game for Seattle. Seahawks to cover the big number at home. And if they can't beat up on this Colts team, they've got even bigger problems than we think:
Washington (+7) @ Kansas City:
***Editor's note: Jeremy DeBottis has joined us this season to help preview the Chiefs each and every week. Jeremy will be picking the NFL games with us every week and dropping some occasional Chiefs knowledge on the website. We'll be sure to get him on the podcast too. Enjoy his take on the Chiefs ability to win the turnover battle, control field position, and escape what could have been a trap game in Los Angeles. And read on for his Chiefs/Redskins pick.***
The Chiefs should win, but all of their games have been close through at least three quarters. I'm not convinced the Washington game will be any different, and it may be close right down to the end. Check out my review of the Chiefs win in LA last week. I outlined what they've been doing well and where there are still real concerns. Those concerns include some undisciplined football that's led to too many penalties, the inability to convert enough third downs, and some play-calling that may be too predictable. On top of that, the Chiefs had to put kicker Cairo Santos on the injured reserve this week. Now they head into this game with a rookie kicker. Santos has been a reliable kicker and they may miss him in a game where every point will matter. Uncertain special teams could play a big role. Chiefs to win, but Redskins to cover:
Did you like our NFL picks this week? Hate the picks? Want to play along and teach us how to pick? Let our experts know what you think:
|Sam finally had a decent season in 2016 and hit a 55% success rate on his NFL picks. So your best bet is to fade his picks this year. It won't hurt his feelings.|
|The voice of thefootballpod.com, KAM's so good that she's been known to pick both NFL and college games. She'll share her picks as long as you don't trash talk her Packers.|
|Need power picks and the power sweep, both? Then look no further than Kevin's picks. This Western Pennsylvania football product knows the game as well as anyone.|
|She's not only the best bartender in town, but #PaytonsPicks set the pace in 2016, to the tune of a 56% success rate! Catch her if you can. Or just wisely follow her picks.|
|He's our resident Cowboys expert, so you'll hear from Rick a lot this year. As for his picks, #RicksLocks are as money as Dallas playing as the one seed in the NFC Playoffs.|
|Founder of theredbeat.com, and a contributor at turnonthejets.com, Greg is the newest member of the team. He's the biggest Jets fan we know (and willing to admit it...)|
|After making the rounds on the podcast circuit for years, we finally have our Kansas City Chiefs expert weighing in, writing columns, and picking games. So pay attention!|
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