NFL Picks: Week 4

Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5)

Ugh, another Thursday loss for me. The Tannehill era in Miami is coming to an end soon.

Pick: Bengals 27 Dolphins 24 incorrect

Indianapolis Colts (-2) at “London” Jaguars

The Jaguars should have absolutely beat the Ravens last week, but they have just been so sloppy on offense and couldn’t get it done. The Jags get some good news on the injury front with LT Kelvin Beachum and starting CB Prince Amukamara expected to play. “London’s” offensive line has been nothing short of awful and they have to deal with Andrew Luck on defense, so these are two very important players to get back this week. The Colts struggle to get pressure and in coverage, but are decent against the run (4 yards per carry allowed), so I wouldn’t expect the “London” RBs to run wild or anything. It’ll be up to Blake Bortles and “London’s” Allen brothers to win this game.

Either way, in the 5 games Andrew Luck has beaten the Jaguars (he lost his first game against them in 2012), the Colts have won by at least 20 each time. Also, the past 2 years have seen a coach lose his job after the first London game (Dennis Allen in 2014, Joe Philbin last year). I think that trend continues with Jags coach Gus Bradley losing his job after this game.

Pick: Colts 31 Jaguars 24

Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins (7.5)

I don’t think Hue Jackson is a bad coach at all, but he lost his team the game by taking a knee before kicking (and missing) a fairly long field goal against the Dolphins last week. Maybe he won’t be so conservative this week. Terrelle Pryor had an excellent game last week as a multi-purpose weapon (why didn’t you do this, Raiders?!?!?), and I expect that to continue in order to help their rookie QB, Cody Kessler. The Redskins already don’t have the best of pass defenses, and now they’re even worse with starting safety DeAngelo Hall tearing his ACL last week. Washington also isn’t very good against the run (4.6 yards per carry allowed), so I think the Browns will be able to move the ball well.

Meanwhile, on defense the Browns do a good job against the run (3.9 YPC allowed). Kirk Cousins will have success through the air, but will he make some crucial mistakes in the red zone? The Browns have a chance of winning the turnover battle in this game, and if they actually do that, I think they certainly will cover and may even win outright.

Pick: Browns 23 Redskins 24

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-7)

I don’t know who is starting at quarterback for the Patriots in this game. Regardless of who is behind center, I expect the Patriots will be using LeGarrette Blount, who currently leads the NFL in rushing yards, quite a lot in this game. The Bills have actually been pretty good against the run this season, despite the numerous injuries and suspensions to their front seven. I don’t know. I don’t want to spend too much time on this game because I’ve been wrong on both teams every week so far. Sammy Watkins is out for the Bills, so this will limit their offense. The Patriots will focus on stopping LeSean McCoy, but I have no idea how many points they will put up in this game, but they will limit their turnovers so that the Bills have to score on their very good defense.

Pick: Bills 7 Patriots 21

Seattle Seahawks (-1.5) at New York Jets

The Jets committed 8 turnovers last week, so you can be sure that limiting turnovers was a point of emphasis this week. Unfortunately for the Jets, the Seahawks have an elite defense that is currently #1 in the NFL in terms of total yards allowed (around 250 per game). I don’t expect much running room for Matt Forte, so hopefully Ryan Fitzpatrick realizes that field goals and punts are not bad options this week. The Jets defense may be able to win this game for them. Russell Wilson has a bum ankle and knee, but apparently he had a really good week of practice (according to Pete Carroll). The problem won’t be Wilson, however, it will be the Seahawk offensive line, which is probably the worst in the NFL. The Jets have 9 sacks on the year, and are actually better than Seattle against the run (3.3 YPC allowed). You can bet they will be in Wilson’s face all game. This will no doubt be a low scoring game and I’ll give the edge to the home team here.

Pick: Seahawks 13 Jets 16

Carolina Panthers (-3) at Atlanta Falcons

The best offense in the NFL right now belongs to Matt Ryan and the Falcons. The 3 QBs Carolina has faced so far are: Trevor Siemian (1st start), Blaine Gabbert, and Sam Bradford. Obviously, the Josh Norman-less Carolina secondary will face its toughest task this week. Nobody they have can cover Julio Jones, and the pass rush has struggled some, accumulating 6 sacks so far. Matt Ryan should have no problem moving the Falcons down the field. He just needs to make sure they score touchdowns more often than not.

The poor Carolina offensive line has been abused by Denver and Minnesota recently, but the Falcons don’t have a very good pass rush (3 sacks so far). Cam Newton will finally have some time in the pocket to operate. He’ll need it, because he seemed to suffer some sort of leg injury last week against the Vikings. Starting RB Jonathan Stewart is out again, so if Newton’s mobility is limited, the Panthers may struggle to establish a running game with their backups.

I don’t think the Panthers have much confidence right now, while the Panthers are on fire offensively. I think, at the very least, they will be able to keep up with Carolina on the scoreboard. I’m picking the Falcons to win outright, even.

Pick: Panthers 27 Falcons 30

Detroit Lions (-3) at Chicago Bears

Lions fans have dubbed their new receiver ‘Marvintron’ after last week’s performance, and it might be fair to say he’s an upgrade over the 2015 version Megatron. Marvintron and Matthew Stafford have developed a nice chemistry, so the Bears have a big problem on their hands. Chicago is missing quite a few starters on defense, which means it is up to Brian Hoyer to keep up with the Detroit offense. The Bears will be featuring a rookie running back, Jordan Howard, who has actually looked pretty good in limited action. He should be able to find running room against a Lions defense that is giving up 5.1 yards per carry on the ground, but unfortunately for the Bears, their defense won’t be preventing a shootout, and Hoyer won’t be able to keep up in a shootout.

Pick: Lions 34 Bears 24

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-4.5)

After getting blanked by the Patriots last week, it may be fair to say that Brock Osweiler is not the solution at QB for Houston. Osweiler should have a decent day against a weak Tennessee secondary however. I think he’ll be throwing early and often, because the Titans are capable of stopping the run (Adrian Peterson had only 31 yards on the ground against them). Meanwhile, on defense the Texans lost JJ Watt for the season, which is devastating obviously. Houston is already giving up 4.8 yards per carry on the ground, so the Titans will be giving it to DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in order to limit Marcus Mariota, who is having turnover issues right now. The Titans will be getting their best receiver, Kendall Wright, back for this contest at least.

This is a pick I needed to make earlier in the week, as the Watt injury has caused this spread to drop. Watt hadn’t been very effective when he played anyway, but with the spread dropping for 6.5 to 4.5, my Titans pick has less room for error.

Pick: Titans 20 Texans 23

Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)

I’m sure Baltimore fans are very aware of this, but I’ll say it again…the Ravens have played 3 opponents with a combined record of 1-8. Of course, it’s not the Ravens fault that they took care of business. The Raiders inserted Karl Joseph into the lineup last week, and he played very well, leading the team with 10 tackles against the likes of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Ravens don’t have as much talent at running back as the Titans (especially with rookie Kenneth Dixon still out), but Baltimore is better at QB, WR, and TE. Oakland’s secondary held up against the Titans last week, but this week will be much more difficult, and I expect the Ravens to test Sean Smith and throw to their tight ends quite often.

The Raiders scored 37 points on the Ravens last year, but in that game, the Ravens were on the road and without Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. Both will be playing in this game, and I can guarantee you that the Raiders won’t score 37 points this time around. Baltimore still doesn’t have the corners to keep up with Oakland receivers Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree, but their pass rush, already with 9 sacks, is getting a boost with Elvis Dumervil returning from injury. Baltimore also isn’t easy to run on, giving up only 3.8 yards per carry so far.

With the Raiders playing on the east coast for the second consecutive week, I think they come out flat in the early going. I also do not trust the pass defense after just one good performance.

Pick: Raiders 20 Ravens 24

 

Denver Broncos (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One of these weeks, Trevor Siemian will have a bad game. He has been impressive thus far and an upgrade over last year’s version of Peyton Manning. This week may be the week, because after last week, Tampa Bay will be aware of Siemian’s deep ball. Tampa Bay has a very good run defense as well, so as long as the Bucs secondary keeps everything in front of them, they may be able to force Siemian into some mistakes.

Meanwhile, on defense, the Broncos are missing DeMarcus Ware, and even though Von Miller is playing, it may not be easy for the Broncos to pressure Jameis Winston, as the Bucs offensive line has only given up 5 sacks so far. Winston will probably throw some interceptions anyway (league leader with 6), but he’ll still connect with receiver Mike Evans, who is a difficult cover for even the best corners. I don’t think Tampa Bay will run the ball much, because Doug Martin is still out, while Charles Sims is better served catching passes out of the backfield.

The Bucs have had a rough past couple of weeks. Perhaps that continues this week, but I think they will surprise some people and keep things very interesting against the Broncos.

Pick: Broncos 20 Bucs 23

Dallas Cowboys (-1.5) at San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers return home after two tough road games against Carolina and Seattle, and even though they haven’t been very good the past few seasons, they’ve actually been tough to beat at Levi’s stadium. Poor starts doomed the 49ers the past two weeks, but Dallas doesn’t have a very good defense, so perhaps they can build some confidence early on with some strong drives by Blaine Gabbert. Of course, Gabbert isn’t very good, but without a pass rush in his face (the 49ers have only given up 2 sacks), he may have a decent performance. Carlos Hyde will also have a pretty easy time running the ball. The Cowboys are currently allowing an average of 5 yards per rush.

The Cowboys at least have a very good offense, and even though it will be missing Dez Bryant, I don’t think Dak Prescott will have trouble finding open receivers. Like Gabbert, Prescott should have all day in the pocket, thanks to his excellent offensive line. With no Dez Bryant, I think the 49ers will focus on stopping Ezekiel Elliott and force Prescott to beat them through the air. Prescott has been very good so far, but he can’t go all year without throwing an interception. Perhaps he throws an untimely one in this game because I think the 49ers steal one here.

Pick: Cowboys 23 49ers 24

New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)

Even on an emotional night in front of their home crowd, the Saints gave up 45 points. Obviously, there is no hope for their defense, and at this point, I think they’d consider giving up less than 30 points a good day. They may be able to do that against the Chargers, who are missing their best receivers. The Chargers are also missing a starting corner and a safety. They will have a hard time stopping Drew Brees and the Saints offense, who should be able to score 30 points themselves. I hate picking a team with such a bad defense, but I think this is will be a shootout that Drew Brees finally wins.

Pick: Saints 31 Chargers 30

LA Rams at Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)

My most upsetting loss last week was the Cardinals. I knew they would come out flat in Buffalo, but I still picked them anyway, thinking they’d be able to overcome that. Well, they didn’t, as Carson Palmer threw 4 interceptions. Palmer looks done, and I think the Cardinals are going to struggle in this game as well. Arizona’s best weapon is running back David Johnson, but the Rams have been limiting opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry. If Palmer continues to throw ducks downfield, the Rams will start to cheat on the underneath and checkdown routes, making it difficult on the Cardinals to sustain drives.

It’s really too bad that the Rams still have a shitty offense after trading up for the #1 pick in the draft. At least the Rams have Todd Gurley, who I expect to have a good game against an Arizona defense that is giving up a 4.8 YPC average on the ground. However, if the Cardinals clamp down on Gurley, Case Keenum will have a difficult time finding open receiver against a very good Arizona secondary.

The Rams actually won in Arizona last year, and that may happen again this year, given Palmer’s struggles. Whether they win or not, I think the Rams defense will be able to stop an offensive explosion from the Cardinals.

Pick: Rams 17 Cardinals 19

Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4)

The big story here is that Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is returning from suspension. One of my fantasy teams is very pleased. Perhaps the best running backs in the NFL, the Chiefs will be chasing him around all evening. They can’t focus on stopping him, either, because Ben Roethlisberger still has Antonio Brown at his disposal. Roethlisberger will have a lot of time in the pocket. The Chiefs pass rush has really struggled without Justin Houston and with an injured Tamba Hali. They only have 3 sacks on the year so far.

The Steelers actually have a worse pass rush, with only 1 sack. The Chiefs may be getting a running back of their own back from injury, Jamaal Charles. It’s unclear how effective he will be. The Steelers don’t have a good secondary, but they are playing Alex Smith, who will certainly make mistakes if forced into a shootout. I don’t think the Chiefs will be able to prevent that, so I think Pittsburgh wins comfortably.

Pick: Chiefs 17 Steelers 30

Monday Night: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (-4)

The Vikings have the best defense in the NFL. They will put heavy heat on Eli Manning, who will not have a running game to rely on (the Giants are down to their 3rd string RB, Orleans Darkwa). However, the Giants boast a strong defense of their own, especially against the run. They will be able to easily limit the Vikings on the ground, forcing Sam Bradford to beat them. He was able to do that against the Packers, but the Giants have more talented corners. Regardless, I think the Vikings defense and special teams will put Bradford in favorable positions all night.

Pick: Giants 13 Vikings 20

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