NFL Week 4 features two matchups of undefeated teams facing off (yes, the Detroit Lions are undefeated.) The Thursday Night matchup has a desperate Philadelphia Eagles squad looking to upset the Green Bay Packers. Sunday games include key divisonal matchups like Vikings-Bears and Browns-Ravens. As the season begins to take more shape, the picks get just a little easier. Of […]
NFL Week 4 features two matchups of undefeated teams facing off (yes, the Detroit Lions are undefeated.) The Thursday Night matchup has a desperate Philadelphia Eagles squad looking to upset the Green Bay Packers. Sunday games include key divisonal matchups like Vikings-Bears and Browns-Ravens.
As the season begins to take more shape, the picks get just a little easier. Of course, there’s always upsets we don’t see coming, but team identities become a little more clear each week.
So will Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Dak Prescott move their teams to 4-0? Can the Browns make the AFC North interesting with a head-to-head win over the Ravens, or will Baltimore create some space in the standings early? Can Daniel Jones win his 2nd straigh start and create some legitimate buzz for the Giants? Read on for all the answers and more.
Week 1: 9-6-1
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 11-5
Overall Record: 29-18-1
Last week was my strongest so far, improving by two wins from the previous two weeks. Good upset predictions that I had included Lions over Eagles and the Jaguars over the Titans.
In Week 3 I incorrectly predicted:
- Falcons over Colts
- Buccaneers over Giants
- Panthers overs Cardinals
- Chargers over Texans
- Seahawks over Saints
Thursday Night Football
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-0)
Line: Green Bay Packers (-4.0)
The Eagles need this game a lot more than the Packers, and that could make them dangerous on the field. But if their defense can’t control the pace of the game and Aaron Rodgers is given control, it may not be a pretty night for Philadelphia.
I’m definitely not counting the Eagles out, but until Wentz and the offense find enough consistency, I’ll trust Rodgers in Lambeau on Thursday night. For the Eagles to win, Wentz has to be decisive with the football, as he held on to it for too long last week against the Lions.
Packers win 27-20, Packers win ATS
Sunday Day Games
Washington Redskins (1-2) at New York Giants (1-2)
Line: New York Giants (-2.5)
Media, fans, and players are ready to crown Daniel Jones the next Joe Montana for his 18-point comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Okay, no one’s calling him a Hall of Famer yet, but it seems like Giants fans are forgetting how abysmal their team is all-around. I would love to see Jones excel again in his second start. Washington’s defense allowed Mitch Trubisky to have his best passing game of the season, so Jones will look to shred up the same defense.
But the Redskins, despite being 0-3, are probably looking at the Giants defense as an opportunity to get going. Case Keenum had five turnovers against a fiesty Bears defense last Monday night. But even after going down 28-3, the Redskins made it a close game in the second half.
Jones isn’t immune to turnovers himself, and the Giants are without star running back Saquon Barkley. The Giants are narrow home favorites at MetLife Stadium, so call this one an upset: New York’s defense spoils a fine start from their rookie QB.
Redskins win 27-24, Redskins win ATS
Tennessee Titans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)
Line: Atlanta Falcons (-4.0)
If you take out Marcus Mariota’s 3-9 rookie season, he’s gone 25-21 as a starter over the past four seasons. But the average quarterback could be at a crossroads in his career already. Despite a clean 4 touchdown passes to 0 interceptions this season, he’s completing only 60.9% of his passes, a career-low in a year where rookie quarterbacks are making the passing game look easy. He’s also been sacked 17 times through three games, a pace that would put him on the ground a whopping 90 times this season.
Obviously there’s more blame to go around, from the offensive line to the under-performing offensive weapons. Tennessee’s defense hasn’t been bad though, allowing only 17.3 PPG this season.
The Atlanta Falcons need to utilize their home-field advantage: it’s been eight years since the Titans have played in Atlanta (though the Titans get the dome experience twice a year at Houston and Indianapolis.)
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are off to a shaky start this season, but if they can put up 24 points, as they did in their last two matchups, it should be enough if their defense keeps Mariota at bay.
Falcons win 24-17, Falcons win ATS
New England Patriots (3-0) at Buffalo Bills (3-0)
Line: New England Patriots (-7.0)
The Patriots and Bills meet at 3-0, both undefeated, with the winner taking sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Josh Allen and the Bills return to Buffalo for their home-opener, and Orchard Park will be absolutely rocking for this high octane matchup.
The Buffalo Bills don’t stand a chance.
Despite playing less than stellar competition to get to 3-0, there’s no reason to think the Bills will be the ones that slow Tom Brady down. The Bills haven’t beaten the Patriots since October 2016, with five straight losses to New England. And they haven’t been pretty. Buffalo has been beaten in their last five matchups by the following scores:
- 41-23, 23-3, 37-16, 25-6, and 24-12
Vegas has the Patriots as 7-point favorites, which I find very generous. The Patriots haven’t even allowed an offensive touchdown yet in 2019.
Patriots win 31-13, Patriots win ATS
Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0-1)
Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
The Detroit Lions felt like the forgotten team in the NFC North coming into the season, with the Vikings, Bears, and Packers all coming in with playoff expectations. Despite a Week 1 tie with the Arizona Cardinals, the Lions are “undefeated” at 2-0-1.
Matthew Stafford led the Lions to victories over Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz, but the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahommes are a different beast. The Lions defense could be a bit tougher to pick apart, but I still think the Lions would have to score a lot of points to win this game.
Detroit’s last two games haven’t exactly been offensive showcases, putting up 13 points (and needing a last-minute comeback) against the Chargers, and putting up 20 offensive points against the Eagles (you can’t expect another kickoff return touchdown.)
The Lions still have a chance to make some noise this season, but the Chiefs keep on rolling.
Chiefs win 27-18, Chiefs win ATS
Oakland Raiders (1-2) at Indianapolis Colts (2-1)
Line: Indianapolis Colts (-6.5)
After a feel-good Week 1 win over the Denver Broncos, who we now realize are pretty bad, the Raiders followed by losing their next two games by a combined score of 62-24.
The Colts are less formidable than the Chiefs and probably the Vikings too, but there’s no reason Oakland should be able to reverse the trend in Week 4. They simply don’t have enough talent to get it done. Jacoby Brissett leads the Colts to a wire-to-wire home victory, igniting the fanbase and proving Indy can still compete without Andrew Luck.
Colts win 27-13, Colts win ATS
Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-3)
Line: Los Angeles Chargers (-15.5)
Los Angeles hasn’t looked at all like the team that stayed toe-to-toe with the Chiefs in the standings last season. But they’ve stayed competitive, as both their losses came by a touchdown or less. This should be a good remedy game to get the team back on track. The Dolphins showed little to no signs of life last week, so the Chargers should get the easy win here. Melvin Gordon will return in the following game to a 2-2 Chargers team looking to heat up.
Chargers win 33-17, Chargers win ATS
Cleveland Browns (1-2) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-6.5)
Last week’s loss to the Ravens didn’t diminish Baltimore’s stock at all: they were outdueled by the best offensive team (best team?) in the league. The Ravens still look great and are easily the third best team in the AFC behind the Chiefs and Patriots.
The Browns on the other hand… are looking for answers. They had a breakout win over an ailing Jets squad, and didn’t have a shabby showing against the Rams, but they’re still the subject of much criticism in the early season. NFL “Dream Teams” often struggle to live up to the hype, and Baker Mayfield is failing to live up to his own expectations.
Cleveland won’t find the answers against a fiesty Baltimore team. Lamar Jackson’s passing game regressed a bit against the Chiefs, but he still found ways to get things done with his feet. He should find all kinds of ways to score against Cleveland’s defense.
Ravens win 30-17, Ravens win ATS
Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Houston Texans (2-1)
Line: Houston Texans (-4.5)
Kyle Allen helped turn around Carolina’s fortunes with a win over the Cardinals last week. The Texans have played three very close football games, and could easily be 3-0, or 1-2.
I expect things to be close again here, but the Texans are the better team. The Panthers can win this game, but only with a lights-out offensive performance or Houston beating themselves.
Texans win 27-23, Panthers win ATS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2) at Los Angeles Rams (3-0)
Line: Los Angeles Rams (-9.5)
Tampa Bay could be sitting pretty at 2-1 right now, if not for a missed field goal that gifted Daniel Jones his first NFL win this week. The Buccaneers offense was relentless in the first half, scoring on all six possessions, before disappearing in the second half.
Disappearing acts will do no good against this Rams team, who could put the game away early if Jameis Winston doesn’t come out strong in the first half. The Rams 3-0 start feels less dominant than last year, but wins are wins and they should be able to handle Tampa Bay with relative ease.
Rams win 31-20, Rams win ATS
Seattle Seahawks (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1)
Line: Seattle Seahawks (-5.0)
Seattle is right in the NFC mix at 2-1, but something hasn’t felt right. Their defense has been exposed by Andy Dalton, Mason Rudolph, and Teddy Bridgewater. Despite the winning record, they hold a -3 point differential on the season.
(Could Kyler Murray be the best quarterback they’ve faced this season? While his play hasn’t been consistent, he’s put up two 300-yard passing games, and last week figured out how to work in his legs, rushing eight times for 69 yards.
Historically, I don’t like rookie quarterbacks against Seattle’s defense. But this could be the perfect storm: a struggling Seattle team, on the road, with Murray slowly putting together his NFL game. Give me the rookie in an upset.
Cardinals win 23-20, Cardinals win ATS)
EDIT: UPDATED PICK 9/26/2019
After watching game film from the Seahawks and Cardinals Week 3 games, I can’t pick the Cardinals in good faith. Kyler Murray had too many bad plays on 3rd down. The Seahawks were shaky, but two of the touchdowns they allowed were special team/defensive. I’ll go with Seattle on second thought, though the Cardinals keep it kind of close.
Seahawks win 23-20, Seahawks win ATS
Minnesota Vikings (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Line: Chicago Bears (-2.0)
In their Monday Night Football win over the Washington Redskins, it looked like all was right again in Chicago. Mitch Trubisky could still throw, the offense could still score, and the Bears could win football games.
Except, after putting up a 28-3 lead in the first half, ignited by the defense and sustained by the offense, the Bears had to hold on in the fourth quarter to keep the Redskins out of reach.
Even with the impressive offensive output in the first half, Chicago’s struggle to score in the second half against a subpar Redskins defense is a little alarming.
The Vikings are a flat-out better team than the Redskins, on both sides of the ball. The Bears may not have things figured out just yet, as their Kirk Cousins and the Vikings push them to 2-2.
Vikings win 18-13, Vikings win ATS
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) at Denver Broncos (0-3)
Line: Denver Broncos (-3.0)
The Broncos are favored here, because while Joe Flacco has been bad, he hasn’t been… horrible? Denver’s defense is also stout and hungry for their first win of the season.
Despite the absence of and drama surrounding cornerback Jalen Ramsey, I think the Jaguars come in with a chance to win in Denver. Home-field advantage at Mile High is no joke, even when the Broncos aren’t playing great.
I think Gardner Minshew plays his brand of football, and battles with a tough Broncos defense. Joe Flacco can win the game if he puts up 20 points, but that may be too tall a task for him to accomplish.
Jaguars win 17-13, Jaguars win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Dallas Cowboys (3-0) at New Orleans Saints (2-1)
Line: Dallas Cowboys (-2.5)
The Dallas Cowboys have beaten Eli Manning’s New York Giants, Case Keenum’s Washington Redskins, and Josh Rosen’s Miami Dolphins to get to 3-0. The combined record of those teams is 1-8.
It’s not the Cowboys fault for their soft schedule, and they get lucky in Week 4 by missing Drew Brees as he recovers from a thumb injury. But just because there’s no Brees, that doesn’t mean winning will be a breeze in New Orleans.
Teddy Bridgewater, widely regarded as the best backup QB in the league before Brees injury, is more than capable of beating NFL defenses. He’s got weapons, a ballsy coach in Sean Payton, and homefield advantage in the Super Dome on his side.
The Vegas line does indicate the Cowboys are only narrow favorites, and I’m gonna go with the upset here. Prescott and Elliot fall just short in the fourth quarter as the Saints hold on for victory.
Saints win 27-23, Saints win ATS
Monday Night Football
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)
Line: Pittsburgh Steelers (-4.0)
One of these AFC North teams will get their first win of the season in this Monday night bout. Neither team has looked absolutely horrible this year, as they’ve had opportunities to win games. The Steelers will employ Mason Rudolph in extended action for his 3rd straight game, and on paper, I see this as a very even matchup.
I could see either team winning, but my gut says Andy Dalton gets it done. The Bengals have a slightly better point differential on the season: -29 to Pittsburgh’s -36. This should be a pretty close game, and the Bengals may win on a last-second field goal.
Bengals win 23-22, Bengals win ATS
Teams on Bye
New York Jets (0-3): The early bye serves well for the struggling New York Jets. Quarterback Sam Darnold gets to progress towards his return, while Luke Falk gets two weeks to prepare for a Week 5 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Linebacker C.J. Mosley is expected to return in Week 5, which is encouraging news for the defense. They played best this season while he was on the field in their Week 1 loss to the Bills.
San Francisco 49ers (3-0): While the Jets will use their bye week searching for answers, the San Francisco 49ers are sitting pretty at 3-0 and will look to keep up their winning ways after a bye week. The 49ers first three opponents hold a combined 1-8 record this season, so it’s reasonable to take their 3-0 record with a grain of salt. Save for a Week 6 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, four of the next five games should see the Niners as favorites: Vs. Browns, at Redskins, Vs. Panthers, At Cardinals.
If San Francisco emerges out of Week 9 with a 7-1 or 6-2 record, they’ll have a great shot to make the playoffs this season.
Be sure to follow Sak Sports Blog on Twitter for more NFL updates, or to debate my picks.
Header Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports