Fans and sports media tend to overreact to the most recent game, and week three was a good case for that point. After Washington beat the Rams many thought the Skins would therefore also beat the Giants, ignoring the fact that St. Louis was in a typical trap game coming off an emotional win over Seattle; sure enough, the previously winless Giants won easily. Similarly many were overly down on an 0-2 Eagles team and overly high on a 2-0 Jets squad, and sure enough Philly won that game. Buffalo beating the Dolphins in Miami was not a surprise, though the ease with which the Bills won that game was a bit of an eye-opener; I was expecting a bit of a hangover for Buffalo after Rex Ryan’s semi-annual Super Bowl victory (i.e., losing to the Patriots, but outscoring the Pats in the 4th quarter).
On Thursday the combination of Mike Tomlin going into playing not-to-lose mode after the Steelers went up 20-7 early in the third quarter overshadowed his even more questionable play calling when he flip flopped from being too conservative to over-thinking the situation on a pair of fourth down calls. The end result was a win for those who took the Ravens at -2½ prior to the line creeping up to 3 (or even 3½ in some places), as Baltimore won in overtime by a field goal.
Here is a look at the rest of the week four slate:
2-1 New York Jets vs 1-2 Miami in London; 9:30 am ET game on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Jets -1½; over/under 42; Jets -125, Dolphins +105
The vaunted Miami defense has been atrocious so far, allowing 391 yards per game. In an attempt to sack opposing quarterbacks the Dolphins have ignored the run, allowing an NFL 31st-ranked 145 yards rushing per game. The Jet offense is predicated on establishing the run, as that would put less pressure on journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to win the game. Miami’s offensive line is no match for a stout New York defensive front seven either; the Jet defense ranks first in efficiency, with opponents averaging 21.8 yards per point. The Dolphins don’t have enough offensive talent to win this game and they have to work too hard to score. The Fins rank 30th in offensive efficiency at 20.3 yards per point, which is a bad omen against a good defense. Expect Revis and Cromartie to pick Tannehill off at least a couple of times to set up a some points.
Prediction: Jets 20, Dolphins 13
Jets -1½; under 42 (two units)
1-2 Jacksonville Jaguars at 1-2 Indianapolis Colts; early game on CBS; Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Colts -9½; over/under 48; Jaguars +350, Colts -450
How bad is the AFC South? Put it this way: the Colts finally won a game, and they are in first place in their division. Indy’s propensity to give the ball away – they lead the league with ten turnovers – should keep this game relatively close.
Prediction: Colts 27, Jaguars 20
Jaguars +9½; under 48
1-2 Houston Texans at 3-0 Atlanta Falcons; early game on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Falcons -6½; over/under 47; Texans +240, Falcons -280
The Falcons will be a popular pick due their 3-0 record, but let’s not forget that they could easily be 0-3 instead as they were down by double digits in the 4th quarter of each of those games. Atlanta is allowing 4.8 yards per carry (28th in the NFL); if Arian Foster is able to go, don’t be surprised if Houston wins this game.
Prediction: Falcons 24, Texans 20
Texans +6½ (one unit); Texans +240 (one unit)
3-0 Carolina Panthers at 1-2 Tampa Bay Bucs; early game on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Panthers -3; over/under 40; Panthers -170, Buccaneers +150
I don’t believe that Carolina is as good as their 3-0 record would infer – I have them ranked as the 17th best team in the NFL – so a road game against a division rival would normally indicate a good possibility of a loss. The problem is that the Bucs are really bad. The one win was against a mediocre Saints team that had their best player injured during the game. Tampa Bay is allowing an NFL third-worst 138 yards rushing per game, which plays itself right into Carolina’s strength of running the ball. The Buc defense is abominable in the red zone, allowing opponents to score 89% of the time they reach the twenty yard line.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 17
Panthers -3; over 40
1-2 New York Giants at 2-1 Buffalo Bills; early game on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Bills -5½; over/under 46; Giants +200, Bills -230
Eli Manning caught plenty of flak when he threw an incomplete pass late in the game rather than taking a sack and letting the clock run down leading to a loss at Dallas in week one, and then more of the same due to a costly fumble in the red zone and missing two open receivers on the final drive in the loss to Atlanta. However, Manning has yet throw a pick this year; if he can limit his errors and Tom Coughlin can help manage the clock better, then the G-Men have a solid chance. The Giants’ defense (31st in the NFL at 410 yards allowed per game) catches a bit of a break with LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins both sidelined with injuries. Buffalo’s run defense has been lauded (74 yards per game, 1st in the NFL) but if you look closer they are only 24th, with 4.3 yards allowed per carry. Even so, the Giants would be better off passing the ball WR Odell Beckham and RB Shane Vereen. After a pair of big division games the Bills could be in for a letdown; since 2005 they are 5-14 against the spread in their next game after playing Miami. For all the talk about Buffalo’s defense, they actually only rank 28th in yardage (401 yards per game) and are 13th with 22.7 points allowed per game.
Prediction: Bills 24, Giants 23
Giants +5½ (two units); Giants +200 (one unit)
2-1 Oakland Raiders at 0-3 Chicago Bears; early game on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Raiders -3; over/under 44½; Raiders -170, Bears +150
Oakland is allowing a 28th-ranked 28.7 points per game and is dead last in yards allowed with 415 per game – yet is still favored on the road. The Bears are already looking ahead to 2016, waving the white flag and jettisoning players for whatever they can get after just three games. Chicago only has a minus-1 turnover differential, but even though their defense ranks 11th at 331 yards per game they are dead last with 35 points allowed per game. Jimmy Clausen completed only one pass for more than ten yards last week and all ten of Chicago’s drives ended with a punt.
Prediction: Raiders 27, Bears 17
Raiders -3; under 44½
1-2 Philadelphia Eagles at 1-2 Washington Redskins; early game on FOX; Dick Stockton, David Diehl
Eagles -3; over/under 43½; Eagles -150, Skins +130
Right now about the only thing the NFC East can hang its hat on is that they are not quite as bad as the AFC South. Washington has actually out-gained their opponents by 283 yards, but they have turned the ball over five times – while the defense has yet to force a single turnover. While Philly has underachieved thus far, they are still better than the Skins and far less inconsistent. I don’t have faith in either team at this point, but I’ll give a slight to Philadelphia here even though they are on the road.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Redskins 20
Eagles -3; over 43½
1-2 Kansas City Chiefs at 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals; early game on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Bengals -4; over/under 45; Chiefs +170, Bengals -200
On paper Kansas City is much better than their one-win record would indicate. There is a lot of talent on their roster but they were done in by five turnovers in a game where they outplayed Denver but lost, and then were simply over-matched against a superior club at Green Bay. KC leans heavily on Jamaal Charles (312 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns through three games), so if the Cincy defense (5th-best 77 yards rushing per game and 6th-best 18.7 points per game) can keep him in check then the Bengals should have no problem advancing to 4-0.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Chiefs 17
Bengals -4; under 44
1-2 Cleveland Browns at 1-2 San Diego Chargers; late game on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker
Chargers -7; over/under 45; Browns +270, Chargers -330
The Browns were unable to take care of business at home against a mediocre west coast team (Oakland) last week, so how in the world could this team of misfits be expected to do any better traveling across three time zones to play a better squad? The answer to that question will be determined by San Diego’s offensive line. That unit was beat up badly last week at Minnesota. LG Orlando Franklin (ankle) is out, center Chris Watt (groin) and LT King Dunlap (concussion) are both doubtful, and RG DJ Fluker (chest, ankle) is questionable. That could be asking too much for four backups to step in and be productive immediately, especially when you consider that so much depends on offensive linemen working together as one cohesive unit.
Prediction: Browns 20, Chargers 17
Browns +7 (two units), under 45; Browns +270 (one unit)
3-0 Green Bay Packers at 1-2 San Francisco 49ers; late game on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Packers -8; over/under 48; Packers -370, Niners +310
Since beating Minnesota in week one, the Niners have looked awful; they have been outscored 90-25 in the last two weeks. The San Fran defense has been torched for 899 yards of total offense in those two games, including 676 yards through the air – and now they get to face Aaron Rodgers. The Niner offense was pathetic last week, generating just ten touchdowns for the entire game, while turning the ball over four times. While they should bounce back with a better performance at home this week, a very good Green Bay team is not who they need to face right now while attempting to regroup. Eddie Lacy is far superior to either Chris Johnson or DeAngelo Williams, and the Niners surrendered 223 yards and five touchdowns on the ground to Arizona and Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Packers 35, 49ers 17
Packers -8 (one unit), over 48
2-1 Minnesota Vikings at 3-0 Denver Broncos; late game on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch
Broncos -6½; over/under 42½; Vikings +250, Broncos -300
Bronco head coach finally relented after figuring out (or being advised) that he was trying to force a square peg into a round hole; last week Peyton Manning worked out of the shotgun for all but three snaps, and the Denver offense looked better. The Denver running game is still sub-par though; the Broncos are the first team in NFL history to win their first three games while rushing for fewer than 70 yards in each of those games. Minnesota has a tough defense though: they are one of the most efficient (an NFL second-best 21.7 yards per point) and are 4th best against the pass, with opponents averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt. It will come down to strength against strength: Denver’s run defense (6th-best at 3.5 yards per carry) versus Adrian Peterson (4.9 yards per carry and a league-leading 291 yards through three games). If the Broncos can keep Peterson under control and grab a lead then that means Minnesota will have to rely on Teddy Bridgewater; he is last among NFL starting quarterbacks with 168 passing yards per game. Figuring Aqib Talib can neutralize Mike Wallace, the Vikings have no other legitimate targets for Bridgewater to throw to; game, set and match to Denver.
Prediction: Broncos 24, Vikings 13
Broncos -6½ (one unit); under 42½
1-2 St. Louis Rams at 3-0 Arizona Cardinals; late game on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis
Cardinals -7; over/under 43; Rams +250, Cardinals -300
If you told me that I could get seven points in this game before the season with the only injuries of note being an Arizona player, then I would have jumped on the Rams. The problem is not so much that the Cardinals have looked so good, it’s that St. Louis has been awful the last two weeks. The Rams are dead last in total offense (274 yards per game) and 28th in scoring (16.7 points per game). How can they be expected to go on the road and keep up with an Arizona offense that is first in scoring (42 points per game), fifth in yardage (391 ypg) and extremely efficient (NFL-best 9.3 yards per point) – and may now get their starting running back, Andre Ellington back for the first time since week one? I know that in-division games tend to be tough and closer than expected, but I just can’t find a reason to take St. Louis.
Prediction: Cardinals 28, Rams 20
Cardinals -7; over 43
2-1 Dallas Cowboys at 0-3 New Orleans Saints; Sunday night on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Saints -3½; over/under 47½; Cowboys +165, Saints -190
The Saints have lost six straight in the Superdome while Dallas has won ten consecutive regular season road games. Drew Brees will be able to start for New Orleans, but I question if his shoulder is fully healed to make an impact on a strong (despite last week’s game) Dallas defense that gets Jeremy Mincey back this week.
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Saints 23
Cowboys +3½ (two units); under 47½; Cowboys +165 (one unit)
0-3 Detroit Lions at 1-2 Seattle Seahawks; Monday night on BSPN; Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden
Seahawks -10; over/under 43; Lions +425, Seahawks -550
Lion fans are giving Matthew Stafford plenty of crap, but he is not the problem. Detroit’s patchwork offensive line is a dumpster fire on a steaming hot day in July. The end result is as expected: eight turnovers through three games (second most in the NFL) and a non-existent running game (45 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry, both league-lows). On top of that Seattle now has safety Kam Chancellor back on the field, which should make passes to TE Eric Ebron more difficult; TE Brandon Pettigrew is still out with a hamstring injury. That makes Detroit completely one dimensional, with the only viable option for the Lions to throw early and often to Calvin Johnson. Things aren’t much better on the other side of the ball; opponents have lit up Detroit to the tune of 8.7 yards per pass (30th) while completing 78% of their passes (31st)with the Lions generating next to no pass rush (only four sacks).
Prediction: Hawks 27, Lions 13
Seahawks -10; under 43 (two units)
Bye week: 3-0 New England Patriots, 1-2 Tennessee Titans
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Tags: 2015 Regular Season against the spread Bye Week NFL odds picks predictions Week 4